I'll never forget feeling the urge to seize the moment when one of my all time favorite film photographers announced he would be answering questions outside the confines of the conference walls and out in the hallway. "This is it", I thought, " I must ask him what I'm missing. Simply where to get started!" I had known for quite some time that shooting film was the direction I wanted to head in, but I hadn't the slightest clue where to begin. All the modern books I read on the subject seemed to be filled with bright and dreamy images that made my heart ache with desire but nothing of substantial text to replace my absence of knowledge. I knew I would be a fool to let the moment pass me by, so as hands were raised and he went from question to question, I persisted and confidently asked mine: "What would you suggest is the best way for a beginner to learn?" It was the unsettling question that I was on my mind, but by the looks of stares it appeared everyone else was far past the point of first starting...or at least it felt that way.
"Practice" he said.
Okay, anyone knows to practice, but how can you get good if you don't know what to practice? The frustrating response muddled my thoughts and I quickly responded with a follow up: "But, how do I practice?". The minute the words left my mouth I feared them far too silly, but he humbly responded. "I am guessing you aren't taking notes of everything you're doing. Shoot, and take notes". Appreciative of the small but golden bit of knowledge, I thanked him and exited the tightly formed huddle, slightly irritated I wasn't assigned a life-altering book or forum or regimented task to learn the basics of film, however grateful for the little nugget I was given. Clasping it with all I had.
At the time it seemed maddening, but as I continue to narrow down the world of the medium, I am finding that what he said was true.
Practice. Practice. Practice. And most importantly--take notes. Scribble down the aperture used. The film stock. The shutter speed (overexposed or under exposed?) The time of day. Where the light was coming from. The color casts from the surrounding objects. The lab you sent the roll to and what instructions you gave them. It will drive you crazy but it's the only place to start.
Fuji 400h + Contax 645