Saturday, April 30, 2011

A zen way of learning photography

I went to collect my first set of prints from Boots the Chemist yesterday. When the young lady picked the envelope out of the drawer it seemed awfully thin. The reason it was thin was because there were no prints in it. The negatives were blank.

I asked her whether I'd exposed the film by opening the back of the camera too early.
''No, if you'd done that the negatives would be black. The negatives are clear, no light has been on them. You've either brought us in a film that you never used or the film never went through the camera''

I went to a friends' sons 1st birthday party. Philip was there, he's a professional photographer. He explained what must have happened.
''You'll have put the film in wrong, it won't have wound on''
''But I was taking pictures and it was winding on''
"The camera will have let you press the shutter-release button and pull the film advance leaver, but if the film wasn't engaged in the sprocket then it won't actually have moved your film on at all. The film will have stayed rolled in the cannister.''

I asked Philip how I could make sure I don't do it again.

''Load the new film. Put the end in the sprocket, wind it on. Then take a couple of pictures with the back open. Even though you might waste some film, its worth it. When you are satisfied that it has wound on properly close the back, take a few blank shots and away you go'

So of the 7 films I have shot since my friend lent me the OM 10 camera:
- film 1 is at a photographic studio that always seems to be shut whenever I go walk down the High Street
- film 2 was blank
- film 3 I exposed by opening the camera back too early
- films 4 and 5 are at Boots the Chemist (coming back a week on Tuesday)
- film 6 is in my cupboard waiting to go to Boots the Chemist

The feedback loop is getting really long now. It is a zen way of learning photography.

The zen teacher gives the student a camera. Student goes through all the motions - focusing the picture, setting the aperture, checking the shutter speed, pressing the shutter release, winding the film on. But they are never shown the prints. Not until the student is ready will they be shown the prints.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My first steps in photography

It seems odd creating a blogpost about my photography without posting any photos. But I haven't seen any yet. I borrowed an Olympus OM10 analogue camera from a friend on April 7. I have shot four rolls of film since that date:
  • the first (a black and white film) is at our local photographic shop waiting for me to pick up the prints
  • the second (a colour film) is with Boots the chemist
  • the third is in the bin because I didn't rewind it properly and exposed it when I opened the back of the camera
  • the fourth one is in the cupboard waiting to go the developers
In theory we learn through feedback loops - planning something, doing something, looking at the results and comparing them with what we planned. There is no feedback loop here. In practice this may be an advantage. I haven't had to look at any duff pictures to discourage me. Instead I can fondly imagine that all the shots will be delightful.

I can feel I have made some progress even without being able to see any output. I have taken 132 photographs in 17 days, and seem to be taking more and more each day. I've been getting used to the dials, to looking out for what might make a good shot, to thinking about how much exposure (light) the picture needs and whether to try and narrow the depth of field to throw less interesting parts of the picture out of focus.

Waiting is a fundamental part of the analogue world. Having to wait for the prints to come back from the developers reminds me of buying a vinyl LP when I am working away in Brussels, and knowing I won't be able to hear it until I get back home to the UK and can stick it on my turntable.

With the waiting lives hope and anticipation. I plan to get to Boots to pick up the films this Saturday April 30.