Until late March this year (last week at the time of writing), I hadn’t shot a roll of film in more than 10 years, since around the time Kodak discontinued Plus-X. I recently discovered that a great independent lab (Boutique Film Lab) opened up in my hometown of Nashville, TN, a few years ago and is doing quality work. This inspired me to pick up a few rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 and shoot some photos on a pre-spring Sunday afternoon. I loaded up my Leica M4 and, just for kicks, I loaded up my 90’s Lomo LC-A as well.
As it turns out, I did a horrible job of loading the film in my Leica and ended up with one massive multiple exposure. The silver lining was my rediscovery of the joy of shooting film with the LC-A, Tri-X at box speed, auto exposure and zone focus. I forgot how much fun it could be and how satisfying it is to get film back from the lab.
I walked around downtown Nashville shooting from the hip, shooting into the sun, and only worrying about content. I was using a meter for some of the Leica shots, Sunny 16 for the rest. With the LC-A I mostly just watched human behavior and tried to document some of it, with only a vague sense of where the sun was in the sky. I obviously needed to find flattering light to take pictures but really wasn’t thinking about numbers at all or making any mechanical adjustments.
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At box speed with no pushing or pulling, using auto exposure, there was plenty of latitude and all 36 frames were 100% usable. I’ve always been a rangefinder guy (Leica M4, Fed 3, Fed 5) or TLR shooter (Lubitel, Yashica 124) and don’t own a camera with autofocus (except my iPhone). I’ve only owned two cars with automatic transmission. I usually like to have something to fiddle with. In this case, though, the simplicity made for a really enjoyable experience. It’s like riding a single speed bike. You’re allowed to think both single speed bikes and Lomo LC-A’s are hipster nonsense, but there’s a time and place for most everything.
I’m really looking forward to going out again without the Leica. Just a camera in one pocket and a spare roll in the other. I’m looking forward to taking the Leica out again, too. That will be a separate trip. I may look into the Cinestill Df96 monobath developer and do some of my own processing, but for now, Boutique did such a nice job I’ll be sending more their way. There are plenty of film stocks out there but after reconnecting with an old friend like Tri-X I don’t feel like I need anything more at the moment.
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