I'm one of the rare people my age that has spent more money on film development than I've spent on anything related to digital cameras. Over the summer, the Canon T-50 that my dad handed down to me was no longer repairable, so I ran over to my local camera shop and laid my hands on a Canon AE-1, a new (to me) lens, and an assortment of black and white films. It had been a few years since I used film, but it took me no time at all to feel comfortable with it and it wound up being my primary camera when I visited Kayla in Salt Lake City.
When I realized the hard way that the cost of film digitizing had gone up drastically, I did myself a big favor and purchased a proper desktop film scanner. While it saves me money on digitizing cost, I'm still paying $6 just to buy a roll, and another $8-$10/roll plus a week's wait for development, but I don't mind.
There is magic to a photo captured on film that you can't get with digital cameras. My DSLR, sidekick for years, leaves me with uninspired, bland photos and too much post-processing. Not to mention, you can get very lazy with a digital camera. You can snap, preview, and retake on the spot and the cost of doing so is nil and the level of discipline and patience required is almost laughable. Film is like opening a time vault to your life from just a few weeks ago. You have no idea what to expect most of the time and every photo looks lovely, no matter what the original intent.
This week, I got a roll of film back that had been sitting in my camera for a while, apparently. On it were behind-the-scenes shots from the "Evening" production for Wiping out Thousands (will post tomorrow), but I couldn't remember what else. I was pleasantly surprised to find some memories our trip to the Minnesota State Fair last Fall. Even more surprising was how great a lot of the shots turned out.
Every little imperfection, from the vertical dark run from the development machine's roller to the slightly off crop job (my bad) and how blacked out and vectorized-looking the building is has ten times more character than 90% of the photos I took on digital.
Not three years prior, I had tried taking night time shots with my DSLR and it returned the most generic, grainy awful-looking quality of crap I had seen and it was one of the last times I tried shooting in the dark with it. My film camera, though, being almost a decade older than me, with no choice but to use the 400 ISO Fujifilm already loaded in it, with a wide open aperture and a ton of wishful thinking, cranked out the most gorgeous night shots I have ever taken on any camera.
Sure, they're not perfect. Yeah, there's grain and those people are hard to see, and no, there isn't technically a RAW file, and it did take me a few minutes to brush out the dust in Photoshop, but that's the point. You make sure your settings are correct because you don't get throwaway shots in the moment. You get one chance to take a great photo and you wait a couple weeks to hope that it turned out alright, and what you're left with is either a mistake or exactly how you wanted it to be composed, but both are beautiful and one-of-a-kind.
For my day today, I got to re-visit the memories of a night at the State Fair from a time when it was warm enough to walk around without coats, with great friends, great food, and a camera that captured moments like it had its own opinions about how they should look.
Maybe I just don't have the right kind of digital camera, or maybe I'm not putting enough effort into configuring it better, but so long as there is film out there and a feasible means to develop it, film will always have my heart. Every time I'm manually advancing the camera until it locks, I always feel my pulse jump during the seconds leading up to pressing the ever-satisfying shutter button, and hoping beyond hope that one of these 36 shots will turn out. It's a process and sensation that nothing in our generation of technology will ever be able to reproduce, and I'm as excited as ever to see how the next roll turns out.