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Thursday, 22 March 2012

35mm to go...

Hello to all my faithful followers!

Here I am, after a couple of though weeks during which I've broken my laptop, flooded my phone in the sink, got sick, got better and then sick again and, most of all, survived my first St. Paddy's day here in Dublin...

Well...more or less survived...

But today for my new post on my baby blog which is rapidly becoming not a baby one anymore, I want to share with you a great experiment that I've been doing in the past weeks (while overcoming all these various inconveniences...)

In fact, since the beginning of the second semester one of the new subjects which has been added to my time table is Photography.
And in occasion of my very first project I had to go out (possibly on a sunny day) and try the settings of a 35mm film camera.

Sounds cool?
Well, it is! But you guys can't imagine how much I've been struggling...
I must say that it was not the first time that I was using a manual film camera as my father, who is a great photographer, has been teaching me how to take pictures using the famous Olympus XA or so called "ovetto", which is exactly a 35mm.
That's why I felt so advantaged when our lecture said that she was conscious that almost everybody in our class had been experiencing photography by using just digital cameras, because i actually had a great background using a manual one!
But what I didn't realise at all was that taking pictures, especially with a manual film camera, is not like riding a bike.

It's an actual skill that you loose with the time if you don't practise it...or either improve it a lot if you keep going and exercise yourself with that.

So that, carrying the huge tripod I had borrowed from the college's equipment and trying to find inspiring locations around Dublin, I started to get used again with the film and the camera.

I'll be totally honest with you: you can't imagine how much I've struggled!
That was just ridiculous, the amount of time and reflections I had to make just to take a single shut.
And still, keeping on forgetting something every time I finally did.

Even the picture which looks the simplest one to be taken is not easy at all...

Aperture, shutter speed, focus.
Three basic settings that, depending on the subject you want to impress on your film and the way you set them, are able to give you great results and effects which the digital camera would never allow you to achieve.

But you really have to know EVERYTHING about them and about HOW TO use them.
They are so strict: or you put them right, or your picture won't work at all, and you'll just loose one of your precious 36 shuts.
When you have just 36 of them, and you cannot see if you are doing right or wrong on the spot, there is so much more to think about...

That's probably my favourite aspect of the manual camera tho.
I love the fact that you are not just shooting as much as you can but you actually analyse your subjects and pick the ones which you think DESERVE to be taken.
And then...waiting for your film to be developed and finally go to the camera shop and get you pictures...
It's absolutely fantastic, even because it's in that moment that you go back to when and why you take the picture, and the real essence of photography comes out as it becomes PURE MEMORY.

But there is a long way to go for that moment...and it was even longer for me, as I've put the first film I had been given in class in the wrong way into the camera, and because of that I got from the camera shop not pure memory but just pure paper: it was totally empty.

I told you I was going to be totally honest!
Believe me...that was a sad moment, but very brief as well cos I immediately got another film and started back again...

Actually, not all the bad things come to hurt, as I got the second film (well...let's say the first, it's just a meaning of points of view after all) just the day before the beginning of a little trip I joined, which brought me to the amazing country side of Co. Kerry.

We visited some very old manors and some amazing little villages such as Killarney

and, of course, Dingle, with its beautiful arbour.

This trip gave the chance to try again (this time making sure that the shutter speed was turning after every shoot, which means that the film was actually turning inside of the camera...) in a very inspiring environment.
I think that bringing the camera with me was also a good chance to put some different subjects in the pictures for my project...and with different I mean different from St Stephen's Green or the most used locations for novice photographers in Dublin.
For example, during the day we've spent in Killarney and around the village, I've seen some lovely tea rooms where I tried the indoor settings without the flash...

AND the nicest cup of tea ever...

But even if I made some tries with the tasks I had to attend for my project, I must confess that I couldn't help but save some frames just to portray the beautiful landscapes I had the chance to see.

By the helped to get a little more confident with the settings I had totally forgot, and that's why my second film was way better than the first one.

Back to Dublin, I decided to get another film in order to focus just on two particular settings that I actually love but which also happen to be the hardest ones to achieve.

First of all, the so called "bulb" setting.
The term "bulb" is represented by a B on the shutter speed, and it's the only speed not to be indicated with a number.
It's not so used, as it means that when you release the shutter bottom, the aperture stays open as long as you keep it pressed down.
That makes a lot (and I mean A LOT) of light come into the camera, as the aperture is open as long as you want.

Why do I like it that much?
Just a word: LIGHT.
Which pretty much what you get using this setting...
If set up at night time in a place where there is not so much light, maybe just some lights which are moving (a car in the street, a candle moved from a table in a restaurant, a cigarette smoked outside a club...), by having the aperture open for a long time, the camera reads all the movements of the light, and it imprints them in the film.

My proud is the picture I've taken with the help of my friend Alice, who came from Italy to meet me in Dublin just some days before the date the project was due, and became an official assistant during a night out while I was trying the "bulb" setting.

Another very cool function of the manual film camera is called PANNING.
Do you want to take a guess?
It's not so difficult...
Actually it's all about the shutter speed which this time has to be very slow, in order to read the movements of a subject.
But the cool thing is that you are not actually trying to catch that subject, as you would do by using a very fast shutter speed: you are following the subject itself with the camera.

It's great, as the effect which should come out in the film is of the world around your subject moving and being blurry, but the subject you've chosen should be completely in focus.

Again, I'll be honest: I am going to show you the two best results of my struggles with the panning, the two pictures in which I actually did achieve it...
BUT you really don't want to know how many other tries I've made before that...
Didn't I tell you that I got another film just to focus on that?
Well, as you can imagine the bulb technique is pretty easy, more of an artistic one that doesn't require a lot of frames to be pretty much achieved...but the total available frames were still 36...

But of course, I don't want to let you down!
No way, actually I'm recommending to you to try to go forget your digital camera and use a manual one, at least once.

You my think it's a useless afford which could be easily avoided...
It may make you realise how much of a digital slave have you been for the first part of your photographic experience...
You may like it so much that you'd never want to go back to digital again, and I can assure you that the guys of the camera shop would be very happy for that...

Which one of these has happened to me?
Well, most of all, I've realised how great it is to take photography a little more seriously and make it a learning experience as well...
I still enjoy so much managing my digital pictures with photoshop, colour splash and all these kind of technologies which are turning photography into something way far from the actual camera control,
but I really don't want to forget again how to use a manual camera.
Using it it's also a great relaxing experience and a good occasion to take a moment for yourself and, even better, look around you in a different way...

You may see something you've never noticed before...and it may become the subject of one of your pictures....who knows?

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