I’m pleased to be able to bring you the words and photography of Gareth Buckett, Australian-based film and digital photographer; and curator of nikonf5.net.
Enough from me, it’s over to you, Gareth!
Hi Gareth, what’s this picture, then?
GB: This is an image I took a few years ago standing on the shores of Lake Phewa, Nepal (Nikon F4 with Kodak E100VS). It was the only frame I took that day and it turned out to be the last one of that trip. There are many ‘brochure’ shots of the lake but the sad reality is it’s surrounded by a lot of people and equally filled with rubbish.
My wide angle just wasn’t going to work so out came the 200mm. Being selective can sometimes make all the difference. That’s a theme I carry through all my work.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
GB: Well, many years ago I actually had an arts scholarship during high school. I was pretty handy at drawing and painting. Drawing then turned into technical drawing and later studying maths, physics and chemistry. That eventually led to a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Fast forward a few years and Monday to Friday I’m actually an Aerospace Engineer.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
GB: My first real camera was a red Hanimex HX-700 that I got when I was 7 or 8. It saw some infrequent use until I broke it somewhere between Alice Springs and Perth on a family road trip. Fortunately my photographic ambitions didn’t end there. I’d briefly used my Dad’s Nikon F3 and just knew that photography was something I really enjoyed.
However, it was about 8 years ago (reading through Ken Rockwell’s blog…) that I came across this stuff called Velvia 50. One unspectacular roll later and I was hooked. The rest you could say is history. Or 8 years and about 85 rolls of film later, here I am, still shooting and still hooked on the process that is film photography. The experience for me is twofold; the adventure and the result (or waiting for it).
I love to get out and explore the world around me (it actually pains me to know there is so much of the planet I still haven’t explored). Being able to capture that experience in a single frame, whether it’s a chance encounter or going out with a vision, is incredibly alluring. And I guess, having to wait for the result, not knowing if it has worked or not, just adds to that.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
GB: I never took photography classes at school (to mine and other people’s surprise) so my initial influence was from my Dad and a few of his old books on photography. My Grandad whom I was never able to meet was also an avid photographer having served in the Royal Air Force during WWII as a camera technician. So I guess I’m continuing that tradition but in my own style.
If I had to name two prominent photographers whose work I take inspiration from it would have to be Galen Rowell and Murray Fredericks. I’m drawn to bright colours and a dash of minimalism.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
GB: Yes. I interchange between digital (FX), 35mm and 120 film depending on what I’m looking to document or capture. Friends and family is almost always digital. On road trips into the bush or outback I’ll often take both digital and film. However, dragging around multiple formats can be a little much at times and has a tendency to hamper creativity. Occasionally if I have a specific image in mind I’ll take only one camera and lens. Underwater and street photography is strictly film!
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
GB: Well, 2016 was a self-imposed year in monochrome challenge. I’ve broken that promise a couple of times so let’s call it a year mostly in monochrome. It’s probably one of the better things I’ve done photographically. Everyone should give it a go. What’s next? Well, 2017 may see that line of thought continue with a focus on the colour negative. You may also see some pinhole photography…
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
GB: The natural landscape at golden hour. Whether it’s on the beach or in the mountains, there’s nothing like watching the view in front of you transform as the sun sets and the stars appear. The vast continent of Australia is perfect for it. The other lure for me is street photography. There’s just something about it that’s intoxicating. The hope that you might just stumble upon a moment. A moment that if framed just right may even be iconic one day.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What do you take with you and why?
GB: Easy, my Nikon F5 and Nikkor 58mm f1.4G with Fujifilm Velvia 100 and Acros 100. Dependable camera, dependable films. Velvia 100 has become my favourite E6 film (noting Kodak’s E100VS was discontinued). It’s vibrant but not over the top and you can still squeeze a portrait out of it. After trying a number of Black and white films this year, Acros 100 was the clear standout for me (Tmax 100 is a close second). As for the F5, it needs no introduction or explanation (I also host nikonF5.net). Having said all that, my Nikon F3P and 28mm f2.8 AI-S is also a pretty formidable combination I wouldn’t want to be without.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, where do you go and why?
GB: I’d take Fujifilm Acros 100 in all formats and loose myself in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. It’s an untouched landscape from another time and it’s where I go to explore, to unwind, and to look up at the stars uninhibited.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
GB: I’d bow out in style with Kodak Aerochrome. Thanks to the efforts of Dean Bennici I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the last few rolls of it. I wish I’d found out about it sooner and bought more when it was affordable. My favourite colour is red so naturally I’m hooked on this incredible emulsion from Kodak. It represents just what Kodak was capable of inventing, anything. Just imagine the vast amounts of aerial images made on Aerochrome from 70,000ft locked away in archives… Where would I take that last roll? Tepui, the tabletop mountains of Venezuela.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
GB: I’ve found most people’s first reaction is to think that film photography is somehow harder. It’s not. If anything the process of actually taking a picture is simpler and not hindered by settings or how you’re thinking you might process that RAW file. But it’s the misconception of quality that usually returns the greatest response.
Many people have that imprint of 35mm colour negatives and 1 hour processing at the local store. Show them a slide of Velvia and their expression is priceless. If film was able to get a little more air time then I suspect all would be well.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
GB: Bright, at least for a while longer.
~ Gareth Bucket
“If anything the process of actually taking a picture is simpler and not hindered by settings or how you’re thinking you might process that RAW file.”
I have a difficult time explaining this to people – even to digital photographer friends. Film photography has a process, yes. And, if we follow the process from shooting to developing and printing (all in a darkroom), it can take a sizeable portion of time.
That said, I don’t. I shoot, develop, scan and occasionally (digitially print). The amount of time most digital photographers I know spend on editing RAW files staggers me. It’s easy to forget that on the whole, raw (not RAW) digital camera files look incredibly similar.
Rest safe in the knowledge that we’ll be back with another interviewee next week. In the meantime, take a minute to appreciate Gareth’s pictures again. Beautiful stuff.
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