The Analog Process - Part 1



As a creative, there is nothing more exciting to me than learning a new skill or approach to what/how I'm creating. As a perfectionist (and my own biggest critic) there is nothing more frustrating. I'm a photographer, who has been shooting seriously for 3 years. About a year ago, a mishap pushed me into a new realm that has since consumed me; analog photography. I'll be taking you along this journey, sharing my triumphs and (more importantly) my failures. There are a lot of failures. We'll have plenty to talk about.

Shooting analog (35mm film to be exact) has been a constant wave of newness for me. Film is a deep, dark, expensive rabbit hole, and I'm Alice halfway to Wonderland. This has completely revolutionized the way I shoot, bringing new perspective and challenges in familiar scenarios. Recently I shot a concert, something I've done many times before, and something that I've never found particularly challenging (my bathroom would look ill in photos with lights and smoke all around). This time tough, I only brought my analog cameras. Fixed ISO, slower shutter speeds, finite amount of shots, all constraints to push me creatively as well as technically. Here's what I learned...

1. Plan for darkness.

It was dark, a lot darker than I expected. I typically shoot 800 ISO film, which is a good in between for the streets above and tunnels below the city. The higher the ISO the more sensitive the film is to light, so the better it does in the dark. 800 wasn’t cutting it here though. Thankfully I packed some Superia 1600 which did the trick, but I'll pack a roll of Delta 3200 for the next one.

2. Moments are fleeting.

The beauty of film is that you have one shot to capture a moment. You can’t rapid fire 20 shots and pick the best one later. Pile that on top of no autofocus and you’ve got your work cut out for you. Timing and anticipation is crucial. Watch the stage, anticipate the performers next movements, understand how bright/dark different parts of the stage are. Set up for your shot before it happens, so when it happens, you’re ready for it.

3. Set realistic expectations.

I keep very high standards for my work, and was pretty bummed when I got these rolls developed. There weren’t nearly as many keepers as I wanted there to be, the tones weren’t quite where I expected them to be, I missed focus on some crucial shots. But this was my first time shooting this format in this environment. We learn from mistakes, and the next concert I shoot will be that much better. I’ll still make some mistakes, hopefully less, and hopefully different ones.

Analog photography has taught me to embrace the process. It’s taught me to push through a ton of “L’s” to get to a win. The space between the wins and losses keeps getting smaller though, and the progress is so rewarding. I’m learning every day, and loving every second of it.