I've been at the lake for a few days now, taking it easy. Somewhat comically, I brought my 27" iMac with me. What can I say? I gave the laptop to my son last Christmas. He gets more use out of it every week than I did in the year I owned it.
Because I haven't shot much with it yet, I brought the Mamiya 7II, along with five rolls of Portra. That's color negative film, in case you don't know. I have a couple of observations about the experience so far. Trivial ones, maybe.
First, film is nerve-wracking! Who knew? You'd think that with 10,000 rolls or whatever I've shot under my belt, I'd be used to that. So far I've taken at least six pictures that I really want, and I'm fervently hoping they'll "turn out." This is truly a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's disconcerting not to have the immediate confirmation that we've all gotten so used to in recent years (how did we ever live without it?). On the other hand, I find that the pictures live luxuriously in my mind—I have the memory of the view through the viewfinder, and I find myself imagining how good they'll be if they turn out as well as they could. I might not have any of those wonderful pictures on my exposed rolls, but in my mind I've gotten some great shots. Even if they don't turn out, I'll still have had a week or two of living with my imaginary masterpieces. Funny.
The other oddity is that with my Pro-Pack of 120, I have a grand total of 50 shots. That changes the game a bit.
I confess I'm suffering a little subject fatigue. I've been shooting here since at least 1983. By a strict count, this would probably be the umpteenth dawn I've been unable to resist taking a picture of. (This was this morning, out my window.) I had the 6x7 right there...I definitely should have removed the screen from the window, climbed out on the roof, set up the tripod, and made a shot with the film camera. Instead, I took this quick snap through the screen using the digicam and went back to bed. I definitely don't get tired of the sunrises themselves—I'm neither brain-dead, nor an ingrate—but the 190th shot you take of the pre-dawn glow in the sky on a clear summer day is definitely not as exciting as the first, or even the tenth. And by the way, that's screen-induced vignetting, not a flaw of the lens but a shortcoming of a certain blogger/photographer.
It's been so long since I exposed any I don't even know where to get color negative film processed any more. It will need to be somewhere that also makes scans, in case I want to share the results with you. There are some fabulous shots on the rolls I've taken so far. They just might not actually be there, is all.
P.S. Here's Great Photograph Number 4. An unavoidable note about that: there have been many nuanced and involved arguments made, on both sides, concerning whether this picture shows what the photographer said it did. I have read all the arguments; I choose to believe the photographer, and that's the end on it for me.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by erlik: "Here's a somewhat complementary tale about setting up a newsroom the old way. You know, with manual typewriters and a darkroom."
Mike replies: That is charming. Thanks.
Featured Comment by Steve Rosenblum: "That's funny...I am heading out to Colorado on Friday and this time I'm going to bring my OM-4t with three of those lovely primes and a box of Portra. The other day I was rummaging through my old cameras and pulled that camera out and just playing with it for a few minutes brought on a sort of sigh of relief. It fits in my hands just right and has that big, clear, beautiful viewfinder! Like you, I'm sure that after every exposure I will automatically look at the back of the camera to check the histogram only to discover it's not there. I'm actually looking forward to the experience of (once again) divorcing the process of using the camera to capture an image and the process of seeing the developed photograph. It feels strange yet liberating to me at the moment.
"Your post reminds me of how much the digital realm has bled into all aspects of our lives—we are now fully addicted. I'm not saying this is all bad, it's just an observation. Like you, I have spent part of many of the summers of my life at the cottage that my grandparents built in northern Michigan. When I was a kid the only technological gadget that was there was a rotary phone—no TV, stereo, etc. It seems to me that that was part of the point of the experience. My parents would march us down to the local library to renew our library cards and that is where I learned to love reading. During the summer that I was 12 I sat under a tree and read all of Ray Bradbury's books in a row. We just fell into the rituals of summer each year and as kids we really looked forward to it.
"Somewhere along the line my cousins installed cable TV and now everyone hauls their computers and smart phones up there. It seems we can't resist; our brains get a hit of dopamine each time we hear the beep that says an email or text has arrived. And yet, something has been lost not only in the experience itself, but, in the bleeding of the stress of our work lives across the boundaries into our safe havens. There are other parts of our brains (and souls) that won't like that part.
"Regarding getting film developed—I doubt it will help you with your 120, but, I went into the brand new CVS drugstore that was built just up the block from my office in the small town of Milan, Michigan and they still process film! I asked the lady about it and she says they still process a fair amount of film and do daily quality checks on the chemicals, etc. The cost of developing and a basic CD of scans (the digital equivalent of develop and contact sheet)—six bucks! Not sure how long that will last but it ain't over til the Kodak Fat Lady sings."