When people ask me why I still shoot film, I think they are expecting a fairly profound answer. Which, as a dedicated analog film nerd, I could certainly give them. But soon enough their eyes would glaze over, and they'd start walking away once I got to the Zone System and 18% grey. So, I like to keep my answer short and sweet. I still shoot black and white film because it gives me the results I want. That is it. Though I do have deep roots in the tradition and craftsmanship, and believe strongly in a hands-on, authentic approach to dog photography, I am not one of those cool new-wave photographers who shoot film because someone once told them it was cool. Black and white dog photography is a very nuanced niche that can easy go south if not done properly. Photographing dogs with film is an integral part of my creative and photographic process, and allows me to create images that are in line with my personal style.
The tones and dynamic range that show up in my black and white dog photography are all part of the film I use (Ilford HP5), the chemistry I use to process my film (Kodak Xtol), the cameras I use (Hasselblad 500c and Contax 645), the way I meter (using the Sekonic L358), and how I print my images. So many of my clients come to me because they have black or very dark dogs, and have never been able to get a good portrait of them. Which makes sense- using a point and shoot camera, a camera phone, or using the 'auto' setting on a proper DSLR will always result in poorly exposed images. But when metering intentionally and utilizing the entire range of the HP5 black and white film, those black tones open up so easily. And what was once a complete muddy black blob can be a beautiful mass of dark grey texture and character. I think this dog Coco here is a great example of that.