100 rolls in, and feeling a little self-conscious: My journey in film photography

Stone House, aka “Witches Castle” in Forest Park, Portland OR. 8 Nov 2020. Camera: Olympus XA2. Film: Rollei Retro 80S.

I hit a minor milestone this week: I shot my 100th roll of film since I got back into film photography in January. This means I shoot the average of a 36 exposure roll every three days. Sounds about right, as I usually drop off two rolls to be developed each week. I’ve had fun shooting, and have learned a bunch about photography.

But even though deep-down I know it doesn’t really matter, I can’t help but feel a little self-conscious about this figure of 100 rolls, especially in comparison to the habits of others. 72 exposures a week may come across as excessive to some, especially if you follow the party line of “film slows you down”. Aren’t I supposed to be more methodical with film? Even worse, am I treating film the same way I would digital?

If you read enough film blogs, you get the feeling that there’s a competition, or a certain degree of macho, when it comes to how little one can shoot. There are people who complain that 36 exposures is just “too much” for a roll of film, and they can’t get through a roll in less than a month. Hell, there’s people who claim they shoot only 24 exposures in a year. There’s also the school of thought that every shot should be meticulously thought out and composed, so if you’re shooting “too much”, there’s no way for that to happen. You’re shooting for the action of shooting. It’s like what Truman Capote said about the infamous “roll of paper” used as the manuscript for On The Road: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.

But one of the things I told myself when I was getting back into film is to try not to be hung-up on these things. I know that film isn’t cheap, but it’s not expensive either. I can get 36 exposure rolls of Kodak ColorPlus 200 or Kentmere 400, two basic stocks, for only $4.50 at Blue Moon Camera. Developing and hi-res scans of those rolls run $10.50 to $13.50 at Citizens Photo. Both places are in Portland, no shipping required. So two rolls a week sets me back $33. Not cheap, but not expensive either. I’m currently procuring the equipment for home development, so those costs should be lowered.

I bring one to two cameras with me on my travels, so there’s a lot more opportunity for me to shoot film than someone who only brings out their camera on a special occasion. My subject matter hasn’t drastically changed from the days I shot mostly with a smartphone, which is interesting things I see, though I definitely try to explore black and white more. I’ve also enjoyed the act of shooting with a film camera a lot more than with digital cameras or smartphones, so it encourages me to shoot more.

And I’ve been really into exploring what the results are going to be. There are some who say you can’t tell the difference between film and digital. While that may be true, I still want to explore what something looks like “shot on film”. And I have a few cameras with really good lenses, so it’s fun to see how they render an image. I never got that joy with digital.

It’s cool that some other folks shoot less, but this shouldn’t be a competiton. One school of thought should not invalidate the other. Maybe I’ll slow down and shoot less. But right now I’m having fun doing what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.

3 thoughts on “100 rolls in, and feeling a little self-conscious: My journey in film photography

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  1. Ha! I didn’t realize that this was a thing, though I guess now that I think of it, of course it is. Turn anything into a competition to show how much more legit you are than other people, right?;) I fully applaud you taking as many pictures as you damn well want;)

  2. I second the earlier comments. Forget the folks who feel the need to compete and just do what brings you pleasure. I enjoyed your hike photos on Flickr. And thanks again your prompt shipping on my recent purchases. I love both of the items! I’m sure the Guide will be a welcome gift. The XA Rangefinder sticker, along with your comments in this post, makes me want to blow the dust off of my Rangefinder and try a roll. I think the last shots I took with the camera were on a long trek I made through Denali National Park in 1986 with my (recently married) wife and a few other good friends. I celebrated my 31st birthday on the trip. Here I am – https://flic.kr/p/2iqVwze

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