G.’s Spirit Quest, Part One: The Digital Files

I love to shoot photographs—each one is like a new riddle to me. Where should I focus? Open up the lens, or close it down? Where should the subject be in the frame? Is this the best lighting? Should I come back later? My brain functions at an uncontrollable rate until I push the shutter, then there is calm. I can feel the mechanisms of the camera move in my hand, an excitement comes over me; that’s the one, I know it. It is like a drug…

I learned to shoot photographs in a digital age; it wasn’t until I realized that all the photographers I looked up to had to learn on film, that I shot my first roll. I bought that film camera from a friend in college; he loaded a roll of film for me and sent me on my way.

When I got that roll developed I was truly humbled. The photos were terrible… over or under exposed, and poorly composed, it looked like a toddler pushed the shutter. In that moment I vowed to learn the art of shooting film like all the photographers had before me.

Over the next couple years I fell in love. I hardly shot with a digital camera anymore. I shot roll after roll… There is nothing like loading a roll of film and having no idea what you are going to shoot. You bring the camera with you everywhere, pointing it at subjects of interest. Then you get the results; you are like a kid on Christmas morning unwrapping your gift. It is like a drug…

This past fall I went on a trip of a lifetime… Maui to see my best friend marry the love of his life, Fiji to fish and surf Cloudbreak, New Zealand to live in a camper van and get lost, Australia to surf my brains out, and Big Sur to follow my heart. I traveled alone; my three cameras were my partners, two digital and a medium format film camera with 36 rolls of film. For the entire first month of my trip I exclusively shot digital, it was so nice to see the result and edit the photos that evening. I wanted to post images and show people where I was… don’t we all?

Call it laziness or call it faith; both my digital cameras died with in an hour of each other. Just like earlier in my life I put the digital cameras back in the bag and just shot film.

During the second month of my travels I shot 24 rolls of film. The uncertainty of the result kept me invigorated. Isn’t that what is so romantic about film? You have to trust yourself and your ability to produce a beautiful image. You forget what you shot, and then you get your film processed and see what you created. All the memories of your travels, all the people you met, and all the sights flood back into your memory, image by image. It is like a drug…

My advice is to always bring a film camera on your travels, even if it is a disposable. You will not regret the joy it will bring months down the road.

G.’s Spirit Quest will be continued in part two with an exclusive gallery of film photos, dropping next Thursday.