As a relative newbie there is a lot I still don’t know or understand the history of photographic film types and the various process do’s & don’ts. I’m OK with this and let me tell you why. There are countless books, articles and resources to help me learn as well as a very supportive film community. It is important that I do my homework but it is also important I don’t let all this information overwhelm me.
For me the main and only way to learn is time behind the lens, being out there taking pictures. I like the phrase ignorance is bliss as I can do the stupid things you are not supposed to. This is not meant as an arrogant statement saying I know better, it means I can make the mistakes that then help me understand in a practical way what the right way to do something is and why.
I recently challenged myself to shoot some Ilford SFX in a Holga camera using an IR72 filter. I had only ever shot infrared once before, the same Ilford SFX film but in 35mm so I had a little bit of experience.
Now I had done my homework and knew it could be done as there were a couple of great blogs out there where people had done it. However, for those of you that use Holga’s, you can probably understand all the issues involved.
How do I fit the infrared filter, make it light tight yet not get in the way of using a cable release for the shutter? The filter I had was 49mm and was for my 35mm camera lens and I was not going to buy one specifically for this, so it was this or nothing. How do I ensure the Holga is taped up properly to make sure it is light tight? I managed both but the Holga looked like something a child would make if you gave them random Lego and unlimited access to insulating tape. I had no guarantee it would work.
The next and main challenge was exposure times. The Holga has a set lens, shutter speed and a choice of only two apertures. Focus on anything other than infinity for me is guess work with this camera. There was a combination of an app, from a well-known camera filter company and guess work how many stops down I needed to go due to the filter (I went for 6) and then the realisation; How do I hold down a shutter for exactly 1.30 seconds.
So I did what any self-respecting person would do, I winged it. For each set up I took two shots. One exposure counted (in my head) as one second and one exposure counted at one second plus the word Mississippi. Yes, yes I did that!
The images you see in this blog are the results. Are they the best-composed images? Not really. Do they show this great infrared film in its true glory? Probably not. Am I happy with them? Yes very because I actually got infrared images when there could easily have been nothing and I have learnt lots from the process.
So in conclusion and the whole point of this. I often see negative comments from photographers about their own work and I say many of these things myself about mine. Don’t let this stop you trying, don’t give up, every picture taken should be used as a learning tool to improve and progress. Try new techniques and something out of your comfort zone, you may get something great and even if it doesn’t work this time or your pictures are meh, so what. If you learn from it then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Hi, I’m Sandeep, a keen amateur photographer based in London and the South East. I photograph mainly using film with black & white film being a particular favourite of mine. I took up film photography 2 years ago, not just for the process or the look but also to learn how to take pictures starting with the basics.
You can follow Sandeep on twitter @givemeabiscuit
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