Do you remember when you first shot analog film?
Earlier this year, I joined the Victory Camera team as the communications manager. There was just one small hitch: I had never shot analog film. Like ever, ever.
Here's the thing about film: if you started your film journey a while ago (or yours never ended), you might forget that shooting film the first time is terrifying. Sure, I had shot digital before, but analog is a different beast. You have your eyes, maybe a light meter, and your intuition. You have 36 (ish) chances to take some decent photos, after which you send them off to get developed and pray that some of them come back somewhat usable. I had so many questions when I started: How do you know how it's going to look? What happens if they turn out bad? And most importantly: how do I turn negatives into a clout-chasing Instagram post my parents will fawn over?
Instagram notwithstanding, Josh sent me out with a Nikon FM, a 50mm kit lens, and a roll of Kodak Tri-X. These three ended up being instrumental to my (relative) success. The Nikon FM and I ended up vibing together so well that it became the first to join my analog arsenal a few weeks later.
Tri-X taught me an important lesson in trusting your stock. It waxed and waned between grainy and crystal clear, light and dark in a way that I'm still enamored with. I'm finding that film (especially black and white) really wants to be experimented with. I'm still bewildered that the same stock and lenscould produce such different looks from negative to negative.
My boyfriend and I excitedly headed over to Cheesman Park to try everything out. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, because this gave us lots of different lighting opportunities. I was certain I would mess this part up. I learned after getting my negatives back that film can handle light - a lot of it. Even my overexposed negatives came out with a dreamy quality I really liked.
Roll your eyes all you want, but there are some good life lessons in shooting 35mm. For one, I found most subjects are worthy of having their picture taken. I had a few shots I was looking forward to, but I was blown away by how many of them turned out better than I expected.
This shot is a great example. I completely forgot I ever took a photo of this bush, and I definitely expected it to come out pretty mundane. To my surprise, it’s one of the very best from the roll!
For another, shooting film is a big practice in acceptance. I found myself worrying from time to time that a shot I was excited about would come out poorly. I’m used to the digital mentality of taking a million shots, knowing statistically one of them has to come out okay. Film encourages you to be way more thoughtful about your subject and settings. After a while, I became much more trusting of my eyes and good ol’ F/8. Most of all, film teaches you to accept failure. For the most part, you’ll never be able to recreate the lighting, the pose, or most other factors exactly the way it was, and that’s okay. Every bad negative is a learning experience, and accepting that means there are better photos in your future.