Travelling to unknown places makes you feel alive. Experiencing new things in a new environment makes your heart pumping. This emotion makes you want to capture these special moments, record what you feel, to look back at it later. I think it is that what makes people shoot pictures during their travels. It is these special moments which we want to record, and for some of us, this means film.
Travelling with film can be hard. You need to pick which rolls to take, color or black and white? How many? Which ISO will I need? How will the light be and so on? Maybe choosing lenses or cameras’? Most of all you need to plan things. You need to think of what to shoot, when to shoot and with which material to shoot.
For my travel to India I decided to travel light and just take my Leica M2 together with my entire remaining of my stack of 35mm film in the fridge, 5 rolls of ILFORD HP5 PLUS and 3 rolls of Kodak Ektar 100. I even took 2 rolls of cheap slide film since they were in the fridge for over 6 months anyway. I took these all in my small photo bag together with the essentials such as a blower and a lens cloth. Since I am a street photographer I like to travel light.
If you’re flying, make sure you always take your camera and film in your hand luggage. Putting it in your suitcase isn’t the smartest thing to do, it might get lost, damaged and will go through higher radiation x-ray machines than your hand luggage. I personally shoot a camera which is made of metal, so I am aware that the security can be triggered on a big brick of metal. Therefore I always explain that I have an old camera in my hand luggage and that I will take it out and put it in a separate tray, this usually avoids your bag being put in the ‘to inspect’ que. Don’t worry too much about your film going through the hand luggage x-ray, as long as your not shooting very high ISO film such as ILFORD Delta 3200 Professional, your film will be fine and there won’t be any visible impact.
Stepping one foot in the street made me immediately realize what an intense country this is. As a tall western European male, I seem to tract a lot of attention. While cows and a crazy amount of traffic cross the road people easily come to you to either sell you something or talk to you. This can be somewhat overwhelming. It took me a couple of days to shoot until I got used to the total chaos and rhythm of the country. After a while, I got more courage, got more interaction with its inhabitants and started to shoot better pictures.
Planning was everything. Since I only had one body and one lens but three kinds of film I had to plan what to shoot and what to shoot next. I normally only shoot black and white film but now started with color since I wanted to capture that colorful spirit that India has. Capturing some of the amazing colors of India lead my mind in enough peace to continue in black and white. When I knew a certain scene was coming up I adjusted the next roll of film to it. When I was entering a dark train next day I made sure my black and white was in the camera, since I needed the higher ISO and contrast of HP5 PLUS for that scene.
When a colorful temple was in my plan, I made sure I had Ektar loaded. This might sound limiting to digital shooters, but bringing down the limitations makes also the beauty of it. It also made me more aware of my surroundings and decide what I wanted to capture. I missed shots as well, as for example when I stepped out of that Indian train, shot all my shots inside but forgot to save some shots for the outside. But with every shot we learn. That learning aspect was my main reason to shoot film in the first place.
On the last day I shot my remaining roll of slide film, which I kept as a bonus. Since I rarely shoot color in general, I kept the slide film to the end. I felt complete, without seeing my shots I knew I had some good results. Now to shoot this slide film without the light meter felt like a nice challenge, no pressure, nothing, it felt like a bonus. Viewing those slide films now brings me back to youth sentimental of a view master.
The greatest joy of shooting film is bringing it home. That moment of relief when you brought all your film home safe. Then that excitement of sending it to the lab or developing it at home. That moment when you take out the film from the spool or the envelope from the lab. You look at your pictures, all shots, the good ones and the failed ones. All of them, in chronological order. You re-live your travels, your moments, the shots. You feel the same emotions. Since you only had 36 on each roll you carefully thought of each shot. Now every shot has become a moment to remember, not depending on if it is a good picture or not, you were there.
These are the moments in India I was able to capture.
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