new to film

I don’t remember how old I was, but it was old enough to pick up my 4×6 prints from the photo counter at the grocery store by myself.

My 35 mm roll developed entirely blank. I’ll never know if it was a camera malfunction, user error (like not loading the film correctly — which has happened in recent months), or an issue with the machines. They didn’t charge me for the service.

I had been gifted a cheap little point and shoot for Christmas a month or so earlier. I don’t remember from who. I never shot with it again.

Eventually, digital started its large run, and the disposable cameras I used as a kid on class field trips were phased out. I did use them again in my early 20s to capture my sorority’s senior pub crawl and some bachelorette parties. I 10/10 recommend this.

My dad Paul was a photographer — talk about iconic senior pictures! — in the late 80s & early 90s using his (now mine) beautiful Mamiya RB67 medium format camera.

In 2005, my mom encouraged him back into the field, but with a DSLR. Hoffman Photography would relaunch and run for 5 or 6 more years.

They started with what would turn into my first DSLR, a Canon EOS 20D, and eventually upgraded to a Canon EOS 40D.

I shot for my high school’s yearbook all four years using the 20D. There, with the help of Paul, I was able to learn the basics that would launch me forward in so many ways.

Auto mode? We don’t know her. It’s manual or nothing else — except for cars, but that’s a story for another day.

But Paul had a superpower that I don’t think I will ever possess. He could look at my photos and know precisely what aperture, ISO, and shutter speed I shot with. Every. Single. Time.

This would go on to my engagement photos. Paul saw them on Facebook and was able to tell all of the details just by looking at the picture. Amazing.

On December 15, 2020, Paul died from Covid-19.

We all hurt.

My mom found his Mamiya.

It is now mine.

I developed my first rounds of film and shared this on Instagram in July:

“In January, Jared and I ventured into the snowy morning to shoot the first shots on my dad’s #MamiyaRB67 that I inherited.

Film was always an old man’s game in my mind. I’m a digital person. But after Paul died, I knew I needed to figure it out. There was SO many time I said to Jared, “I need Paul’s help. I don’t understand this.” Obviously, that help was only available in the form of YouTube videos paired with trial and error.

My first roll is not great. In fact, out of 10 shots, I only like one of them. I also don’t think I like shooting in black and white a ton — but it was the first kind I received in the mail.

But I am thankful for Jared. He was sure to capture my first attempts with my new-old camera. This old man’s game is now in my court. I’ve shot three rolls on the Mamiya, finished one started in summer 2019 in the #canonae1, and gone through two more. We’ve learned how to develop color film on our own & sent off the rest to Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, KS.

Jared asked me last night while sitting next to me on the couch as I scanned in my developed film if I liked it. I told him I liked the new challenge with film. Digital is easy for me, and I rarely have to think about it. Film is scary. It takes planning and patience. But I’m learning to love it.”

Since then, I have spent a summer learning and using my cameras. I even started looking at my old camera collection, many passed down from family members trying to figure out how to make them work again.

Paul gave me his parent’s Kodak Tourist from 1948 and 1951 and what I believe to be his grandparent’s No. 3A Kodak Jr. from 1918 to 1927. The Tourist is loaded with two shots remaining. I hope to finish that roll and get it sent to Dwayne’s Photos this weekend.

The Kodak Jr. takes 122mm film. (Kodak liked to make specialty film sizes for each camera that you could ONLY buy from them.) My husband, Jared, has been eyeing a 3D printer for quite some time. I talked him into buying our joint Christmas gift early and making it a printer. The first project? Spacer pieces, so my 120mm film will fit in the camera!

Shooting film has become an enjoyable hobby that allows my brain to work in cool ways. I wish it could have come to me under different circumstances, but it’s a special bond that I hope to share with my future family generations.

And, the cameras look pretty sick behind my desk.