Lately, I’ve been feeling nostalgic. I’ve been sorting my latest images while listening to some of my vinyl collection that I spin on an old Technics turntable. Sunsets to Pat Metheny’s 1977 Watercolors; Humpback Whales seemingly fit to Rush’s Hemispheres (vintage 1978), and crashing waves at Keanae to Synchronicity, released in 1983 by the Police. The fidelity isn’t nearly as crisp as a re-mastered digital download – there’s a decent amount of pop and hiss as the disc turns on the platter – but there’s no mistaking the smooth notes picked up by the needle, which would only be smoother if I were running the tunes through a tube amplifier.
Definitely old school.
After flipping to the B-side of Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again (an original 1961 pressing), I went to my camera locker and pulled out a torn and assignment-weary camera bag. Unzipping the top, I removed the Domke wrapped body and took a seat at my work bench. As I unwrapped the camera, I couldn’t help but smile, as looking at my Canon EOS-3 opened a floodgate of memories: Film – Vinyl’s analog equivalent.
The EOS-3 was my last major film camera purchase, and it was a helluva workhorse, shooting at 7 fps with the power booster attached, a 45-point auto focus system and it was darn rugged – surviving rain, mud, and a few accidental drops. It’s literally traveled the world (at least three times), and I hate to think how many thousands of rolls of film that have passed through the shutter plane. Yet I can pop in a 2CR5 battery, grab a roll of Fuji Velvia 100 out of the ‘fridge and shoot like a mad man, and still get great images, albeit 36 at a shot.
Ten years ago, I thought nothing of buying a brick or two of Velvia at Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles (per assignment), as I was a faithful bracketer, and multiple setups were the norm, so art directors had choices (and I had a better chance of getting more images published, which translated into bigger pay checks). I used to wear two over-sized fanny packs (OK. You can stop giggling), one carrying fresh film, the other with exposed cartridges. It was always a challenge to change rolls in a helicopter, or out in an ever-moving boat. Inevitably, the camera would be rewinding a spent roll, and a whale would breach right in front of me, or a car would go spinning off the track.
Then there’s the processing, which had its plusses and minuses. One of the things I miss about the wet darkroom is the anticipation – exposing the paper, placing it into the developer and waiting for the image to magically appear – a process that gave you gratification if you exposed well, or a reason to recite the George Carlin Nasty Seven if a sheet of 11×14 sheet of Ilford paper were wasted. For the most part (as long as your equipment is properly profiled), it’s pretty hard to radically screw up a digital print, as what you see is what you get. Of course, if you’re printing on glossy paper, and you’ve selected a fine-art textured paper, the prints will look decidedly weird.
But I digress…
I pulled a roll of Velvia from the reefer, placed it on the kitchen counter and let it warm to room temperature for an hour. Tearing open the box, I loaded the roll into the A-3, shut the back, and the familiar whir of the motor drive winding the film to the first frame ignited my appetite for some macros.
I took my time, composing the shot, double checking the meter, and bracketing straight up, a third under and a half-stop under. After 12 setups, the drive went into action, rewinding the spent roll back into its light-tight cassette. I left the spent film on my desk for a few days, before deciding to send it off to A&I color. I should have it back in a few days, but in the meantime, I’ll be busy cleaning off the old light table and looking for my 10X loupe. Now, where did I put that box of Print File slide sleeves?