I dream in 35mm

Back when I was a teenager, I created an Instagram account and I loved it. I spent endless amount of time posting weird artsy photos with matching weird artsy captions – usually song lyrics. Instagram has consistently remained one of my favourite social media platforms since I first made my account, and I have the 1.7k photos to prove it. There was, however, a period where I didn’t take pictures anymore. I felt bored, perhaps even a bit lazy. There came no satisfaction from picking out one photo out from the 15 that I had taken of a subject matter. And that bummed me out. My beautiful, precious Instagram would lie silent for weeks, but I just had nothing to post. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t take pictures; my phone’s camera is pretty decent and I do have a DSLR lying around – I just didn’t want to. I was uninspired and perhaps even apathetic at the thought of it. It felt far too easy to just snap dozens of pictures, only to have to then wade through a sea of similar photos to find The One.

But then I discovered analog photography. I knew that shooting analog was a thing that people had picked up on again, and I myself had filled up a couple of disposable cameras. It was when I found out that actually getting an analog camera and 35mm film wasn’t crazy expensive that something clicked again for me. I picked out two classic cameras, the Canon AE-1, and the Pentax K1000. I chose these because the internet agreed that a beginner could not go wrong with them.

The Pentax K1000 is a classic, fully manual camera that is often used for photography classes for beginners. It’s straightforward, simple, and incredibly durable. The Canon AE-1, manufactured between 1976 and 1984, was the first in what became a complete overhaul of Canon’s SLR cameras. Although the AE-1 is also widely considered a simple and straightforward camera, it is not fully manual. Unlike the K1000, the AE-1 contains a microprocessor–a first for SLRs back in the day–the shutter being electronically controlled, which means a user can opt for either manual exposure control or shutter priority auto exposure.

Both cameras are known for being easy to use, loved by both amateurs and professionals. I read their manuals and taught myself how to put in a roll of film. And then I went for it. Granted, I had some knowledge of cameras, understanding how ISO, aperture, and shutter speed affect a shot, so it wasn’t completely new to me.

What was new to me was the patience it required. It truly is a virtue, and vital when it comes to taking a good photo. Unlike taking pictures with my phone or with my DSLR I couldn’t just endlessly click the shutter and hope for the best. Instead, I needed to take my time adjusting the setting to ensure the right exposure; I needed to wait until the subject matter was agreeable, be it a specific pose or facial expression. I enjoy taking photos of scenery or architecture, and sometimes this means waiting for people to get out of a shot. Sometimes it means snapping the picture right as a biker comes into frame.

And perhaps it is the patience that makes this type of photography so rewarding. Not only the patience needed to create the photo, but the patience required to wait until a roll is finished and developed before you can actually see what you’ve shot. There is also a sort of excitement to develop a roll. There are times where it takes weeks or months for me to snap all 36 pictures, thus making me forget all I had done. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see what comes from the film, when it does. I shot my first couple of rolls on my AE-1, finding out after developing the photos that the camera itself had a light leak. This meant that some photos turned out not so great, but that others became even dreamier than usual, the light leaks creating a nostalgic effect. The photos that weren’t affected by the leak remained sharp and bright, giving me a wide variety of photos.

It’s not only light leaks that create such a nostalgic effect. I shot a roll of film when I was back home on Aruba with my Pentax K1000. This camera has been the most reliable of all the cameras I’ve tried. It is also the most simple and uncomplicated of these cameras. With no added functions and completely manual, the K1000 is known to be used in photography classes for beginners, because of its simplicity and sturdiness. I don’t know what it is about taking photos with this camera, but every roll I’ve done with it has been beautiful. It captures colour in a way that others don’t–either with an unparalleled vibrancy or with a hazy gentleness.

Analog photography has pushed me to put more effort and thought into what I do with pictures. Even now, when I’m taking pictures on my phone I try to put a little more effort into it, even if that means giving myself a second to get the framing just right. I wouldn’t say that I am a photographer, but I am enthusiastic and I usually do have one of my cameras with me when I step out the door. And, sometimes, you can even catch me hopping off my bike to take a shot.

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