The (Re-) Discovery of Film

December 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

As we come to the end of 2013, I have been reflecting on what I have been reading, and what has stuck with me the most. This past year, I have been reading a lot in the photography industry of how young photographers are discovering film. Discovering film? Using film is now chic.... http://photographylife.com/the-film-show-by-framed-network#more-59919. How does one discover something that has been around for decades. I am still pondering how I should feel about all this. I don't know if I should be amused, cry, or feel, well, old. I've spent more of my life shooting film, than I have digital, and it is hard for me to come to grips that there are those who have never taken a shot without the instant gratification of digital, that what is in the camera may not be the end vision. (There is even a short funny video about that exact circumstance: http://petapixel.com/2013/12/27/video-tries-explain-film-photography-modern-kids/. Or, that there are those who have never had to wait to see what was shot, and had to “edit” in a darkroom (if you were lucky enough to have access to one). Even if you had access to a darkroom, your original picture was still pretty much the end product, a photo.

My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic that my dad bought for me when I started in Girl Scouts (yep, really, Girl Scouts, I got the badge!). It was 126 format film, came in a cartridge with either 12 or 24 shots, black and white and was usually 200ASA (Ah, yes, ASA... pre ISO standard days). I had albums full of scout activities and family. These instamatics had those little flash bulbs that I could burn through like no tomorrow, so most of my shots were outside (Dad put a serious limit on my flash bulb budget). There are a lot of memories of my childhood in those pictures. 

 

Next was my 110 Instamatic, again a Kodak. This had those cute little flash “cubes” and were called “pocket” instamatics (although I would think by today's standards, they were not very pocket friendly). I pretty much had the same ASA's, but, color film! This was my main camera through high school and early college. I went through 2 or three versions of this, including Tele-Ektralite.

 

So, up until early college, I had point and shoot cartridge type cameras, and had learned a little about film speeds and had lots of albums with those shiny pieces of paper for which we waited at either the local camera shop or drug store. When the photos came in we shared them with family and friends (only we had to physically be there or US Post them). We would get double prints so we could give some away. My albums are those old style where you had to put your photo corners in the little corner holders (that always came unglued). During college I was able to use the newer type albums with plastic sleeves for the photographs. I toted those around through college and all my moves since. Memories in a box (actually, boxeS).

Eventually I graduated with a degree that allowed me to work for Eastman Kodak for 13 years. I was a software engineer that worked in consumer, business and medical products. I got to help design camera systems, medical imaging, business imaging (remember micro-fiche?) and work with some awesome optics, laser, and film/chemical people. I had the opportunity to take classes with Kodak's Pro and Amateur photographers in 35mm photography. I had access to Nikon, Canon, Minolta equipment. I had access to all the film I could shoot and free processing (employees were the QA for film batches). I had access to Kodak darkrooms and studios. I did not know how good I had it after college. I was in a virtual photographer's dream. I learned about exposure, film speeds, pushing film, negative and slide film (did I mention I now have boxes of slides too?). I got to use Kodachrome, Ektachrome, T-Max. I remember when T-cell came out and we eventually could get 1000 speed film! I got to play with some really old cameras, new cameras and medium format cameras. I was taught composition, lighting (natural and studio), metering outside the camera, focusing, use of double exposure. I took classes in photojournalism, sports, nature photography. I soaked up all I could and learned our business. Mostly, I learned to plan my shots, which became easier and quicker the more I shot. (I even got to see some of the early digital design work Kodak had in the research labs years ahead of others, too bad management did not listen... That's another story).

It was not until after I left Kodak and moved to Texas that I learned how important planning really was. I no longer had the Kodak “machine” behind my hobby. I had to pay for film, had to pay for it to be processed. I needed to make each shot count. As film and processing became harder to get, I finally got dragged into Digital Photography in 2008. My first digital SLR was the Nikon D80, which was not enough camera, but allowed me to learn the cross over from digital to film. I quickly went to the D300, then D700. I wanted that full frame sensitivity to get what I was used to with my film cameras (and that a 200mm lens was really a 200mm lens!). I had to learn about white balance and found out why I liked Kodak film over Fuji (warmer vs. cooler) and that I could swap between ISO's and Kelvin's in one shoot! I now have a Nikon D3s and kept my D700. I find I shoot less exposures than most, I fuss more before shooting, it's in my film blood to be more careful with my shots. I see my digital images as photos, and not something to be twiddled until you can barely tell it is a photo (that, to me is digital art with someone's image as a starting point). So, back to my original question, how do I feel about the re-discovery of film? Slightly amused and... Old.


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