Hi James, Can you tell us where you’re from and how long you’ve been shooting film?
Hey Jake! I’m born, raised and currently living in Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve been shooting film almost exclusively for about 4 years now.
Your feed makes me super nostalgic of living in New Zealand with those stunning landscapes – What’s it like to shoot there?
I feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful country, even more so now given what a crazy and challenging year it’s been globally. Growing up we were always out in nature as much as possible, and especially the beach for my family, so an appreciation & love for nature was fostered for me very early on.
I spent several years living in London which I loved, but ultimately the pull of the New Zealand landscape, and the proximity to the ocean drew me back home. Even being in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, I can jump in the car and drive 45 minutes to arrive at one of the many beautiful west coast beaches in, which is one of my favourite places on earth.
Photography has almost become just an excuse or device for me to go outside and get amongst nature, with photos just becoming a happy byproduct in a way. I haven’t even touched on the rest of New Zealand yet, but there’s so much variety in landscapes in our small country which provides endless opportunities for incredible photo adventures.
Do you have a particular thought process for composition/lighting when are you lining up your shots?
I’ve been shooting pretty much exclusively on my Rolleiflex 3.5f for around 4 years now, which shoots 6×6 square on 120 film. Composition for a square frame has different challenges and it’s been really great just sticking to a single format for so long to allow myself the time to explore. It’s very easy with square format to keep your subject smack bang in the center, which does look great a lot of the time, but breaking out of this always provides interesting results.
Lighting wise I love sunset and sometimes spend multiple evenings in a week out on the west coast trying to catch that dreamy evening light.
I noticed you mainly use a MF camera – do you prefer shooting with these over 35mm?
Yea as mentioned above I’ve been pretty much exclusively shooting 6×6 medium format for about 4 years. I have a 35mm that I’ve shot quite a bit on as well, but more as a backup or if I feel the need to snap more frames than I’d be able to on the Rolleiflex. One of the reasons I started shooting film was to slow down, as taking 100s of digital photos every time I went out was causing me to get overwhelmed in editing and never wanting to do anything with those photos. Medium format seemed like a great starting point for this idea of slowing down, and I’ve never really looked back since.
Have you changed the way you shoot film since you started?
Since I’ve been shooting the same camera & format, which only has a single (non-interchangeable) lens, since I started shooting film I think the main changes I’ve gone through are a result of learning and testing. Different film stocks, overexposing or underexposing, different labs, different compositions and really just getting a feel for how film responds in different scenarios.
How do you think your relationship with travel/adventure is connected to shooting film?
As I mentioned above I feel photography for me is a device that helps give me a reason to get outside and into nature, where I feel at home and refreshed. Film has added to that in several ways where I’m more intentional about the frames I decide to take, more present in the moment and I’m not just looking through the camera or at the back of the screen snapping 100s of photos the whole time.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into shooting film?
Essentially just do it and give it a try. The film community is super helpful and friendly so reach out if you need any help. Start with whatever format or camera is within your means and get a few rolls of any stock through. Ask around for a good local lab and go from there!
What’s the film community like in New Zealand? Do you have any good labs to recommend?
There’s some awesome people and teams doing an incredible job at fostering the film community in New Zealand and it just seems to keep growing, which is so great to see.
For labs in Auckland definitely @theblackandwhitebox, who are a young, passionate and talented team doing a tonne for the film community here.
If you don’t already, give James a follow here.