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?