Shooting with film

29th November 2013
*updated Dec 22nd

In this rush, immediacy and take & show world that we live in nowadays, it's nice to be able to slow down and do your own thing... my thing for chilling out is shooting photography with black & white film. I've a few older cameras that I use for this, and I love the manual mechanics of older cameras.

I love the way you have to think about what you're doing, taking time to get the picture right... not just pointing a camera at the sky and pressing the button lots of times until the LCD screen shows you a photo that "you've taken" and that you like.

You get 24 - maybe 36 photos, with no immediate reference to what you've just achieved. You need to finish the roll of film and develop that first.

Then look at the negatives and get prints or scans from there.

Slow process ?
Yes, it can be. But that's part of the fun.

I was out this week, shot a few frames in different locations, then yesterday finished the roll of film off with a short walk around John Muir Country Park.

Now I'm saying it can be a slow process... but yesterday I got home, loaded the film into the development tank (in complete darkness - which is a challenge in a modern house - need to get the new studio open fast to get a darkroom again!), got out the chemicals. got them to exactly 20' C , and developed the film.

By the time dinner was inside me, the roll of film had dried enough to cut it into strips and scan in for a preview of the last few days work.

This may seem like a lot of work... but in "the old days" this was standard. If you've been into photography for a good few years you'll get this.

Fair enough nowadays everything is on demand, ready when you want it, and with film, it's like going to that new Turkish Barbers in Dunbar. They don't do rush. Slow down, enjoy it.

So WHY would anyone want to shoot film these days ?

Are the photos better ?
Depends on who you ask... they might seem a bit fuzzier, lots of grain showing in plain areas like sky... even ISO 400 was a fast film back in my day... my wedding gear gets used up to ISO 3200 !
But there IS a quality about them. At the moment I'm scanning the negatives in so I'm missing out on the enlarging & print stage, but even then the photos feel nicer to me.
Maybe it's because I know I took it with love & took my time :)

Is it easier to shoot ?
Ha ha definitely not, but it's not hard either.
Manual focus, manual exposure (ok sometimes I'll use AV mode), but never-the-less having to know a wee bit about what your doing as once you've pressed that button... the photo is there on the film, and your indicator of how many shots are left went down. You only started at 24 !

So why ?
In my opinion, the best way to learn photography is to learn how to do everything manually. So what better way than to get an old film camera.
There's more to it than that. You lovingly take those small amount of photos, you then spend time with chemicals and timers and tease the images onto that roll of film, you make it safe to open the tank... and after washing the film you can pull the roll off and see those little works of art all on a big roll of acetate.

So... shooting film is great, it's retro (isn't that in style just now?) and it's slow... I find it peaceful.
Gawd, I wouldn't shoot a wedding with film nowadays, but when it's my day off... out comes the film cameras and maybe the Vespa too :)
In a way it's much like our scooter scene... travelling 2-300 miles on a tiny 200cc bike with 10" wheels... at every rally people ask why we do it... I don't think we know the answer... we just love it.
Shooting with film is the same idea. You'll love it ... or not.
If you want to just point your camera at the sunset and see what you get... there's nothing wrong with that.
But if you want to get really into it and push yourself a wee bit... give it a go.

Test it. Put masking tape over your cameras LCD screen. Pick one ISO setting... 100 or 400. Switch to manual focus... use manual exposure, read what your cameras light meter tells you... and only shoot 24 photos. It will make you learn faster.

If anyone out there in my area ever fancies giving film a go, and wants to know where to start... give me a shout and I'll point you in one of the right directions.
And if you really want to know how cameras work, how you get the photo that your fancy camera's LCD screen is showing you... what better way to understand what is going on than to go back to basics.

I think it's a shame that most people new to photography will never get to learn what they are actually doing... some might not care, but maybe... just maybe you are one of the ones who would like to find out ?

All the photos here were shot on Kodak Tri-X 400, and developed with Ilford chemicals (about 45 seconds too long - for extra contrast)

Watch out next week for more of these. If weather stays nice, we're doing a full outdoor portrait shoot with 35mm film.


Edit... out with Annie and Ali with 35mm gear... developed same afternoon & scanned in...

Dec 21st...took a stroll with the Nikon FM3A and a roll of Ilford FP4 to Ravensheugh Log cabin at Tyninghame, and went to get some snaps of the WW2 tank traps there.

After scanning the developed negatives, I gave them a sepia treatment, just to add to the old look.



Photo comment By Grahame: On a wee side note, I noticed the log seats at the camp fire area of the cabin haven't been replaced since a father of the bride at a wedding I covered there thought they were big logs for the fire, and chucked them into the blaze. It was warm that night ;)

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