Sunday, September 28, 2008

Someday it may be important that I pressed the shutter...


Sometimes when you don't develop film for a while, it is easy to forget what was on the rolls you took. In this case, it was quite a surprise...

...a couple rolls from before I left for my travels overseas...

...and more importantly - a lost roll from Israel!

But, alas, there is an inherent problem with living in the southeast in the summer.

Its hot.

Really hot.

So hot, in fact, that my tap water doesn't get below 76ºF - even at night... and that's a problem when a guy wants to develop some film. For the most part, it is the same thing that makes it so much fun. But, take the calculations for change in temperature with pushing 400 up a stop or two... and you've got a great mess on your hands!

But that's not why I'm writing now...

Still, I must admit, it wasn't until afterward that I figured out how much difference a few degrees can make... and that means I ruined some film...

...but what I DID get was a few great surprises that reminded me of the joys of doing things "old school"... developing film in a bathroom at night like some of the early masters.

(Only read this section if you're as much of a nerd as I.)
I honestly considered putting ice in my D-76 soup to try to cool it down four or five degrees, but if you've ever taken college chemistry, you'll learn that the "heat of change" of two substances tends to be rather abrupt then levels back out to whatever the ambient temperature is at a fairly regular rate.

Without going into too much scientific detail, the greatest problem comes if you change the temperature with ice then try to develop film something like Ilford HP5+ 400 pushed to 800 in D-76 mixed at 1:1 for 16 minutes at 20ºC (68ºF). Well, if the temperature of the room is also 73ºF, you have a very narrow window at 68ºF before the temperature rises up high enough for temperature compensation.

So, needless to say, things get messy. I sat with a thermometer, a pad of paper, and the temperature compensation chart from the Ilford website before each process began.

Not all were successes...

...but some weren't so bad.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, how about some photos!?

Hearkening back to the day I attended the torch ceremony in Athens, Greece, I was surprised to see this roll come off the spool. It had images from Israel and Greece.

Ironically enough, almost none of the Chinese people there that day were actually from China. I heard a number that only a handful were permitted to make the trip and all the rest were refugees living in Athens in a semi-Chinatown.

That was fun...

...but even more incredible were the couple rolls from before Christmas. I was still at school...

...and it truly reminds me why I do what I do: it is important.

At a gathering before Christmas, my friends and I all got together for the first time since we graduate high school 4 years ago. Sitting there just taking few photos like this...

...I thought about how little of this we're going to remember in the years to come.

It won't be easy to forget the gathering itself; but it will be difficult to remember the little glances caught across the room in a quiet moment between myself and a good good friend.

Just like everyone always says, "We'll always be in touch!" around graduation time, who actually does for more than a few years.

I have friends scattered from Kentucky... New York City...

...and Colorado, California, and who knows where else!

We will all remember that time we saw the Olympic flame passed to the host country...

...but I bet you the following hours with good friends in the Plaka coffee shop will soon pass from your memory.

Its okay, though. I'm not being hard on human forgetfulness.

But it is about the connection...

...usually made with the eyes...

...for however brief a time...

...but just long enough to make the photo.

Maybe that is why photographers hate losing a roll of film. It is 12 or 24 or 36 moments in time that can never be retrieved... never be re-lived.

Like this one... dark its impossible to tell, but this is a lecture by National Geographic's Steve McCurry and one of the "unpublished" photos of the Afghan Girl.

I don't pretend to make such iconic photographs yet, but that was a perfect example of Henri Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment". Mr. McCurry mentioned him quite a few times as one of his "favorite photographers" that he learned so much from.

Moments in time... aspect of video that is one of its downfalls: it may tell the story just as well, but when all means of playing said video fail, the photograph will remain.

Its the dangers of digital photography, too! When the computers crash, harddrives fail, CD's and DVD's break down... the real print will remain.

It is a testament to human frailty...

...find a video or some digital 1's and 0's in a drawer in a hundred years and tell me who this man was.

But because it is a print in silver, it will live on longer than any of us.

Am I being melodramatic?


But that's why I do this: it is important.

Someday, it may be important that I pressed the shutter at exactly that moment.

For instance:

Grandma's cooking. I don't have to "just remember"... I can see it.

Many of you may have been unaware about something that happened while I was overseas. I did not write about it here; I'd hate to be depressing in such a place.

...but let me just show you this:

The last photograph of my grandfather before he died... while I was in Europe. No, I wasn't able to come home for the funeral. But this photograph survives. Oddly enough, its on film. Real film. A man living in the 21st century having his final photo taken on film.

Iconic photograph? No. But extremely important, nevertheless.

Things like this are why I press the shutter. It is why I do what I do and strive to be fairly decent at it.

So, all in all, you'll almost never regret taking a photograph, but you'll often regret it if you don't.

Go out.

Take some photos...

...because someday it may be important to someone that photo exists.

Stay tuned,
~Noah D.

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