A first attempt with film

by smokinchestnut

No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.
~Robert Adams

It took a new photography friend to convince me the truth in Adams’ quote. After meeting in a photography course this past winter — and finding out we both had acquired Canon Ae-1 film cameras from our fathers — we decided to meet up outside of class to fuel our new-found knowledge of photography. She was relatively new to digital SLRs and I was new to film SLRs.

We stuffed our cameras, food and water into backpacks and headed for a sliver of land jutting out into Lake Monroe. We didn’t have much of a plan in mind except to tinker with our cameras and explore the woods.

As I picked my way through the leaves and took in my surroundings, I felt rather — well, to be honest, underwhelmed. I had this eager energy inside me after my photography course and I wanted to take incredible photos of staggering landscapes. I looked around me and thought — what can I do with this?

But I found out that sometimes the point is not about the “big picture” landscape but of the barely-noticeable details. The first photo in this post? Yeah, it’s one of my all-time favorites. And it’s of a weed, I presume, with no petals, no color and no post-processing.

And that is what made me fall in love with film after getting my first set of photos back from our local camera/print shop. Half of them were awful — overexposed, blurry, misplaced focus. But the other half? Beautiful. Organic. Artistic in a way that digital — with all of its amazing qualities — can never replicate.


The other upside to film is its element of surprise. I know, I know, the downsides to film are plenty — costly (both to buy film and to develop it), timely, inconvenient, limiting. But the pleasure of being surprised by what’s inside a roll of film is something else that digital can’t give me.

My roll of 24 frames took me over two months to complete. Then it took me another month to get around to developing it all. But taking a photograph was a deliberate, thoughtful, introspective act. And since I can barely remember what I made for dinner last night, the memories in my roll of film surprised me when I flipped through them all. I caught Matthew in that moment? The sun falling softly on that patch of moss actually came across OK? You mean I can take a decent photo with my dad’s film camera, the same camera I’ve had stuck in a corner for years? SWEET.

They’re not all perfect. But even when they aren’t, I find something to love about them. Oh, and Happy Fourth of July, America!