A few thoughts about shooting with film. And a lesson learned for next time.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I’d felt after a day shooting with film for the first time in many years. Back here, if you want to read it. (I’ll wait.)

Film Scans - 103

I’ve been out a couple more times since then. And each time I’ve felt the same. I loved the feel and action of the camera. The simplicity of shooting on fully manual because there’s no other choice. All that, I love. But the lack of immediate feedback, the mystery of not knowing if anything’s worked? Less so.

And I’ve now learned the basics of the darkroom, and can develop my own films, and print my own – erm – prints.

But it all takes so much time.

I can understand the whole thing about the ‘romance’ of the darkroom. Watching your pictures develop in front of your eyes is undeniably magical. But producing a contact sheet from a roll of negative takes time. Deciding which ones to print takes time. Making test strips takes time. Enlarging each print takes time. Making several test prints to find the best exposure takes time. I’m sure it would all be very relaxing and therapeutic in the right circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, learning to do all this stuff when you’ve got a deadline breathing down your neck isn’t the best time to really appreciate the loveliness of it all.

Film Scans - 053

Well, this morning that first assignment got handed in, along with those prints I posted the other day. And I think I’m doing my next assignment digitally, so that’s film done for me for now, but today I’ve learned a lesson that will make me do things differently next time. This afternoon – after we’d submitted out assignments – we had some time to work on whatever we wanted to, so I took the time to scan all the negatives from my film shoots so far. (Another thing I hadn’t liked about shooting film was that only a few of the shots were likely to ever see the light of day as I wasn’t going to print them all.) Well, we’ve got these very fancy film scanners (Nikon Super Coolscan 9000, if you’re interested) so I sat for the afternoon working my way through them. (Hey, guess what, that takes time, too.)

And looking at the results I’m immediately saying to myself, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”

The scans are so much clearer that squinting at a contact sheet to choose which ones to enlarge. So very much clearer. And having looked at them now I can immediately see that I may well have chosen different shots to produce as my final prints than the ones I went for. And I’ve have had a better idea of how those final prints could have looked, too.

For example…

You’ve already seen this, scanned from one of my final prints:
Reflections 1

Well, this is the version scanned from the negative:
Film Scans - 141

Just look how much detail there is. I should have been able to see this in the darkroom, and coax it out of the chemicals. But I just didn’t know it was there.

And this one?
Reflections 4

From the conatct sheets, that had looked to be the best of the internal shots I got. But I guess I just couldn’t see all these lovely angles and reflections when looking at a print about an inch high:
Film Scans - 147

Had I scanned earlier, I’d probably have chosen this one.

So, here’s my lesson. Next time I’m doing a film-based assignment, I’ll develop the film, then scan it before setting foot back in the darkroom. I’ll be able to choose my final shots much more easily and have a better idea of the results I’m trying to achieve.

Oh, and if you want to see some more of them, I’ve put a load on Flickr. See you there!

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2 thoughts on “A few thoughts about shooting with film. And a lesson learned for next time.

  1. Rob

    That opening shot is really, really nice. I love the shadow, the perspective on the pipe, and the lovely textures on the pipe and the brickwork.

    Reply
    1. Trevor Post author

      I love it too. Tempted to try and get a really good print of that one. When I have time to do some personal darkroom stuff. Or maybe do it digitally now I have it scanned.

      Reply

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