My Film Project

June 05, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Old EyesOld Eyes I have started shooting film again. Why, you ask?  I began my photography obsession many years ago in the mid '70s, which is when I bought my first film SLR (Single Lens Reflex).  Of course, back then there was really no choice, just film.  So I shot like most teenagers do, taking pictures of friends, family, and events.  I always had my camera nearby.  I only knew enough about photography to get a good exposure, and that was about it.  As I grew older, joined the military, and got married, I started taking photos again and got a little more serious.  In the mid '80s I was shooting color slide film and developing it at home.  I did that for a while.  Later in the late '90s and early 2000s, I was shooting black-and-white film, developing and printing at home.  This was a big operation and labor intensive, especially when you make your one-and-only bathroom a darkroom.  When digital came out, I jumped on it full bore and set my trusty fully-manual SLR on the shelf, and that's where it has stayed for 15 years.  I had been shooting manual for so long I had to learn how to shoot aperture priority and shutter priority and all of the fancy stuff that cameras were doing.  It was like I was learning all over again how to shoot a camera.  I started with a point and shoot and worked my way to the biggest, baddest camera Nikon had to offer and all of the lenses to go with it.  I had to learn how to process my photographs in Lightroom and Photoshop.  Slowly, but surely, I started to go away from the big full frame cameras and started shooting mirrorless crop sensor cameras.  And I loved the way they felt in my hand, like 35mm SLRs did.  And I just love my mirrorless camera and lenses. IMG_1114IMG_1114

But something was missing.  I can't put my finger on it, but it was the sound that a mechanical camera makes.  The weight of the camera.  Rewinding the film.  The analog process I was missing.  I listened to a podcast called The Digital Story by Derrick Story, and he also has a blog The Analog Story.  I listened and started to get excited about film again.  I wanted to crank that crank and manually focus and turn dials that clicked.  I wanted to shoot film again.  I've heard that shooting film will make you a better digital photographer.  It will slow you down.  I don't want to go fully to film.  I will always be a digital photographer first, but I do want to shoot some film when the occasion suits.  How to go about it now in the digital age when film is kind of scarce?

First, I got my old trusty 35mm Pentax MX off of the shelf and cleaned it up well.  I had to replace the light seals that go around the door.  Those are the little felt or foam pieces that keep the light from ruining your film.  That was a chore.  It took me a couple of times before I got it right, but I did.  What about the light meter in the camera?  Was it any good?  The only way to find out was to get a roll of film, shoot it, and get it professionally developed.  I went to my local Walmart and guess what?  Film was on sale -- four rolls for five bucks!  So I bought 2 ,8 rolls of film.  I shot a roll of film in a couple of days and took it to Walgreens to get developed.  Well, things have changed in 15 years.  They have to send your film off, so it takes a week to get it back.  But not really because they don't give the negatives back.  You just get a CD with the scanned JPEGs on them.  All for 15 bucks!  I  was not a happy camper over the price.  But when I got my photos back, they were all correctly exposed!  So yay!  Light meter works and is accurate!  Now, I can't afford 15 bucks every time I shoot a roll of film, so I had to come up with a way that I could develop them myself.  I had never developed color negative film before, but I had done black and white and color slides.   I had all of the equipment.  I just had to get the chemicals and learn how.  So I did.  I developed my first roll of film, and it worked out great!  I had color negatives! 

                                                                                                   So now I have color negatives that I need to get scanned into my computer so _DSC0012-3_DSC0012-3 _DSC0012-Edit-2_DSC0012-Edit-2 I can get them into Lightroom and Photoshop and print.  But how?  I really don't have a scanner that can do a good job.  I don't want to spend any more than I have to.  So I decided to use my mirrorless camera to scan the negatives to get them into the computer.  I used my iPad with a white background to produce the light that shines through the negative.  I had an old film holder that I had from the black-and-white days to hold the film, and I used my Sony A6300 and an adapted Nikon 60mm macro lens that I have to focus manually.  I had the camera tethered to my laptop so I could look at the negative larger to make sure it was sharp.  And it worked!  I don't know If I'll keep using this system.  I would like something that autofocuses because my old eyes don't work like they used to.  But for now IMG_1118IMG_1118 this will do until I find a better way.

Now they're in the computer, but still a negative, so there was some processing that needed to be done.  The image needed to be inverted to make it a positive image. That could be done in Photoshop.  The colors also needed to be adjusted because negative film is made to be projected onto film paper, and the color cast are made for that.  The first couple of times I did all of this manually.  There are programs that will do this for you.  Of course they cost money, and I'm trying to do this on the cheap.  I did some research and found a free action that will color correct you photos in Photoshop.  It does a pretty good job, better that I was doing manually.  It's good enough now that I can live with it.  Later on I may want to upgrade to a software that does a better job.  So after I get everything into Lightroom, it's just like all my other photos.  I can go through my regular work flow and can publish to Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, or even print if I want.

It seems like a long process and it is.  But I really enjoy it.  Analog photography is like listening to LPs on a record player, maybe not as clear and it has pops and scratches.  But to me, that's what makes it great.  That's all for now.  Keep shooting!


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