At the end of July, the scary news from Fujifilm discontinuing Fuji Velvia flashed through various websites and blogs. I first saw it in British Journal of Photography. Although at this stage it more affects my future ambitions to move towards true large format as 'only' the production of Fuji Velvia 50 in 4x5 format is to be halted (and the full range of Fuji Velvia 100F that I would not connect to at all anyway), it really sounds like the beginning of the slow end of the legendary inverse material. Will it mean anything to me? Yes and no. It's not imminent and I can still stock up myself with 120s for few years when it comes to the final announcement one day. But perhaps I need to rethink my process sooner than later to be prepared to change it. In the meantime, heated discussions have been happening on the internet. I came across two interesting and (to a large extent) contradicting opinions from photographers I highly respect and closely follow. On his blog, Guy Tal posted rather provocative article of Velvia having become "functionally obsolete" years back when scanning technologies had got widely available and subsequent digital post-processing had started to play a crucial role in photography. Although there are many points in Guy's article that I agree with, here's when I would have to argue. The reason I switched from digital to film 7-8 years ago was that at that time, I could not transfer colors and hues I have seen into a usable image with my Nikon D70 that I was using back then. I found the outcome dull and, ironically, too instant even after processing it, compared to transparencies of my friends who we were often going to photograph together. I refused to sit by the computer for hours trying to re-create the stuff. Yes, as Guy claims, Velvia limits creative options through its lack of dynamic range and predictable rendition of colors although both can be managed - through using filters (graduated for dynamic range, neutral density ones to add on exposure hence shift colors and make them less "canned"). On the other hands, does not the freedom of digital creativity causes much more weird and overcooked (HDR-kind, for instance) images?
I'm using both media but I love the process with film so much more for many reasons, one for all being that it makes me guess how a scene can come out. The response may well depend on many factors, including more obvious like the exposure time or filters, but also the air humidity or the amount on invisible ambient light in the atmosphere, for example. This element of secret makes Velvia (and perhaps some other film materials) inevitable addition to my creativity or, if you say so, to the outdated way of making art. As I said, I use both. I do not know why exactly, but I always have troubles with processing my raws. I find it odd but my raw files do not seem to remember colors correctly - they come out very neutral - and if I do not process them immediately, I incredibly struggle developing them later. Simply put, I do not recall actual colors well enough to reproduce them. And I somehow do not like the idea of manufacturing them from the scratch myself. From this perspective, I am happy to tolerate creative limitations of Velvia. But don't get me wrong: I acknowledge there are situations and subjects digital is obligatory for. There are scenes and photographs that I shot both, digitally and on film, and ended up liking digital more. I've been comparing photographs made by both in the recent past here and here.
The image above has been exposed on Velvia for few minutes, right after the one below (Velvia as well). Can I achieve the same digital way? I guess so - with lots of port-processing and risk that I go wild. Will I miss Velvia 50 when the announcement of discontinuation comes to 120 format? Absolutely!
Tim Parkin said it much better here: http://www.timparkin.co.uk/2012/07/is-velvia-just-saturation-a-response-to-velvia-dissonance/ . He has put together some nice examples of color rendition of the same scene by Velvia and 5Dm2. Check out for yourself if your display is properly calibrated. Very interesting.
PS. This is the raw file of the same scene as the two above shot with my Phase One. Don't even feel like getting to develop it. There's no point.