Some Days are Better Than Others

Film is a great medium for a lot of good reasons. It is self-limiting, experimental, tangible, and allows a bit of creativity that goes beyond what one can do with Photoshop. That is not to say film is necessarily better than digital – that’s largely subjective.

But sometimes film (and the film camera) can do things that leave the photographer scratching his head, shaking a fist at the sky and threatening the gods of camera obscura that he’ll “switch to digital if this keeps up!”

I’ve gone on 2000 mile road trips only to come home empty handed after two of my the film cameras failed to operate. I’ve shaken my fists at the camera gods and sworn off film, but I always end up staring at my camera shelves thinking “if I don’t keep shooting film, these poor cameras will be so lonely. ”

Well, the camera karma bit me again this weekend. You see, the last few weekends I’ve taken my new Fujifilm X-T20 digital to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, turning my back on film in full knowledge of the gravity of my sin. I thought I’d gotten away with it, too. My digital shots of the tulips were beautiful. So this weekend I decided to take a few rolls of color and black and white film back to the Dixon for some analog adventures, and reconciliation for my dance with the digital devil.

First on the list was the Canon 7. I can’t remember actually shooting anything through this camera since I skinned it in red leather. It loaded it with my last roll of T-Max 100 black and white film. I strolled through the gardens taking my time and carefully selecting the subjects in all 36 frames. It was the 37th frame that sent a sinking feeling to the pit of my stomach. I carefully started rewinding the film, one.. two..three turns and I could feel it retreat back into the cartridge. I was in denial, though, so I wound some more for good measure and pocketed the roll for later development. It was later I realized I was right the first time after the roll came out of the developing tank completely blank. Denial is not a river in Egypt, it’s an ugly emotional state of desperate film photographers.

I did have a backup camera and film though.

This little gem is my $1.98 thrift store find. It’s an electronic descendant of the XA series of cameras, and one that is a joy to shoot – when the photographer isn’t a sinner in the hands of an angry god. I had to keep shutting off the flash because I was being dumb not realizing in full sun the flash wouldn’t fire anyway. None of that matters because film photographers have to do at least something manually or we might as well be shooting digital. Disabling the flash and shooting with ISO 200 film meant the camera was constantly shooting wide open or at reduced shutter speeds effectively blurring every shot I took.

Yeah, 1987 called and would like their soft focus back.

I thought I could redeem myself by taking the LaSardina out today but that just added more soft focus over exposed frames to my stack of painfully bad photos.

I can honestly say I’m cool with this. It happens. In the immortal words of Sam Elliot, “Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes, well, the bar eats you.” It’s a new week and new opportunities. I’ve even picked up sketching again. Take a look at my first attempt below. I’m hoping this will be a new section to add to Aragon’ Eye.

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1 Comment

  1. Sam Warner

    I feel your pain. The last two rolls through my Hasselblad yielded half a roll of nothing with the other half having all of the frames overlapping…both being the result of an improperly loaded film back. I guess the payback for owning so many cameras is sometimes forgetting what makes each one unique. Here’s to hoping your next film outing has better results! The sketch however, looks amazing! 👍

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