Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Princess Hannah
 I recently started shooting a lot of film again. I had to take my DSLR in for some service work leaving me with only a couple of other smaller digital cameras to work with. These little cameras are great, but I really much prefer the controls of an SLR. I never thought of my hands as being all that large, but the smaller cameras are just a little too finicky and frustrating for me. And since I had recently bought a couple of very interesting, older cameras I thought it would be fun to actually use them.

Stylish Shopper
Using film again in this digital era is not actually all that new for me. But using it exclusively for a few weeks is! I started using film again a few years ago when I bought an old Yashica 124 twin lens reflex camera. I have taken it out on a number of photoshoots over the years and it has been a lot of fun. This was an excellent choice for me (both the 124 film size & a TLR camera) because it was enough different from an SLR that I really had to stop and think about what I was doing before pressing the shutter. It was not possible to simply point and shoot and not think.

Dinner Time
But those shoots had always been "one off". I would take the camera out for a photo-walk somewhere and shoot one or two rolls of film, get them developed (somewhere) then oooh and aaaah at the images I got back. And that was it. I would then put the camera away for months or a year or more.

This time I decided I would shoot only film, at least until I got my DSLR back and maybe even longer if I was having a good time. It was also my plan to develop the film myself. This, mostly, so I could turn the process around inside a day or two allowing me to get a much better sense of what the camera (and I) was doing. But also, developing the film myself makes it much easier for me to continue posting images to my favourite "one a day" Blipfoto website. And I'll admit it has been fun going "old school" again, the smell of the chemicals, the satisfaction of doing the entire process myself from clicking the shutter to scanning the film, all of it has been quite satisfying.

Street Artist
Anna the Baker

I had recently picked up an old Nikon F3 on eBay and since I already own a couple of appropriate (i.e. fully manual) lenses, I had the perfect kit for my new project. The lenses I have been using so far are a 28mm f1.8 and an 85mm f1.8. A very sweet pair of lenses, I must say. I have a 50mm f1.2 that I have not used much yet, but I will soon.

As for film, I thought Ilford's FP4 and HP5 B&W films would be a good place to start. So far, I have found these to be a very fine choice. They are fast enough for most of my work and the grain is just noticeable enough to give a satisfying old-school film look (but honestly ;)).

It has been a couple of weeks now that I have been shooting exclusively with this setup. I am having a blast! I am getting faster with the manual controls - with my DSLR I shoot probably 90% or more in aperture priority. It has been fun remembering the old ways of fully manual shooting, things like shutter speed and aperture don't actually change much from one exposure to another. Things like when using 100 asa and it's a bright sunny day, 1/250 and f8 or f11 is probably pretty close to right. Things like - if the exposure is a little wrong, it's not usually all that critical. And pre-focusing and zone focusing are really useful tricks.

And I have loved re-discovering the joys of developing film. It's crazy easy. You do not need a dark room just a changing bag, a developer tank and a kitchen. A very inexpensive setup. I have found I can usually develop a roll (or two) and get everything cleaned up in less than 30 minutes (drying time not included ;) ).

And the results? What do you think? I like what I am seeing. These images are maybe not as sharp as my digital images, but I kind of like that. But the feeling in the images is (to my taste) wonderful. In so many other ways, I think they are at least as beautiful as digital images.

If you have been thinking you'd like to try film again (or for the first time), I can wholeheartedly encourage you. If the idea of developing intimidates or scares you, don't let it. It really is very easy. And the equipment and chemicals are inexpensive. Besides, you are very welcome to give me a call - I'd be happy to offer advice and maybe even a little tutoring if necessary.

More of my Film Project images can be found on my Tumblr account and in my Film Project set on Flickr.

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