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Fact: You will seldom know when the perfect moment is happening. That’s the truth. If you’re like me, you’re a hybrid photographer: you shoot film and digital. You shoot any medium that gets the job done. But for a long time, I’ve been told that I should get as much film as I can, freeze it, and then just shoot it whenever I want. That’s a great idea, but I think the pandemic taught me that the best time to do something is now. Don’t put it off. You never know when you’ll have the time to shoot some film. So I’ve started to go through lots of films for the pure joy of shooting. That, and it’s a joy to not look at a screen on a camera.
Deep in the back of my refrigerator are two bags. Both of them are filled with mostly 120 film and large format. Then I’ve got two small film cases of 35mm film. Those small film cases have a few rolls of Natura 1600, PRO 400H, and some other random films from places like the Brooklyn Instant Film Initiative. But most of what I’ve got is 120. There’s PRO 400H, Portra, 800T, TMax, Acros II, etc. And I’ve recently reasoned with myself that now is the best time to shoot with them.
Best of all, I don’t need to develop the film immediately. I can put the rolls back in the fridge or freezer in a little baggie. When I’m ready to be surprised by the memories I’ve photographed, I’ll develop them. This has always led to some of the most wonderful surprises I’ve ever given myself or friends. When you share photos of memories within the next days after a hangout or an event, they don’t hit you as hard emotionally. But if you wait a month or two, the inherent look of film transports us to a cheerful place. A person’s smile is just so much more effective captured on Superia than it is from Classic Negative.
This has had me thinking about various film emulsions. When I quit my old day job, a friend I’ve always held in high regard gifted me his last roll of Astia. And for almost a decade, I’ve been pondering on the photo project that I’ll use it for. That roll expired a decade ago, but it’s been in my freezer since. I’ve come to terms that if I do any specific photo projects, I’ll do them on digital. But for fun, I think it makes more sense to just shoot whatever. So that last roll of Astia will be used with the care of all my heart, but I’ll also shoot the things I love.
That, specifically, is much more beautiful than waiting for the perfect moment.
Why can’t we shoot it today? Now is as good as time as ever. More importantly, the film world is constantly in flux. Sometimes a film emulsion might be around, and then in a moment it’s gone. And then, when it’s discontinued, you hoard the film, and shoot it sparingly. However, there will always be another to replace it in some way or another. Of course, there are rare exceptions to this, but there’s no use in holding back on what brings you joy when it comes to photography. We’re all passionate photographers. And film photography is just a way for us to express ourselves.