My Grande Film Experiment

Canon A-1So some time ago I picked up an old Canon A-1 film camera at a thrift store for my antique camera collection which I intend to display on a shelf in my office someday. Well the camera looked like it was in good working order so I began to wonder if the thing would actually work. I went across the street to Walgreen’s and it just so happened that they had a battery for the thing so I installed it and by golly the little internal LED meter came to life!

I acquired some film and soon my film experiment was off and running! I was surprised to discover that a couple of the local camera stores still maintain functioning film labs and eventually I turned in a roll of film. After a couple long weeks I received the call… my negatives and prints were back and by golly the camera works and the prints looked good 🙂

Mule Deer Doe

So does film compare in quality to my 32mp Canon 90D? Of course not, not even close. But I did find the entire process enjoyable and discovered that I still like the whole process of loading film, shooting the pictures, running the advance lever and physically going to the lab and talking with real people. I also discovered that digital photography has made me a bit lazy. It costs nothing to rattle off a few test shots with the wrong exposure to get the camera set up for a shoot with perfect settings. With film it costs a dollar every time you click the button so it isn’t feasible to just fire off some shots. It also won’t do you any good because there obviously isn’t any immediate feedback on a screen to tell you what to do!

South Face of Pikes Peak

I had to relearn how to read a scene and run my old incident meter. The reflective meters in cameras can’t always be trusted to return an exact exposure so sometimes it’s better to use the old style incident meter to read the light actually falling on a scene to get an accurate exposure.

The old camera with it’s old manual focus lenses is quite small and light, and a very easy thing to carry along on a hike where there is no pressure to capture a lot of images for a YouTube movie or Instagram. Any shooting I was doing with my film camera was just for me, a simple exercise in enjoying my hobby. I found the entire process relaxing and intend to continue shooting with film once in a while.

Climbers in Garden of the Gods

But if I’m going on a vacation or a shoot where I am serious about getting images there is no way that I’m going to be shooting film. No film camera will ever come close to replacing 10 frames a second at 32 megapixels. Also with digital I can change my ISO with the changing conditions which I am constantly encountering in my photo trips that often begin in predawn light and finish in bright midday sunshine.

But I have to admit, I am a bit nostalgic for the old days when you would take your roll of film to the camera store and talk with other people about their recent experiences with our beloved hobby. I enjoyed the experience of laying your strip of film on the lamp and carefully examining the frames with a loupe, looking for just the right with which to create an enlargement. Other photographers would gather around and take a look through the glass for themselves and the whole experience had a special feel that has been lost in the digital era.

Downtown Victor Colorado

I still recommend film and the entire photographic process for anyone starting out in photography. I think there is great value in understanding each step of the process, from selecting the correct ISO value for your roll of film, to metering the light for a correct exposure, to learning the patience to wait for your results. So even though I won’t be shooting with my A-1 all the time, I have acquired a backpack for the camera and manual focus lenses and I intend to continue putting it to use once in a while! Not too much use though, with these fuel prices the trip to the lab in Colorado Springs costs about $40, Add that to the $25 for the film, processing and the high res scans and it’s a pretty expensive proposition to turn in a roll of film!

I have included a few scans of my negatives with this post, I hope you enjoy the results! If you enjoy the content and would like to contribute to the cause, please click the donate button and select an amount!

 

Also don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon including my latest, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies”!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Back to Basics

Had myself a back to basics session on the mountain today. I decided I just wanted a nice hike without all the high tech wizardry to distract me from the pleasure of a mountain morning so all I took with me today was a light pack with my old Canon A-1 film camera and a roll of Ilford B&W film and unfortunately my phone, with which I apparently could not resist interrupting my hike with by attempting to create a video.  Anyway, I still immensely enjoyed my experience with the film camera and will probably doing more of that in the coming months!

Lenticular Clouds

As I said in the video, for some reason when I have the film camera along I don’t feel the same pressure to produce. I’ve been shooting stock image for almost 20 years now and having a digital camera along makes me feel like I should be capturing stock images. With the film camera the simple joy of photography returns. I can’t explain it, but the old film camera just brings me joy 🙂

And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! Also if you enjoy the content and would like to contribute to the cause, just click the link below and choose an amount to donate!

Majestic Morning

Winter returned last night and I awoke to 15 degrees and 3 inches of new snow. I was tired and it took a few cups of java to get my eyes to open, but fortunately moment arrived at about the same moment that light began to spill over the mountains to the east. I really didn’t want to go out today but I knew that my author copies from Amazon of my Wildilfe Photography Book would be at the post office and the kitties were complaining incessantly about their food variety so out the door into the cold I went.

I decided to first drive out to the overlook and have a look at the aftermath of the storm on the mountains. As I wound my way out of town I caught a glimpse of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance and they were putting on quite a show in the storm clouds and fresh snow of last night’s weather. Of course I was ready with my digital camera and even my old Canon A-1 with most of a roll of Ilford B&W film. After all these years living in the mountains I know every overlook and every parking spot along the scenic byway and today I was going to stop at every one of them!

I also knew the view from the mining district over in Goldfield might be pretty cool today so I went over there too. I hope you enjoy a few of the pictures, I thought it was just magnificent this morning!

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

Interesting Perspective

So I went for a hike through the mines at Goldfield Colorado yesterday, taking only my antique Canon A-1 film camera with me. I had a few exposures remaining on my roll of Ilford Hp5 ISO 400 monochrome film and was hoping to expend them on the old mines. I think I had about 12 pictures to take but by the time I had reached the turnaround point on the trail I still had 4 remaining.

Snowy Mines

The last part of the trail doesn’t really pass many highlights so I was wondering how I was going to use up four exposures. That quandary got me to thinking of my digital camera where four exposures would be nothing. Lol, there have been times when I accidentally pressed the shutter button and banged off eight frames of the ground, or my shoe, or the floor mat in Kevin’s car. It’s nothing on a bird photography outing in Eleven Mile to shoot 600 frames with 500 of them almost exactly alike.

Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

So then I got to thinking how therapeutic it was to be just walking along looking for a real and distinct image with no real pressure to actually find one. I was just thoroughly enjoying the process of manual photography. I enjoyed loading the film by hand and cranking it into place. I enjoyed turning the lens to the aperture I wanted and setting the shutter speed dial to my desired value. I enjoy the satisfying slap of the mirror as the camera bangs it out of the way to expose the film.

And today I will enjoy going to the lab to turn in the film for developing and for the opportunity to browse the camera store looking for some little gizmo I might need. And I always enjoy chatting with the lab people about the whole process of shooting film, a skill nearly lost on today’s photographers.

I’m going to have a good day 🙂

Don’t forget to check out my new book, “Wildlife Photography in the Colorado Rockies” now out in print on both Amazon / Kindle and Lulu Publishing!

A Major Prize

My newest addition to a growing collection of nostalgic photography items is this beautiful Canon A-1 with a 75-200 lens. I found it at a thrift shop and it appears to be fully functional, complete with an exposure compensation dial, shutter and aperture priority and a working LED light meter in the viewfinder. I can’t wait to get out and try this thing! I recently completed a roll of Ilford HP5 black and white film with my old Canon AE-1, so maybe I can turn a new one in when I pick the other one up!

Canon A-1You may wonder why in this age of high tech digital why I would be messing around with film… I still remember when I acquired my first real camera. It was the Minolta X-700, a pretty formidable piece of equipment in it’s day. I remember sitting on the floor poring over the manual, learning about f stops and shutter speeds, and marveling at the little red LED information lights inside the viewfinder. A whole new world was opening up as a result of those new camera controls.

Now that wasn’t my first camera. My interest in photography began at a very young age with an old Brownie box camera. It wasn’t really mine but my parents would buy me one roll of 12 exposures per year to shoot on our summer camping trips to the mountains. To put that in perspective, I shoot that many frames in one second when I’m out doing bird photography with my Canon 90D.  When I got a little older I purchased one of those instamatic models at the drug store, the kind that would take those handy film cartridges… It had those disposable flash bars you could attach, also a pretty high tech item for the day! Of course the negatives were so small you couldn’t really make an enlargement but at the time it had never occurred to me to make an enlargement. When you are making $1.90 per hour at a grocery store things like picture enlargements aren’t really in the cards anyway.

Time marches on and I soon found myself in the Air Force. But for some reason when I was going to weather school it didn’t occur to me to get a real camera to photograph the awesome weather that would blow through Omaha, Nebraska, the home of Air Force Global Weather Central, where I worked as a weather observer and computer programmer for four years. It didn’t occur to me to take pictures of the weather and I didn’t have a camera capable of quality captures, nobody did. I guess storm chasing wasn’t a thing yet.

Pacific Ocean

When I moved out to Silicon Valley to begin a career in computer software the scenery was too much to leave undocumented, so I began the search for a better camera… Disk cameras were all the rage then, and as a computer guy a disk camera sounded like the thing to have. Unfortunately as I would discover, those stupid cameras were far from that. The tiny little negatives on those tiny little disks were barely capable of a 4×6 print. In all my travels around northern California I don’t recall ever seeing a camera store, I’m sure there must have been one somewhere but I never saw one. There were no 35mm or medium format cameras in the malls, I knew they existed but had no idea where you would find one and nobody I knew had one. Kind of like surveying equipment I thought, you knew it existed because you saw people taking surveys, but somehow surveyors were the only people who knew where to get it. I’m actually kind of amazed at how well this old print has fared over the last 40 years!

But when I got to Denver in the 80’s suddenly there were camera stores everywhere. Waxman’s Camera was big at the time and when my best friend showed up at a camping trip with a shiny Minolta X-370 I knew I had to have one. He told me about the camera store, how they would sell you the camera, show you how to use it and even provide free photography classes. I was amazed to see the all of the equipment that was available to anyone who wanted it, lighting, developing, enlarging, and I was fascinated with the whole process, loading the film, setting the apertures and shutter speeds, taking the film to the lab and hanging around talking to the technicians and other photographers about new film and developing technology. It was all a very special and rewarding experience and it was amazing to be part of it.

That aspect of photography is absent from the digital age. Everything is accomplished alone in front of a computer. The developing and the printing all done with Photoshop can be accomplished without ever having to talk to another person. I love my digital camera and the software but the equipment seems more like a computer with a lens that it does a camera. Of course there is social media but there is a remote anonymity about it that is just not the same.

Deia and the Horse

I tried my hand at a portrait business during the film era and actually did pretty well with it for quite a few years. I lived in the Parker, Colorado area which at the time was way “out in the country”. Somehow I became the guy who shot the country weddings and senior pictures and I had a great time doing it. Eventually I did upgrade to an auto focus model which I was quite fond of but the weddings burned me out and I put down the camera and didn’t pick one up until Canon introduced the first pro digital model in 2002. Of course if you want to know about that story you can read my book “Two Decades of Digital Photography“, it is available on eBook and paperback on Kindle and Amazon and is a fascinating photographic adventure in it’s own right!

I have a collection of old cameras and when I spotted an old Canon AE-1 at the Goodwill store. I grabbed it to add to the other relics displayed on a shelf for me to nostalgically enjoy. As I took it out to the truck I glanced across the street at the Walgreens… is it possible that they would have a battery for this thing, is it possible that it might actually still work after all these years? The camera was in excellent shape complete with lenses and a flash in the bag and it was obvious that whoever had it took care of it and didn’t use it much. My phone told me what kind of battery to use and how to put it in. I was pleasantly surprised when the meter needle snapped into place to display f/8 as I pointed the lens out the truck window. The film advance lever appeared to work and the shutter and mirror made a satisfying snap when I pushed the button!

Downtown Victor Colorado

So back into the store I went to buy a roll of 35mm film. There was no film there but I was eventually able to get a roll of crappy color film at Walmart so I loaded it up to test it out. The Walgreen’s had a film developing department so I dropped it off for them to send off to their lab. It took a month but I eventually got a call from them telling me that my CD and prints were ready. Amazingly, the camera worked. The film was crap but there were pictures… I am kind of intrigued by the postcard look of these prints though!

Then I began to get ideas for little projects that I could do with film, just for fun. I fished my old Sekonic incident meter out of the box of relics that I’ve been holding on to all these years and ordered some Ilford HP5 black and white film. This time I decided not to entrust my project to Walgreen’s and called around to see if there was still anyone who actually still has film developing equipment, and much to my surprise, Mike’s Camera still considers film to be an important medium and has a complete lab onsite at their Colorado Springs store! The original Waxman’s became Wolf Camera and then I believe those all became Mike’s Camera where I was a regular customer for many years. It had been so long though that upon arrival I had to set up a new account and decided to join the film discount club for $5 off of developing each roll of film.

While I was there talking to the technicians about film and processing I felt the old fire that I used to feel in the early days, the camaraderie and the appreciation for a special process. The feeling of being part of something exceptional and exclusive. So I bought some more Ilford HP5 and later picked up the Canon A1. Not sure if anyone will be interested but I plan to put out some YouTube videos about film photography. Now don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate the convenience of the digital era. I did some calculating and figure if I were trying to do what I do now with the birds and wildlife I would be burning through $1500 per month in film and processing! But I think it is going to be fun to do a few small projects with the old cameras and film. Stay tuned!

A Black and White Winter

Finally completed a project I’ve been wanting to do for some time now… Shooting Eleven Mile Canyon on a frosty winter morning with black and white film in my old Canon AE-1. I almost waited too late though, we’ve had a warm stretch and a lot of the ice on the Platte River has melted along with most of the snow along the banks.

Icy South Platte River

But, we finally got a good snow and some zero degree weather yesterday and I decided now or never, at least for this season. So I loaded up a roll of Ilford ISO 400 film and ventured out to the canyon. 100 speed film would have been the better choice but I don’t happen to have any of that. I packed up the camera plus my old Canon 70D to shoot some video with and of course my 90D with the 100-400 and the 1.4x tele in case I spotted any eagles. I also brought along my old Sekonic incident meter so that I could use the old camera on manual without having to worry about the bright snow messing up my exposures.

Icy South Platte River

It occurred to me to check the old incident meter against my 70D to see if they agree, so I set the digital camera to the same values as the meter called for and took a couple of test shots. As it turns out the old meter and the 70D agree exactly on the parameters for exposure so I realized I could actually get some duplicate shots with the 70D while at the same time using it as a meter for the film camera. This of course gave me another idea for a blog post, a side by side comparison between film and digital images. When I got back home to the computer I converted some of the images from digital to black and white so when I get the film and prints back I will compare them in another post.

I was done with all the pictures and video about the time it started to warm up and melt the snow and felt that it had been a pretty good day. I decided to go on over to Woodland Park before it started snowing again and I was greeted by quite a show on Pikes Peak as the next storm was making it’s way on the scene. I had a few exposures left on my roll of 36 so I added a few cool black and white shots of the peak to my day as well.

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak

We have another winter storm rolling in tomorrow night so perhaps I’ll use up the film in the snow on Thursday morning. I’ve also been wanting to try black and white film out on the old gold mining ruins on a snowy day so maybe I can kill two birds with one stone by shooting the Cripple Creek / Victor mining district in monochrome.

Speaking of birds.. When the sun finally came out and warmed the river banks a small flock of mountain chickadees came to visit. I tried my best to photograph them while they were happily singing and bouncing around… looks like I may have gotten one good picture anyway 🙂

Mountain Chickadee

I’m still working on the video for this post, as it turns out after upgrading to Windows 11 and installing a new video card my old video creating software no longer functions. I’m already paying $30 a month for my Adobe products, the Photoshop package plus inDesign, so for just $20 more I can have the entire suite of publishing products including Premiere Pro and After Effects. Unfortunately those aren’t simple to learn packages so the video is being delayed a bit while I get up to speed.

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings! And don’t forget to check out my books and calendars on Lulu Press and Amazon!

My First Roll of Film

Fortune Club in Victor Colorado

Well, not my first roll of film… but my first with my Canon AE-1 that I picked up a few weeks ago… and my first in probably two decades. Just got the pictures and CD back today which was pretty fun. For some reason Walgreen’s lab doesn’t return you the negatives which I failed to notice when I submitted the film there. If I decide to do any more film I’ll find a place with better service.

The CD contained images of 3072 x 2048, so basically 6 mega pixels. The color balance on the scans was quite far off, though the glossy prints seem to look fine. There was a small battle with the 50mm lens after it fell off my desk onto the carpeted floor. At first glance the lens looked fine but I managed to bend the aperture lever on the back so I for a few frames the aperture wasn’t working. Nothing a channel lock pliers in my truck couldn’t fix. All working fine again 🙂

Eleven Mile Reservoir

Nailing an exposure is a trick though after all these years of being spoiled by the LCD screen on the back of the digital camera! Perhaps if I am going to do more film shooting I’ll have to put my old light meter back in my pack! Shooting in manual with a meter should nail every exposure every time!

Well anyway, it was a blast loading and shooting film on an old antique camera. Don’t think I would want to do it very often, but it could be a fun change of pace once in a while. Plus I love that old camera… it was a marvel of engineering in it’s time, every control functions so smoothly, it’s a dream to use! Like I said in another post… if I was shooting film for what I do now I estimate I would be burning through $1500 a month in film and processing! That’s not even feasible!

 

 

 

Rocky Mountains on a Summer Day

The Joy of Shooting Film

The goal today was to finish my roll of film that I have been shooting through my new / vintage film camera that I found at a  thrift store, a Canon AE-1. I was going to run into town with the camera and shoot a couple of  random pictures to round out my 36 exposures, but I decided upon a trip out to the canyon instead. The bulk of the tourists leave after the holiday weekend so I was kind of hoping the wildlife had settled down and reappeared along the banks of the beautiful South Platte River.

Great Blue Heron

Things have definitely settled down in the canyon, only a hand full of campers remain and it looked like they were packing up. There are always fishermen, even in the dead of winter but there weren’t the giant trucks roaring up and down the dirt road stirring up huge clouds of dust.

Didn’t see much on the drive up the canyon, but I wanted to stop somewhere and make a video so I kept an eye out for a good place to do that. Having spotted a nice private spot along the banks of the river I gathered up my gear and walked down to the river. Much to my surprise as I was getting ready I spotted a great blue heron fishing only about 30 yards from me! I quick snapped a few images, but I managed to scare him away trying to adjust my pants and missed the coveted flight image 😦

Eventually I completed my little talk about the Canon AE-1 film camera that I found at the thrift shop a few weeks ago and took a few shots with it. At first the experience seemed a bit hollow, I’m used to shooting digital and looking at the screen after each series. But I soon fell into the groove and began to enjoy the experience. In film photography you have to slow down and really think about what you are doing. Careful consideration of your shutter speed and aperture are required, you have to make every shot count. With my Canon 90D digital I can burn up 36 exposures in three seconds followed by a quick check of the results and another three second burst. Frequently I find myself shooting six or seven hundred captures in a day along the river, while today I had to make my last six film frames count.

Red-tailed Hawk

So I whiled away my time looking at the river imagining the picture I wanted to capture, how much motion in the water do I want to see, how much depth of field am I going to need… Which lens is going to give me the coverage that I want, what to leave in, what to leave out. Finally I am ready and click, there it is. Did it  turn out, I don’t know… I’ll find out in two weeks! But there is something about the click, the sound of the antique shutter, the slap of the mirror, the sound of the film advance lever. Somehow I feel like a real photographer, not just the operator of a highly advance machine.

However I know I won’t be going back to shooting film exclusively… One day I calculated what my expenses would be if I were to be conducting my stock photo business with film, the film and developing cost alone would be running me about $1500 per month and that doesn’t even include the cost of high res scans that would be required for the uploads.

However I did enjoy the experience enough to pick up another roll of 35mm film at the store where I dropped off the film. Although I may have jumped the gun on that purchase, the camera seems to work fine, but it is 40 years old and I’m not even sure it is going to work, and I won’t know for two weeks!

On pins and needles 🙂

 

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

Many of my adventures have also been captured on beautiful HD video on my Youtube Channel! If you enjoy my content please subscribe to my channel, subscribers have a big impact on channel rankings!

This post is not sponsored and all equipment used in it’s creation was purchased by me on my own volition.