Adventures in Film

Started my photography class two days ago (2008-01-18). First thing I see entering the class room is a large-format camera mounted on the most impressive tripod I’ve seen; very nice. Shockingly, we’re expected to buy our own cameras and black-and-white film. I did a quick, thorough search online, and settled on the Canon EOS Elan IIe, a 35mm SLR film camera with no lens. It was $70 used, including shipping (paid $5 extra for expedited shipping, so it ought to be here before next Friday’s class). The MSRP was $720 when it was released in 1995, but we can see that has fallen drastically. I imagine my beloved Canon Rebel XTi will be $70 in 2019, if not less.

My main reason for picking a Canon SLR with an EF mount is so I can use my Canon EF 50mm F1.4 lens (photos). I do use it as my primary on my Canon Rebel XTi, though with the crop factor it is like an 80mm lens, but on a full frame camera; in this case, a film SLR with a 36x24mm film, it’s just peachy. The zoom lenses that come standard are more versatile for their variable focal lengths, but falter in low-light and low depth-of-field photography—if I want to take a photo at 50mm with my XTi’s kit lens, I can’t go below F5.0, but with the non-zooming (prime) 50mm lens, I can open the aperture up all the way to F1.4 (though below F2.2, the depth-of-field is generally too shallow). Plus, prime lenses are lighter, cheaper, have better image quality, and, according to some, cutting your zooming potential forces you to be more creative.

Speaking of creativity, we are in an age where it is harder to be creative than ever, with the tools available to most digital photographers. Too many consumer cameras omit manual mode or give too few controls. I started out working with one where I had no control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed (!), only auto-focusing, no manual white balance, and while I did produce many of my best images with it, I could’ve done far more far earlier otherwise; even 5-second exposures, focusing closer than three inches, RAW mode, etc., were not options. While I keep my DSLR in shutter-priority mode with auto-focusing for quick shooting, it falls short often; all auto-exposing systems want to make everything look gray, including snow, a bright sky, or scenes dark with shadows. Cameras do not know where to focus; if I place my subject in anywhere but the center, my friends become a blurry blob while beautiful trees get razor-sharp clarity. Switching to a different focus point is quick and easy, but in digital compacts it is painfully hard, or entirely omitted; then you have to put the subject in the middle, half-click, recompose, and shoot, which takes too long. Don’t even try it on a cell phone camera. It’s good to take a film class cuz they’ll force you to learn all that stuff, and you’ll be using a camera where it’s all available. I’m in it more for film and film processing, as I know nothing about that (good stuff to know so I can sound like an expert, ha ha).

In twenty years, 35 millimeter film will be a relic of the past for still photography. Medium and large format film will stick around much longer, as they will continue to outstrip digital cameras in clarity and resolution. Perhaps the megapixel war will be over (it ain’t yet), and we’ll be junking our silly rasterized cameras for infinitely scalable, automated vector photography. We’ll have flying cars too.

Speaking on my website: if you haven’t been here in a week, you’ll notice that the author line below each post has spiffy formatting. It’s now a dynamically-compiled sentence with the author (I’m richardxthripp), time of posting, categories, and tags. Had to change my WordPress theme to use ISO 8601 date formatting. Get used to it; we’ll all be writing our dates like this, soon as we switch over to metric and start using Oxford spelling. All the times are UTC, which is five hours ahead of local time (North American Eastern Time), and four hours ahead during that pesky Daylight time. I do show the local time that each of my photos was taken at; look for the data line below the sales pitch.

The same fancy line appears on the printable view of each page (which has been moved to a gray-text link at the bottom of each entry). I use WP-Print for those pages; I could use a special style-sheet for print, but it’s more work, and I wouldn’t get that pretty list of links at the bottom. By default, it likes to append a trailing slash to every link: “/print” is instead “/print/”. I don’t understand everyone’s love for trailing slashes on every URI (“URL” is obsolete); I know they’re supposed to represent directories, but all pages are not directories. So, to get it to do what I wanted, I had to edit the source code (there is no option in the user interface). Unfortunate, but not hard to do through trial-and-error.

If you like to read this blog on the LiveJournal or Xanga mirror, all the “add to your shopping cart” links now work from there! I hard-coded my blog’s URI into the YAK source code (the WordPress plugin I use), because before, it was relative, so the buttons would try to take you to the add to cart page at or, which obviously won’t work. Other bugs have also been squished. The Printable, ShareThis, similar, next, and last entries links have all been moved to the footer of entries instead of being displayed inline with the text; this makes them clearly separated, gives focus to the content, and saves a lot of space.

There is also a brilliantly simple hit counter on the sidebar, below the ads; it says “You are visitor # 1,190 at” right now. You are two visitors if you browser for over an hour, or come back later. This is all thanks to StatCounter; I’m not putting the load on my server. Dedicated WordPress plugins write stats to the database for every visitor; this is awful if you get really popular.

That’s all! I hope everyone is looking forward to the Martin Luther King holiday, which we’re celebrating six days after his birthday, for some reason.