Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/04/16

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Subject: Re: [Leica] National Geographic
From: Ted Grant <>
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 23:21:55 -0700
References: <>

> Call me shallow, uneducated and rude, but...
> Reading this:
> "How much film is shot on an assignment?<<<

Hi Dante,
Over my many years I never thought about, nor do I still never think about
how much film I shoot when on assignment where I'm working on a documentary,
a photo essay or photo story or a shoot toward a new book. Film amount is a
non-issue always.

It's no different than an artist who begins to paint or a writer, a book.

I, we, they, don't even consider how much film or words used. They, we, I,
begin to do our thing with whatever motivates us and we keep going it with
nothing else than the driving force of motivation in recording that which is
before us.

To even consider breaking film rolls down to how many frames per roll is an
absolutely  futile and terribly wasteful amount of time. It's a non-issue.

I've been on three week assignments and shot 300 hundred rolls of film only
because everything was going on and things were happening faster than you
could spit. Never thought about film other than "Did I have enough?" By the
same token, other three week assignments and I've came back with less than
50 rolls shot and not a thought that I hadn't done the shoot well.

The subject action dictates how much film is used, not being concerned about
how many rolls one uses. Not to say I haven't had assignments where I burned
a ton of film and came home with nothing more than solid photographic images
and no gems.

And on the other hand, gone on some where the use of film was limited by
what was happening, light, weather and many other variables. And come back
with only a few exposures, but within the end results there were a bunch of
absolutely mind blowing images.

Because one may use 40 rolls of film, it doesn't mean the half dozen
photographs used are the only good ones and the rest throw away's, it just
means there are a few gems, and the rest are usable but don't quite make the
cut for the edition or book.

>>> Is the definition of "sketch" to run your F5 on motor drive

No not at all and stupid to even consider it as part of the process.

>I have been to a lot of places and I think it is highly questionable
> any society is moving so fast that you would find something even arguably
> photographically useful an average of every two minutes and 40 seconds.
> of course, they waited for something interesting to happen, it would mean
> that they would just roll the motor drive.<<<

Unfortunately, I can only assume you've never been on assignment, as in
shooting a documentary or events where you've never been before and highly
unlikely you'll ever go back to again. In these cases everything, every
moment, every light, mood change has potential to be the one and only image
that makes the series a head banging success.

Therefore, it's much better to make a photographic moment out of these
situations than make a decision that, "what the hell, better will come
along." The disaster of that thought is.... "it gets absolutely butt ugly
and the you are bombed right out!" :-(

>> > I would love to know how much film DDD or Gene Smith used in a day.  I
> hazard to guess a lot less.<<<

No absolutely not. They worked in the same manner as any solid
photojournalist would. DDD on his coverage of an American political party
convention went through hundreds of rolls of film which were shot and
developed each day, then selections made and B&W prints used on a TV
newscast with his narration each day.

Quite frankly film use by pros when recording events is a complete non-issue
with which many amateurs cannot relate in their use of a few rolls a week or

I had an assignment, July 1, 1985 where I used 53 rolls of 36 exposure
Kodachrome between 5 a.m and finished shooting at 10.40 that evening! Given
there were 34 photogs shooting during the day, Canada Day. I had more
photographs used in the Canada Pavilion at EXPO 1986 in Vancouver and the
subsequent book, than any other photographer.

Now don't think it was volume of film shot that made that number count, as
this material was showing the world Canada on it's Day of Celebration and
the number used were due to the photographic accountability of each photo.
Not just the numbers exposed.

To truly succeed as a published photojournalist is a hard task at best, as
it must be combined with the eye, the feeling, the undying passion that your
photography is the all consuming passion of your life and absolutely nothing
else matters to an equal degree!

Many other things in ones life are put aside because of the photo passion,
trust me, this is something I absolutely have first hand knowledge and
experience of. This kind of personal all consuming passion can at times be
very damaging to the life and relationships of families.

I realize many may think this has nothing to do with how many rolls one
shoots, however, it does! When you're happy at home shooting rolls is like
sweet maple syrup and the exposures and images are flying at you all the
time, so film gets burned because you are at one with the subject and event.

Going on a shoot in disarray at home puts a damper on how much you shoot, as
your mind and motivation is every where else but what's in front of you. Not
only do you not use film, what you do use is second best if that good.

I just thought some of you amateurs might have another thought about why
some of us pros blow a ton of film at times when you don't think it's

But then, how many of you have shot the Olympics for example where I can
assure you, use of film is not even in your vocabulary! ;-)


Ted Grant Photography Limited
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