Something Different

* Forgive the wordy post, but the title does say “something different” *

For those who don’t know me, I have a confession: I tend to be a creature of habit. If I know I like a certain food, or that one method works, or that this outfit is flattering, I tend to stick to it. While there’s nothing seriously wrong with that, it can make for a rather boring life. Lately, I’ve felt the need to break out of my routine a bit: try new restaurants & dishes, explore new (to me) fashions, look for a new job (wasn’t exactly my choice, but I am branching out), listen to this new (to me) band. This willingness to experiment has spread to photography, too: try these other settings on my camera, try this angle or that subject matter, edit this picture differently than that picture, start a blog. I decided that, since I really have fallen for photography, I should fully explore and embrace it and not limit myself to the fraction of it that I previously knew.

This is the line of thought I had when I heard about a local event. A local shop paired up with Lomography to hold a photo tour of a local park. The kind people at Lomography provided film and cameras for the event, asking that we return the camera afterward and drop copies of the photos off at the store. Sounds fun, right?

I had some reservations, though, about all this. I switched from film to digital cameras in 2005, but hadn’t used my film camera regularly since 2003. It’s now 2012. (You’re welcome for stating the obvious.) Moreover, all of my experience with cameras until 2010 had been with simple point-and-shoots. In 2010, I bought my Nikon D5000. This camera is my baby, and it has totally changed my approach to photography. Through much trial and error (and some research, and lots of practice) I’ve learned how my camera works, what the different settings are, how to achieve the photograph I envision in my head (for the most part). I am almost to the point where adjusting the settings and shooting is instinctive (almost). To jump back to film, with a camera that has almost no settings to adjust, felt a little like I was undoing the hard work I had done in the last two years. But it sounded so fun, too…

I decided to do it, despite the nagging feeling in my mind. I mean, how often does someone offer to turn you loose in a park with a new-to-you camera and a roll of film and let you play? On the day of the event, I opted for a Diana F+ camera, which produces “dreamy, radiant, lo-fi images” (and with which you can only get 12 to 16 exposures on one roll of 120 film). I explored the park, taking this shot and that, and wondering why I hadn’t hit the end of my roll yet. The reason finally dawned on me: I hadn’t been advancing the roll. My first section of film had about 20 (25?) exposures on it!!! Remember how I said that it has been almost a decade since I regularly used a film camera? Yeah, please remember that, then laugh at me. Now that everyone else had finished with their shots, and the kind people of Lomography were waiting, in the cold, on me, I scrambled to take my remaining 11 shots and turn in the gear. I dropped the film off at a local photo supply store (since most other labs wouldn’t have been able to process it) and headed home.

Yesterday, I picked up both sets of prints and the CD of images, dropped the second set off at the store, and then reviewed my set in the car. My first reaction? Honestly, I was embarrassed by my shots, disappointed that I forgot something as basic as forwarding the film, and frustrated with the cost of this little experiment. Film ain’t cheap. But then, I thought about it again. This camera is intended to produce “dreamy, radiant, lo-fi images”. The rules set out by the sponsor company include “Don’t think”, “Try the shot from the hip”, “You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film; afterwards either” and “Don’t worry about any rules”. The goal was not to produce stunning images that I would include in a portfolio, present to clients, and sell for buckets of moolah. Instead, it was to experiment, try something new, push myself, be creative, to have fun. And that’s exactly what I did. I tried something new, and I had a blast.

Without further ado, I present some of the shots from that day. To preserve the integrity of trying something new, I have not edited these, at all.

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Are these the finest pictures I have ever taken? No. No. But, in a way, I’m fond of them. They’ve definitely grown on me since I first reviewed them. And the experience was so much fun. I’d even consider future experiments with film cameras, when I can better afford it. For now, though, I’m happy to go back to my DSLR. That said, I will keep trying new things, pushing myself, and reminding myself that sometimes it’s okay to forget the rules and just have fun.

Much thanks to Blue 7 and Lomography for organizing this event, providing the equipment, and giving me the chance to branch out and have fun! If you ever want to do it again, call me — I’m in!

Photographs © Nicole McDaniel and Nicole McDaniel Photography, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


8 thoughts on “Something Different

  1. A hint …. never let customers see your ‘bad’ photos …. if there are bad photos, eliminate them ….

    Just a hint.


    PS what is a ‘diana f+’? it shoots 120, so I thought I should recognize it.

    • Thank you for the comment.

      As hesitant as I was to share the pictures, I do find a degree of beauty in them (albeit a different beauty than I normally prefer). I am proud of myself for stepping out and trying something new. I tried to make clear that this was something very different for me, a huge departure from how I typically handle my photography, both personal and professional. Because of my inexperience with that equipment, I would not use it for a professional shoot.

      For information on the Diana F+, you can go to:

      • That looks like a camera I would never use ….

        Get outside of the normal. Practice a lot for yourself and no one else.

        Have you tried cibachrome? Ilfachrome now I think.

        The nice thing about electronic film is that you can quickly re-take mistakes.

        But, the nice thing about film …. when I didn’t capture what I knew I should, I seldom made that mistake again. very seldom ….

        Oh well ….. I am about to talk myself into another camera.

      • I think the intent behind that camera is for whimsical, nostalgic-style photographs, not high quality work. While it was a fun camera to play with, I would pick something else if I was seriously pursuing film photography. I wouldn’t mind doing so, when I have the financial means to better explore it (right now I’m between jobs) and when I’m more confident in what results I can expect from specific settings.

        I’m trying to apply the mindset behind film–know your camera, know your settings, be intentional about the photograph you are taking (because mistakes are expensive)–to my digital camera. Slowly but surely I’m getting there.

        I did take my DSLR on the photo tour, to try to get some comparison shots. Those will be up later this week, maybe tomorrow.

        By looking at your blog, we seem to have a few interests in common: photography, travel, Russia, Texas. Small world. How did you happen to come across my blog?

      • Nicole,

        I stumbled across your blog as I was reading the web. I am not sure what the link was.

        How did you get interested in Russia? I want to take a full DSLR next time.


      • Now THAT is the question of my lifetime! As far as I can remember, I’ve always been interested. No, enthralled. There’s something about it that just moves me.

        In my high school Euro History class I wrote research papers on the tsars. I jumped at the chance to go when I was 17 and spent two weeks there sightseeing, working at an English Language Camp for Russian youths, singing along to The Beatles, dining on cabbage soup, and having the time of my life. Standing in the Hermitage… I was in heaven. I still Skype with some of the friends I made on that trip. In college I took 4 semesters of Russian (though it’s now quite rusty), a course on Dostoevsky (tied for my all-time favorite author) and two or three on early 20th century Russian history.

        And if at all possible, I will return for a second visit sometime–with my husband and DSLR in tow!

  2. Pingback: On the Other Hand… | Nicole McDaniel Photography

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