When I tell people I’m taking one photo a day on film for 365 days, I get a lot of the same questions. So here’s the answers that all seven of you are dying to know. 😉
1. Are you developing and printing your own film?
I never developed my own film despite opportunities to take classes in high school and college. I picked up photography in earnest in college when I worked at the University of Nevada, Reno’s student newspaper, The Nevada Sagebrush. By then, digital surpassed film technology.
I’m vaguely familiar with the process. Because I’m taking a photo a day, I don’t want to learn right now because I could ruin an entire month of work if I incorrectly develop just one roll. And based on my reading, it’s pretty easy to ruin a roll and dark rooms don’t have Command+Z.
Printing is a whole other ball game. Since I have a hobby problem, that all seems like a slippery slope/money pit.
My mother always mailed her 35mm film into a lab. It was exciting to find a royal purple and white envelope in the mailbox with fresh prints inside. I feel the same sense of anticipation wondering what moments waited inside her envelopes as I do in my envelopes today.
2. Where do you get the film and prints?
Many people assume I’m getting all of the film and printing done online. In fact, I’ve been going to Gordon’s Photo Service in the Trader Joe’s parking lot on McCarran Blvd. and Virginia Street since I saved up to buy my first digital camera in 2008.
They sell all the film types left, including medium and large format, color and black and white. They also have tons of used and new gear. They develop color, but send black and white out to another lab because it requires a different process (except some can be processed like color, I’ve learned…um…it’s weird…see question 1). They also do all the printing, enlarging and any corrections I might need.
And yes, Gordon still owns and operates it. No, he’s not giving me any discounts to say any of this.
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I finished my @renogazettejournal photo a day and now I think I'm going to do a whole year of #UrbanReno starting today. But. On film. So a roll of 36 a month (room for screw ups) from @renoisartown to June 30, 2017. No one will see the photos until the roll is developed. So now I need a place to exhibit these when I'm done. Any takers? 😉 Huge thanks to @annieflanz for basically coming up with the whole idea. #RenoLife #Film #365project #Artown
3. What camera are you using?
A Minolta X-570 purchased by my mother in 1984-ish. It is literally older than me. She used it for years and finally relinquished it to me. I didn’t really start using it until now.
Since July, I accumulated three more film cameras that I’ll write about another time.
The Minolta is one of the first single lens reflex (SLR) cameras with an LED light meter in it that activates when your finger is on the shutter. The meter suggests a shutter speed and tells you what shutter speed you’re at.
To be clear, that’s pretty fancy.
It gets a ton of comments from people, especially folks over 50 who remember it or a similar model.
I have three lenses for it, but one of them is pretty loose so I may need to replace it before this project ends since it’s the one I rely on so much (see Gordon’s Photo Service above).
4. What happens if you see more than one good subject in a day?
Since I’m using a roll of 36, that gives me roughly 5 to 9 mulligans each month. Usually, I’ll shoot a maximum of two shots for a few days when I really want that extra one. In September though, I wasn’t using them at all and shot 5 extras on Sept. 29.
But, that’s it. That’s all I get.
Otherwise, I miss the shot, or take it for Instagram with my phone or other cameras (no shortage of those now).
To make it more complex: When I receive the prints, I can only keep one photo per day. Any extras I don’t like go into the discard pile and are marked “Discarded” in my caption spreadsheet.
5. If it’s about Reno Life, what if you travel?
Everyone I’ve talked to cares more about my personal experience capturing moments in my life as a Renoite and less about me trying to capture an objective or definitive view of life in Reno (say that 10 times fast).
That helps a lot. And it’s very different from my usual mode as a journalist trying to remove myself from the scene to capture a story of someone else for a specific audience.
That’s actually probably a bigger challenge for me, honestly. So I’m exploring the difference between the two modes. It’s very freeing because not every photo needs a story or a function. Sometimes it can just be something I found interesting or personal. Other times I can tell a story.
In any case, I’ve already traveled to Denver and Great Basin National Park, so that ship sailed. I was thinking in the final exhibit, I could mark non-Reno photos visually with colored thread, captions or other elements.
Besides, people from Reno travel. So, meh.
Join me next time when I talk about lessons I’ve learned in the first three months of this project. Hint: I suck, but that’s OK.
Mike Higdon is a journalist who writes, photographs, videos and designs. He lives in Reno, Nevada and enjoys urban life and telling stories about it.