It has been over 15 years since I took a photo with a film camera. I remember, while in college at Gardner-Webb University, I lived in the dark room like a vampire. If I wasn’t studying or eating, I was either in the dark room or hanging out with my theatre bums. I spent SO MUCH TIME in the photo lab. It was my happy place. I loved putting film on reels. I liked the smell of the chemicals in the developer trays. I photographed almost all of my friends (yes, guys… I still have ALL of my film negatives). I photographed strangers. I photographed trees and bugs and waving flags. I
I remember, at a very young age, taking pictures with my 110 point and shoot camera. I have always held photography close to my heart. I’m certainly glad, that after all these years, I’m being paid here and there to do what I love.
With a nickname like “flash”, I soaked up everything I could that was photography related. I took photos for the school yearbook and eventually became the Co-Editor. Mostly, I directed elaborate photo shoots with my friends. My girlfriends and I would adorn ourselves with ever-changing outfits and pretend to be models. We would go on hikes and pretend to be chased by bears for the camera. My camera and I were inseparable.
I recently joined a photography group on Ye Olde’ Facebook named Spartanburg Image Collective. There, I’ve found a nice group of people. We share images and talk about gear. We give and ask for advice and encourage each other. It wasn’t long after becoming a member of this group that I started seeing film photos popping up here and there. I recognized them instantly. Some had scratches or dirt on the film. Some were grainty, some looked like they’d rolled right out of the 1970’s…and I loved it. Film had called me back.
And so, I began the search for an older model film camera. I told myself that if I was going to buy a film camera again, that it needed to at least be as old as I am, if not older. I have never had a camera produced earlier than the year 2000. The first camera I owned, outside of my childhood point and shoots, was the original Canon Rebel. I strongly remember purchasing that camera with all one dollar bills at the local camera shop in the town next to my college. That store closed long ago, but I can still remember the look on the clerk’s face when I pulled that wad of dollar bills out of my purse to purchase the camera. LOL!
Now, I know where some of your minds may be headed, and I’ll have you know that I worked hard for those dollar bills at The Lake Bowen Fish Camp as a waitress on the weekends. I paid my way through college with that job, one dollar bill at a time. In fact, I paid for my tuition on a monthly payment program using 800 (mostly) one dollar bills. I even bought my expensive college textbooks with dollar bills. I told the cashier at the bookstore that if the books didn’t cost so much, it wouldn’t take so much time to complete the transaction. LOL.
Anyhow, I digress. Let’s get back to the search for the film camera. I did a short amount of research online, and decided that I needed to buy a Canon Ae-1. They were mass produced, and well loved. I figured they’d be easy to get a hold of. The first one I bought was actually a Canon Ae-1 Program. This camera had the dreaded “Canon Squeal/Squeak/Scream”, the sound of a dying shutter, apparently. I returned that camera, knowing that I’d have to be more careful and do much more research before pulling the trigger again (see what I did there?) on the purchase of another.
I finally came across what seemed like a good deal on Ebay. I purchased an original Ae-1 model this time. It had no shutter squeal, but did have a small crack on the top plate that the seller didn’t disclose. This crack affected the shutter speed dial. When I’d go to change the shutter speed, the film speed would change instead. I took a few pictures before noticing. Bummer. Upon further inspection, I also found that one of the circular metal contacts in the hot shoe was rusted to the point where there was a small hole in the contact. I wasn’t able to use a flash or remote trigger, because of the damage to the sensor. The foam light seals were also deteriorating and breaking apart into dust all over the sensor. This camera was not “Good to go” or in “Excellent working condition” as the seller claimed. Luckily, I was able to return it with no problem. I learned from this purchase that I like the original Ae-1, released in 1976, much better than the 1981 Program model. Why? I like the appearance of the original, analog through the lens meter better than the digital meter. I figured if I was going to go for an older camera, I’d better go analog. I also like the feel of the original Ae-1 much better, even though I’m fairly certain it is heavier.
After camera return #2, I decided that I needed to slow down on my giddy, impulsive search to snag up an AE-1. I had to accept that these cameras were old and were going to have issues, and that it would probably be best to purchase directly from a camera store, so that’s what I did… on my beloved Ebay. Camera purchase #3 has not yet arrived, but I’ll be sure to write about it when it does. It is an all black Ae-1… much rarer than the chrome and black version. Yippie!!!! The light seals have been replaced and the camera has been cleaned and is guaranteed to function. Let’s hope the third time’s the charm.
Today I picked up a roll of FujiColor PRO 400H film from Spartan Photo Center. I shot it using Camera #1. I asked them to develop the film, scan it and put the images on a CD for me. I was very pleased with the outcome of these photos. I can’t share all of them in this blog, but will share more from a secret project in a following article.
There’s just something heartwarming about the look of a film photo. I’m so glad to have film back in my life. These images were taken in our backyard.
The renewal of my relationship with film has prompted me to purchase a little home film scanner. When it arrives, I plan to bust out the film notebook and see what little treasures I will find in there to share here with you. Good times!