A first roll of black and white film in nearly 20 years

Oakta Creek Bridge and Le Roy Church

Oatka Creek, lookinging toward Le Roy's Main Street bridge and St. Mark's Luthern Church.

The last roll of film I shot was probably in 1992, when I left the Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif. After that, I put away my Nikkormat and I can’t remember touching a camera again until about 2002 when I got my first digital camera.

The Nikkormat is the camera you see in the header of this blog. My brother Don gave it to me in 1995, when I was co-publisher of The Beacon, covering Ocean Beach and Point Loma. Even with training from a local photographer, Pierce Harris (RIP), I wasn’t much more — I realize now — than a point-and-shot photographer. The one difference, my partner and I, Keith Finley, developed our own prints (and that was mostly Keith.

In 2005/06, I was a big advocate for every reporter carrying a point-and-shoot camera. I still think they should, but one thing I learned pretty quickly after taking over The Batavian — when you don’t have a well-armed staff photograph, there’s a lot of photos you simply can’t capture with a P&S. Try, for example, shooting sports with a Casio, or getting in close on that cop searching for a robbery suspect way down the railroad tracks.

There are some photography assignments that simply require a DSLR and glass sufficient to the task.

So when you’re the only cameraman, you better get yourself a good camera.

In the fall of 2009, I bought a Nikon D90.

It didn’t take long to learn that readers of The Batavian really loved my photos, especially landscapes of Genesee County, especially pictures of barns. To this day, I continue to get high praise from readers for the photos I publish on The Batavian.

With this encouragement, I’ve been fully immersing myself in working to become a better photographer — reading books, following photography blogs, shooting pictures every day. And I think I’ve gotten better.

All of this interest in photography eventually led to a purchase at an auction a few weeks ago of four old cameras, including a Pentax that is in really good shape (except the light meter doesn’t work and the cap won’t open on the batter compartment). Holding this camera in my hands gave me the itch to shoot some film, so I bought a role of 400 ISO BW negative film.

After the past few weeks, I shot off 24 exposures, starting with the mud races in East Pembroke. It was in the middle of this even that I realized I should use my digital camera as my light meter. I over exposed about seven frames before I started using this little trick.

Yesterday, I took the roll to CVS to be developed. About an hour later a clerk called back and said they couldn’t process BW film. I said I would pick up the roll later, but didn’t get back in until today. I was pleasantly surprised that the film had been developed. I was given my prints and a CD of my images. A kid there named Jeremy knew how to process it, and today, he figured out how — for future reference — to save my digital files as TIFF rather than JPEG (for better editing in PhotoShop).

So with that success — and a good deal of properly exposed shots — I plan on shooting more film.

And here’s the thing — I’m going back to the Nikkormat. For some reason, I was thinking it wouldn’t work any longer, but it seems to be working, including the light meter. The best part of the Nikkormat is the glass — a 28mm f3.5, a 55mm f1.2 and a 135mm f2.8. All three lens where top-end glass back in the day. I’ve got another roll of BW in the camera and if that comes out well, I’ll try color (I’ve NEVER shot color with the Nikkormat).

Below are the rest of the shots taken with the Pentax.

Grass bank, Oatka Creek

Grass bank, Oatka Creek

Clay Street Bridge, Oatka Creek

Clay Street Bridge, Oatka Creek

Adam Miller Toy and Bicyles, Center Street, Batavia, N.Y.

Adam Miller Toy and Bicyles, Center Street, Batavia, N.Y.

29 Summit Street, Le Roy

29 Summit Street, Le Roy

Boy at East Pembroke Fire Department Mud Races

Boy at East Pembroke Fire Department Mud Races

4 thoughts on “A first roll of black and white film in nearly 20 years

  1. Love the b+w. Makes me feel like I’m back in high school. Everything was black + white then.

    Point + shoots, though, are no longer simple. My Panasonic Lumix has the equivalent of a 25-300mm Leica lens and sees better than I do when it comes to focus and light balance. As much as I loved my old Canon FX, Tri-X, Diafine and Omega B-22 enlarger, I’m not all that tempted to go back. I welcome our new thinking-camera overlords.

  2. I’m enjoying the challenge of taking photos without being able to chimp, to think about the shot realizing I can’t just fire off nine frames to try and get it right — try to get it right on the first exposure. I’m very motivated to become a better photographer and I think one way I can do that is expand my experience beyond just my DSLR. In the long run, I think it will make what I shoot with the D7000 that much better. I do think not having that LCD screen forces me to previsulaize more, be more deliberate in checking exposure, framing, depth of field, thinking through all of the elements of a photo, instead of just firing an M-16 at the scene and fixing it in photoshop later.

  3. I recently started shooting BW film again. I shot and developed my own and quickly realized if you’re not shooting in volume, you waste a lot of chemistry. I found instead that Kodak’s CN400 is C-41 process B&W film meaning you can get it processed anywhere that can do color film, much more efficient ;)

  4. Pingback: A first roll of black and white film in nearly 20 years | Howard Owens | black and white film photo | Scoop.it

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