I find I take some of my best shots when I have nothing particular in mind to shoot. When I spent the whole day wandering downtown a couple weeks ago, my goal was actually just to blow through the roll of film quickly just to test it out. I got a 100′ bulk roll of badly expired film off a photographer on one of my forums for a song, so I rolled up a few rolls and set off not really expecting anything interesting.
The film turned out much better than I expected and so did the subject matter. This shot in particular really caught my eye. I’ve become a bit obsessed with the telephone poles full of ancient staples around the city ever since my post a while ago about a shot I took of one with my Yashica-Mat. I plan on entering this shot in an upcoming art show, we’ll see if the jury likes it as much as I do.
I think I need to start scheduling time to just wander around, my keeper rate seems to be much higher than when I’m out actively in search of a particular shot. My favorite wandering lens has always been my macro lens. Whenever I get bored of what’s available to shoot, or I feel like I’m in a photographic slump, there’s nothing better to force myself into a completely different perspective.
I picked up a Lomo Pop 9 last week and ran a roll of dollar store film through it. Like most toy cameras you can’t change the shutter speed or aperture so using different film speeds is the only way to control exposure. Lomo makes a lot of unique and quirky cameras, this one has nine lenses arranged in a square that all trip at the same time, producing a kind of Warhol-esque mosaic. It’s kind of liberating not having to worry about all the technical stuff and be able to literally just point and shoot. It’s going to take a while getting used to composing for nine tiny lenses though.
Since the Lomo/Holga movement has taken off these little cameras, that are not much more than a nickels worth of plastic, have been commanding top dollar. The Pop 9 goes for around $80 new so I jumped at grabbing this one on the cheap of Craigslist. There aren’t many places that sell them off the shelf, you usually have to go the internet or ebay route to get one, but if you’re in Ottawa you’re in luck. Canteen on Dalhousie has a selection of them, they’re not cheap, but after you add shipping, duty and customs on an ebay order you end up saving about $5-$10 and you don’t have to wait two weeks. It’s a lot of fun so far, I can’t wait to try running some slide film through it. You can seem more shots from the Pop 9 on my Flickr.
I still shoot quite a bit of film, especially when I’m out shooting for fun instead of on the job. Cross processed slide film is one reason I don’t think I’ll ever give up film. Digital has made my job a lot easier when I need guaranteed consistent results but film still does things my DSLR will never be able to do.
Film always manages to surprise me. I used to keep detailed notes when I did my own developing or stick with the same lab when for my color film to keep my results consistent, but nowadays I’m pretty loose with my routine. Mostly because it’s so liberating. I can go out and only pay cursory attention to exposure and all the technical stuff and concentrate on composition. I have to be very careful with exposure with my digital gear; too much light and my highlights are blown, too little and you get horrible noise in the shadows. Film is so forgiving I just need to be roughly in the ballpark and I’ll get a scannable negative.
Cross processing throws another wrench in any plans for consistent results as I usually have NO idea how it’s going to turn out. Each brand of film turns out differently when processed in C41 chemicals… anything from a major shift to red or purple to bright greens and blues. I usually shoot old expired film when I cross process as well which alters the end result as well, plus you can usually pick it up on the cheap. You can usually expect reds to be boosted and everything else shifted towards green like the shot shown here… but it’s still a shot in the dark.
It’s just too much fun to go an pick up a developed roll and see what you end up with. The only down side is that because cross processing has developed a devoted cult following due to the holga/lomo movement expired film is actually going for more than the fresh stuff some places. You can see some more examples of my cross processed shots on my Flickr.