So, this is the story of how it started.
I went to Walmart in a foul mood. I don’t remember exactly why I was in a foul mood, but 2014 hasn’t been the best of years, and my moods have generally been towards the dark and dusky lately. I was wandering around Walmart, angry and miserable, and eventually meandered into the electronics section. It was there, browsing between the overpriced headphones and horrible iPhone cases, that I spotted a 3 pack of Fuji Color film, 200 ISO, 24 exposures. Who knew Walmart still sold film?
It’s been about 15 years since I shot film. When I was in college, I took a lot of photography classes. So many, in fact, that it actually should have been my minor. I was developing black & white film, printing both black and white and color prints, matting, framing, I was into it. I loved it, actually. And then, after school, it all dissipated. Into nothing. I stopped shooting film, I stopped doing photography. I stopped making art.
I’ve always promised myself I would bust out the old Pentax K-1000 and get back into it.
But, for a long time, it just never happened. Then I walked into Walmart. I was looking for a fight, if I’m honest. I left being excited about something again.
I was so excited, in fact, that I just went to a local park and started shooting. Thank God it was a nice day.
There is this romance that has risen up around film. It’s the same nostalgia that comes over people when they think about vinyl records. I don’t buy into the “vinyl sounds better” argument too much, and I don’t believe that film has this magic elixir that automatically elevates photography into some rarefied artistic atmosphere.
That said, I did forget how much film photography just looks different that digital. It’s difficult to quantify, and complicated to explain, but it’s there. Film looks different.
My own photography has been getting into a bit of a rut lately. So, from a purely creative viewpoint, different is always good. Getting out of ruts is good. Finding new ways to express your vision is always good.
Film, however, costs. That’s the upside with digital. You buy one SD card and, boom, done. Go out, shoot, download photos, shoot more, download those, shoot 5,000 pics, all downloaded from the same SD card. Your financial outlay is nill. Film costs actual money.
Plus, that first roll, I sent out to be developed and scanned. I won’t say how much it cost, it wasn’t a lot in itself. However, I thought about how much I shoot, and after doing some basic math I came to the conclusion that my wallet would never handle sending out several rolls of film a month.
So, I was faced with putting the K-1000 back on the shelf. Again.
Then I came across some articles that explained how to “scan” your film negatives using your digital camera:
Perfect. I immediately logged onto B&H and ordered this
Logan Electric 4 x 5″ Slim Edge Light Pad, and a negative holder, then when to eBay and got a 50mm macro lens to get really close up to the negatives. I also got another 50mm lens for my K-1000, an f1.7 to replace my craptastic f2.0 because, well, I was on eBay and why not?
EBay is very dangerous that way.
After that it was trying to figure out how to make it all work. I have this great idea for a very versatile and accurate set up. It will be really sweet. Eventually. Now, however, it devolved to a lot of foamcore board and duct tape. Real redneck D.I.Y, but what the hell, it totally works.
The process is exactly how it looks. After developing the film at Costco (shout out to Costco!) I set up the lightpad, put the negatives in the film holder, slap on the 50mm macro lens onto my K-01 and go. Thank God for focus peaking, I’m not sure I would be able to get many accurate shots without it.
I’ve done six rolls of film since, and the investment in the light pad and lens have totally paid for themselves at this point.
The downside to this process is that I’m still experimenting with getting the colors right in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. That part is far more difficult than I could have imagined.
But it will get there. Eventually.
The most important takeaway, though, as been that photography has become fun again.
It hasn’t been fun for a while. I’m looking forward to taking pictures again.
Maybe film does have some sort of magic elixir after all.