Shooting Film Follies - 2010 Edition

I know - too much about film. Don't worry the only reason is I have had Aperture 3 on the brain for way way too long over the last few days going through the latest soon to be released (this week I promise) Organization eBook. So now that I took a break from that today I wanted to wrap up the ongoing mini-posts I have been doing on Delta 100.

So far we have seen a bit of the image I wanted to talk about rear it's ugly head in some thoughts on selecting a developer , and my little quirk about hating bar codes on my contact sheets. Today I wanted to walk through the random care-free process in arriving at a black and white proof print from said film and negative. Just for a recap I'll go through it blow by blow. You might find it entertaining.

  1. Find 9 year out of date Ilford Delta 100 in a box in the garage.
  2. Blow through shooting any stupid crap within 20 feet of my current location, not really giving a hoot about the scene, or thinking too much about exposure. I already did that on frames one through 6. I have 30 more to go and I am in a hurry. I just have to see how bad it is in terms of grain, fog, contrast. You know because being a cheap skate and a film shooter - I want to see if this stuff works. My usual MO for "testing" is stupid crap so I don't have anxiety about shooting stuff I care about. Honestly I need to stop doing that, I mean what's the big deal it's not like life and death, it's a poor excuse for not being creative - or wait a second, maybe it's a great scape goat for being creative and not feeling too bad when it doesn't work out. I will figure that out some day.
  3. Pick a random development time based on film age and a developer (Pyrocat HD) I have never used with this film before. I just picked the same time as I use for fresh TMAX 100, I kind of remember them being close in a different developer that I tested with like 10 years ago. Now add a bit to make up for contrast loss that you don't know exists.
  4. Look at the negatives and scan a random one to play with. Heck post it in a few thoughts about random stuff as well, that way I don't have to go look for an appropriate image - you know how long that can take - and god knows I don't want to go make an image that is on my mind. That is a lot of work.
  5. Curiosity builds up over a couple of days because I actually kinda sorta like the random stupid crap image of the eagle in the clouds. I do kind of remember that for this shot I carefully composed so that the overhead wires would blend into the far shoreline and I did wait until the freaking bird flew into a reasonably cool spot. If I would have put the bird where I wanted to the damn wires would look like crap. Well that's what you get when you can't walk across the street because you are too too lazy. Any way curious - how will it look printed on real paper and how close to printing well on grade 2 did I get? You see this will find tune my process for shooting other stupid crap on the next roll.
  6. Fire up the darkroom - aka the bathroom with my handy dandy light blocking tricks. I haven't had a dedicated darkroom in five years - I keep meaning to build one but I have moved too often and I will be moving again any second.
  7. Print number one - grade 2, exposure guess based on a finger in the wind and around where I always start - 15 seconds f 8 for an 8x10. Develop, fix, wash - too light and I want more contrast.
  8. What fine exhibit you see here folks is print number 2 - going overboard the other way, 25 seconds at f5.6 on  grade 3. Hmmm it's not perfect and it's certainly not the best image ever made but it looks cool - I'll live with it for a while and see if it speaks to me to make a real print on Fiber. The reality is grade 3 is too much contrast. But this is no local fooling around, no fiddling, no nothin' on print number 2.

You have to admit - that work-flow is somewhat freeing in it's simplicity and random care-free attitude. Truth be told I could probably make a fairly stunning print from this if the mood suites me to play with it some more. The funny thing is those two prints took me less time than scanning and resizing. They also have a beauty and depth that cannot be appreciated looking at a ShittyScan™ of the print.

What's the moral to the story  - well the obvious one is how fool proof film is with a tiny tiny little bit of practice. I will not dwell on that. The other one is how awesome it feels to let go of the complexity in your usual process, work-flow, whatever you want to call it. Can you do that with digital? Maybe you can simulate it by shooting random JPEGs or something but it's not even close to the same purging of complexity that you get buy shooting a roll of film every once in a while and ending up with a fairly cool print at the end of you fooling around as a necessity to even really see the freaking image. I swear I would do this at least once a month even if I still shot digital to make a living.

The last thing to take away from this is another kind of liberation that some of you may get if you are the kind of person that takes this stuff way way too seriously. Digital or film, no matter how you do it shoot like you don't care every once in a while, shoot things you "know" won't work, like a freaking bird that is 100-200 yards away with a 50mm lens. Whatever - I swear it's amazing therapy to let go - make whatever excuse you want to make so you really do not care if it "turns out". Will most of you images be crap - sure but you will learn something along the way and you will have some fun doing it. I can tell you from shooting commercial images for too long that the requirement to shoot what you know will work creeps into to every image you make and causes you to hesitate and edit things that "won't work" without even taking the picture. I think this happens no matter what you shoot - find a way to break out of that for a little while. If 9 year out of date film is not your speed then use your really really old beater digital that is hopelessly obsolete and produces "crappy" images. You see, once the crappy is out of your control, it helps free you up mentally.

Take this as a counter balance to all of the other advice you get about using tripods, and careful calculated exposure, focus, composition, dynamic range, and everything else that's filling your head. I think I will call this image "Eagle in the clouds". Hmmmm - no, that's not me - how about "Crappy stuff I shoot from my office window because I am too lazy to cross the street"? Yea that's more my speed.


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