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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Slowing Down with Film

It was easy for me to fall in love with DSLR technology. It's great to have the freedom to take as many shots as I need to get the image I have in mind. Snap Snap Snap Snap Snap. Five versions or more of the same scene taken at a slightly different angle and/or at a slightly different exposure. And then lather-rinse-repeat for the next idea. No worries - because I know I can sort it all out in Lightroom at the end of the day and get at least one keeper that expresses what I was looking for.

But lately I've been dissatisfied with that frenzied way of shooting. I'm tired of uploading hundreds of photos (or more) from a single photo walk and culling and post processing them endlessly. I'm tired of filling up my external hard drives with folders upon folders of photos. It's all so - time sucking and exhausting. And it keeps me from doing what I really love to do - just shoot creatively.

These days I'm also feeling that shooting with digital is no longer a challenge. I'm feeling the need to be more deliberate and contemplative when I shoot. I want a slower rhythm when I shoot. I want to take more time composing and getting my camera settings perfected and thinking about the one or two shots I have to take to get the image I want. I no longer want to photograph the same subject over and over and over just because I can.

So I've decided this is going to be my year of slowing down and learning how to shoot film again. I have three great film cameras, and I intend to use them all this year.

Three weeks ago I pulled my Nikon FM film SLR from my vintage camera bag. Seeing it brought back memories of the quiet darkroom, red lights illuminating the area, the smell of chemicals, slippery reels of film, the click-clack of rolling film onto film cartridges, enlargers, and slide projectors. The old Nikon still had the 50mm 1.8 lens attached that lived on it most of time back in the old days. All I had to do was replace the batteries and load film.

And so I did. That was the easy part.

I had to relearn the camera and it's quirky exposure and focusing (still doing that). This camera has the simplest of controls: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter. All exposure and focusing is set manually by the user. But I can no longer adjust ISO for each photo as with digital - the ISO stays the same for the entire roll of film. Needless to say that finding really good light is of the utmost importance under these circumstances.

Let me introduce you to my very first roll of film in forever. I feel like such a newby!!

These are all taken with expired color film (Kodak Gold 200) that was in my camera bag with the Nikon. I took the film to Walgreens for development - they had no idea how to work with expired film. So I hoped for the best, but wasn't really expecting it. Got the prints back today and the colors looked freakish - dark blue. And they are ultra grainy - no doubt because the film was so expired. Not blaming Walgreens - some of the fault is the old film and some of the fault is mine since I'm learning - I'm sure they do a great job on digital. I have a few professional labs that I plan to use that are really good at this stuff.

So I loaded the photos to Lightroom and either made a few white balance tweaks to get the blue out or turn them to B&W.  (One of my goals with film is to avoid post processing, hopefully.)

In my mind this is akin to eating take out or cooking a delicious meal at home. Both are good, but the latter is appreciated and savored for the effort put into the process and the delight at the outcome.

These were taken in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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