Of all my short comings, the one that keeps me up at night (literally) is how forgetful I am. This often manifests most frustratingly as the inability to remember where I put anything. At home, I keep my possessions on open shelves or on hooks so I can visually see everything. Once it goes into a drawer, it is gone. I spend a lot of time staying in hotels, and I leave stuff behind everywhere including chargers, agendas, and clothes. I once forgot my shoes at a friend’s. We had walked a block before I had to sheepishly admit I forgot my shoes. He didn’t understand at first, until he realized I was wearing only socks on my feet.
At photoshoots, it is just as bad. How I haven’t lost a lens cap yet, I don’t know. On a recent shoot with Julia Rae, I did leave my 85mm F/1.8 behind. Luckily, it was still there when I returned later. I also recently shot two rolls of film two stops underexposed. I had set my F100 to 1600 ISO for a specific effect. When I was done, I never switched it back to DX (auto), and then shot two rolls of 400 as 1600.* Luckily, I noticed before I sent the film to the lab. I knew while shooting that something was wrong. I knew there wasn’t as much light as the internal meter was telling me. Still, I shrugged and pressed on. Realising my mistake, I sent my film to Indie Film Lab in the US since they push colour film and have a great reputation.
After a week and a bit, I got my scans and I was pretty nervous to look at them. I assumed the worst. After a deep breath, and a couple of beers, I was able to work up the nerve to peak at them. I was relieved! Yes, they are grainy and rough-looking, and that doesn’t really suit the mood of the photos, but they weren’t ruined.
There are a lot of cons with film, chief among them – for me, at any rate – is the prohibitive cost. There is the cost of the film, then the cost of mailing it to a lab, and then the lab fees. With the closing of Caribou Lab in Toronto, the only lab I have found that seems to actually care about what they do is Indie Film Lab. Unfortunately, our weak Canadian dollar makes the cost even higher.
Still, there are benefits to film. When I shot digital, processing is cheap but a headache. Nothing ever looks “right.” The colours always look too green or orange or yellow. Even when using a colour checker, gray card, shooting RAW, and calibrating my monitor; nothing ever looks correct. It drive me nuts! Then there are the little things that make me wonder if it’s just my perception. I shoot Portra film, everything has a green tint, and I love it. I use a VSCO Portra film simulation, and the green tint looks awful, no matter how subdued I make the simulation. Film maybe expensive, but when I get my images back, except for some slight cropping here and there, I don’t touch them. No colour correction, no contrast adjustment, no file conversion, no camera calibration, no fiddling with curves, masks, or any of that other crap. Advancing technology, for many people, is liberating. It’s also really cool. For me, though, it just feels like it gets in the way.
Photos are of Nathalie Kas (Montreal) and Julia Rae (Hamilton), shot on TMax 400 (pushed one stop) and Portra 400 (pushed two stops), developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab (Alabama, US).
*For the record, I swear my old F80 reset to DX (auto) ISO mode when you changed rolls of film, as this was the first time I have made this mistake and it would have for sure happened to me many times in the 90’s and 00’s.