10 years of shooting, the story so far

6 minutes read

Welcome to my little corner of the internet where I share and express some thoughts on film and digital photography.


Hey there, nice to meet you!

Firstly allow me to say a big hello to you, whoever you are, wherever you are and a thank you to you for visiting my little corner of the Internet.

For the past 10 years, I have been exploring photography for many reasons, a creative outlet, a technical exercise, a curious pursuit and finally a mindfulness exercise - a way to take myself out of the past or future and focus on the now, the single moment.

I initially started exploring photography as a general interest that I had for a long time but I quickly found that it provided something that I had struggled with as a symptom of becoming an adult. Pure focus (pun intended). Photography by its very nature puts you right where we need to be, in the present, away from next month's electric bill or last year's cringeworthy dating experience. Courses in mindfulness taught me methods of how to take your mind away from the thoughts that could lead us down a path of self deprivation and anxiety, meditation, CBT, reading to name a few, but what was missing from each was something physically tangible.

Contrary to my professional work as a designer of digital products, I love to also work and create things with my hands, beyond the childhood memories of playing with Lego and Play dough, I have not since indulged myself in any hobbies that created something physical, something that I can physically contribute towards, improve and share that finished article with others.

Photography to the rescue!

Starting with digital photography, I enjoyed the experience of studying about the technical aspects of making a photography and trying to capture things I found interesting day-to-day. It was not long until I developed the habit of having my camera (A Pentax K50 SLR) with me whenever I stepped out the front door - and equally looked forward to go back indoors to see what I captured and eventually embraced the process of editing my photos and sharing a few of those on my instagram and flickr accounts.

It wasn't long until this new hobby was noticed by very supportive friends and members of my family and, like many others, I inherited what remained of my late grandfather's photography hobby - which opened up a whole new world of challenges, tools and techniques to explore as I became more familiar with the very much in-vogue subject of film photography.

A photo of Pentax spotmatic on top of a selection of photo prints

The camera that came into my possession was a very humble Pentax Spotmatic SP II SLR, with a Asahi Takumar 50mm 1.4 prime lens (more on that in a later journal entry) and a few rolls of very expired colour film. This was the beginning of my journey into film photography, pains and all.

Since those early days my collection of equipment has grown, much to the annoyance of my bank account and student loan repayments and I have had the great pleasure of being able to share this wonderful hobby with many incredible people from which I have learned so much.

I want to hopefully impart what I have learned throughout this blog so that it can maybe inspire others to do what I did, pick up a camera, get out there and keep going, one shutter click at a time.

My journey so far

From pixels to grain and back again

A photo of a roll of film

Starting in the world of Digital photography, I became immediately inspired by the works of many photographers, but not the usual suspects who might spring to mind or who a quick google of 'Famous Photographers' might return such as Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Instead I found the works of modern photographers documenting their contemporary view of the day-to-day the most inspiring, a few particular mentions are Louis du Mont, David See, Colton Allen and Kyle McDougall. Their simple scenes, calming compositions or dreamlike editing style spoke to me at a time when everything was completely fresh. Needless to say, trying to replicate their styles helped shape the style of photography I prefer to shoot to this day.

The challenge of film

Following receiving my first film camera, I immediately saw it as an opportunity to learn about a whole other avenue of photography, one which lent itself to my slower style of shooting. Shooting film introduced a sense of anticipation and delayed gratification which many others have also expressed as the main reasons as to why they shoot film too. Receiving those little envelopes of your developed negatives and prints was an experience I had not lived since my childhood and one which I reflected on fondly.

Here are some examples of my first roll of film I had shot in well over 20 years - a very expired roll of Kodak Color Plus 200

A photo of a messy table
A photo of a old chemical jars
A photo of keys locked on an iron railing
A photo of a protest

Yeah.. These are not going to win any awards by any stretch of the imagination but they kindled a new fascination and presented new challenges to overcome. Each improvement could be seen with every roll of film that I had developed since this first roll.

The anticipation of seeing whether your photos captured the scene in the way that you remember or were all ruined by underexposure, an unwanted finger in the frame, missed focus, a light leak or a number of other possibilities is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. As time went on, I learned how to minimise the chances of each and learned how to embrace, work with and combine the medium of film with a digital workflow.

Reducing costs

I began to explore how to keep the costs of film photography down and one of the most significant reductions can be found in scanning the film - which at the time, to get a scan you could realistically work with later would cost around 15 pounds for 20 frames.

You might say that's not bad and I suppose it isn't but thanks to owning a digital camera already, I embarked on the journey of DSLR film scanning. My proof-of-concept was a cardboard box that had the film fed in and out with a light bulb illuminating the film. Here are a couple of examples from that initial exploration.

A bad photo of a film scan
Another bad photo of a film scan

Improving on these results took a lengthy amount of time to get to a satisfactory result due to the number of tools and online resources available being a fraction of the number available today. Lots of trial and error eventually got me to where I am and all the film shots on this site were taken with the equipment that resulted from all this time spent.

Home Scanning

I happily scan all my film using the following setup.

  • Lens: Schneider Kreuznach Componon-S 80mm f4 LTM
  • Light Source: Neewer NL-192AI Light Panel
  • Film Mount: Valoi 120 and 35mm holder
  • Camera Body: Sony A7
  • Software: Lightroom & Negative Lab Pro
  • Bellows: Pentax Bellows II with Slide Copier
  • Enlarger Mount: LPL enlarger 3301D

To see some results from this setup, you can see them in my photography galleries. If this changes in the future, I will update this journal entry.

A negative photo of an abandoned mine building
A positive photo of an abandoned mine building

This site

I finally took the plunge and decided to work on this little passion project I had been putting off for a while. Inspired by the plethora of other incredible photographic resources out there like 35mmc and Casual Photophile and by the advice from multiple photographers that organising and getting your work out there into the world in the form of a 'zine' or a personal website is a great experience that can help you develop and grow as a photographer.

Thanks to my day job as a Product designer and developer, I already had the technical know-how of how to build this site, the challenge was the decision on what design flavour I want and what content to write.

A recent inspiration has to be Kyle McDougall, his outstanding style of photography is matched by the honesty and transparency of his process from which I have already learned so much - his no-nonsense approach to both his writing and video direction aligned perfectly with my own preferences.


A few final words

And so here we are, at the end of my first ever blog post. If you've reached this far, thank you for your time :)

Moving forward I hope this site will grow at a decent pace and I'm excited to take this first step forward for this long overdue personal project. I will continue to work on it from a technical and design point of view and will continue to explore ways to make it the best experience possible for you, the reader.

I want to tell you about some of the gear that has stayed with me throughout the years, some of it is a bit strange, some of it could change the way you take photographs as it did for me, some might be avoided at all costs but for now I'll keep all these waiting for the future.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to writing more in the future.


Links and Resources

Negative Lab Pro Lightroom Plugin - Homepage

Jigsaw Php static site generator - Project Homepage

Valoi Film Scanning Accessories - Online Store