Apr 9

Kickin’ it old school

Category: Live Photography

Kevin Devine crowd, Soundwave 2008

The other week, I did something novel. I paid for, and went to a show for fun. And doubly novel? Took my film camera along. (NB. I do quite often go to shows for fun, I’m not that jaded! Though often my ‘fun’ shows are friends’ bands and I don’t have to pay)

I hadn’t touched a film camera since photography class in high school (2001, for those interested), and I’d only recently become confident enough in my digital skills to take the whole game back to film. Jeff Martin’s show at the Fly By seemed a good starter. Guy sitting on a chair for the whole set, static lighting…easy right? Kinda.

First lesson learnt, within about ten minutes: if you’re using a camera without the ability to adjust the diopter, don’t forget your glasses. Not only could I not see my compositions properly, I couldn’t read the light meter at all. Great. My idea to rely on the spot meter and let the camera do a bit of the work didn’t work too well either, cause due to the blindness I couldn’t see where the center focus point was properly and kept locking on black hair instead of fair skin.

Felicity Groom
Felicity Groom, Fly By Night

Felicity Groom
Andrew Ryan & Felicity Groom, Fly By Night

Felicity Groom
Felicity Groom, Fly By Night

Gambled on spot metering for the support act, Felicity Groom & the Black Black Smoke with mixed results. Most were over-exposed like the top two, but the third photo is pretty much the only one that was on the money. It’s probably the ‘best’ photo of the night, nothing special in terms of composition, but I was really only aiming to get ballpark decent exposures for my first outing, not 36 captures of utter brilliance.

The first few photos of Jeff Martin were awfully overexposed. I could feel that they weren’t working, but I was slightly hesitant to switch to manual without the safety net of the light meter. I had three options: continue how I was, and potentially end up with a roll full of crap; not take any further photos; or switch to manual, cross my fingers and make educated guesses on what shutter speeds I needed. The third option seemed like the best way to go.

 Jeff Martin
Jeff Martin, Fly By Night

Jeff Martin
Jeff Martin, Fly By Night

Jeff Martin
Jeff Martin, Fly By Night

I flicked between 1/30 and 1/40, for no other reason than the fact they felt the best. I’ve always tried to teach myself to be a little intuitive about lighting and the corresponding settings, so this was my first real opportunity to try it out. The last photo is probably my favourite. It looks a lot nicer in the print I got from the lab, but not as good in that scan. Go figure. Is a little underexposed regardless, but I like the slightly longing look in his eyes (which you can’t really see properly in this small version anyway!)

The verdict? Very good fun, good learning experience, something I’d definitely do again. I’d forgotten what it was like waiting to pick your prints up at the lab, and then feeling quite chuffed when you found a couple of gems among the photos. One of my favourite things (as can be seen a little in the Soundwave photo up the top), is how much detail is retained in the shadows. I’d heard film shooters talking about it, but had never really paid much attention. On the downside, I’m not too fussed about the grain. Unfortunate by-product of using digital cameras where the noise is reduced to the point of being a non-issue. I shot on ISO400, and it was grainy enough to bother me. I’m now very pessimistic about using the ISO1600 and ISO3200 rolls I bought! Looking forward to getting some ISO400 B&W film in the future though, that’ll look pretty great, grainy or no.


4 Comments so far

  1. Todd April 12th, 2008 6:04 am

    Hey Jacinta,

    Just dropping by to say that I enjoyed this post. 🙂

    I haven’t shot film in about years (not a frame!) but I would consider it. It’s such a different experience, isn’t it?

    With digital, it’s so easy to become preoccupied with technical details, but I love the analogue approach and moments of serendipity that can happen, seemingly so often, shooting film.

  2. lucky April 26th, 2008 9:26 am

    i have NEVER ever photographed anything on a film camera! it’s quite daunting as a totally digital shooter like me, and i appreciate the ideas you’ve given me on what to expect if i ever go down that road! 🙂

    i also like the last shot, but you’re right, they seem really grainy. not sure if that’s enhanced by the scan or not.. it’s a bonus to have red lights that appear as red lights in the shot, and not red outlines with yellow glows in the middle!

  3. Ro June 3rd, 2008 9:45 pm

    Hi! Just found your blog through Lucky’s – he’s a champ.

    I actually love using film, although not so much shooting in gig conditions. Its difficult to reload a roll in 3 songs and still get a sufficient quantity of frames. There has been many disappointments finding I have developed very underexposed negs. So dSLRs are more appropriate for me at gigs.

    As for the grain issue, you can always buy slow film (like 100 or 200) and just push it to 1600 or 3200 on your camera. The only thing with that is that you have to leave it at that setting for the entire roll. Its just a suggestion. Hope it helps.

  4. Jacinta June 5th, 2008 5:48 pm

    Hi Ro, thanks for dropping by. And you’re right, Lucky is a champ! Great photographer, I love looking at his stuff.

    I totally hear you in regards to DSLR’s for gigs. I’ve only been shooting shows where I get free reign, and where I haven’t been on assignment. I don’t think I could quite cope with THAT pressure just yet! I’ve been pretty lucky in that my film photos have come out pretty well from the get-go.

    And as for the pushing…I think I’m still too green to be worrying about fancy stuff, haha. I shot rolls of both ISO1600 and ISO3200 last weekend, so I’m sure I’ll be definitely whingeing about the grain when I pick my prints up on Saturday! 🙂

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