basic photography: 5 of 15

Curious about the structure of film? If so, here’s your crash course. Film has 5 layers:

  • Top coat – this is a hard gelatin that protects the light sensitive particles.
  • Emulsion – is the layer that contains the light sensitive particles. This layer is very brittle, and relies on the subbing to keep it together.
  • Subbing – as mentioned above, this layer, also a gelatin, adheres the emulsion to the support layer.
  • Support – is the transparent plastic/acetate that is strong and flexible so film can be curled or twisted.
  • Anti-halation backing – is a coating on the film back that prevents light from reflecting off the camera back and back into the film. You wouldn’t want shadows or halos, would you? I didn’t think so!

Film has three characteristics that can either help or hinder your ability to capture a great photograph:

  • Film speed – is how sensitive the film is to light, and is designated by the ISO. High speed would be anything at ISO 200+. These are best for use in dim situations because they pick up light faster and is more sensitive. Medium speed ranges from 64-200, therefore, low speed would be lower than 64. The choice for low speed would be best suited for bright situations, as the film is less sensitive.
  • Grain – is the visible clumping together of the silver particles. A higher ISO = larger grain = loss of sharpness. The lower the ISO = finer/smaller grain = sharper image.
  • Contrast – is the range of dark and light tones that the film is capable of getting. The greater the range, the better the photograph!

Now, what’s with a latent image? A latent image is a hidden image, or the image on the film before it is developed.

And reciprocity failure? The longer the film is exposed to light, the less sensitive the film becomes to the light (Applicable in very low light situations).

The rest of class was spent creating proof sheets, both test proofs and proper proofs. We got to see our images come to life for the first time, and it was awesome! Of course, after completing this, I decided to develop my next trial roll at f/16 and f/11. As mentioned, neither of them worked, so I had a serious decision to make. Either I get my camera fixed or I get a new camera. Here’s how it went down …

Get camera fixed …
I love this camera. It’s a circa 1980 Canon AE-1 Program, and was originally my aunt’s. It’s easy to use and, to me, beautiful. There is, however, a drawback. You see, this camera takes only old-style lenses. Fine for now, but if I continue in the program, I’m certainly going to need more lenses than just this one. More lenses = expense. Argh. Thinking in present terms, this is the cheaper option of the two.

Buy a new camera …
Well, hello!? Why not, dum-dum? Eh, do I really need another camera, and a film one, at that? On one condition … it accepts the new electronic lenses. I immediately embarked on a mission to price new and used models manufactured within the past 10 years. I decided I didn’t want to spend $200+ on a brand new camera. It’s film, and to me, it’s just not worth it. While I do see myself using it from time to time, I won’t use it that much. I found a few older models on Craigslist and eBay, and finally decided on a Canon EOS Elan IIe, which I purchased for $55. For my purpose, it’s sweet! The best part, however, is that I can use all but one of the lenses in my existing assemblage, which means more flexibility and much less expense in the end. Yay!

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