I've read many times that one of the ways you can improve your photography skills is to try shooting with a film camera for a while.
So, I've always had it in the back of my mind to give this a go, but never really had the drive.
I was fortunate enough to inherit the full contents of a darkroom from my father-in-law a few years back and his beautiful Rolleicord, but never really had the guts to give that one a go as it just looks so intimidating. So into the loft it all went ...
... but it's back out now.
I was fortunate enough (again) to acquire a Leica M3 a week ago from a friend in Texas. Complete with a full set of prime lenses ranging from 35mm to 135mm, it is a late 1950s version (single throw) and is just a thing of immense beauty and precision. No wonder Stuff Magazine voted it the ultimate gadget of all time. It's been gathering dust for the last 15 years at least, and when it arrived from the US and I'd recovered after HM Customs and Excise had their (not insignificant) pound of flesh, I unpacked, cosmetically cleaned and played. Works like its brand new. Wow! Just wow!
Then on Sunday it was, without doubt, one of the best Fathers Days ever at the weekend. Not only did I get two touching, hand-picked cards from my wonderful kids, one of whom relieved me of the job of cooking the full roast dinner (don't things taste nicer when someone else cooks them?) and I got to watch the MotoGP with a few beers whilst Mrs B scaled the ironing mountain. Not only that, but I also took the Leica to the Newark Kit Car Show in the morning to shoot my first roll of black and white and, whilst dinner was being cooked, managed to develop it with the chemicals that I received as my Fathers Day present using some of the aforementioned darkroom kit retrieved from the loft. Amazingly, the negatives appear to have come out out, but I wont be sure of the quality of the job I have done until I manage to find somewhere to get a contact print done. More than likely they will be covered in dust, scratches and drying marks - but I have to start somewhere.
But the whole point of this tale was to recount the thrill I got at taking this piece of photographic history out with me and taking pictures with it. It was like the thrill I got when I first went out with my first SLR. But somehow different. The reaction of people who saw you with it or whom you pointed it at was unexpected; they wanted to engage in the process and not hide or turn away, they wanted to know why I wasn't shooting digital like everyone else. The camera and the act of photographing with it was almost revered as opposed to shunned - which sadly is quite often the case with an SLR. I also had my Fujifilm X100 hanging around my neck alongside the Leica M3 and the Weston light meter (it came with the Rolleicord), so I also took plenty of shots with that as well - I find it too attracts less negative attention than an SLR, so the two together were the perfect combination.
I was able to slow down and put into practise the theory and learnings from of all those digital shots I had ever shot, and it felt special. It felt like I was a photographer
Whether it will improve my photography, I don't know, but it certainly won't harm it.
But one notable moment to reflect on was when framing a shot with a sign in the middle that I didn't really want included, I automatically acknowledged that it wasn't an issue cos I could 'shop it out later!!! I guess I have a way to go ...
I'll post some prints when I have them