During a recent loft clearance I found the old Pentax film camera my Dad had passed onto me. I felt immediately nostalgic, recalling the enjoyment and challenge of shooting film.
I would of course never abandon my digital camera, but using super hi-tech DSLRs and processing files on powerful computers can sometimes feel very automated. Holding the film camera I remembered a time when photography was more hands-on and I decided to revisit that early photographic experience.
Until a week ago I hadn’t touched a film camera for 20 years. Picking up this relic from my past felt good. I enjoyed reacquainting myself with the mechanical nature of shooting analogue: carefully loading a film; the satisfying click of the shutter; the gentle whirr and snap of the wind-on lever. I was going to enjoy this trip down memory lane, even if there would be some obvious challenges…
For a start, it wasn’t possible to take test shots, check images and adjust settings. Also, I could adjust aperture but not speed; I couldn’t alter ISO; manual focus took time; and I had no control over developing, including cropping. All of this forced me to slow down and compose each photo very carefully. In this digital-dominated frenetic age it felt good to be patient for once.
Being limited to just 36 photos, just 36 opportunities to make some good images, really focused my mind. Every frame had to count and I became very fussy about when to press the shutter.
I have always loved prints. That physical connection to the moment when I pressed the shutter, makes the whole experience feel more magical. I remember all those years ago I would wait eagerly for my prints to arrive through the letterbox. And it was no different now. Waiting a week to see a photo, rather than the immediate screen review on a DSLR, produced a genuine feeling of excited anticipation.
In truth, shooting film felt close to a different discipline to shooting digital. Not only was it more challenging, but also more satisfying. I felt reconnected to my photographic roots, remembering why I fell in love with the simplicity and purity of analogue photography. By picking up my film camera again I have rediscovered an old friend and reawakened a wonderful hobby.