Last year, and I can hardly believe it has already been a year, I traveled to Peru and spent a week with my daughter in Lima. I brought two cameras–a Minolta X-700 and a Holga and I was super happy with my decision not to bring a digital camera. In fact, I just gave my now ratty-looking but still capable digital camera to my son to borrow, with the caveat that I can borrow it back when I need to. I like where film is taking me right now so I’m going to keep exploring that.
So in just over a month my friend Jane and I are heading to Iceland and while I am pretty well decided on which cameras I’m bringing, now I am suddenly obsessing about how much and what kind of film to bring. I’m no expert on all the films out there, but I’ve tried a few and I’ve got some favorites. If you don’t believe me that there really are lots and lots of films available, take a look at this compendium by EMULSIVE (this is part 5, but see the links to all four parts before this one if you want your head to spin).
But, I am struggling among my favorites. I know I want to shoot both black and white and color, but should I stick to one film each so my resulting images have somewhat the same voice? A variety, so I can mix it up (my norm)? And, how much film? 20 rolls? 40? I like to have options but I also need to pack smart and consider my budget.
I’m actually more worried about what film to bring than what clothes to pack. Have you been to Iceland in late September? If you have either film or clothing/footwear suggestions, I’m all ears.
Otherwise, after a two and a half week hiatus, I’m back on the shores of Lake Michigan for a little while. It’s hot, the beach has grown a bit, the Queen Anne’s lace and the mullein and the summer squash and the corn fields have all exploded, the bees are busy and the cicadas are humming the evenings away. We watched a bit of the Perseid meteors last night but couldn’t stay awake, although they were beautiful, sending silver glitter streaks through the sky. It’s high summer and it’s just heaven.
Last Friday’s burst of warmth and color quickly turned to chill, gray, lackluster. I crave that color, but I’m beginning to see things differently. Black and white film opens you up to that, I think.
umbrella, riverfront, rain, Minolta SRT 102 and Lomography Earl Gray
Since January I’ve shot and processed (myself!) 16 rolls of black and white film, 35mm and 120mm. I have one more assignment in the class I’m taking and then I may need to go a little nuts with color film for a while after that, especially as I’ll be in California for one day of sightseeing before a few days of work and then after that in Lima, Peru for a week. I don’t know much about Lima yet, but I am imagining it’s a place requiring color film. I can’t wait to find out.
gnarly trees and clouds, Mamiya 645 1000s, Kodak T-Max 400
But despite the gray, there are green shoots, buds, the smell of wet earth, wildly chirping birds… all these signs of impending color and warm and sun. We are poised and ready and the wait makes the reward that much more delicious.
Marsh in metropark, Holga, Kodak T-Max 400
This week is exciting, different, changing. I have a new outlook. My youngest turned 21 this week, which feels like a new era… both my babies are adults. I shared an interview and photos with a community of film enthusiasts and the experience makes me feel lucky, like pinch-myself lucky, to be considered as someone with a passionate voice. I will have family around me this weekend and I will revel in that.
It’s been the grayest month. Gray everywhere. After some teaser days in February we got just the grayest, dreariest March ever. Well, until last Friday, which was a big, blue, bright, bold, sunny and lovely day with a wind that blew the winter’s dust around and sent the cobwebs packing.
Of course the rain came over the weekend but whatever. It’s spring now and rain happens. But let’s get back to Friday. The temps even hit the low 70s. It was glorious. You shoulda been there.
But you weren’t, so I’m going to share some photos because I sneaked out of work a tiny bit early and went in search of color with my friend Jane.
Detroit’s Eastern Market is the perfect antidote to a too-gray month that has gone suddenly, brilliantly bright. On Saturdays the market is alive and crowded, but other days it’s fairly quiet. Go on Saturdays for people-watching (and food buying) and on other days for wandering and mural-gazing.
I’ve got it bad. I sort of made a deal with myself to not acquire any more cameras for a while and focus on the ones I have (and the one I’m borrowing). But I broke my own deal in January when I used gift money to buy a Lomography Sprocket Rocket. And then some fascination with the Holga made me buy one of those, too, earlier this month. I kind of don’t count these two cameras in my deal with myself because they’re plastic. Not that they’re not real cameras–I’d argue with anyone on that. But, they’re really inexpensive. Faulty logic, but there you go.
I fall in love too easily. 120 film is my current crush. These Holga images from Friday’s adventure make me happy I don’t listen to myself sometimes.
That foggy day last week warranted an entire roll of film, much of it used in my neighborhood.
church steeple in fog, Kodak Tri-X 400, Minolta SRT 102
forgotten shoes in fog, Kodak Tri-X 400, Minolta SRT 102
Fog changes everything. The familiar is unfamiliar. There’s a lack of color, a mystery about things, a mood. A little eerie, maybe, to some. All I know is I could hardly wait to get to class last night. I had three rolls of film to develop–my first foray into developing my own film.
We learned how to work in total darkness, working shoulder to shoulder, cracking open our film canisters with can openers and carefully, blindly, passing scissors to each other. As far as I know there was no bloodshed. And then the processing, this part in the light, fortunately… we poured chemicals together, agitated our film- and chemical-filled canisters, chatted in between watching our timers, fretted about possible mistakes, encouraged each other, watched as images magically appeared.
The whole process was easier than I expected, and honestly a lot less smelly than I expected. I like that my class consists of mostly people younger than me, with a few my age or older. Some who’ve never touched a camera, some with years of experience or past experience, and some who have taken the class multiple times solely for open use of the darkroom. There is learning and teaching to be had here, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.
More of Detroit’s downtown buildings, these things that make me swoon and forget to look where I’m going.
This time in black and white, also 35mm film. A study in shapes, lines, angles. I took these on both the last day of 2016 and on the first day of 2017, closing out and opening up the new year looking up.
These were shot on two different different Minolta SLR cameras and both with Kodak Tri-X film–an SRT-102 using the suggested film speed (400) and an X-700 pushing the film two stops to 1600. I’m not certain I can tell the difference, but this is my first stab at pushing and I think it might not be my last.
You’re not what you were. You won’t be the same tomorrow, either. You had a heyday, you declined, then a recession. Today, a resurgence. You are loved and loathed, fought over, talked about, dismissed, underestimated, maligned, deified, abandoned, thriving. Through it all, you stand tall. You’ve got chops. You are what we make of you, but you have your own heart and our stories don’t define you.
I didn’t appreciate you when I grew up in your suburbs. I left; you called me back. Today I honor you–your shape-shifting, your grit, your perseverance.
So nice, I like you twice.
I took these double exposures on a sunny and not-so-cold New Year’s Day. Seemed a perfect way to honor the old and ring in the new.
I had trouble loading a roll of Ilford HP5 into my Pentax K1000 just about this time last year. I loaded and reloaded and remember reloading it again. I wasn’t sure the film was advancing correctly while I was shooting, and eventually I just stopped shooting, rewound the film and took it out.
And then I forgot about it for months, until I handed it to my son to develop at school. I was right… it hadn’t advanced correctly at all. I forgot about the negatives until I was clearing out a bit of junk in my office a few days ago and almost threw out the film canister that contained the negatives.
I’m still working on figuring out the best settings for my scanner, but I think the resulting accidental double, triple, and maybe more exposures are at least interesting.
Last month, I felt like I was on a mission to capture the last bits of color before the bleak winter set in. It’s not like there are never any blue skies in the midwest in the winter–of course there are lovely sunny days. And there is color. There are warm sandy-colored grasses like phragmites and bullrush and other marsh-dwelling plants that dry into warm shades. There is still green grass here and moss, too. But the colors are much less riotous. Everything seems subdued. And when blanketed in snow, all is white and shades of gray. Still beautiful, but it tends to wear on a girl who craves color and contrast and is stuck in cement-bound suburbs for the winter. But maybe I need to look at winter as a creative lesson? I guess we’ll see in the coming months.
I shot some film in November. Color (Kodak GC 400 and my current favorite, Ektar 100), black and white (Kodak Tri-X, which I am finding I really like a lot), and my last roll of Lomography lomochrome purple (which I still think is some kind of ridiculous, happiness-inducing, magical magic trick). I managed not to buy any new cameras although I’ll admit to scouring eBay listings and dreaming of my next purchase (I may have bought a couple of old lenses but they were super cheap). I used the two Minolta’s (SRT 102 and X-700), the Pentax K1000, and the Olympus EE3 in November. I’m not bored with any of these yet and still learning some of their differences and quirks. It’s too difficult and probably unnecessary to zero in on just one, so I’m not going to.
Stay tuned to one of my other favorite places right now, EMULSIVE, which in January April will feature an interview with… me. Yes, me! A relative newbie to film! I love the community that EMULSIVE has built, with an exchange of creativity and a wealth of information for people like me who have fallen head over heels and all punch-drunk in love with this craft. And, maybe most importantly, offers up for your viewing pleasure a ton of gorgeous (film) photos from some incredibly talented photographers.
So, while I got this film processed weeks ago, I wanted to take my time so that I could choose a few images that wouldn’t be anywhere else (as in here) before they show up on EMULSIVE. My two very favorites from November will be featured there first.
I’m also still trying to figure out how I want to display photos here. I’ve used headers and grouped images by camera (I think I did this for October’s shots). Do I caption each with the camera and type of film? I know when I look at other people’s photos, this is something I like to know. So I’ll try that this time. Do you like to know what kind of film and camera, or is that info overkill or detracting?
Technically these are not November photos… but Margi came to visit in very late October and this roll got finished in November, so there you go. Not so much a film fan but a Margi (Chicago dancer, teacher, choreographer) fan? The digital images from her visit are here.
And, my maiden attempt at a double exposure. Which didn’t turn out exactly how I invisioned but that’s how things go. I attempted to keep the camera still (via tripod), so the trees and bird would remain still, but there would be two Margi’s. Instead it looks a little like a psychedelic trip. See? Learning process.
Mostly images from the west side of Michigan, although I finished two rolls in a local metro Detroit park. A few images here are the ends of those rolls.
Forest two ways, Olympus Pen EE3, Lomography Lomochrome Purple
Asparagus gone to seed, Olympus Pen EE3, Lomography Lomochrome Purple
Oak leaf in meadow grass, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
Dew drops after frost, Pentax K1000, Ektar 100
Milkweed pods, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Milkweed pods, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Fall arrangement, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Branches and sky, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
Where Halloween balloons and forgotten things end up, Olympus Pen EE3, Lomography Lomochrome Purple
We were lucky enough to again spend our Thanksgiving at the cottage with the people we love best. Of course I ditched them all to be outside as much as possible, but otherwise we had plenty of togetherness and merry-making.
Lake and trees, double exposure, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
my kid and Lost Lake, double exposure, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
Goldenrod seed, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
Windows, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Private property, Minolta SRT 102, Kodak GC 400
Lost Lake, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Windmill, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Beach closed, Minolta X-700, Kodak Tri-X 400
Outdoor seating, Minolta X-700, Tri-X 400
It’s a sign, Minolta X-700, Tri-X 400
Giant, Minolta X-700, Tri-X 400
I’d been a little hesitant to shoot black and white film, but I think I’m over that now. Out of November’s four rolls, I think I most love the images I took using Kodak Tri-X. I still have plenty of other films to try out, so I’m not calling any favorites just yet…
A few weeks ago I spent a small fortune on a few rolls of Lomography Lomochrome Purple film on a whim. Because, well, I’m in an experimental phase here and I’m rolling with that. But really, it’s like magic, this film–it turns greens purple (but only sometimes) and mucks about with other colors in weird and wonderful ways and yes, I do know that I can do that in Photoshop but I want to create magic right in my camera with no other faffing around. And I want to be surprised by what I get when my film is developed. And I don’t want to control everything. (I take that back. I kind of like control, but not where film photography is concerned. I am still in love with the surprises there.)
So I put one roll in my Minolta SRT 102 and after that I ran another through my Olympus Pen EE3. Was I surprised? Yes. Delighted? Totally.
Will I use this film again? Yes, oh yes. And I can’t wait.
In the meantime, here are some favorites from those two rolls.
I’m burning through 35mm film like it’s my job lately (a job for which I pay, rather than get paid, apparently). Maybe it’s the lure of all the beautiful colors and the changing season? I’m not sure, but I’m fairly obsessed. I’m not picky, though–I’ll put anything in my camera(s). I’m learning the particularities of a few different cameras, which film the cameras like, the results I like. For instance, I learned in August that I like Agfa 200 in the Olympus Pens–a lot. It’s cheap and the colors come out a little gawdy, which I like for the half frame format.
It’s also a nice film (because of its price) to test new cameras with. In August, I picked up a Minolta SRT-102. It’s so clean I’m not sure it was ever even used, maybe just bought and used once or twice and then tucked into a box for 40 years? I’ll never know its story.
Last week I sent three rolls of film from mid-late September to early October to The Darkroom for processing. I’ve used them for a few years and have recently tried some others, but think I need to stick with The Darkroom–they do a bang-up job, have great customer service, and get my stuff back to me pretty quick considering they are in California and I’m across the country in Michigan. These images aren’t edited at all–just processed and scanned by The Darkroom (I only added my watermark in Lightroom).
The SRT-102 is an interesting camera, though, with a bit of a learning curve–in the viewfinder, you match one needle to another needle with a circle on the end to get the right exposure. It’s a little awkward for me and will take some getting used to and I wasn’t convinced the meter was working accurately, but the test roll seems to show otherwise, which makes me happy because it’s a really beautiful camera, heavy and solid in hand. In fact, I was so hopeful that the camera would work that I ran a second roll of film through it before I got this test roll back. I shot most of the rest of the first SRT-102 roll in October, so I’ll get back to September’s film…
I popped a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 into my trusty Pentax K1000 in mid-September. That Ektar might just be my favorite film right now–I mean, look at that red! And even though I’m really digging the SRT-102, I’m not giving up the Pentax. It’s a joy to use, fun and easy and not the least bit finicky. Again I’ve not made a single edit to these, which may be more a credit to the processing than my ability to pick the correct exposure.
I also ran a roll of Ilford HP5 through my Olympus Pen. 400 speed film may simply have been the wrong choice, or I need more work on my settings with this all-manual camera, or probably a little of both, but the results were mostly too blown out. I’m still getting the hang of both black and white film and the Pen. I don’t care–I love it all–even the complete failures.
Right now the colors are really getting intense across Michigan. The next few weeks are going to be busy for me, but I’m hoping to capture as much color as I can on both film and digital before it’s gone, and learn more about working with the cameras I have now in my arsenal.