When I was a teenager I wanted a “real camera” so so much — I built a pinhole camera from the instructions in a 4-H booklet, and I shot rolls of 110 with it and also a crappy little camera I bought at a department store with money from my library job. What I really wanted was a 35mm camera, though — a Real Camera.
I never got that real camera, although over the years I shot plenty of rolls of 35mm film in various random point-and-shoots. I always found it kind of dissatisfying, though. But five or six years ago I got a digital point-and-shoot and it was wonderful! I took so many pictures, and learned so much, and last year I jumped in with both feet and bought a Nikon D70 and a couple of lenses — in my heart, this was my first Real Camera.
This month, though, I’ve made a 180-degree turn. Instead of pursuing fancier and more expensive digital technology, I’m exploring 35mm film rangefinder photography. In 2009!
I’ve been thrilled to discover that there are so many wonderful people, all over the web, still using these cameras. Better yet, they not only post their photos, but belong to super-active communities where they discuss the gory technical details. The didactic generosity I’ve seen already is wonderful — people really take the time to share their knowledge.
I’ve cleaned up my new/old Electro 35 G (it’s got a 45mm f/1.7 Yashinon lens) as well as an Agfa Silette (Apotar 45mm f/3.5 in a Prontor-S shutter). I’m in the middle of shooting my test rolls, and I can’t wait to see the shots!
Turns out I’m not the only person at the Resistor who likes cameras and film — so we’re going to be playing with developing here. Of course, there are groups on Flickr for that, too.
It’s taken over 20 years for me to get back to the idea of shooting 35mm (and soon, 120) film. I’m perfectly happy with how this has turned out, though. If Malcom Gladwell is right, and you really do need 10,000 hours of practice to succeed, then I’ve just been putting in my time, shooting lots of frames and getting more comfortable with my tools.