Photo of the Month – A Return to Film

Hi Folks:  According to Wikipedia, it was 120 years ago (1892) that George Eastman first began supplying Thomas Edison and William Dickson with 35mm film for their movie projectors.  Film was around before that, of course, but in a variety of sizes and feeding systems; 35mm film became a standard in 1909, and in 1934 the 35mm film cassette for still photography was introduced.

So, in honour of 120 years a group of us met on a rainy afternoon in November at Ross Bay Cemetery to celebrate a (temporary?) return to film and to the days of B&W.  Some had never shot film before, for some it took a while to remember how to work a film-advance lever, and for others film is still in daily use.  For the most part there was no autofocus, no LCD screens (“you have to look through the little viewfinder there”), and no ‘instant’ results.  Those who had film cameras brought them, and those who didn’t were welcome to bring some film and borrow a camera from someone else.  I brought six cameras (five 35mm and one double lens reflex) and loaned out three.  For those who just can’t get into film, they were welcome to bring their digital cameras and there wasn’t a bucket of tar nor a bag of feathers anywhere about.  More on that in a bit.  Overall it was a lot of fun. 

I didn’t make any images that day but brought my Yashica Mat 124G double-lens-reflex camera and two rolls of 120 film out with me a few days later.  The Yashica remains one of my favourite cameras partly because of its inherent challenges: there’s a large (6×6 cm), square image frame; a waist-level viewfinder; no pentaprism (and therefore the image in the viewfinder is reversed); a single focal length lens (zoom with your feet); a match-needle light meter.  Twelve images per roll rather than 1500 images per SD card.  One considers every image very carefully, and that’s a part of the process.  I made sixteen images within the cemetery then made the last eight images down along the shore at Ross Bay.  Today’s photo of the month is the last frame I made that day, and it’s my favourite.

In addition to the creative challenges inherent within the camera, for the first roll of film I set myself some other challenges as well.  My camera sat on top of my old Cullman 2504 tripod, but I didn’t extend the legs and so the camera was never more than 2′ or so above the ground and often less.  That got me thinking about our youngest grandson, who isn’t a lot taller than that. His ‘view’ provided me with the final two questions: what would he find of interest in a cemetery, and how could I make an interesting photograph from that perspective?

It was both creatively challenging and fun, and after a couple of hours the light had faded and I wandered back home.  It’s been a long time since I used the Yashica, but taking it out made me itch to do so again.

Into the Mist

Into the Mist

As I mentioned at the top, not everyone present that day was interested in film and some brought their digital cameras.  Marcia, for some strange and inexplicable reason does not share my fascination with f/stops and shutter speeds… she makes photographs with her Android-based phone and is justifiably proud of her results.  For this event, however she used the Camera 360 app on her phone to shoot everything in black and white and found it was quite a revelation.  Marcia is very much a colour person, and yet ‘seeing’ in B&W opened new doorways of perception for her.  Of the images she took that day, this one is her favourite:

Plane Tree Patterns

Plane Tree Patterns

The film images were scanned and all of the images were brought into Lightroom for a little pushing around.  For the top image I did my best to make it look as if it was 50 or 100 years old; only you can decide how well I succeeded.

Now go out and make some photographs!


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