My very first camera was given to me when I was about 6 years old, part of a collection of items that came in a box and called an Adventure Kit: it contained a pen knife (that was ok back then), a water bottle, compass, torch, whistle, bag worn round the waist, but most importantly, a real camera. My dad gave me a roll of black and white film to go with it and I still have the photos of some steam trains at some event somewhere .
Fast forward to when I was 13 and I found my dad’s Praktica, put in some black and white film and went off try to try get arty. Two years later (not sure what happened to the East German SLR) I got my very own SLR, the finest the USSR (Google it young people) could produce from surplus brass tank parts, a Zenith EM
And so film continued, through the 1990s with various instantamatics until finally digital arrived. I’d spent so long during this time taking snaps and filming video (especially once the kids arrived) I’d forgotten that I used to take arty shots. The cost of film was always a limiting factor and took a while before it finally dawned on me in 2004 that the photos I took with my beloved Nikon Coolpix (a tale for different post) didn’t just have to be snaps. Keep in mind that the memory card didn’t hold that many pictures so I was still a bit cautious with the shutter.
Forward again to 2016, happily snapping away with my Sony a57, as arty as I like and beginning to become interested in black white images – the blinding flash moment (well nearly) – hey, I wonder if I could take photos on film and set up my own dark room in the shed?
Some internet research later and the complexity and cost of printing photos was pushed back to a later date, if I’m still keen. Some more research later and developing quite doable, just a dark cupboard would suffice, but again, not quite yet.
So bring out the Zenith? Well no. First of all, the lenses I have aren’t good, the camera itself is big and heavy, leaks light occasionally, hard to focus, exposure counter not working, and so on. However, I have Minolta fit lenses right on my Sony? So why not buy a Minolta SLR – eBay… £12 + pp (body only) and arrives a rather nice Minolta X-300
Great. Oh, but the Sony fit lenses don’t er.. fit. You see the SLR has C-fit, not E-fit…doh. eBay..£15… 50mm Minolta lens. Now we’re rolling!
A trip to Barcelona with some old, out of date Kodacolor Gold to try things out. This is where things became interesting because of the way I take digital images is quite different to film. Carrying both around I came to a spot where I wanted to take some shots. Sony out and click click click zoom click fiddle-with-settings click click click. Now, Minolta out… mmmm …mmm check aperture… mmm… line up…mmm not here, move closer… mmm adjust shutter speed…mmm… mmmmmm…. err…er… ah… no… mmm…. adjust aperture….errr……ok. Click? damn, need to wind film on first… mmm ….er ….mmm. ok. Click. And that’s it. Dunno if it worked. So the approach is quite different. On that trip I too about 750 digital images. I took 36 film images. Hit rate about the same (see Barcelona 2016 in Film gallery). [not really – Ed]
Getting home I got the film developed (£3 in Asda including contacts onto a CD) and tried to scan them using a rather old Epson scanner. Gives a nice scratched, old effect but Santa is bringing me a better scanner (Jumbl 22Mb) for Christmas. I have a £10 roll of black and white Ilford film getting used up just now (so even more picky about clicky) which I will finish this week, and then to Jessops to get developed (I don’t trust Asda to have clean developer and fix solutions in their machines). More costly however.
So right now I’m at first base: take images and have professionals development the film. I’ll scan and photoshop the negatives, and then, one day perhaps I’ll print too. And that’s the journey. The question not yet answered is will I get anything from this film-based activity? Can I get images that will be any better than from digital, or at least different in a way that would be difficult (or phoney-looking) to reproduce in Photoshop? So far all I can say is that it’s been very interesting having to completely change my approach to how I take a photo. And that in itself may positively impact my digital images as I’ll spend just a little more time looking and thinking rather than just clicking in pursuit of the percentage shot.