A New Year, in Film.

Happy New Year, friends!! Oh my, it has been such a wonderful few weeks off. I’ve spent time with friends, family, and just by myself (Momma’s, can I get an “Amen!” :)), and feel totally refreshed and filled to the brim for the year ahead. If you are a follower of mine on Instagram, you know that I splurged on a medium format film camera (Mamiya 645AF) a few weeks ago and hope to incorporate some film into my portfolio this year. How is that for a New Year’s Resolution?! I’m excited and terrified at the same time. :)

So. Onto today’s post. My first rolls of 120 film shot were  3200 (film designed for low light, black & white) and I had NO idea what to expect in terms of shooting settings, what is the best light to use, etc.. (I do know that my style of photography requires a TON of natural light, so this is why I opted for a film stock designed to work in low light. This way, when I shot it indoors, I could possibly still achieve the look I desired. A total experiment, but it seemed to handle itself well!) I soon discovered that while there are loads of amazing forums and literature out there on how to begin, the best way to get started is to get down and dirty and shoot those exposures. Believe me, being so passionate about getting images right in-camera when shooting digital, it terrified me that I only had 16 exposures and each one was precious. Plus, I had no way of checking my work to see if I was on the right track…literally shooting blind. WHY go through this emotional turmoil, you ask?! Simple.

Because film is magical.

It has a gritty earthiness to it that adds a soft “realness” to the image. It captures color (in this case, shades of black & white) in a way digital cannot. It’s exposures are fewer in number, more expensive (than digital), more unique, but allow me to spend MUCH less time editing at my computer (I literally send them to the lab, they do all of the hard work, and email me the finished scans. It doesn’t get much more amazing than that!! :)). It’s “old school” and requires planning, thought, and creativity. As a result, I save them for the very best images, my most creative inspirations, and those moments I’m emotionally invested in. Film is perfect in its imperfections, and it reminds me that perfection does not always equal beauty – in fact, some of the things I find most lovely are imperfect.

I look forward to shooting more and more film this year, and explaining the shots and what I have learned about this lovely medium as I go. For now, here are a few of my favorites from my first rolls of Ilford. Enjoy and thanks for being here! xo

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Sweetest little girl. The minutes just as my little ones wake up, result in some of my all-time favorite moments together. They are a little groggy, snuggly, and so happy to see me. Of course, I wanted to capture these moments of my girly for my first ever exposures. I am so happy with the results!

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This series of images, was taken with Ilford 3200 film, metered at 1600, shutter speed 1/30, 80mm f2.8. There are two windows to the left of her crib, so the light is soft and diffused. (Hence the low shutter speed.) I love the way this even light made the images soft and romantic.

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Ahhhh, gorgeous, gorgeous Hannah. You may remember her maternity session from a few weeks ago, and yes, I had to get a few snaps of film in there. SO glad that I did!! Gosh, she is even more lovely on film.

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These were taken just as the sun set during golden hour. There was some light reflecting up off the water, but I would say that for the most part, this light was even and soft. I did brighten the image below a smidge because the dark clothes on Graham were a bit tooooo dark for my liking. (I wanted the focus to be on Hannah’s bump and their hands, and the dark portion of the images was acting as a “black hole” and detracting from the areas I wished to highlight.)

While they still have the signature grain of a low light film (3200), these don’t have the noticeable grit that the backlit, indoor images of Liam (below) have. (Again, just sharing my observations! :)) This is so interesting to me, as almost ALL of my digital work, if I can help it, is accomplished with a TON of backlighting and shooting directly into low sunlight. I am excited to see how my scans in color film (coming soon!), compare in terms of contrast when backlighting and when finding even light instead.

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My sweet little man. I love that smile. This (above) image was taken on our dark sofa, with huge windows backlighting him. As you can see, the contrast is greater with a vast difference in light behind and in front of the subject. It is different but I love the gritty authenticity of this shot.

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A boy and his pup. Again, back-lit, however the two above here were taken from slightly above the subject, so they are a bit less gritty. Not sure if that has to do with the lack of actual backlight, or not. For now, I am assuming yes. :) Below, I was shooting more into the light, so again, got this grainy (but oh, SO sweet!!!!) moment.

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Here is an example of shooting in high sun, with stark contrast between shadow and light. I certainly don’t mind it!

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These two images of little Olivia were taken just next to a bedroom window. The light coming in wasn’t direct sunlight and I think that, again, it resulted in a soft amount of contrast I am finding myself more drawn to (rather than the higher contrast you see in the shots of Liam above). These were taken at shutter speed 1/30th again, same camera, lens, and film.

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When I saw this image, I came so close to tears. Digital photography will still be my primary medium, but gosh, these film images mean so much more to me than I expected.

If I could share a few observations to sum this all up it would be these:

* Get a good Light Meter.

Especially if you have always shot digital, this will get you in the ballpark for proper exposure and learning what types of exposure (over, under) you like will determine how you shoot in the future.

* Find a good lab.

So far, I chose to use Indie Film lab and they have been SO helpful and wonderful. Processing is a huge part of achieving your desired look and good communication with developers that know their stuff is so important.

* Take that picture.

While it can be emotionally taxing (ha!) to take images you have no idea will turn out, it is SO important to do so. It is the only way to learn and grow! (I will keep repeating this to myself each time I hesitate too long to push that shutter down. :))

I’m so excited to share more as I go and learn, thanks for taking the time to “listen”!

xo,
Mary

3 thoughts on “A New Year, in Film.

  1. Pingback: Film Friday. |

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