I have a confession – my love affair started quite innocently and quietly with very little fanfare. I’d say it even started right after I got married nearly 10 years ago…but the best part is that my husband was totally okay with it. Before you start thinking horrible thoughts I must confess that this affair was with photography. It started with the small digital camera we bought before our honeymoon in 2003. I was the designated picture taker and I enjoyed that role. Not long after that I upgraded to another digital camera that took nice pictures but was still a good source of frustration because there was always a delay between pictures and I wasn’t getting the results I wanted or what I pictured in my mind. Then I had an awesome opportunity to travel to Barcelona for work . I couldn’t travel all that way and not take advantage of seeing the city and taking picture, so my trusty point and shoot went along. And honestly, I got some AMAZING pictures while I was there. Then on my last day there I decided to visit one of the most famous sites in Barcelona to take pictures. I turned on the camera and it stops halfway while turning on. My heart dropped…of all places for my camera to die, it died in Barcelona. I come home without a working camera and feeling lost not having one. But then I realized this may not be such and awful thing…it was the push I needed to give up the point and shoot and go all in and get an SLR. I wanted to have more control and flexibility over my camera. So I dove in feet first and bought my first DLSR and it was amazing, true love, more control and flexibility. I taught myself to shoot in Manual from the beginning, no training wheels for this girl.
I became the family photographer, the one who took pictures at events and holidays, and I loved sharing the results with others. But then I became a mother and while that gave me a different reason to shoot I had less time. And while I loved the process of taking the pictures, capturing the moments I HATED what came next. That nasty four letter word, EDIT! I hated the editing process. The amount of images captured during an event and having to cull and edit them was torture. So I would have lovers spats with my camera and the process from time to time. We’d kiss and make up but then we’d get annoyed and irritated with each other again and take a break from each other. But then I would get lonely and miss my friend again. This on again-off again relationship went on for a few years. I’d take a workshop here and there trying to rekindle the flame but it was always short-lived. I then found myself using my iPhone way more than my SLR. I realized maybe it was time for a longer break, maybe we needed to see other people and figure this whole relationship out.
I’d flirted with others online, talked about the possibilities of becoming friends, maybe meeting up but I was nervous and shy, I’d never done this before. But I was sad – I missing my friend – my creative outlet, snapping pictures, moments, memories. I needed to do something about it because I was missing that part of myself. Then it happened…I started hearing about others going back to their roots and shooting film. FILM…really, who does that? It was crazy right? But the images I saw that were st with film made me swoon, and feel giddy – you know that feeling you get when you are starting a new relationship? With time I became more excited and willing to give this a try but I had to stay somewhere near my comfort zone and shoot 35mm Canon. Then a friend told me about an “ex” of theirs that they were no longer with and asked if I wanted to make take him out for a date. It was an old Canon EOS 650, a bit dusty, a few scratches here and there but he still had some life left in him. It seemed like a good match, we hit it off okay, we even went on a trip to Phoenix together and played with a few rolls of film. We had fun, enjoyed the trip but it wasn’t a match made in heaven. However, he did it give me a taste of what I had been missing…the actual PROCESS, the anticipation of waiting for your film to be developed, no checking your screen, no frills, just the click of the shutter and winding of the film. Those beautiful sounds and you just don’t get with digital. I knew that this was something I needed to pursue but I needed to see others. I met another Canon, the 1V, and we’re good friends and get along very well but I wasn’t ready to say I do and settle down with him yet. I still needed to date others, explore my options. I recently started my relationship with medium format and it’s tricky, a learning process, something that put me even further outside my comfort zone but strangely I am okay with that. But I needed the support and help from others as I started this new adventure.
Enter, Meghan Boyer…we met online while commiserating over our irritation with a photographer/blogger and over time developed a friendship based on mutual love of photography that I valued greatly. I don’t know exactly when we started talking about FIND but we both knew it was something we wanted to do. However, I had issues with taking that step towards such a HUGE commitment. I knew I had been bitten by the film bug but wasn’t shooting professionally or making any money at it. I did it purely for me, for my creative outlet, my enjoyment that I shared with others. We talked about possibly doing a workshop together and then the 2013 FIND dates were announced and there was one happening near her. She signed up, I hesitated, made excuses for why I couldn’t possibly do it. I was happy for her but secretly jealous…then the workshop filled up. So the choice was made for me – there was no sports left so I couldn’t attend. But that didn’t stop my curiosity and interest in film. It continued to fuel and feed my friendship that was developing with Meghan. Time got closer for FIND DC and Meghan informed me that a spot had opened up that I could buy. I wanted to jump at it but my own insecurities surfaced. What could I offer to and get from this experience – one that would be filled with others that are shooting for a living, make money at it, do it well, have websites, and blogs, and put themselves out there every day shooting pictures. I’m just a mom of 2, work in human resources who just so happens to LOVE film. I’d be completely out of my league. However, Meghan is a good sales person – she talked me down off my ledge, convinced me that I needed to do this for myself. So with the support and blessing from my husband I threw caution to the wind and bought the spot just 2 months prior to the start of the workshop…and believe me, I second guessed that decision several (hundred) times. Such a big investment into my “hobby” from which I make no money. What business did I have being there? What would they think of me, the non-professional?
The week of the workshop arrived and it was with a mix of excitement and anxiety over “fitting in” with a group of people I did not know and whom were very successfully doing something I only do for fun and pleasure. This was going to be bad…how could I have any credibility with these PROS? But the money had been spent and I was going to at least enjoy the free time (I am a mom, remember). Meghan picked me up at the airport and drove me to the house that would be ours for the week. It was a beautiful, old mansion with so much character and charm. But knowing what I know now it pales in comparison to the people I met INSIDE that house. The other DC FINDers were REAL people, caring, funny, and so friendly….but they were nervous too. We all had our own “stuff” that was worrying us but the single thread that pulled us together was the love for film and the desire to learn more and to be in the presence of others that understood what all the fuss was about. The bond and friendships between us all started nearly immediately and it was amazing and fantastic. We all went out for dinner that first night and got to meet the famous Jon Canlas in the flesh for the first time. He has a personality that is larger than life, but he’s warm, welcoming, gives hugs and is literally an open book. Sure we paid money to attend the workshop so some might say he kind of owes us that but he’s an open book in a very different way. There wasn’t a question he wouldn’t answer, he didn’t sugar coat his answers but you also never made to feel insignificant by his answers. And with each passing hour and day the friendships grew. We laughed a ton, told stories, teased each other like old school chums, maybe even cried a little but it was all in the name of learning and growing as artists and as people. We were critiqued and survived to tell about it, we shot film daily, learned from Jon and from each other, took care of each other, had a few AH HA moments, a few DUH moments but a million amazing moments, and learned the merits of shooting personal work.
I entered that house scared that I’d be insignificant compared to the others. But that faded quickly and was replaced with something so much greater – I gained an entire group of new friends that I miss already but am able to stay in touch with virtually. I realized that just because I’m not doing this as a business it doesn’t make it any less significant. I also realized that shooting personal work (which is really all I do) is okay and can be rewarding in and of itself. Honestly, Jon preaches the merits of shooting personal work not only as a way to improve your shooting and gain a better understanding of your camera but that it is also what will fuel your soul because “Home is where your story begins…” Losing site of that place will cause you to lose the love you feel for the craft.
Our time in DC was gone in flash but it left me (and I believe all of us) forever changed and different but in a good way. I left a little of my heart in the house in DC but brought with me a million memories that will be with me forever. I still have plenty of learning to do, some confidence to gain, and a lot of practicing; however, I know one thing for certain is that this process will be done with a film camera in hand.
I had such a great time I wish I could do this every month. But in the time since FIND DC came to a close I have shot more film than usual. I still get some crazy looks when people hear the sound of the film winding, or a kid sees me take a picture and they immediately want to see it but it’s all worth it to me. I have a long way to go on this journey but I am so ready for the ride. So if you have ever considered film I strongly urge you to just DO IT and to consider doing this workshop. Next year will be the last year Jon offers them anywhere except Hawaii (not that Hawaii would be a bad deal by any means). So take this chance to do the workshop if you can. You will not regret it at all. Tell him I sent you.
Below are some pictures I took while in DC