2011 - A Photographic Reflection
Camera: Canonet QL17 GIII
Film: Ilford Delta 400
Location: Cape Kiwanda - Pacific City, Oregon
*Note* The following I admit is a bit long, and is more of a free flowing thought than a well written piece reflecting on my photography experiences over the past year.
What a difference a year makes. A year ago my only experience with film photography was using the family 35mm point and shoot and disposable cameras as a kid; hardly what you would call a comprehensive understanding of the medium. Like most of the world, I had been caught up in the digital revolution. Megapixels, large LCD screens, and various other technical jargon dominated my train of thought as I spent the past two years shooting with a Canon XSi. I bought the camera with my tax return in 2008, not sure I’d even enjoy photography enough to justify its then price of 750 dollars. Turns out I loved it and photography quickly became a growing passion of mine.
Yet as the years went on, I became more and more disenchanted with the digital medium. The more I read online looking for tips and tricks on how to achieve better results, the whole thing started to feel more like a mask for graphic design than photography. Shoot it blind and fix it later in Photoshop. Now I know this is a generalization, but I can’t help but state my opinion on the matter. I just didn’t want to get caught up in the gear arms race and bogged down in post production. Don’t even get me started on HDR. Needless to say my interest in photography was in a stage of flux.
My entrance into film photography was gradual and timid at best. The learning curve seemed daunting plus several mental barriers needed to be conquered, most notably the lack of instant results. When you grow up in a society where everything is instant; text messaging, on-demand television, the internet this barrier proves difficult to defeat. Furthermore I had no idea really where to purchase film, get it developed, scan it into the computer to share on Flickr. It’s no wonder so many hobbies are abandoned almost as soon as they begin, the interest just isn’t strong enough for one to push through the initial learning curves.
I credit a good friend of mine for pushing me towards film (she doesn’t realize it, I should probably thank her). While discussing photography with her she brought up the Holga toy camera, up until that point I had never heard of it. On a whim I bought one. My first few rolls produced less than exciting results (you can find them on my photostream if you wish to see), yet the spark had finally been lit and my interest in film was taking off. Wanting a way to motivate myself to shoot more film I decided to do a 365 project with the Holga, which I aptly named the Photography Squared Project. The project lead me to discover a local processing lab (Panda Lab), film shot (Glazers), and forced me to learn how to scan my own film into the computer. Plus I have taken more than a few images I consider to be good, always a good way to boost ones confidence.
Suddenly I was shooting almost exclusively film; overall I’d say it’s been an 80/20 split not bad for a guy who was unsure about the whole medium a mere 12 months ago. It’s gone beyond the Holga as well; friends and family have been gracious enough to donate old cameras that have been collecting dust in their closets for years. I was gifted a Canonet, Menolta X-700 and SrT102, and a Pentax K-1000. Perhaps the best decision I made all year was purchasing a pinhole camera from Zero Image.
Pinhole photography has been such a freeing experience, where once I was stressed out by settings and features on the camera, I am now focused on exploring the landscape and composing an image. This is by no means an easy transition to make (and in some instances I am still working on it), but an important one nonetheless. I believe the moment one stops worrying so much about equipment and technical jargon and focuses more on creating the image itself is when their photographs start to improve dramatically.
I feel this post is boarding on becoming one long ramble, and I’ve no doubt lost many of you already (to those of you still reading I thank you). So I will end with this. The past year has been a truly enlightening experience photographically. Film has reawakened my interest in photography in ways digital never had or could. Not everything has gone perfectly smooth, but that’s ok. Mistakes offer lessons and experience which can be applied in the future. I look forward to the adventures to be had in 2012, and the advances I will make in my photography. If this past year is any indication, much fun will be had.