Decisions. Some are small. Some are life-changing. We make them subconsciously. We make them intentionally. But either way we choose a path. There’s always an upside and always a downside. Most importantly, we look for promise in the upside, and we try and glean some value from the downside, but we can never escape the moment of decision.

High contrast black and white landscape photography of the mountains


Seize the opportunity

In the fall of 2019, I had to decide whether to say yes to a guy’s trip to Wyoming with my dad and his buddies. My life is busy. Three young kids, work, life, bills. However, it’s hard to get away for a week, but I decided to say yes. I had to seize the opportunity to go with my dad. He’s at the age where trips like this are not a necessarily a guarantee for “next time”.

Black and white photo of a elderly man sat on a airplane waving


Saying yes in 2019 was one thing; but then I had to decide again as the pandemic upended our lives. Flying was still an unknown risk at that time and there was no vaccine. We were all weighing the risk reward of even going to the grocery store, much less a trip out of town. Therefore, I decided that the time with my dad was too important to miss. So I said “yes” again a few weeks before we were scheduled to go.

Black and white image of a wheel


A big decision

Now, planning and packing for the trip, I had another big decision to make. . . as an amateur photographer. Film or digital?

Now that was big decision for me! I weighed the options while I loaded an extra-large duffle with warm clothes and socks. Digital would mean no worries about TSA ruining my film. I can see what I have the moment I shoot the photo. I can upload to my phone and share on social media immediately. But the dynamic range gave me pause. The feeling that the photos might not last made me uneasy. I’m not a big believer in anything permanent about digital items. There would be no printing in my darkroom for years to come, no reliving the trip through the magic of a tangible, fiber-based wet print. Film would be permanent. Forever. Or as close as we get to that here on earth. Printing. Tones. Grain. Risk. All the things I love about film.

Now I bet many of you are thinking “why not take both?” Well of course that’s an option, but that’s not my personality. I love making a call and going for it hell or high water. I love the dedication to a path and then not looking back.

Physical over theoretical

In the spirit of why I said yes to this trip, to make a memory with my dad, I decided to take photos that were worthy of the moment.

I chose film.

I chose the option of printing 30 years from now while I’m leaning on a walker and the beauty of the moment coming alive again long after my dad is gone. I chose the ability to hold these memories in my hand and not the hope that the hard drive turns on again years from now.

I chose the physical over the theoretical. And, when I had to decide which film to take? Well that choice was easy. ILFORD. The look. The consistency. The ease of use. The ability to print with lots of contrast and loads of detail. I packed my photo bag with my Leica rig and a big ziplock full of ILFORD. Willing to pause for TSA to hand-check my valuable cargo.

I said yes to my dad. I said yes to film. I said yes to ILFORD. And I haven’t regretted any of these decisions for one second.

Black and white high contrast image of landscape



Images © Nathan Chapman