daveheinzel.com  Since 2000
by Dave Heinzel, August 31, 2017

35mm film scans

This summer I got back into shooting and developing black and white film. It's one of my first loves, and it's still such a blast (and challenge). There are only 36 (or so) photos per roll, you can't instantly review photos, it's time-consuming and (somewhat) costly to develop, and it takes forever to digitize the negatives. So it forces to me to consider each photo carefully.

I won't bore you with the technical details of my process, but since I get a lot of questions about it, here's the overview. I buy film ready to shoot. My favorite is Ilford HP5+ 400. You don't need a dedicated darkroom if you're only doing film - just a dark place to load film into a developing tank. I do this in the bathroom. Then I grab my tub of chemicals, take over the kitchen for half an hour and develop the negatives.

Once the negatives are dry, I scan them into the computer at the highest resolution possible using a 35mm film scanner. It's slow, and you're basically taking a picture of a picture. Which means you have a lot of settings to control, and there are many creative decisions that have to be made. It usually takes about an hour to scan in each roll.

Then I cut, label and store the negatives and usually never touch them again.

So, why? I don't know. I guess there are three reasons. I like the process. It's slow, methodical and inexact. It's messy, smelly, tactile, fun and frustrating. And it forces me to slow down and open my eyes.

Secondly, it's different. In the 90s, everyone was shooting film. Cameras have evolved, sharing platforms have evolved, and black and white film is now a novelty. It's hard to out-hipster a vintage Canon AE-1 with a 50mm 1.4.

Lastly, the look. Film has more contrast and grain than digital photos. The tonal range is unique. Many people have spent a lot of time trying to process digital photos so they look like film. I once spent a nauseatingly long time trying to do just that. I failed. It's not that you can't get it close. But there's just a look to film that is special. I kind of hope someone figures out how to fake it with digital photos. And I kind of don't.

So anyway, here are some snapshots from the summer. I shot one roll with a newer Canon EOS 3 and one with my vintage AE-1. I missed focus on many of these - sometimes laughably. Maybe someday I'll figure it out.


Waiting for the baby. The nursery is ready. The momma is ready. The dog is ready. Hannah's due in two weeks, and time has slowed down to a standstill. Our lives are about to be abruptly disrupted, and all we can do is wait for it to happen. I shot this with the EOS 3 and (probably) the 70-200 at its widest. One disadvantage to film is no EXIF data to lookup camera and lens details.


Chicagoland Speedway. On a recent drive home from Chicago, I traveled down Old Route 66, which takes you by Joliet (and its hundreds of trucks). The speedway is a sight, and I decided to get a closer look. The WRX would have enjoyed to be a lot closer (especially to the nearby dirt track).


Power lines. This was taken down the road from the speedway photo above. I have a thing for power lines, and it's a special kind of challenge to shoot photos while driving. I wasn't looking through the camera for this one, but I love the composition.


Car selfie. With a 17mm lens on a "full frame" camera, you can make even a small car look spacious. I don't have many photos of myself, so I figured why not shoot a film selfie. Kinda awkward holding a large SLR camera at arms length and trying to drive.


Wherein the dog appears not to beg for food. But don't be fooled. He's absolutely begging for food. But what's the point of having a pet if you can't coerce them to pose while you test your shallow f-stop focusing techniques?


Blurry Kenzie. After a fun and successful shoot where we came away with a ton of colorful, clear and sharp images in the studio, I grabbed a few "candids" with the AE-1 and my 50mm 1.4. A few of them were in focus, but this one is more interesting. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I think.


Work date. A couple stills from a summer work session at Wm. Van's with Arlin and Emma. There's no better way to kill a productive meeting than by whipping out a camera and pointing it at people.


Getting into character. Before a shoot in the studio where I tried to capture a friend's daughter doing some ballet poses, I couldn't ignore the pocket of good light she managed to find herself in. This is the best photo from the whole shoot.


Blurry Stella. After a hectic but fun shoot with Stella last week, I took a few stills to finish off the roll of film in the AE-1. One of them was in focus. But this one is better. She's off to college now, sure to be world famous any day. I've really enjoyed working with her this past year, and I will find a way to put her in pretty much every film I make.


Bonus wife photo. This is one of the few film stills from a summer pregnancy shoot with Hannah at Lincoln Memorial Garden. How she was able to walk as far as we did and maintain her composure, I will never know. She's a beautiful person, and I can't wait to see her with a newborn.


By the end of the first paragraph I can completely recollect the smell of developing, as my Dad had a darkroom in our house when I was 3-5 yrs old. I love how the olfactory sneaks up on you with memories. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Aug 31, 2017, 7:59 P.M.

Love these, Dave! Hope you are doing well, my friend.

Aug 31, 2017, 8:16 P.M.

Just read this today:
You might enjoy.
PS I've got more of that ancient T-max laying around

Sep 1, 2017, 12:15 A.M.


Sep 1, 2017, 8:04 A.M.

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing

J Coffey
Sep 1, 2017, 4:28 P.M.