Capturing the Desert with Expired Film and Vintage Cameras

Film photography, as many of can remember, is not an instant thing. When we travel, Sarah uses (mostly) digital, and I use only film. So while Sarah’s photos are posted fairly quickly, mine take a bit more time. These are the film photos from the last daytrip we took to central Washington. You can read about the trip here and here.

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I took five cameras with me on this little journey. I shoot mostly 120 film, but also, as is the case with the photo above, use Polaroid colorpack film.

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One of the great things about trips like this one is that it really gives me a chance to test out new vintage cameras. The one above is a 1960s Imperial Debonair. It was an entry-level point-and-shoot that kind of impressed me.

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As is often the case when traveling, all things didn’t go according to plan. Around when I took this one, the camera in question was having issues, which I talk about here a bit.

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Different film stock gives you outrageously different looks, and it’s always fun to compare.

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A few weeks back, I picked up this metal-bodied somewhat-more-than-entry-level-point-and-shoot. This one has a focus on it!

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One of the things I like about shooting film is that you really do get a completely different look that you would with digital.

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No, it’s not always a better look, but it’s always different.

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This was taken with a Polaroid. It’s not the photo itself, but the negative.

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Composition isn’t everything, but it’s fairly important. Shooting square 120 film is a challenge in this 16:9 world.

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Polaroid negatives have to be bleached and then washed (being super careful about both steps). It’s a long process, but worth it.

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I almost always use expired slide film.

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This adds a bit of unpredictability when it comes to color. Though this shot turned out fine.

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Slide film is really touchy when it comes to lighting. Even if it’s slightly too dark, you’ll get black edges and the whole photo will look like you shot day for night.

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Though I prefer square, using a 6×9 box camera is great for capturing landscapes.

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But then, so is the Polaroid.

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Though, if I would have framed this with a wider camera, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as much of the sky, and the whole thing would feel slightly claustrophobic.

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Perhaps my favorite thing about shooting expired slide film is that while it’s not visually realistic, it perfectly captures the surreal feeling of being in the desert.

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This stony path, for example, didn’t actually look like this. But after a long day in the sun, with my legs buckling and head aching, it certainly felt like this. Thanks, film!

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Remember how I was talking about shooting day for night?

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Well, anyway – those were twenty of the 100+ photos that I took on this quick day trip to central Washington. You can see more of my photography on my Flickr site. And if you’re really interested, I do a daily photography blog, here.


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