Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trial and Error and Error and Error

Our vintage single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera
Last weekend we popped into a photography store to have our passport photos taken. While there, I fell in lust with a nice little digital SLR camera kit (body and 18-200 lens).

For a while now I've been thinking about upgrading to a camera that allows me a little more artistic control. I love my point & shoot for its ease of use. It's small, it allows me to capture the moment with next to no fuss, and it still allows me to compose a decent picture. But it doesn't let me play with depth of field very much, and I would like to, especially on macro shots. I'd taken four semesters of photography back when I did my advertising diploma and wanted to be able to do more with my pictures.

The price tag on the sweet little kit was beyond my means, however, so it stayed in the store.

Coincidentally, we stumbled across the analog SLR that we had bought Katie way back when she was in high school. I decided to play with it while saving up for the digital one.
Using a "real" camera is like riding a bike, I thought, once you get your hands on it, all your skills will come flooding back. Right?


Here are a few tips to help those of you who venture backward in time or technology. (Also: don't forget to crank the advance lever after pressing the shutter release; allow time to focus your image; and bring extra film with you.)

Tip Number One: Make sure there is film in the camera. Those old-fashioned cameras do not alert you to the fact that you are shooting blanks, so to speak. That shutter will happily click away [Isn't the sound of a camera shutter just delightful?], the winder will wind. All to no avail. Thirty-nine shots later (undoubtedly overexposed and unfocused, but still), I realized my error.

Tip Number Two: When you do put film in, make sure it is actually gripped by the pins on the little turny-bobbin-thingy*. Twenty-six shots later, I conceded that the film was not moving through the camera. I fixed that and took another 24 pictures.

Tip Number Three: If, after taking all your pictures, you try to rewind the film into the cartridge and the rewinder stops moving, do not force it. The film WILL snap off of the cartridge. If you then open the back of the camera to confirm that this is what just happened, your spool of film will be exposed and useless.

Tip Number Four: If error number three has happened to you once, doing the same thing again will result in the same situation.

This time, however, I left the back shut and brought the camera to a photo store with a darkroom. There, the salesperson patronizingly asked me if I'd pressed the rewind button conveniently located on the bottom of the camera and without any label.
Um, nope. Didn't see that. Didn't think it was important.
She then instructed me no fewer than five times that I needed to press the rewind button before turning the rewind crank. After the fourth time and while she was reiterating for the fifth time, I said (somewhat rudely, I confess), "Yes, I get it: I need to press the button."

I guess I wasn't scathing enough, however, as she told me a sixth time, when she brought the camera back out to me after retrieving the film. Or maybe she was just being passive-aggressive.

So here I sit, having "taken" more than 100 pictures, with nothing to show for my efforts. It's a little anticlimactic. Sure, in three days, I'll have 24 of my pictures, but heaven only knows if any of them are any good at all. I've become accustomed to instant gratification.

I suspect I'll be investing in that digital SLR sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

*The correct term for the turny-bobbin-thingy is "film transport sprocket." Totally useless information.

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