Like many people my age, I first learned to shoot pictures on film. I was lucky enough to have a photo lab in my high school, where 1 semester was Intro to Photography and, if you wanted, you could take a second semester for Advanced Photography. I didn't have more fun in any of my classes. Except for maybe my videography classes, but I put videography and photography in the same category. I think I especially enjoyed photography because you're physically manipulating something from start to finish. I even learned how to load a new roll of film. I don't mean loading a new roll in to a camera, I mean loading a strip of film in to a roll to be put in a camera. It was great! No other class I took was like that. It's not like I could go back and watch the outbreak of World War II in my history class. I couldn't physically move things around to perform equations in Algebra. But in photography I was using all of my senses, except for taste, to get a project done.
Digital photography is obviously different. The biggest difference is changing ISO on the fly. ISO is the film's sensitivity to light. Once you load a roll of film, you're stuck with that ISO until you shoot the whole thing. This last weekend I loaded a roll of 400 ISO in my dad's old Nikon FG-20. I had to work within those limitations. But on my digital 5D mark II, I can change ISO from 100 all the way up to 5000 and higher, all on the fly. Also, my film camera has a limited range of shutter speeds. The fastest being 1/1000th of a second and the slowest being 1 second. On my 5D, the fastest is 1/8000th of a second and the slowest being 30 seconds. There are also more increments between shutter speeds. The FG-20 has maybe a dozen shutter speed options and the 5D has probably 10 times that.
Shooting digital is all about "how do I manipulate my settings to get the shot I want?" Film is more about "how do I manipulate my settings to get the shot that works." For instance, for a very shallow depth of field, you need your aperture as open as you can get it. I have a 50mm prime for my 5D that opens up to f/1.8, and my FG-20 can do something similar. But the 5D can change ISO and shutter speed within huge margins, the FG-20 can't. So if I were outside and I wanted to shoot at f/1.8 for a super shallow depth of field, I might put my 5D at ISO 100 with a shutter speed of well over 1/1000th of a second, since so much light is coming in. The FG-20 can't go above 1/1000th of a second, so if I'm at f/1.8 and the shutter is at 1/1000th of a second and it's still over exposed, I have to adjust the aperture, since my ISO is locked in to whatever the ISO of the film is. So I might have to stop down to a f/5.6. My super shallow depth of field is now gone, but that's the only way to get proper exposure on the film.
What I ended up doing is waiting for the right light, or finding the right light, to get my shallow depth of field on film. Shooting film is all about timing. I had about 2 hours where the window of light was right. And I mean literally the window. My kitchen had a nice soft light coming in and I was able to take some test shots on my kitchen table. The whole point of this roll was to see if the camera was functioning properly, since it's over 30 years old. Here are some shots from that roll.
Clare was nice enough to allow me to photograph her to test out my camera. We were sitting in my kitchen when I realized there was a nice light coming through the windows (as I mentioned earlier.) Her cheek is maybe a little over exposed, but I like the glow effect. I also like the things going on behind her. I think it adds some nice depth. Had it been just a white wall behind her it would be kinda boring. But the fridge with the magnets, the pack of frozen waffles, the cake mixer, it all adds a bit to the picture.
And of course, I had to photograph my dog. Here he is gnawing on his rope toy, wondering if I'm going to take it away from him. I had the lamp on in the back of the room by the chair and I had Clare angle another lamp toward his face. I really like the splashes of light and the overall clarity is pretty awesome.
This looks like a picture I'd find in an old photo album from the early 80s. It's nice and soft, and like the kitchen picture, there's a lot going on but with only one thing in focus.
My room mate's dog, Gertrude, is a fast little creature. Getting a picture of her sitting still took about 10 minutes but we finally got it. I'm not sure if I got the focus right, but everything else looks nice. I wish I had gotten more light on her face, but I'll take what I can get.
While shooting film I kept pulling the camera away from my face and looking at the back of the camera expecting to see the picture I had just taken. A habit, called "chimping", from shooting digital. You can't chimp on film, you have to believe in what you're shooting. Take time to think about what it is you're setting up, and hoping your knowledge will deliver the product you want.
I used to scoff at the cool dudes and ladies walking around with their film cameras. But now I get it. It's a way to keep your mind active. Like doing a puzzle, or sudoku, rubix cube, building a model, programming a game or coding a website, it's exercising your brain. While I had my camera in my hands, I kept my eyes open, looking for my next shot. With my digital camera, I'm shooting whatever I feel like while looking for my next shot. I'll rip through thousands of pictures just to get my 10 or 20 I wanted when I started. With film, you have 24, or somethings 36 tries to get your 1 shot.