Tag Archives: film

Outer Banks: Kickin’ It Old School With 35mm Film, Pentax K1000

Many months ago I decided I wanted a photographic challenge, and so I picked up an old Pentax K1000 manual SLR camera off eBay. The plan was to start shooting with some Kodak TRI-X 400 black and white 35mm film. However, the film and the camera sat around for months unused. Then came a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a Thanksgiving vacation, and along came the big Nikon D7100, small Sony RX-100 II, and yes, the Pentax K1000. I was determined to finally use the film camera. I haven’t shot with film since the early 1990s, and even then I shot with automatic cameras. The Pentax K1000 is fully manual. However, there is one handy feature in the K1000, and that’s a built-in light meter in the form of a simple needle that appears on the right side of the viewfinder. Put the needle in the middle using a combination of aperture and shutter speed, and your photo “should” be properly exposed, notwithstanding the look you are going for in a particular scene.

Since film costs money, and since good developing isn’t exactly what I would call cheap (I recommend The Darkroom), I was determined to change my mindset when shooting with film. I can’t just snap away hoping to get a good shot. I really needed to put some thought into each shot. And with that, I actually only shot two rolls of film the entire week.

Here’s one of my favorites.

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina - Outer Banks

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina – Outer Banks

And here’s another angle of this impressive structure.

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina - Outer Banks

Whalehead Club decorated for Christmas. Corolla, North Carolina – Outer Banks

Whalehead is a historic home located in Corolla, North Carolina and was built by Edward C. Knight back in the 1920s. It was his “duck hunting” home away from home. Now completely restored, it is open to the public for tours and other events, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Sometimes when you shoot with film, you get happy accidents that create neat effects, something you’d never get with a pristine digital photo unless you decided to add it in “post.” Take for example the photo below of Bodie Island Lighthouse, with film flaws and a curious but beautifully placed light leak.

Bodie (pronounced "body") Island Lighthouse - Outer Banks, North Carolina

Bodie (pronounced “body”) Island Lighthouse – Outer Banks, North Carolina

I’m always looking for lines and shadows, and as I was walking the boardwalk in Manteo, North Carolina, I spotted this neat intersection of lines and shadows created by the boardwalk and a bench not quite enjoying the shade of a tree

A bench on the boardwalk in Manteo, North Carolina

A bench on the boardwalk in Manteo, North Carolina

And finally, I look for juxtapositions, sometimes blatantly obvious, like the Full Moon Cafe basking in the bright sun.

Full Moon Cafe & Brewery - Manteo, North Carolina

Full Moon Cafe & Brewery – Manteo, North Carolina

Overall, I’m quite satisfied with many of the 70 black and white film photographs I captured during my week in the Outer Banks.

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Gear Lust: It Matters Not What’s In Your Hands, But What’s In Your Head

When you find yourself in the throes of a major case of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), you need to walk out of the store, or move your mouse cursor away from the Buy button. Next you need remind yourself that it is your imagination and creativity that most contributes to your passion, not the gear. What matters is not what’s in your hands, but what’s in your head.

I’m not saying you should never buy new gear, and in fact, I offer you a twist later in this article (more on that in a moment). What I’m saying is, don’t purchase gear with the belief that it will improve your work on the merits of the specifications alone. Think of all the iconic photographs from decades past, many of which are not superior on a technical level, even when they work exceptionally well on a compositional and emotional level. That new Nikon or Canon DSLR or that new zoom lens aren’t going to offer you any greater ability to tell a story with your photographs. The only thing that can do that is your imagination.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Slow down.
  • Don’t take a lot of photos, concentrate instead on what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Beyond the anchor or subject, pay attention to what is in the frame, especially at the edges.
  • Think about your composition and how different elements in the frame are flowing and interacting with each other.
  • Are you trying to tell a story with this shot, and will the composition offer a message to the viewer?

If you are overcome with the urge to buy a new piece of gear, instead look for inspiration by browsing the works of your favorite photographers, or better yet, discover new ones. And if that doesn’t quiet the desire for more hardware, pick up the gear you already own and go out and shoot! Because at the end of the day, taking more photos is how you improve your art, not buying new gear.

But if you still can’t resist that temptation, I offer this suggestion (here’s that twist I mentioned earlier): Head to eBay and get yourself a cheap film camera, like the 35mm Pentax K1000 that I just bought. But wait a second, I thought you said, “it’s not what’s in your hands, but what’s in your head.” — Yes, indeed I did, but I’m also realistic about gear lust. Sometimes you just need to buy something. But instead of the typical lens or camera body upgrade, take a hard left into uncharted territory and buy something you never thought you’d ever buy. For me, I never thought I’d go back to film. Hell, I never really shot much film in the first place. I think the last time I used a film camera I was in my teens in the early 1990s.

I want to reiterate that your imagination is the most important thing, but if gear is ever going to have any impact at all on the creative process, it’s likely to happen when you choose a piece of gear that really shakes things up, and makes you look at your craft in a different way. And in the case of old 35mm film cameras, it’s an inexpensive way to satisfy that hardware craving. Well, at least the gear is cheap. If you really get hooked, the film and developing costs could start to add up! Oh no, what have I done! 🙂

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