Misadventures in Film

I decided a while back to start shooting in film as a change of pace, just to see if it could make me look at photography differently. As the photo lab I used was very slow about scanning & delivering photos that they had developed a week or so prior, I also decided to work on developing & scanning my black & white film at home.

Of course, being new at this, it's required that I mess up from time to time.

All of these images are from the second roll of 35mm film I attempted to develop. The first was a test roll that I shot to make sure the camera & development process actually worked (and it did).

The problem this time was in loading the film onto a spool. Since I lack a darkroom, I use a changing bag. I put the film, spool, development tank, tools, and my hands inside, while keeping all light that could ruin the film outside.

When the film stayed on the outer track of the spool instead of spiraling inward, I couldn't see what had happened and kept loading the film into it. So, the film became layered on top of itself, and I had to peel the film apart once I realized something had gone wrong.

Still working blind, I attempted to load the film a couple of more times with the same result, until I finally started from the other end of the roll, at which point everything went smoothly.

I believe all of this was caused by a small amount of damage to the film's leader as it was first loaded into the camera.

I was eager to scan the images to see how bad the damage really was, but the first film scanner I ordered turned out to be defective. I sent it back (5 business days) and the day after they received it the company sent me another one (another 5 business days), and I now have a functional film scanner.

Once I was finally able to see the images, I could see that the vast majority were substantially over-exposed. Fortunately, black & white film has an impressive dynamic range; I was able to correct the exposure on most of them.

In addition to the damage from my spooling incident, it became apparent that the camera (Mom's old Canon AE-1) suffers a light leak that clouds up images when the back of the camera is exposed to direct sunlight. Most of these images were shot during a rare cloudy day here in California, so it wasn't a huge issue for this particular roll.

I do like the scanner, and I'm impressed with what can be pulled from badly-overexposed film. This will no doubt continue to be an interesting experiment, though perhaps my next roll will be medium format. The Mamiya M645 is bulkier, but its film is so much easier to load into the spool.

Looking Forward

It is perhaps no surprise that I am often following behind my subjects, often even chasing after them to take pictures (a habit I'm sure my daughter loves). What surprised me at first was how much I love some of the images I got of others looking out & away from the camera.

I'm not entirely sure what it is that I enjoy so much about these images. For some, such as those above, the sense of a person looking out into a much larger (and perhaps unknown) environment certainly has something to do with it. In others, there's a more active movement forward.

At play

Moving through NYC

For most of them, though, there's just a sense of… contemplation that I can't help but enjoy. When a subject is facing the camera, there's a great deal that can be gleaned from their expression. Without that expression, it's possible to project a greater range of thoughts and feelings onto those in the image. It's perhaps a situation, and I believe there are many in photography, where added uncertainty makes for something more interesting.

At rest