Film By the Roll: Black and White.


One of our most gratifying new benefits that we’ve been offering since last year is our film by the roll – it rocks! Basically, Katherine and I love the feel, sound, and and smells of good ol’ black and white film and manual cameras (and oh, Katherine is more of a fan of color but we’re going to focus on B&W for this post), so we put that passion into shooting individual rolls of film for art loving couples.

Film is how we both started, Katherine in high school shooting her sister’s yearbook portrait, and me in sixth grade on a field trip to “Ferry Beach,” a New Hampshire thing, photographing a sunrise while sitting on a log on the beach with my friends. It’s also what I use to shoot 100% of my own fine art work and where the foundation of all my photographic training came from – be it from a fine art university darkroom, on assignment for a daily newspapers, or behind the lens at a wedding.  The cameras themselves just feel more tactile – harkening some mystic photo energy from the masters of the past and providing a no-excuse high knowledge of technique to make the image sing.  One huge difference, is film’s exposure latitude, meaning that you can still get highlights and shadows to be friends in a scene together.  Much of the time with digital it’s either one or the other.  Another cool benefit?  Much less contrast!  This gives the photographer more room to play with exactly what they want to do with the tones in the future.


A server brings water to and fro.

A server delivers water from the triangle to the square at a wedding reception at The Newagen Seaside Inn in Boothbay Harbor, ME.


What happens when we shoot by the roll? First, we have a couple who digs the look and feel of film, that values creativity and it’s path of floating enigma.  They coin us to generally shoot two or three rolls during their wedding, in addition to our digital capture.  So far, I’ve been the one shooting most of the time, in black and white.  When Katherine is behind the wheel, she’s zapping away with some sweet color portrait film… YEAH KODAK PORTRA 400NC!  We shoot the specified number of rolls, with developing and sweet standard sized contact sheets thrown in by our master printer Paul Sneed in the darkroom.  The cool part about having the images on a contact sheet style layout is the photographer’s thoughts throughout a scene can be observed through the succession of light, people, and angles saved in the images.

Additionally, we love coupling some of our Uniquely Helios products with these rolls, offering our unique 16×20 Industrial Helios Sheets (future post… think GIANT matted and backed contact sheet) or museum quality silver gelatin prints toned in selenium or GOLD by our master printer in the darkroom.  So far, our couples have been ectsatic and love the results.  More than this, we love the results.  Could this trend of shooting more film be gaining momentum in the future???  You “betcha.”


A rose poses for a portrait in Winchester Town Hall in Winchester, MA.

Amazing rose, perfect background, perfect light - the perfect storm!


What I like most about it is that there is no motor drive… no auto exposure… no auto anything. I shoot with 70’s era tank-ish Nikons with modest lenses, a light meter, and good ol’ know how from experience to get the shots.  Good saved moments come about by way of knowledge and preparing for the lucky strike.  To see and prepare for exciting moments relies on noticing the rise and fall of a scene.  Much like watching a play, there are tell tale signs of people, light, and energy coming together that will build into a peak moment when everything seems to strike slow motion, come togetheeerr, and fllllloooooooaaaaattttttt *SNAP* then whip back into real time again.  Sort of like the football flick “Any Given Sunday” when real-time and slow motion moments are danced together in a scene down the football field.  Which reminds me, the more posts I write on this here blog, the more movie quotes and references you will be likely to see.  And sports – I grew up playing sports every season, for about ten years in a row.

There’s a slower pace when shooting all manual in film. I have to stress though, that this slow part is for the actual “shooting” only (the pressing of the little magic button) when that split-second slow motion time drums in.  Besides that, the heat is on!

Flipping to film is when everything is tested, and I take it as a challange to produce some great stuff by fighting the obstacles. You feel like every image has to count… which they really do because every frame is money and time and also brings you one step closer to finishing the roll, which means spooling the little crank with a road runner hand, and switching out the rolls, while sweating to do it fast enough to not miss a possible shot.  Why do this to yourself Doug?  I say, without the panic, where would the reward be?  I think it adds to it… the whole situation has your mind racing to figure out what’s an important shot (either for us or them) and to calculate the shrinking number of those so that you end the roll at exactly the time that there is a lull in front of the camera.

Black and white seems to be the natural choice for me because it breaks down the image strength to the core – emotion and design. If it doesn’t ring with these, then the image flops and feels like a broken noise-maker at Tommy’s seventh birthday party.  You feel it, or rather, you don’t, pretty immediate.  Also, we can concentrate mainly on expression and light, always paying close attention to the forms of the scene within the overall design.  With color (and yes, I do love shooting color at certain times)  I’d be thinking about the color of light constantly and how that will translate to the image, and also striving to use color as a design element.  So far, sticking to black & white capture for my side of film by the roll has proved rewarding in every way, so it makes sense to continue the tradition for now.  This is unless you want a roll or ten taken by me specifically in color in the Maldivesare you getting married in the Maldives?  Please say yes.


A historic kiss at Edna Valley Vineyard during a wedding reception.

Lindsay surprises Luke with a choreographed dance with her bridesmaids on the grounds of Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, CA. Emotion and design!


Please explore our black & white film by the roll image gallery below and clicking on images to make them bigger and sharper.

In closing, I think I’ll quote a great mind of the twentieth century by saying “It’s too damn hot for penguins to just be walkin’ around.”

*** Care to comment?  Know which flick the quote is from?  We’d love to hear about an experience you had with us shooting film by the roll!  Also, what stories do you have after shooting with your own old school fully manual cameras and good ol’ fashioned film?