It’s one of those things you just can’t explain…
Back in 2009 when I made the decision to really get serious with this whole photography thing, I knew I needed to learn more. I didn’t really know where to start or draw inspiration, or anything really. I am a very visual person. I learn by seeing and doing. My first thought was to go to Barnes & Noble and get a photography book. Have you ever visited that section of the store? It’s slightly overwhelming, there are so many options and so many different types of books to choose from. I stood there for what must have been an hour or more picking up and putting back different books, trying to figure out which one would be best for me. Until I finally found a book that seemed just right. It was one of those things you just can’t explain… the title didn’t really pertain to what I needed, and the content was definitely over my head but I knew this was the right book. I read the book every day for the next few weeks. I took notes, made little diagrams, studied it completely. I didn’t know what it was about this book that I loved so much but I just did. Honestly, I don’t feel like I actually learned anything from that book when I look back- it wasn’t because it didn’t have wonderful, helpful information but it was just too far ahead of where I was at that time. But what I do realize is that I was so completely in love with the images in that book and I was so completely AMAZED by the talent and wonder that THAT is why it was the book for me that day at Barnes & Noble. Something about the images just drew me in. The entire time I was reading the book, I never understood why almost everyone featured was a film shooter. This is a digital world, everyone shoots with digital cameras, I don’t understand why all of these people are still shooting film!
Fast forward a while. One of the biggest things I feel like I’ve struggled with in my business is “finding my style.” Figuring out what I really love, finding what inspires me, staying consistent. It’s A LOT tougher than you may realize. This may all seem off topic but I promise it all makes sense in the grand scheme of things… Well, then I was introduced to the wonderfully, fabulous world of Pinterest! One of the first boards I created was a board dedicated to all things that inspired be or things I just loved. It was almost instantly I noticed a pattern. Almost all of the images I pinned were soft, dreamy, magical and almost all of them were film. I wasn’t educated enough when I purchased that book at barnes & Noble to understand why those film images appealed so much to me. Now, that I understand and SEE the differences, I know film photography is definitely something I love. Realizing that and combining it with the fact that ALL of my favorite photographers shoot film I knew it was the next step for me. Seriously though, I think that’s the scariest step I’ve ever made in my business. It’s the only time that I’ve actually been 100% sure that it was the right decision for me and my business but at the same time, I was terrified. I don’t know the first thing about film. I don’t know what kind of camera to get, I don’t know what the different types of film do, I don’t know how to even load film for goodness sake. Right then and there, at that moment I said to myself, you know what… this is what you need to do and this is your passion- you need to do whatever it takes to make it happen. I contacted one of my favorite photographers and film shooter Erich McVey. I told him my plan and asked for his help. He was so incredibly generous with his time and wealth of information I don’t know what I would have done without him.
After an incredible amount of time, effort and RESEARCH, I purchased a Contax 645. That same night, I ordered film and a light meter. I went to bed crazy excited and nervous also feeling like- Holy crap I just spent thousands of dollars on a camera I don’t even know how to use. All the while feeling so content, knowing this was the right decision. I did so much reading and research in those few days as I waited for the key to unlock my dreams to arrive. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I knew I wouldn’t turn into a little Jose Villa overnight but I knew it was a start. A few days later, I receive a huge box- pretty sure I tackled the UPS man when he arrived. I tore it open, pulled out all of the boxes and just stared at it. Remember, I don’t know how to use it!! I called Erich and he gave me a good run around of what all the little gizmos and do-dads on the camera were for and told me I would do fine. He assured me I was ready, but I was scared. I posted on my Facebook and twitter that I had an awesome surprise. I wanted to share but didn’t want to at the same time. Honestly, I was afraid I was going to fail miserably and back out and never look back then I’d be left feeling embarrassed that I had shared.
That next week after my new gear had arrived I had a shoot scheduled. A shoot with the beautiful Sarah… I posted her gorgeous, Tuckahoe Plantation bridal portraits yesterday. I knew she would be the PERFECT model for this “experiment” since an experiment would be the exact word to describe it since I literally had no clue what I was doing… I asked her about it and she was VERY excited! I had to do it now. It was really happening. I decided I should schedule a practice shoot beforehand so I didn’t embarrass myself completely. So I called upon my beautiful sister, Sarah. You may remember her recent session on the farm. Yep, that was my test shoot :) I shot both sessions digitally and with film to be safe. This is the first time I’ll be sharing any of my film work online and I am SO excited. Ok, but back to the story! So Sarah and I arrive to my uncle Henry’s house. I felt so happy I could cry and so nervous I could throw up all at the same time! I started shooting with my Nikon to get warmed up and took a few readings with my meter to begin my film shots. The readings were coming up crazy and I just KNEW I was doing something all wrong. Now I really felt like I was going to throw up. I frantically called Erich to ask his advice and I received no answer. Holy moly! What am I going to do?! I have to just do this by myself, no one is holding my hand… no one to guide me. And worst of all, I have no screen on the back of my camera to check to see if I am doing things right. We head over to a field filled with cows. I have to just do it, go with my gut. I have to trust what I’ve read and researched and just do it. And I did. I took my very first picture with my Contax and literally screamed out loud. My sister and I were laughing so hard and I was partially crying… totally freaking out. I got really comfortable right there in that field. After I heard that shutter click, it felt so right. It’s one of those things you just can’t explain. As we continued our session, I was smiling ear to ear. This was the best feeling! I was still worried about my readings but it’s all a part of the learning process and you just have to start somewhere. I was feeling so prepared and so excited for my shoot with the other Sarah. The day after Sarah’s bridal session I mailed off my 5 rolls of film with pure joy and excitement. Of course I wanted them to turn out beautifully but I was just so anxious to see what I DID get!
Exactly 2 weeks later, I receive an email from my lab saying my images were ready for download. I freaked out! I yelled to my Mom and Dad (like they really cared, lol) and texted my best friends. They are finally here!!! I waited very impatiently as the files downloaded one by one. I opened them up and just died. Well, maybe I didn’t die but I know my heart skipped a beat. I stared in amazement at my photos. Surely these weren’t mine. Surely I hadn’t taken these. And you know what….they were mine. All of those late nights studying, all of those phone calls to Erich, all of those fears and all of that excitement (and all of that money) were so worth it!!!!! My dream of becoming a film shooter is no longer a dream. I realize I am still SO new and still learning (and have TONS more to learn) but I am excited! I am excited to create these magical, dreamy photographs I have longed after for years. I can unleash every bit of my creativity and passion I have. And I have no idea where this will lead me but eventually, I would love to only shoot film. I love it so much! So now, the secret is out. Now you all know my passion and love for film. And now, I am so excited to share it with you all….