Retrace your footsteps

As a photographer it’s easy to fall into the age-old trap of believing that all you need is the latest and most up-to-date-gear to feel happy with your work. This simply isn’t true. My two main work-horse cameras are the trusty old Canon 5D mk3 and the recently-replaced Canon 6D; both, technically, great cameras; however, having owned and used both of these cameras heavily for the last 3 years, I can’t help but feel that they both lack a photographical soul. This may be down to me being stuck in a rut, or (more likely) because I’m getting bored of the throwaway nature of modern photography: Simply being able to take thousands of digital photographs in a day and then being able to just use the best ones, or in some cases editing the best of a bad bunch into something usable, isn’t the spirit of photography.5D399

A year or so ago I picked up an old 35mm Camera from the Break! Charity Shop on Drayton Road for the princely sum of £10, not knowing whether it would actually work; or if it did, if I’d actually get any enjoyment out of using it. I think I secretly knew I would. The camera in question was a dusty old Canon EOS 500 from 1993 and, handily, most of the current Canon lenses and flashes bolt straight on and work; as does the auto-focus – Bingo! This meant I could just bolt my existing lenses onto the body and get shooting.

Firstly though, I had to find somewhere that sold 35mm Camera film, and do a bit of research into where I could get this archaic format processed and scanned. This turned out to be easier than I expected, if not a little more expensive than I had reckoned on. Buying the film and getting it processed costs more than what I paid for the actual camera. Hey-ho, retro-cool doesn’t come cheap!

The lovely lady in Jessops pulled a dusty old basket out from under the counter that looked as if she’d found the selection of old films at an old Car boot, and had decided to sell them to make a bit of extra income on the side. Thankfully the date-stamps on the sides of the boxes proved my assumptions about her dodgy-dealings wrong.

As it turns out, my £10 had bought me a temperamental old beast of a camera. As long as the shutter speed is kept in the region of less than 1/50th of a second, all is good; however, shooting at most normal daytime speeds gives erratic results. It turned out that there is some sort of oily-looking residue on the shutter curtain that interferes with fast (or normal) shutter speeds. A recent 24 exposure test-film only gave 18 usable pictures (some of which appear in tonight’s blog) some of which were more luck than than judgement. The plus side of this experiment was that I figured out what the problem is and how to work around it. With this in mind I’ve since bought a 36-exposure Black and white film roll that I will dedicate solely to moody landscapes where I’ll try and drag out the shutter speeds to cope with the camera’s handicap. This roll of film cost me £10, so it better well work out.    Blog update and pictures to follow, that is if it doesn’t all go tits up and I end up throwing the battered old 500 in the sea at Happisburgh.

Back to the photography, I spent the last few days carrying the old EOS 500 around the City looking for something that might make for a great film-inspired photograph. This proved harder than I expected. One thing I did notice whilst carrying this old relic around with me was the amount of hipster, mirrorless camera owners looking at it and trying to figure out what body it was, which made me smile.

As I walk about our fine City, I see a lot of life situations that in my mind would make for great photography; however, actually pulling these photographs off in real life is less-than-easy. For example, the two rough-and-ready market stall employees I spotted enjoying a fag break over a battered old telephone exchange box on Gentleman’s Walk would have made for a great photograph, if I could have gotten away with taking it on my lunch break; sporting a shirt and tie and looking like a professional, wannabe-hipster. I suspected that trying to explain to them that I was trying to be retro with film wouldn’t have helped the situation much and didn’t take the picture. Some people can pull that type of photography off. I can’t, or dare not chance my arm at trying.

What did strike me about going back and using an old film-fed SLR was that with a 24 exposure-roll of film, you really do treasure each and every shot. Extra care is taken to frame the shot properly, consider the composition and horizons, take into account the rule of thirds (and all those boring photography cliches) and think deeply about the point of the photograph in the first place. Just as you should with a modern, digital DSLR; and this is partly the reason I decide challenge myself with film every now and again. It reminds me about what the art of photography is (or was) and why we – as photographers – continue to do it.

Anyway, enough of Lidl-beer-fuelled-ramblings, here are a few shots taken on film over the last few days on that old EOS 500; a couple of which were shutter-failure recoveries (hint – they’re black and white):5D32

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I have a lot of love for this last, under-exposed shot of a spiral staircase near the market. It reminds me of the really old photographs of Norwich you see if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon them, only it was taken yesterday on the 29th June, 2017: 5D35

Thanks once again for reading and look forward (exciting stuff!) to my 36-exposure Black and White film test results, coming soon. If they come out that is…

Stu.

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