Category Archives: Film

Film And Burning Man…A Match Made In Heaven

If you look at the history or say the arc of Burning Man you will find some similarity to the arc of Photography and my business in particular. In and around 1990 I began to have employees asking for extended time off around the Labor Day weekend.  These were not mere requests, they were DEMANDS.  Like, “I’m going to Burning Man Dave, if my job is here when I get back that would be great, if not so be it.”   At this point I am already 30 years old and really not interested in what I saw as rolling around in the dirt on Ecstasy. I’ve never been a naked outdoor dude as I prefer to get naked in private.  I also hate hot weather.  However, as a person who attended hundreds of Grateful Dead concerts in my early twenties, I felt some empathy ( however ignorant!) for the event.  Time off granted. Go nuts.

The amazing thing about the early years of Burning Man is that it yielded thousands of rolls of film for me to develop and print. The event quickly became our biggest photo processing time of the year.  Bags upon bags of dusty rolls of film to process and print.  All the same photos really, almost like you could give the same set of pictures out and no one would really know the difference.

As the event grew to the epic scale it is today, photography began to change over to digital and we began to get a bit nervous.  Each year more people came to the desert, but we processed less film.  I remember going to a dinner party and some guy said to me that I should sell my business because everything was now “digies.”  I sort of took this as a wake up call, and we slowly made the plunge in to the new world, upgrading our equipment to deal with these freaking “digies”  I still hate that word and the whole vernacular associated with the event, but that’s my problem.

We always kept the the film thing going because it’s just who we are at heart.  Ironically, people soon realized that digital camera sensors do not take kindly to sandstorms.  Fast forward ten years if I may, and we are in an age of retro photography where film is once again cool. The phrase “film is not dead” can be seen on t shirts, and all the hipsters use toy cameras. And it’s not just the hipsters shooting film, it’s everywhere.  I’m selling Polaroid/Impossible Project film to a new generation of Burning Man Photographers.

Lomography is the corporate arm of toy film photography, and some have said that Burning Man has on some level developed a corporate structure. I have no facts here, I can only say that it costs money to attend so there must be someone fiscally responsible.   I say it’s a perfect match (sorry)…Alternative lifestyle if you will, meets alternative photography.   I know I will see plenty of Instagrams of you Burners doin’ your thing, but hope I see plenty of dusty film canisters too, and it goes without saying that if you work at Photoworks and want to attend the festival….time off is granted.

Hope there is some film down there.

Tagged , , ,

Kodachrome, Get Over It………

I thought it would be nice to ring in the new year with a bit of sarcasm , so here goes.  The current big topic in the photography world is the  demise of Kodachrome film.  The last processing option ( a mail order lab in Kansas) eliminated it’s kodachrome service as of 12/31/2010.  Is it the end of an era?  Well actually it’s been over for quite some time.  At best, it’s been tough to find the stuff, and with only one option for processing, Kodachrome has been dying a slow death for years.  Kinda reminds me of qualudes in the 70’s.  Looks great, feels great, makes me think of being all warm and fuzzy.

In the last month  friends have forwarded me all of the “woe is me” articles from photo mags and even the New York Times.  People I have not seen in years are writing me on Facebook about this tragedy.  I like to think about the last few photographers shooting that “final” roll.  Steve McCurry of National Geographic apparently shot the last roll, and his final 36 will go to some Kodak museum for permanent display.  Man, I hope they have armed guards protecting the slides because I know some photo geeks that might risk their lives to have those slides.  Not to mention the pressure on old Steve, what if he overexposes or doesn’t take the lens cap off?

So, the mourning has begun.  Well I say it’s time to move on people.  You still have Velvia and Extachrome.  Don’t get me wrong, I am the king of the digital dart board, and if Kodak starts taking away other films then I will take to the streets, start a riot and burn down the Ritz Camera store.

Kodachrome films have made for some of our most memorable and treasured images, and the nostalgia factor looms large.  I miss my Dad, but I’m grateful for the boxes and boxes of  slides that he left behind.  Maybe some day, someone will figure out how to bring back Kodachrome, like they did with Polaroid.  Yes, a naive notion to be sure.  So let’s put those slides somewhere safe, and keep a fresh bulb in your projector.  It’s only over if you let it be over.

Happy 2011.


“makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah.”

Tagged , ,

I Shoot Film Because It Doesn’t Shoot Back

I was browsing through Flickr and I came across this cool photographer,   In his bio he writes, “I shoot film because it doesn’t shoot back.”   I don’t know if the phrase inspired me or if I’m pleased to see another bald guy with a film camera.  Nonetheless, I wish to expand on Rhetts’ notion.  I will try and avoid quoting from the ” I hate digital handbook.”  I’m a photographer who doesn’t want to know.  I’d rather find out later if what I shoot is worth a damn.  The immediacy of digital is of little interest to me.  It’s like an unwrapped Christmas gift.  Seeing my results right away would influence the process for me, make me adjust my thinking instead of working with instinct and some basic knowledge.  It would almost be like having someone looking over my shoulder with critique or unworthy praise.

Please do not write me and say that I am an old school dork.  I get the obvious merits of digital photography, and the amazing images that are being shot every second around the world speak volumes.  I just prefer to meander about, taking one shot an hour, maybe it takes a week to go through a roll of film.  I’d rather not be confronted with hundreds of sunset photos hoping for one good image.  I usually get at least one winner for every twelve exposures.  I am also a pacifist, and I like the non threatening nature of analog photography.   Ooops, I think I just implied that digital scares me.

How silly is that?

one out of twelve ain't bad

Tagged , , , , ,

Ain’t No Sunshine

I’ve lived in the SF/Bay Area for 30 years, most of my adult life.  I love it, but I will never get used to the dreary summers.  I’m glad I don’t live in the heat and humidity of the East Coast, that would suck, but man the fog is bringing me down.  I feel like a need a vitamin D shot or a tanning booth.  I have no circulation, the plants are not growing, and there ain’t no lovin’. My dog is refusing to be walked.  Anyone else in a foul mood?  I shot a roll of black and white film over the weekend.  I used a yellow filter to help with the grey day, but my photos still look bleak.  I also shot a roll of color and my photos came out black and white.  This summer is especially foggy, even more so down on the coast where I live.  I feel like Khan from Star Trek having been banished to a dead planet.

Yes, fog can be nice, keeps everybody cool, there is less crime, but drinking tea huddled next to the heater in August is not normal.  I saw where this is the coldest summer since 1972.  I check the forecast and it’s “fog and low clouds, fog and low clouds.”   It’s concerning because I’m putting on a picture taking class this month.  The supply list goes something like, bring camera, tripod, and film.  I guess I’ll need to add, blankets, parka, and a thermos of hot cocoa.

Bundle up, it’s summertime.

socked in


Tagged , , , , , ,