Film Folk: Dan Freeman

Location: Cheltenham, UK
Genre: Travel
Camera count: 5
Film stock of choice: Portra 400 or Tri-X

Tell us about your path to becoming a photographer.
I’ve been an amateur photographer, taking things seriously for about 13 years now. Not long after I got my first job after university, I saved up enough for my first ‘proper’ camera, a Nikon D200. Through the years I built up my lens collection before reaching the limit of the camera’s capability, and then made probably my biggest purchase ever (at the time), a Nikon D3. I stuck with Nikon for a long time, but when I started to travel overseas regularly for my job, I switched to the smaller and just as capable (for my needs) Fuji cameras. I traded in my D3, and various lenses for a Fuji X-T1 and a few XF lenses. This set-up was perfect my for travel needs, and in terms of digital photography, haven’t looked back since.

What drew me to film photography was probably how I kept experimenting with how I edited my digital shots. Like many, I gave the VSCO film presets a go, and I really liked how many of these looked. I guess one day I asked myself, why use all these digital presets to replicate that film look, when I could just give film photography a try?!

After a lot of reading about a good 35mm camera to start with, I came across a nice Olympus OM4-Ti in my local camera shop. That’s where I began my film journey, and things have moved on quite a bit since then, back in August 2017.What do you primarily shoot with and why is it your weapon of choice?
At the moment my main weapon of choice is my Leica M6, loaded with Portra 400. I’m currently just over two-thirds of my way into a 365 project, shot entirely on film (well…almost!). It was a big decision to pull the trigger on buying the M6 (and lens!) but I’ve had no regrets since. It’s such a beautifully simple and elegant camera to use. You are really stripping the photographic process back to the bare essentials when shooting with a camera like that. Are you a hybrid photographer? What makes you choose one medium over the other day-to-day?
Yes, I still have my Fuji digital bodies, and a few film cameras. For me, the main reason to shoot with one medium over the other is primarily cost. If I’m away on a big trip, or holiday where I’m likely to take a lot of photos, it can be very expensive to have the film developed and scanned (and of course buying the film in the first place too). These days, apart from odd occasion such as this, I’m primarily shooting on film.

What’s your favourite film stock?
Portra 400. Even though I’ve been shooting with film for a year now, I’m still learning with every roll I get back. Portra is just so forgiving when it comes to nailing the exposure. The colours are also incredibly natural, and I love how the photos look so much like how I remember the scene myself.

Tell us about the most interesting person/place you’ve photographed or project you’ve worked on.
This has to be my current 365 project. I initially started with the idea that the whole project would be photographed on my Olympus camera, using one film stock, Kodak Tri-X. I stuck with that set-up for a while, before not liking the fact that if I travelled somewhere, I had to have at least that camera/film combo with me. There were many places I went where I could only take one camera, but I wanted to shoot in colour. After some hiccups along the way with the project, I’m now back to one camera, but now shooting Portra 400 instead. Even though I’m still not finished, it has taught me to try and see things in your everyday life that I might otherwise miss, or think nothing of. I’ve also never felt restricted in having only one focal length with me too, as the whole project has always been shot with a 50mm lens. Who is your preferred lab?
My current go-to lab is the Exposure Film Lab, based in Hereford. I really like the way they process their images, the prices are very reasonable, and they are relatively local too. I did use the Canadian Film Lab at one point, and although I loved their images and company as a whole, sending my rolls all the way to Canada just felt a bit unnecessary, especially when there are great labs in the UK still.Who are your three favourite photographers and why do they inspire you?
Johnny Patience – he originally inspired me to do my own B&W 365. Definitely check out his 365 project, it’s an amazing read all the way through.

Jonas Jacobsson – I love how he captures the moment so well. His travel photography is inspiring too. I often find I want to immediately visit anywhere he’s posted a large story from!

Leila Peterson – I visit her blog quite frequently hoping for more updates. Her photos have an amazing honesty to them, and I love how she captures moments of her life so well and shares them.

You always seem to be on the move; what’s been your favourite country to photograph thus far?
That would have to be Hong Kong. I love that city. I’ve been there many many times for work, and my partner and I even spent an amazing two weeks there over Christmas and NYE on holiday. It’s such a dynamic city, with so much going on. It’s one of those cities where you don’t really have to plan anything, you’ll always find interesting streets or locations. For wandering around with a camera in your hand, Hong Kong has to be one of the best cities in the world.

If you don’t have a camera in your hand, what would we find you doing?
Easy. On my bike!

You can only shoot with one camera, one lens and one film stock for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?
As I’ve become so used to it now, that would be my Leica M6, 50mm Summicron and Portra 400.

Folk Faves
Mac or PC? Mac
Kodak or Fuji? Kodak
Colour or B/W? Colour (just!)
Frontier or Noritsu? Frontier
Self-Develop or Lab? Lab
Portrait or Landscape? Landscape
Lightroom or Darkroom? Darkroom
35mm or Medium Format? Tough one…..35mm just for convenience.
External or In-Built Light Meter? Built in (just!)

Check out more of Dan’s work on his website and follow him on Instagram.