Shooting film: Returning to my past | Eulanda Shead Photography
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Mdina, Malta

Shooting film: Returning to my past

Six years ago, I made the decision to solely shoot digital (after shooting film for 12 years), and it would be easy to say I haven’t looked back since. However I’ve constantly looked back, and I’ve found myself quietly longing for the hard metal body in my hands, the grainy sound of the shutter clicking, and the familiar swish sound as I cock the manual lever of my Canon AE-1. You might say I definitely have a love unrequited. I thought a holiday abroad to Malta would provide the perfect opportunity to reintroduce myself to a love from my past. Being surrounded by the lush landscape in Malta, paired with the mediterranean winds fighting the sea, made for some gorgeous eye candy! It was here, on this beautiful island, that I stretched my film legs…

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Azure Window | Gozo

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Part of the return to film photography is based on the fact that at the beginning of 2015, I joined a photography business mentoring group led by Charlie Kingsworth-Barrow. In this amazing group, many of the women shoot film; or at least a hybrid of film and digital images. I look at their work and I get excited. Shooting film has curious way of connecting me with my past. I was elated to get my professional film I ordered on Amazon two days prior to our departure from London. I forced myself to only take one roll (Kodak Portra 400), and to spend the time to carefully choose each of my 36 images to document. Over the last six years I’ve adopted the “shoot anything I desire….I’ll edit later” mentality. It’s a pretty common approach, although, some of the more discerning photographers often shoot more carefully. With film you can order as many rolls as you like and click away. However, you have the price of developing (per roll) to consider, especially if you use a speciality lab (which I highly suggest).

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Upon my return, I sent my lone roll to the UK Film Lab, and eagerly waited with child-like anticipation. Five days later, I received an email letting me know that my images were ready to download. I don’t know why I was so nervous, but my heart seemed to speed up with each passing minute as I waited for the download to finish.  I remembered reading somewhere on their website that they included feedback with each order.  I rushed to open the feedback first, slightly fearful that I wouldn’t have one good image. To my relief and delight, I read that I had properly exposed most of my images (although a few dark ones), and that I had a lovely batch of photos! I opened the folder to my scans and slowly viewed each image.

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Cathedral in Mdina

Quiet street in Mdina, Malta

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As I finished looking at the 36 images I’d so carefully documented, I realised I was feeling several different emotions; a mix of nostalgia, yearning, and joy. There is just something about film that pulls at my heartstrings.  It’s not in the cliche, “I love anything vintage” way; although I do adore vintage memorabilia. It’s the act of seamlessly connecting with your environment and subjects in an uninterrupted way. Almost as if I’m sharing a deeper, more soulful part of myself with my surroundings. So enough of all the whimsical ramblings. When shooting digital, I’m constantly viewing batches of frames I’ve just shot, and making adjustments. With film, I don’t have the ability to do that. There’s a certain level of confidence that must be used to capture the image. I become more conscious of time, knowing that I will never capture this moment again. Perhaps that could be said with digital as well, but there’s something to the lack of LCD screen that in my honest opinion, provides a very different experience that transcends the digital realm.

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Valletta | Malta

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Digital is all about immediacy. It’s amazingly satisfying to go home, upload your photos, and view them right away. However, I’ll often spend countless hours trying to add a bit of grain in, fix colours, and give my images that “film look.” However, with film, this variable is practically eliminated. I’ve shot at least 8 rolls this since the Malta trip, and I have not edited a single photo. Almost every frame is to my taste straight out of the camera. I could never achieve this shooting digital. Now, there is the issue of waiting for 7 business days to receive my scans, unless I want to fork out the funds to do rush processing, but for now I’m happy to eagerly await for what feels like Birthday cake, each and every time I post off a piece of my soul…

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Valletta, Malta

Azure Window | Gozo

Azure Window, Gozo

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What have your experiences been with shooting film after a self determined break or hiatus? I’d really love to hear (and help secretly convince myself that I’m not crazy)…Please share your stories below! Also, if you’d like to check out more stories, travel guides, and images from our trip to Malta, check out HDYTI; a food, travel and lifestyle blog, curated by my husband and I!

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