Audio: Mistakes have been made (special episode of the podcast)

Recorded January 27, 2021.

In this special episode of Photowalking with Colin I cover some recent mistakes I’ve made with film and in the darkroom. It seems we (the collective we) mainly share our victories online. I wanted to be sure to share the losses as well.

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Welcome to another edition of Photo Walking with Colin. Unfortunately I’m not taking photos and I’m not walking. But I wanted I have not been able to find much time to record a podcast and it’s been freezing here. We’re approaching February in Pennsylvania and that’s typically the coldest time. So when the next time I’ll be out walking and taking photos I don’t know. I have however recorded many episodes that as I’ve said in previous episodes that will never see the light of day which is a good kind of exercise for me. It’s kind of cathartic for me to record some of my thoughts. I sometimes listen to them back, but not very often. And they just never make it out because I know that the feeling of the episode wasn’t very good. And I’m not here to tick a box that I’m recording an episode every week or anything like that. I don’t have any advertising or anything like that that I care about. So I can produce an episode whenever I want. I can choose to publish an episode if I want to. I can choose to delete it if I want to also. I’m happy about that.

But I wanted to record this one because I wanted to record some of the mistakes I’ve made in photography and I know so often YouTube videos, audio podcasts, blog posts, what have you are focused generally on the positive. I mean not everybody there’s people out there that are willing to share when they make a mistake. A lot of times they’ll share a mistake when they burned a lot of money. But I just wanted to record a couple of the mistakes that I’ve made and everyone that is listening to this or has read my blog knows that I’m still learning. I’ll be in the learning phase for another couple of decades but so making mistakes is still well within my right, I suppose, but I don’t think anybody’s gonna fault me for that, but any who let’s get to a couple of them. And some of them are not my fault, but they could be, I guess, I say they’re out of my control, but I don’t know, maybe they weren’t out of my control.

So a few months ago, I guess now it was sometime maybe in December, I don’t know exactly what day it was. But Eliza and I went for a drive to just see the you know it was a nice day. See the countryside a little bit. Get out of the house because we’re in quarantine still since March. For the most part you know I go to work every day like I’m driving to work right now but other than that we’re we’re really not doing anything. So driving to just see some new new places and not getting out of the car much besides taking some photos but driving around. So we did that and I brought my Canon AE1 which is a 35 millimeter film camera that is manual pretty much everything it does have a light meter in it but manual focus and manual film advance. Well I loaded the… I’m trying to think exactly how this went down. So I loaded the film when we got to our first location I believe. And when I did that, something about the way the winder was working, the film advanced lever was working. Just didn’t feel quite right, but I don’t have decades of experience with this camera just a year. So I kind of dismissed it and I regrettably, I shouldn’t have, but I’m trying to figure out exactly it like advanced a little too easily if that’s a way I can put it. So we shoot all day, we’re driving miles and miles. We go all the way up to New York State and drive down a different way. And so I don’t know, better part of four or five hours of being out there. And then I took that same roll because I don’t know how many shots I took that day on there. But I took that same roll. And I went for a hike and took some pictures of a waterfall with it on a tripod all set up perfectly. Just really I think I would have had at least a few really nice images that I could have came home with. And I developed the film a few weeks later or a week later, maybe, and it was all of the exposures, so 30 plus exposures were on one frame. So the film was never advancing. And anybody that has a film camera, especially those that have manual advance, will probably have had this happen to them, where the film literally just didn’t advance. And you’ve exposed all of your images on one frame. And I got to say, it’s very disheartening when that’s something like that happens. Not only the time, which is one element, not only the expense, which is another element. Not only the effort in developing it yourself, ’cause obviously I have to mix the chemicals and all of that and take the time to do that in my sink and everything. So all of that is like, oh man, I did all that effort, I got nothing. But then there’s the photos are gone. That is disheartening as well. Like that’s probably bigger. In this instance, it’s probably not, But man, if it was like, I don’t know, a special family event or something, I would, you know, or whatever, something that you literally can’t recapture. I could always go back to that waterfall, you know, within, you know, within a novel of possibility that I could recreate some of the photos I took. But there are a few on there that I couldn’t, and if it was a role full of things that were unable to be recreated, I would have been very upset. But so there was that mistake. The sprockets on the camera are shallow. And so when you do put it in there, you have to be more careful. And I’m just going to be more careful going forward. I’m sure it will happen again. I hope there’s some way for me to acknowledge that when I have that feeling that it’s not advancing. Although it didn’t feel like that the rest of the day, it wasn’t like every time I moved that lever, I thought to myself, oh man, I’m not advancing the film here, but I just kept going. It was only like the first time and I was like, “Oh, that felt a little weird. What was that?” And then it just didn’t do it. So that was one mistake. And it’s probably very stupid of me to calculate the expense. But if I did, if I were to calculate the expense, you’re looking at a six or seven dollar roll of film, you’re looking at, I don’t know, a few dollars worth of developer, and then all that time, you know, so, anyway, maybe it was $10 or more, put towards a life lesson that maybe I won’t happen again. However, I had it happen again. Different camera, color film this time, and it was, and it’s a camera that auto advances the film, So presumably it wasn’t me. And usually a camera that auto advances the film will have an error message come up when the film is not advancing. Like it has enough smarts in it to know, you’re not advancing the film. So I’m not sure at all what happened here. But I used the Canon Rebel G, which is a very capable 35 millimeter automatic focus, Great lenses, automatic film advance. If somebody was getting into 35 millimeter and it was their first camera, I highly recommend that camera. Just a great all around lightweight plastic camera that you can bring literally anywhere and you’d probably get decent shots with it all the time. Has a flash built in, so on and so forth. And I think it has a flash built in. I’m saying that out loud now and I’m not positive about that. I think it does. And so it should be foolproof, right? Well, color film, I shot it weeks ago, maybe even months ago, I don’t write, I should write down when I finish a role. But I usually like to wait until my color film, until I have at least a few roles of color film, because With color film and I develop it myself, I have to bring the chemicals up to temperature and that’s a whole other kind of set of effort and so because of that I like to wait until I can batch, do these in batches. If I’m going to bring all of my chemicals up to 104 degrees, I might as well do more than one roll. I don’t know if that makes any sense but that’s what I do. So, um, develop that. This had, I don’t, I don’t exactly remember everything that I shot on it. I did some portrait experiments with a long lens. I did, uh, I did a few different things. I honestly cannot remember what’s on there, which is just, or what was on there. I should say, because I developed it and, uh, the entire role was perfectly clear. And it was really weird because the lead strip, which is the strip that you stretch across the back of your camera when you first put it in the camera, you stretch it across the back of the camera and then you close the back. Well that whole entire lead strip, those few frames that you’ve stretched across the back of the camera. There’s no question it definitely hit light because You know you you exposed it just by stretching across the back of the camera So even if the film did not move one inch That entire lead strip should have should be fully exposed and In this case the entire strip is perfectly clear so That to me smells of something completely different that went wrong My chemicals are bad or old even though they’re They’re not used all that much. I got to say I don’t know how many I How many rolls of film that I developed with this batch of chemicals I think this is the Cinestill C41 bath So I’m gonna have to do a little bit of research to see what could possibly happen It could be that I had the temperature too high and And I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I don’t believe that’s to be the case. I would think that if that was the case, it would result in something different than what I see. I don’t think it would result in completely removing the emulsion from the… If that’s what it did, that’s another thing I guess I could look into is… Why is that clear? So, anyway, so there goes 36 frames, no idea what was on it. Presumably there were, you know, a mix of tests and a mix of probably photos that I wish I had. I’m probably better off not remembering what was on there. So that was within a span of maybe three weeks that I lost 72 frames, completely lost them, gone to the world. And it does make you question whether, I mean, I’ve heard almost every other film photographer say this, that they feel like back in the whole thing, you know. It makes me question whether or not I should even use film. It makes me question about what I want to do photography sometimes, you know. And I’ve heard other people say that too, so it’s not like a big surprise. That feeling of literally saying that nothing I create is worth anything and that I don’t want to do this anymore and it’s not worth the effort and why do I even get into this? Let me pick another hobby. That feeling comes up in the very best photographers in the world. And so what I’ve done to kind of mitigate against that, oh there goes a guy running red light. It’s beautiful isn’t it? What I do to kind of mitigate against that feeling is just knowing that everyone else has that feeling and that it’s going to pass and that inspiration will strike again. So yeah, I was down to a degree when I blew it. Maybe I’m dumb, maybe I’m the one that made the mistake and I ruined you know some film. But inspirational strike again, the sun’s going to shine tomorrow. You know, spring is coming, my flowers are going to bloom and I’m going to take pictures of those. So I just kind of ride that wave, whether the wave is on its way up or on its way down, you just got to ride it. So that’s two rolls of film. In the dark room, I mean the mistakes are just to galore, I would say. The dark room is a controlled science lab. I mean as much as your, as developing film is, you know, science and you can easily ruin it by, you know, not following the directions closely, that is possible. It does only like two or three steps, you know, especially with black and white. I mean, you pre-soak your film for a a couple seconds if you feel like it, you don’t even have to. You mix the black and white chemicals at room temperature and you, well you don’t mix them at room temperature but you use them at room temperature. You process that for you know six and a half minutes and then you dump that back into the thing and then you rinse and then you do the final rinse and you fix and you’re done. I mean it’s like three steps for black and white and it’s like four steps for color. Anybody that says you can’t do color at home is full of balogna. Which I think I also said on this podcast in the past. I saw so many YouTube videos that says, oh, you can’t do– you can do black and white, but you can’t do color at home. I don’t want to get that at all. Anyway, now if I was shooting professionally and every single shot had to come out perfect because I’m getting paid and so on and so forth, then would I use a lab, maybe, very likely, I guess. So anyway, back to the dark room. The dark room is far more finicky. You leave a light on at the wrong moment and you blow some paper. You leave a box out or open of paper and you might blow $100 in an instant. So yeah, you have to be much more careful. I have not done the box thing yet, but I did get really close the other day. I was holding a pack of 8×10 photopaper, unexposed, which means that if I let any light hit it, whatsoever, and I’m holding like a stack of this stuff, if I let any light hit it, it’s done, you know. And I left my enlarger in focus mode. So if anybody’s ever been in the darkroom, you understand what that means. And enlargers do leak light out the sides to a degree. and I was standing right next to the larger and I have in focus mode, which means it’s filling the room with some light and that ambient light is coming out of the side of the enlarger and I have a pack of eight by 10 photo paper, you know, maybe a hundred sheets in my hand. So I’m not exactly sure how much money that is, maybe 50 bucks, 60 bucks, I don’t know. But I was like, my heart skipped a beat, not even just for the money, but my heart skipped a beat because I’m like, Oh man, I just ruined these sheets and I won’t know until I, so I tried a few of the sheets by picking from the middle and the top and the bottom and stuff just to see if I, you know, blew it and so far I don’t think I did, but man, that was, I have blown a lot of paper though. Just as an example, here’s another example. So the aperture when you’re doing focus is you open it as wide as it will go. give you as much light to see the image as possible. And then typically you’ll stop down the lens to before you make your print. Well, once in a while, I’ll forget to stop it down. So I’m hitting the paper with a fully open lens for 30 seconds or 15 seconds. Anybody that’s been in the dark room knows that I just made a black piece paper essentially. I’ve done that. I’ve done stupid things where I’m like, oh, let me record a video for Instagram. And I turn on my camera, which usually is OK. I can usually get away with that. But one time my camera was in a mode that it would automatically turn the flashlight on. Wham! A great print that I just made spent, however, much time on. And I hit it with my full blast light from a wide open aperture. So I consider all of this, though. There is one, I guess, nice thing. I wanted to share some of these mistakes because not every shot is perfect. Not every experience is perfect. And, certainly, not every person is perfect. But there is a silver lining in my attitude at least, is if I paid for an education, I would go to a school, some classes, maybe even college for photography or something. And I would be spending an awful lot of money for that education. And it would probably be worth it. But I think of all of these expenditures, gear, experiences, material, chemicals, so on and so forth. I consider all of that my cost of my education. I would like to reduce– I mean, having two in a row really established it pretty good, having two big mistakes like the roles of film. But I’m going to work very hard to eliminate some of those issues. It’s going to force me to slow down even more, especially in things like the dark room, to have a better system, a cleaner environment, a more steady process, all of those things. But I still want to have fun. I still don’t want to count the pennies because I really think it is just the cost of my education. And so the amount of money I have to probably total spent on all of this in, let’s see, so November of 2019 to January of 2021. So a year in two and a half months or something like that. It’s in the low thousands of dollars, very low thousands of dollars that I’ve spent total on all of this stuff, I think. paper, film, chemicals because I’ve not bought an expensive camera yet, although I’m eyeing one up now. But so yeah, I mean that’s cheap. I have to keep things in perspective if I went to college or if I did a class, even one, I’ve paid less than I would pay for one online class. You know there are online classes that are $1,000, $2,000 for a decent course and And I haven’t even spent that yet and I’ve got years worth of education. I probably would get a lot more education out of a class. They’ll get me wrong. But anyway, thank you for listening. This has been another edition of Photo Walking with Colin. Hopefully the next one will have some actual photographs attached to it. But if you’re out there and you’re feeling down or if you just made a mistake, if you feel like you shouldn’t be a photographer or that you shouldn’t be shooting film or whatever it is that your current, you know, artistic pleasure is, stick with it, push through it, The sun’s gonna come up tomorrow and your creativity will spark again.

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