The sound of the throw-away camera is a distinct one. The *Tsstt* *Tsstt* *Tsstt* to advance the film reel. The high pitched charging of the camera's flash bulb. SMILE! and then the hollow sounding click and weak light washing over everyone's face. That is how my love for photography started. On family vacations, I would steal the bag of disposable cameras that no one would miss if they were lost. Upon developing the film, my mother would find images of sand, odd colored stones, and the tops of trees. At the time, everything looked unique and otherworldly through the view finder.
Years later, I advanced to a Canon point-and-shoot digital camera. The media card would fill up quickly with 200 mediocre images that just never seemed to come out right. Someone would be blinking. The brown chipmunk that I had stalked for 10 minutes jumped out of screen just seconds too soon. Either way, to me, it was all in the challenge of finding that one great shot out of 200.
Fast forward to senior year of university and an open course slot. Borrowing my parents Canon AL-1 film camera, I enrolled in a black-and-white film photography class. Goodbye, manual focus. Goodbye, unlimited shots. Goodbye, automatic shutter speed. But wait... hello, unique subjects. Hello, tedious developing for the perfect image. Hello, wonderfully framed images. The expense of film taught me to slow down. I needed to wait and frame the upcoming shot. I had to think about the lighting and what the lens should focus in on and what should be left out blurry.
The moving subject was always the hardest. I had never hunted myself, but in a way, it was like tracking a flying duck. Sometimes I would lead the shot perfectly and get exactly what I wanted. Other times, the duck would spontaneously dip and dive and I would get something else entirely. Either way, I had something that couldn't be analyzed until days later under the dim red light of the dark room and the slow hiss of the faucet as I proofed images. Although it was tedious, each roll of film taught a new lesson. I was seldom able to move on until I was able to resolve the prior rolls shortcomings.
Through film photography, I truly began to appreciate the moments and the play of life around us. Unfortunately, the semester soon ended and cheap open dark rooms are hard to come by, even in NYC. But how could I go back to my inefficient point-and-shoot whose images paled in comparison to my film cameras?
That is when I swallowed the expense and picked up my first DSLR. It surpassed the speed of the point and shoot images, but with the same ability to click away. It also had the finesse and maturity of my AL-1, but it was easier on the wallet than the reels of film and long hours in the dark room.
In the end, the digital camera isn't perfect. However, it does help in finding those perfect moments, cataloging them for years to come on hard drives and semi-gloss photo paper, clicking away to find another amazing shot in 200, or in this case a 1,000. Instead of tree tops this time, it's skylines. Instead of colorful shiny stones, a beautiful and unique portrait. Who am I kidding? There is time for those shots too.