Film Photography: Re-igniting the spark

Mary S. Young State Park, 5 Sept 2021. Minolta Hi-Matic 7s/Silberra Color 160

I got back into film photography in January of 2020. The last year and three-quarters has been a journey of discovery (or re-discovery), as I try to learn as much as I could about the medium while trying out lots of different cameras and film stocks. I figured that this initial wave of euphoria would crest at some point in a couple years. And I was right. Over the last couple months I feel like I have plateaued in my enthusiasm, and I’m about to enter a new phase of the hobby. But I’m not exactly sure what that phase is yet.

In the meantime, I feel like things have gotten a little stale. The type of photography that I’ve gotten into is basically an extension of what I was doing before I got my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s: a journal of my day-to-day life. Getting back into film has freed me of some of the constraints I’ve had in the past, as I am much more willing to experiment. I’ve also picked up a taste for black and white, which is something I could have done with an iPhone or digital camera. But there’s a lot more commitment to it when you can’t switch back to color easily.

But the problem that I’ve run into is that my photography is primarily based on what I see on bike rides. Most of my bike rides follow the same patterns, loops to pick up my mail and such, so it gets old. I worry that I end up photographing the same things, again and again. That’s not that big of a deal when I’m testing out new cameras, as it’ll show me how the unknown camera will perform under known circumstances. But beyond that? I get self-conscious and often end up not taking a shot, because I worry that it’ll look too much like something I’ve shot before.

What I feel like I should do is set out to do more photography projects. I should come up with themes and subject matter that isn’t the same old, same old. I should still bring cameras with me on my rides, but mix up things a bit. And I should take more walks. I see things more intensely when I’m moving at a slow speed, and it’s much easier to just stop and take a photo. I was doing quite a bit of walks when the pandemic first hit. Then I got bored, especially since last year I couldn’t walk beyond a couple miles from the house. Now that I’m comfortable with taking transit again, I could hop on the bus or train and go explore a different neighborhood on foot. Or perhaps head up to the West Hills? They are going to start looking good with fall foliage.

In any case, I feel like I’m freeing up a bit. I took a bike ride last week and just decided to shoot whatever interested me, even if I shot it before. I had fun. Going out of town on a trip is also good, and I shot a bunch when I was in Boise.

For those of you who have been doing this awhile, do you have any tips about getting that spark back?

4 thoughts on “Film Photography: Re-igniting the spark

Add yours

  1. 1. Look at great photography. Go to a library or bookstore with a wide array of photographic monographs.
    2. Make a list of things to look for… For example, I like to photograph photos or statues of founders, broken or illegible informational signs, people sleeping in public (unless they appear to be homeless), and a few other things. This just helps to keep you engaged with seeing.
    3. Like you said, projects.
    4. Choose a technique to learn. For years, I thought of myself as an “available light” photographer. But learning off camera flash photography was incredibly empowering. Alternative techniques are fun too.
    5. Create a community of photographers to share work with, get regular critiques.

  2. I think you are worrying too much. There are plenty of projects out there that people have done shooting the same thing through the seasons and you could easily do “a year of… ”
    Also, you are part of a vibrant community there and it is a good thing to photograph what you know; there is probably a story (project) about Coffee Outside or one of the other communities you are active in.
    Having said that, I too am struggling in getting inspiration from my daily walks and activity so if you do find some ideas let me know 😀

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