I Spent a Month Re-Scanning My Best 35mm Films From the Past Seven Years
Revisiting film photography and the joy of traveling with a film camera
I started to shoot analog film since 2014.
Actually, as a kid grew up in the 90s, I used disposable cameras right until before collage. We have a point and shoot camera, but it was the family camera. Back then, the little plastic single-use disposable cameras were the only option I got to preserve at least some of the life memories.
Years later, after owning two personal digital cameras — cheap and small Fujifilm point-and-shoots — I’ve come across a short story “Home" by Alice Munro:
The wooden kitchen table that we always ate from, and the chairs we sat on, have been taken to the barn. The chairs did not match. They were very old, and a couple of them were supposed to have come from what was called the chair factory — it was probably just a workshop — at Sunshine, a village that had passed out of existence by the end of the nineteenth century. My father is ready to sell them for next to nothing, or give them away, if anybody wants them. He can never understand an admiration for what he calls old junk, and thinks that people who profess it are being pretentious. He and Irlma have bought a new table with a plastic surface that looks something like wood and will not mark, and four chairs with plastic-covered cushions that have a pattern of yellow flowers and are, to tell the truth, much more comfortable than the old wooden chairs to sit on.
I was a translator for a bit more than six and half years. I got the chance to translate some of Alice Munro’s works after she won the Nobel Price.
I admit, I’m a huge sucker for retro techs, even if my parents seldom feels the same. I also never have the chance yet to shoot film properly, and that intrigues me a lot.
In fact, many years before this, I’ve got a “real” film camera, which is my Dad’s single-reflex camera Nikon EM (made in 1980), along with three lens and all the manuals and warranty cards intact. My Mom gave it to me when I was in high school, at first for a school art project that need to shoot slide films. It’s unbelievable that my Dad would spent money on these things (he’s a cheapskate)— and he probably felt salty towards it, since he didn’t load the film right at the very first time. I think he never touched the camera again.
But also due to this, the EM remains in a very good shape except that it needs some cleaning and light seal replacement. Kind of strange to think this thing is already a few years older than I am. A modern camera can seldom survive for more than one decade.
So I started to learn everything about (film) photography. I googled a lot of information. I went to camera fairs and bought more cameras and lens. I started to visit to various places because I realized I knew practically nothing about my city, the place that I’ve born and raised in. So shooting films is always have something to do with traveling for me, to see things or simply wander somewhere.
For a few years in my translator years, I did shoot A LOT of film. New jobs, the pandemic years and me getting older has became reasons that I cannot go out that much. And now I simply ran out of new places to visit. I’ve found a new job in early 2022 with brand new opportunities. It makes me to feel like to bring some personal changes too — not that I want to give up film photography, but to take some rest and do something different for a while.
A couple of years ago I’ve bought a Epison V600 to re-scan some of my 120 films (the old photo lab I’ve went to did a terrible job on them). And I still have lots of old 35mm films lying in a closet. I knew I’ve got to scan them too. I figured it’s time to finally face my debts.
So I spent a month scanning about 1,200 selected 35mm photos (about 1/3 of total) and did basic post-processing. Almost all of them are scanned and cut into 4500 x 3000 pixels.
Then I picked the best of them (about 350 photos) and upload to Pexels. You can download these photos totally for free (also free to use):
Below are some of my favorites.
And yes, I did shoot more crap than good stuff. Shooting film is often like an experiment and gambit. Sometimes a quick snapshot would turn out to be great, sometimes a very careful shot won’t exactly be what you imagined. But I’ve learned to let that go and simply enjoy the process. It’s OK if I didn’t get pictures that I want.
But man, it’s still such a memorial ride. It’s such a job when you accidentally discovered beauty in normal day-to-day lives.
Finally, I’d like to quote someone who had commented about film vs. digital photography somewhere online. I think this pretty much says everything about what is it really like shooting film in the modern age.
Film photography and digital photography are not the same thing. They’re related, but not the same. In the same way that still photography and cinematography are related, but not the same.
This is akin to saying, paint in water colors and you’ll learn how to paint in oils more quickly.
Shoot for the final result,
If you want a silver print shoot film.
If you want a transparency shoot film.
If you shoot for the web shoot digital.
If you want an inkjet print shoot digital.
Film can be converted to digital.
Digital cannot be converted to film.
If you like shooting film then shoot film, you have to like shooting. If you like digital, shoot digital.
One isn’t better or worse than any other, they’re all different.
Film is way more difficult than digital, harder to do and harder to learn. Once mastered it’s a joy.
Digital is reactive, you can check and adjust.
Film is predictive, you have to think it through and pre- plan, pre-visualize.
Taking more pictures does not improve your ability to pre visualize concepts.
Try to take less, more thoughtful pictures.
Film is low initial cost and then pay as you go. Digital is high initial cost with high equipment value depreciation.
A lot of people shoot digital because it’s easier and quicker. Anything in the entire history of making things that’s easier and quicker is of less intrinsic and monetary value.
Oil painting’s are more valued than quick doodles.
Take technical advice, but make you’re own decisions about what to shoot and what to shoot with.
If you want to shoot film then shoot film and beware of self-styled gurus.
35mm Cameras I owns/owned:
SLRs: Nikon EM, Nikon FG, Nikon FM, Nikon FE, Nikon FM10, Canon EOS 300
Rangefinders: Canon QL17 GIII, Mamiya 35S2
Point-and shoots: Canon AF35M, Canon Top Twin, Canon Prima Super 85, Canon Prima Super 155, Olympus Trip 35, Olympus Pen EE-3, Olympus XA2, Olympus mju Zoom 80 Wide, Ricoh FF-3AF