Usually when I load a roll of film, I try to finish it that day or trip, or shortly thereafter. Partially because I am impatient, which is an interesting quality for a film photographer, but also because best practices teach that you finish and develop a roll as soon as possible once you’ve shot it. Fresh, properly stored film = crisper, accurately exposed and saturated pictures,
I try not to focus too much on creating perfect images when I’m shooting. I find that doing that— trying to replicate an image I saw online or worrying about which lens I should have on-- pulls me out of the moment that I'm trying to capture. One thing I love about film is that it’s kind of messy. A lot can go wrong with film, so it feels great when even most of it goes right. Almost all of my favorite pictures I’ve taken were unplanned— some of them are blurry, some are a little blown out, some were taken 1/2 a second after people stopped looking at the camera.
Probably my favorite camera to shoot with is my Olympus PEN EE. It’s a half frame camera, which means you get 72 exposures on a regular 36 exposure roll of film. If you ask film processing labs, they’ll scan the frames individually, but I love seeing the frames side by side. I think about pairing photos when I’m shooting, and since the PEN is a literal point and shoot, it’s pretty easy to capture the same moment from two different perspectives in seconds. Kitsch factor aside, most photography purists will discount the PEN since it splits the lowest quality film format in half. (When I called my favorite local camera shop to ask if they had one in stock, the sales associate’s response was— Why do you want that? The image quality sucks.)
He’s not wrong. There are no controls— no focus, no light meter, no zoom, nada. You just set the ISO (100 or 200), look through a tiny viewfinder, point and shoot. You CAN override and use manual mode if you want, but I never do. Shooting a slower film limits the light conditions that you can shoot in, so the PEN is generally limited to sunny, outdoor stuff. Because the PEN isn’t designed to capture perfectly crisp images in the first place, I tend to let film sit in it longer than my other cameras.
I recently got a roll from the PEN developed that I started in August and finished in November. It had a bike ride at the beach, my best friend's birthday, a trip to a brewery, a Dodger game, and a road trip to the Desert on it. My summer in one roll of film. Not all of the images are stunning, or even notable. But they are full of faces and places that I love, and together they tell a story that is sometimes blurry, a little bit of a mess, and never, ever perfect.