Putting my hands, my eyes and my head where they belong.
It's been hellishly hot here for the last few weeks and we have six double French doors (all glass) that face west. For a few hours they get direct sun, filtered through a few 60 foot tall, live oaks. One day when I was in the studio I realized that I owned three, two stop silk diffusers that were currently just sitting around taking up shelf space so I went outside and put them up over the outside of the French doors. You can still come in and out but you have to come in thru a curtain. And when the sunlight hits the silk it lights up my living room like a movie set. It's a wall of intense but soft, directional light. The same kind of light you might think you'd get out of a six foot by eighteen foot softbox but you wouldn't. It's better because the sun is further away and the fall off is less quick. In the digital only days I would have grabbed Ben and shot a few handheld portraits and walked away. But a few days ago when I came home I was transfixed by the light and decided I'd give the new (old) camera a try. I loaded some Tri-X, into the camera, locked the 150mm lens on the front and then tossed the whole assemblage onto a Berlebach tripod. I grabbed an old Minolta incident light meter and headed into the house. The finder is so perfect that I took my time comping the shot for the sheer pleasure of it. I was critical, thoughtful, deliberate. I pulled out the meter and metered the exposure very carefully. I had twelve shots and I was committed to getting what I wanted in twelve or fewer exposures.
Ben was game and planted himself, as directed, on the arm of a chair at an angle to the wall of light. It was so easy to focus the 40 year old lens. Wide open the slender sliver of sharpness popped up like candy. Instead of banging away with a motor drive we were both thoughtful and collaborative in our imaging duet. The feel of the shutter release was industrial engineering at its finest. The slap of the mirror was solid and calm like the closing of a door on a big Mercedes car. The snick of the shutter was flawless. And then there was a pause as the finder went dark and the whole process waited for me to wind the crank and reposition all the internal clockwork for the next shot. Time enough to mentally process the slow changes wrought by multiple seconds of delay between each release of the shutter. Time to talk to Ben, to listen and then to make everyone quiet again in anticipation of the next opportunity.
When we finished Ben went off to do some last minute Summer math assignment and I had the pleasure of pulling out the film insert, removing physical film and licking (yes! licking with my tongue) the adhesive paper strip that seals the exposed film into its own cocoon of paper layers to protect the latent image on its journey to the lab.
It was a wonderful experience. And now I'm hooked. I shot a commercial job on digital cameras today and I have no doubt that it will be well exposed and sharp as a tack. The colors will be on the money and if they're not I can fix the raw files in any number of programs.
But with the film camera I had to get it right. I had to use both sides of my brain in tandem and I realized how much exercise I'd need to get my creative muscles back into shape in order to re-master real photography. Challenge = joyous success. Shooting film means you have more skin in the game. That makes the sweet taste of success all the sweeter.