All Washed Up: Film Vs. Digital


On the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the Southern Alps rise sharp and steep within a few kilometres of the sea. Fast rivers fed by snow carry trees into the sea where the surf quickly strips the bark from them before returning the remains to the coast. The result is an endless supply of driftwood stretching as far as the eye can see up and down an empty coast. A vast gallery of natural sculpture washed up by the sea.

sign_competitionHokitika, one of the largest towns on the West Coast and billed as “Hokitika, the cool little town“, uses the driftwood to its advantage and builds its reputation as the driftwood art capital of New Zealand. In January 2015, Hokitika hosted its annual Driftwood and Sand Sculpture competition. Competitors were invited to bring only one thing: their imagination.

A walk along the beach towards the end of the day and early the next morning showed the pieces to best advantage and gave some idea of the popularity of the event—we counted more than 50 works of art in process ranging from basic assemblies to mixed media (the rules stipulate that you can incorporate anything you find on the beach). Unfortunately we had to push on before the creations took their final shape, but you can see the winners here.

The shots were taken with a Pentax Spotmatic (Portra 400 film), Ricoh GRD4 (digital) and an iPhone 5 and were cropped without further manipulation in Photoshop. In our last post, I was pleased with the Portra’s 1960s’ cinematic quality—perhaps a characteristic of Portra, or just reflective of the scanning process. It’s funny to see this colour straight out of the camera, colour that we are used to seeing now in Instagram or other social media achieved with an app by a tap on a filter.

I included the two shots of the flags to highlight the difference between Portra film and the digital Ricoh. The digital shots have a real vibrance—a vibrance that is the norm in our digital world. I also find that it is hard to tell the difference between the GRD4 and the iPhone, which for me is testament to our skew towards (and expectation of?)  a more vivid digital image-saturated world. Personally, it is the Portra that more accurately reflects and brings me back to that summer’s day amidst the driftwood.

Film: Portra 400, Camera: Pentax Spotmatic

film_goldrush lizardking film_flags2

Digital Ricoh GRD4:

ric_flags ric_dawncrowd ric_sculpt


And the trusty iPhone 5: