If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m really into photography (if you haven’t, you just found out). When I first started reading up and devouring YouTube tutorials, I kept seeing this suggestion:
If you want to improve your craft as a photographer, shoot film.
If I’m interested in something and someone says, “Here’s how you get really good at it,” that’s like catnip to me. If I take the time to learn how to do something, I want to do it as well as possible. Hi, I’m Danielle, and I’m a perfectionist.
So I started looking at film cameras. You can get top quality film cameras for much cheaper than their digital equivalents. In some cases, you can even use the same lenses on your film and digital cameras. I might talk more about the details of that in a future post. Since I’m mostly a Nikon shooter, I decided to keep it simple and stick with Nikon film cameras.
You can get Nikon film cameras that have most of the image capturing features of a modern DSLR, including autofocus, shutter and aperture priority modes, automatic bracketing (shooting the same image at different exposure levels). But I felt like that would be cheating at this stage. The whole philosophy behind this was to slow down and be mindful of every step of the image-making process.
I’d heard good things about the Nikon F2 series, which is entirely mechanical except for the batteries that power the light meter. And if those batteries die, you can still use the camera; you just have to figure your exposure levels some other way. I managed to find an F2A that came with a 50mm f/1.4 lens (the original kit lens). I was so excited when it arrived!
Until I realized I had no idea how to operate it.
I went to YouTube for help and was not disappointed. A kind fellow who had apparently given someone an F2 for a photography class made a video of the basic operations, including how to load and unload the film. I probably watched that video 10 times to get everything down.
I still managed to break my first roll of film, although it wasn’t lost in vain – more on that later. But the second roll was shot without incident. It was around this time that I heard a local community college offered classes on developing and printing black and white film. Why not?
By the way, if you’re in the Dallas area and interested in this sort of thing, shoutout to the folks at Brookhaven College! They have a great photography program through their Continuing Education division, including the darkroom classes. Check out the current schedule of classes if you want to sign up.
I signed up and was hooked. I learned so much about the photography process and how many digital photography tools have analog roots (dodge and burn, for example).
And then, as is often the case, life got in the way. I totaled my car about a year ago, and my graduate school schedule became more demanding. I didn’t abandon film entirely, but I didn’t get to shoot as much of it as I would have liked. Also, I was asked to shoot a wedding in October, which I was obviously doing with my DSLR, so I needed that to be my default camera for a while.
As soon as I got back from the wedding, I knew it was time to bust out the film again. I hadn’t shot my F2 in months, so I dusted it off. I’d forgotten how much I love shooting with that camera. I even got another lens for it (28mm f/2, for the record). It’s good to get back to shooting film regularly again. Hopefully I can start back with the darkroom classes in January.
Here are a few of my shots with the 28mm lens. I hope you enjoy them!
Have you ever found that doing something the old-fashioned way made you much better at it? Let me know in the comments!