I have a memory from my family’s trip to Disney World, when I was 9, which I’ve realized was maybe formative in my becoming interested in photography. We were at Epcot, in some Asian-themed land, and through a stylized archway on the water you could see the Epcot ball. My dad (always the designated photographer, and happily) brought his Pentax down from his eye and said, “Ang, which one do you think I should have in focus? The arch or the ball?”
Because wanting to do it all was a theme of the trip, and also because I didn’t really understand the question, I said, “Can’t you do both?” (or something to that ridiculous effect) and received my first photography lesson: everything can’t be in focus. I don’t remember which object I chose for the honor.
Anyway. The point of that yarn was the Pentax, believe it or not, which was my dad’s go-to until the early aughts. Then he got swept up in that “digital” “craze,” and the Pentax sat on a shelf in the closet until I proved that I could, for the most part, have nice things. (Actually I’d just told him I wouldn’t mind trying out some analog photography some time ago, and this past Christmas we finally took the time to dust the thing off and give it a whirl.) (But also probably the proving-I-could-have-nice-things thing too.)
And of course I thought my first roll of film would be award-winning.
No, that’s not exactly true. I called the first one a gimme because it was a roll that had been sitting alongside the Pentax in the closet for 10+ years, leaving us wondering what shape it was in. Also I didn’t have a working light meter. And sure enough, it came back from the CVS developer (only the best for my prints…) with a notice that the film did appear damaged and that most of the shots were underexposed.
Mais voilà, here are the ones that at least kind of turned out. And a gif of some of the shots that didn’t turn out, on this and other rolls, because I’m gratuitous with the gifs like that.
So I thought my second roll was going to be award-winning. I got new film off Amazon and Dad hooked me up with a new battery so as to bring the light meter back to life. I loaded the film (in what I was sure was exactly the way Dad had) and got to work. I was diligent. I kept a log and recorded my subjects and settings so as to be able to tweak my technique.
But when I went to wind up the roll, I found that I must not have watched as closely as I thought when Dad loaded the first one. The tab hadn’t caught; the film never advanced. I had a log of 36 pictures I’d never actually taken.
So my third roll would be award-winning? I’ll cut to the chase– that one I managed to load properly, but somehow wound the film completely out of the canister when trying to roll it up. No one seems to be quite sure as to how I accomplished this. The film was exposed and ruined. I now had a log of 72 pictures I’d never actually taken.
Then I shot two rolls correctly. As you may have guessed, neither was award-winning. But it was fun, and there’s something exciting about the delayed gratification of the development.
Here are some ones I liked off the first [real] roll, even if they didn’t all turn out great. You’ll be unsurprised that Ollie is heavily featured. Also I seem to have a funny affinity for illuminated things on my cutting board.
And here are some from the second [real] roll. I took a few on the National Mall which was a kind of cool experience, because there are some great photos at my parents’ house that my dad took there ~25 years ago on the same camera.
Oh, and a confession of sorts. I did digitally edit these pics. I did a bit of research and apparently it’s an acceptable practice. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯