Thursday, April 12, 2012

A return to film

This evening was an exciting time for me as I processed my first roll of Ilford HP5+ 120, medium format film.  I shot film many years ago but always had a lab process it.

Getting back into it with medium format film, I wanted to own the entire process from the shoot to the print.  The image was captured with my Pentax 645N and then processed in my kitchen.  My bathroom served as the darkroom for handling the film prior to processing and then again for hanging the film to dry after processing.

Doing this reminds me of how "easy" digital is.  You really have to work with film, especially if you process it yourself.  Unlike digital, you get zero feedback from your camera at the time of the shoot.  You carefully meter the lighting in the scene, set exposure for the lighting conditions and depth of field, and hope that you got it right.  When the whopping roll of 16 exposures in finished, you spend a few hours getting the chemicals mixed, measured and to temperature. 

With everything ready, you head into the dark and fumble around unloading a reel of film and loading it into the processing tank while completely blind; the entire process is by feel.  I have a hard time finding things in the light ... you can just imagine with the lights out!

With high hopes of having gotten it right, you return to the light and begin the processing.  If everything went well, another 1/2 hour or so of careful timing and swishing chemicals yields a magical experience; the roll of film is unrolled and images appear as negatives.  With another few hours for drying, they're ready to be cut and taken to the scanner.

All in all it takes several hours to get 16 images.  And, like every shoot, many of them aren't great.  So out of 16 shots, you hope that you have a few good ones.  And, when you do, it makes it all worthwhile.  Knowing the work that goes into 16 frames, it sure does slow you down, and that makes you a better photographer (at least that's the theory!)

This was the very first image that I scanned from the first roll processed.  There is definitely a distinct look to film that I enjoy and the process is something fun!  

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