In Development: Adventures in Film, Volume Seven

I mentioned near the end of my last post that I was about to fly to Chicago when I was finishing up that roll of film. When I got to Chicago, I immediately loaded up another roll of pushed Ilford HP5+ and got to shooting.

I was back in Chicago for a work trip and I knew I wouldn’t have much time for photography in between work and visiting with friends. I was determined to go on at least one photo walk, though, and loading some film was my way of forcing my hand. Once the film is loaded, you have to finish it before you go back through airport security or risk it getting ruined by the X-Ray machine. No excuses – just go out and shoot!

My love for photography sprouted when I moved to Chicago four years ago, and I spent countless hours wandering through the neighborhoods making images. Returning to those same streets with a film camera provoked some serious nostalgia.

I think this was a key reason that I had more fun shooting this roll than any of the others I had shot up to that point. Aside from the nostalgia and excitement of being back in a former home city, though, I was starting to feel comfortable with my camera. I was still doing plenty of experimenting, but I wasn’t finding myself constantly second guessing the basics of exposure or wondering if my camera was working properly (it took me an embarrassingly long time to get past this…how do you know it’s working when you can’t see an image on the back of camera?!).

I also knew I had to get through the roll before I went back to Colorado, so I didn’t feel pressured to make every shot a great one. I just made an image whenever something interesting caught my eye. Reflecting on this shoot five months and many more rolls of film later, I’m only now beginning to internalize the importance of that mindset. One of the best things about shooting film is that it forces you to slow down and be conscious of the photograph you’re making. I believe this leads to consistently better art. But slowing down, when taken to an extreme, can also be detrimental. You might fidget with mental math and the zone system for so long that the light changes and or your subject moves and you’ve missed the shot.

Or you might forget that making photographs is supposed to be fun and choose not to click the shutter because what you have framed up doesn’t meet some invented external standard.

Have fun. Smile. Find that happy middle ground between frivolous and stingy. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t get too caught up in what others think of your work. Make images of what interests you.

/ advice to myself

All shots were taken with my Mamiya 7 II and an 80mm f4 lens in March 2016. The film was developed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab, and the digital files were processed minimally in Lightroom. Enjoy!

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