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The Film Blog

A common sterotype of a digital photographer is the guy who walks around with a high-priced digital camera, blasting away with his camera, machine gun-like. I had falled into this trap as well, overshooting every event and session, and after having run considerably north of a million images through the shutters of my digital cameras, I was getting somewhat burned out.

OK, more than “somewhat” burned out.

As I have mentioned before, when people find out I collect and use oddball and old cameras they give me things. So I have in my garage quite a collection of film photography equipment, including enlargers, timers, lenses, and trays; I decided it was time to fire up the darkroom. I unboxed the Beseler 23C-II enlarger and set it up with a Gra/Labs timer, found a set of contrast filters, and mixed up all the chemicals I needed to develop and print. Or so I thought. This has been a learning experience, and it’s really kinda just the start of the journey, even five years later. I expect it will eternally be so, as the rabbit hole of film photography is an incredibly deep one, with all kinds of antechambers, offshoots, secret passageways, and staircases to nowhere.

Shot with 1960s Topcon Auto100, the first camera to have aperture-priority metering
Shadows on the Wall

There is something magical about shooting film. I am not QUITE sure what that “something” is. Is it the “look?” What about the camera itself? Or the catharsis when, after standing in the darkroom dodging and burning for an hour on what looks like a blank sheet of paper, expsoing and re-exposing sections with different filters, I finally slide that paper into the development tray and, slowly at first, the image emerges as though it were there all along, just waiting to be coaxed out of the mists of silver gelatin into the daylight. Or maybe it’s the feeling I get when I frame a print I have made, or, better yet, sell an original and see the enjoyment others get from the image.

I have not yet figured this out. Let’s explore this together.