In the midst of an insanely busy fall season, my darling friend Amy Parrish came to visit. She brought with her hugs and giggles, stories of her travels, and this beauty: a Yashica Mat 124 G camera, that she was just learning how to use. I asked to join in the adventure and we set off on a hike with a poofy dress and mud squishing between our toes.
I admittedly don’t know a lot about film, and the simple not-knowing that we all experience about countless things is too often what stops us from exploring them. I try to embrace the attitude of being willing to learn. After all, there was a time I had no idea how to work my digital camera – how to write, read, form sentences… The more ways we learn to express ourselves, the more outlets we have to be freely ourselves.
I took a film class in high school. The class and I didn’t get on too well. I didn’t follow the rules very closely, I didn’t enjoy the darkroom experience, and I decided I’d never be a photographer. Clearly that didn’t stick. And now, as I pick up a medium format film camera, I can’t help but think of that girl who wrote off photography because of one bad experience. I don’t want to be that person ever, ever again. I want to try everything at least twice. I want to fail at least once.
As Amy taught me how to focus, how to load and wind the film, and each detail that goes into the process, I started thinking about my professors in college. They were film purists, didn’t believe much in digital alteration, and taught me a lot about motion picture film. Because of my experience in film school, I have often brought a sense of preparedness to my digital ways. I took those same skills back to my film roots, this time shooting stills for the first time since I was 16.
I kept remembering film shooters saying that it is best to over-expose your film rather than under, if you are going to do one or the other. I know a lot of rules, but I don’t follow them frequently. I decided I was going to shoot the film intuitively, instead of how I was “supposed” to, so I slightly underexposed each image. Part of that was necessity. It was dark in the forested area where we were shooting and I was toggling between 1/15 and 1/30 shutter speed, which was getting dangerously low for hand-held shooting.
We were positioned in the mud for my little series, so propping the camera up was out of the question. Amy held the camera for me after I composed and if the focus looked off, she fixed it for me. I told her when to click, and she clicked. I owe so much to Amy for sharing that experience with me – for getting muddy and adventuring and letting me be a part of her new creativity.
I tried out some slight editing in Photoshop to tinge them a little more to my color palette. I always have this problem, when I really like an image SOOC (straight out of camera), that I don’t know quite what to do with it. It just feels right. But these felt like they could be taken a little more out of reality, so I colored them.
Friends, keep trying new things. And remind me to try new things, too. We gravitate to comfort so often that we forget the exhilaration of newness. We are so afraid of being bad at something that we can’t see how incredible it is to get good at something. I used to think that growing up meant finally being good at what you are supposed to be doing. How wrong I was. Growing up means embracing the unknown and doing it anyway. As it should be, for an artist to grow.