Zen And The Art Of Film Photography: Along The Nehalem

I took my vintage 1959 Rolleicord Va with me on our trip out to Oregon in hopes that I might be able to get some decent shots on Black & White film. I took 5 rolls of Fuji Neopan Acros 120 with me and managed to complete 3 of the rolls. A few days ago I got around to developing some of that film (two rolls) that I shot.


Unlike digital photography film photography is a much more deliberate, some might say "zenlike", process and takes extra time to get to the point where you can share your images with others. That's one of the things I enjoy about film, the deliberateness of it. Here's a brief summary of the steps I go through to get a single image ready to share here on the blog, flickr, Google+, 500px, etc.:

  1. developing of the film
  2. waiting for the negatives to dry
  3. cutting the negatives into manageable sizes
  4. "flattening" the film to get the inherent curl out of it
  5. preparing the film for scanning (removing as much dust as possible, etc)
  6. actually scanning the film (each medium-format sized negative takes 2-4 minutes)
  7. converting the RAW scan to a usable image
  8. adjusting the image in post-processing
  9. adding appropriate metadata, keywords, title and description
  10. upload/share the image

Whew, finally done !

As you can see it does take a bit more effort to get an image from exposed film to final shareable image. Many people say it's too much effort now that we have digital cameras. I say the exact opposite: "the extra effort is worth it because of digital!" Why do I say that? Because the analog (film) photography process makes us better photographers by forcing us to slow down, take our time and invest something in each image we make. I have found the whole process to be extremely rewarding. Shooting film has made me a better photographer, no doubt.

Anyway, here's the first of what I hope will be at least a few "keeper" images on film from our trip to Oregon. I call it "Along The Nehalem":

Along The Nehalem

Image Details

I made the image near the place were staying in Wheeler, Oregon. Wheeler sits along the Nehalem River just before the river empties into the Pacific just a couple miles away. As a result the river get pretty much the full effect of the tides, rising and falling every day. We got to Wheeler in late afternoon and I got out the Rolleicord when I noticed these interesting old piers and dock along the river. I helped that there was a Gull sitting on top of one of the piers and that there was a small boat tied up along the dock. I figured it would make a good scene, especially with all the detail in the piers.

The Rolleicord doesn't have  meter in it so I used a light meter app on my phone to get the approximate exposure. After that I spent a little time moving around, trying to get the best composition I could considering that I was standing on a small dock and that the Rolleicord has only one focal length (about 49mm). After I felt good about it I fired off the shutter and captured what I hoped was a decent image. To find out if I did though, I would have to wait until I developed the film (no "chimping" with analog cameras!). A few days ago I developed the film using the following process:

  1. Load the film onto a plastic reel and place the reel in a light-proof development tank inside a table-sized "changing bag"
  2. Perform a 1-minute pre-soak of the film
  3. Develop the film using a 1:47 dillution of Kodak HC-110 developer in 72 degree water for a time of 5.25 minutes.
  4. After development I stopped the development process and "fixed" the film to prevent the image from fading from the developed negative.
  5. I rinsed the film in cold water for a minute to remove all the residual development chemicals and then hug up the negatives to dry overnight in the guest bathroom.

I'm happy with this image! I got the exposure pretty close and I'm happy with the composition. I hope you enjoy it as well!

I'll post more images from our trip (both digital and film) as I get time so stay tuned.