Between about September and October of last year, I shot my first rolls of film in 15 years. It was invigorating. Approaching fresh, after more than a decade working as a photographer in the digital medium, film has invited me to slow down the process of seeing, analyzing and planning for an image, and allowed me to think about it in ways almost wholly bygone. With a digital camera, I move from conception to captured image in the blink of an eye. With film, each step slows to a crawl:
See the image. Stop, ask whether that’s really one of the just 24 images I want to take. Frame the image, check the edges, check the focus, recheck the edges, recheck the focus, confirm the exposure settings, recheck everything. Take a calming breath, like a sniper in a world war two movie. Fire. Don’t look at the back of the camera. It’s done, there’s no going back.
Although film photography, at this point, doesn’t appear to have any real practical purpose for me—or maybe almost anyone else for that matter—my foray into film has in some ways made digital photography feel like a “photographer simulator”, where there are no consequences and you can try anything to see how it works. Of course, I recognize that this is not the case, as digital photography makes things possible that a film photographer could only dream of. Still, I think it’s a remarkable experience, even if it so happens that it is fueled largely by romanticism.
Speaking of romanticism, midway through the second roll of film, I suspected the camera was suffering from some light leaks. At the time, I was still shooting with my Pentax ME Super (which is now broken, but more about that next time film comes up on this blog). When I got the images back, my suspicions were confirmed. Of course, I find them charming, so I’m eager to see how the new camera will add flare to the images I capture.
While shooting these rolls, I was frequently focused on making guesses about the dynamic range. Film usually has around 11-13 stops of dynamic range, while digital cameras can have more than 15 stops. It’s one of the technical differences that make transitioning from one to the other challenging. I have an almost second nature to know what my digital camera is “seeing”, but no such sense with film. You can see the evidence of that experimentation throughout these images.
These images were captured in the months between last October, and April of this year. Between the cold weather and the end-of-year rush to get stuff done, it took me about 6 months to finish the remaining half of the box of Fuji 800 I’d bought. Like last time, I had them developed at Dodge-Chrome in Silver Spring. This time around though, I decided to give their film scanning service a try. They did alright, though I was a bit disappointed with the resolution and decided to rescan them myself.