Shooting With Film Again

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1991 – High School

Good times for sure. Lots of friends, no internet so we had to talk to each other to communicate. My sophomore year I joined the yearbook and newspaper teams as a photographer. I spent a good portion of my days in the darkroom filling orders for the copy teams, developing film and making prints. I loved it. I got to work on my own or with 1 other person and didn’t have anyone telling me what to do.. As I look back on it now, I really consider it my first job. I was in charge of the darkroom by my senior year.  I made sure things ran smoothly and that prints and images were ready to go on time. We had deadlines to meet.

I graduated HS in 1993 and began college. I entered some images into our local County Fair and took first place in all the categories I had entered. After arriving back home from a trip to Montana my mom told me that the owner of our 1 hr film lab wanted to talk to me about a job. I was very excited…I had wanted this job for a while but was turned down about 6 months earlier. When I asked my mom why he wanted to talk to me now, she said that he saw my work at the fair.

I went to work at the photo lab for about 3 years  saving all my money and I was finally able to purchase my first Pro camera (Nikon F4s).  While working there I was also doing some sports photography for our local newspaper that just happened to be across the street. I did that for about a year. My real love was photography for me, for my soul, not working for someone else. The money and benefits weren’t good enough at those jobs so I had to grow up and get a real job…..with benefits. Photography kind of went by the wayside for many years…

In that time digital cameras had hit the market in a big way and changed photography. I jumped on that bandwagon and am still riding it today. I love photography in general. Digital is great, fast paced and fairly simply given my background with film. I was no computer wizard so that was the tough part of the learning curve.. Film went bye bye, I wasn’t working in a darkroom or making prints anymore. I felt as though something was missing from my life. The years went on, I moved a few times, had a few more real jobs, got married and had a child…

2016 – 41 yrs old and I’ll be dammed if I can’t do what I want when I want…

I want to shoot film again, I want to make pictures and I want to develop my own film – I knew this would not happen overnight. First, after deciding that I wanted to shoot film again I also knew that I wanted to shoot Medium Format as well as 35mm.

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Choosing a Medium Format camera that I felt was a good fit for me took a little while. I did not want a fixer upper but I also did not want to spend an arm and a leg – remember I have a family.  I finally decided on the Mamiya C330f – Twin Lens Reflex. It shoots 120mm film and each negative is 6cm x 6cm which is quite a bit larger than 35mm. I had never shot medium format before as well as I had never shot a camera that did not have a light meter built in. Now with a camera and some film I am ready to go.  I get out there and all set up and now I am not sure how to meter the scene. Good thing I had my Nikon D810 with me. I set all the settings the same and used it to meter the scene. This worked pretty well  but if I am going to be honest it was a bit of a hassle to have another camera just for that.. A month ago I purchased a handheld light meter that does a great job. Sekonic 308 because it was small, decent price and offered both indecent and reflective light metering.

After having a few rolls of exposed film I needed to get them developed and since I did not have the proper chemicals at my house I took them to Englewood Camera to be developed. I have created a nice working relationship with the employees there and they have always done a great job with my work.

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Now that I had some processed film and paper to print on, I was ready to get back into the darkroom and start making prints. Well there are not many darkrooms left that don’t want either an arm or a leg or for you to bring all your own stuff i.e chemicals. After a little research I found a place up in Boulder, Colorado that offers darkroom rentals for a very reasonable price. I rent it for 3hrs at a time and this allows me enough time to get a fair amount of work done.

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With the camera, film, a lab to process the film and a place to make prints I am pretty well set up to begin producing my own prints again. Over the last year since acquiring the camera I have had a lot of fun buying new films, light meter and chemicals so that in the very near future I will be doing all my own developing at home. I am not sure I will ever have a place where I can make prints at home and I am OK with that. I am simply very happy I have all the tools in place to begin this journey again.

Last week I took advantage of an expired film sale that Englewood Camera had. Some of the film has been expired for almost 40 years. I just shot a roll of black and white the other day that was expired 18 years ago and after getting it developed it looked really good…no light leaks or fogging. I will be printing from those negatives tomorrow.

 

So by now you may be asking yourself, “Why is he shooting film again?” and the answer is very simply. It slows me down, makes me think and let’s me appreciate what I am shooting/doing. From setting up the camera, getting a good focus, checking the light, taking the image, getting the roll developed and then choosing the best image to print can be a time consuming process. The center print above of Yosemite Falls was taken last summer while on vacation with my daughter. Starting next week I will be doing some scans of the images and while I plan on doing scans to post online. I am not going to do any prints from the digital scans unless I get an order for one that is bigger than I can print myself.

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As of right now I can print up to 16×24 directly from the negatives. If I were to do a drum scan of the negative then the native print size at 300dpi would be 60×60 inches.  Yes, that is the power of shooting Medium Format film. In digital terms that would mean your file would have to be 18,000×18,000.  As soon as our living room is done being painted I will be printing an image 36×117 inches that is a panorama from my digital camera. The file size is 24089×7379.

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For me personally, this is something I loved to do as a kid and something I want to enjoy again. The images that I produce wont be available to the masses. Not everyone will have one and more than likely not more that 10 prints will ever be made from the same negative. From start to finish I will have my hand on the process the entire way. The images that I create on film will not be the grand landscapes you see from me today. I will be shooting people, cityscapes, close ups, abstracts, patterns, textures, shallow DOF ect…. I love shooting landscapes, big, colorful landscapes and now I want to incorporate images that tell more of a story and really make the viewer think about what they are looking at or the story that goes with the image.

I hope this gives you a little insight on what is coming up for me in the very near future. Do I plan to give up digital?, No. Just planning on shooting more film along the way.

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Be sure to contact me directly if you have any questions or just want to talk about photography. You can also find me on the interwebs, FB, IG, and TW..

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