A revived adventure in film photography

My new (to me) Canon AE-1 Program

My new (to me) Canon AE-1 Program

Going back to an old hobby

In high school, I was in love with film photography. I was lucky enough to attend a high school that offered it. My teacher, Mr. B, was lax but had so much wisdom to impart if you leaned in and really cared about class. The darkroom wasn't state-of-the-art, or really even up-to-date at all. But that didn't matter.

I took refuge in that darkroom. The odd makeshift revolving door became my time to take a breath, to walk through and forget about everything else. My world was just the the developer, stop, fix. My world was limited to the negatives, the photos I was developing. Seeing the world I captured on film come back to life.

I got lost in those photos. Print after print, following the process to a T. The process of developing photos isn't really as difficult as some might imagine. All you have to do is following the process. Enlarge, position, test, develop, stop, fix, wash, hang, repeat. 

High school isn't easy, at least it wasn't for me. My world felt chaotic, but the darkroom made sense. The darkroom was easy. 

Canon AE-1 Program with Canon FD 50mm 1:1.8 lens

Canon AE-1 Program with Canon FD 50mm 1:1.8 lens

So I decided to get back into film

I never totally stopped my foray into photography, but after high school, I went digital with the advances in photography and without access to a darkroom. I love digital photography as well, but for me, it's not the same. Yes, instant gratification is nice, but's it's not the same. 

I still had a film SLR along with my DSLR, but unfortunately a scratch on the sensor took it out of commission a few years back (although I still shot a few rolls off it occasionally knowing there'd be an unfortunate mark). So one night, Amazon beckoned my name and I searched to see if my high-school 'affordable dream' camera was available. To my luck, I saw a seemingly good condition Canon AE-1 Program that wasn't expensive at all. Clicked buy, stalked the film available on Amazon, and a week-ish (and some package drama) later, I was in heaven.

Why the Canon AE-1 Program?

The Canon AE-1 Program is a single-lens reflex camera that was introduced in 1981 as the successor to the AE-1 from 5 years earlier. The crucial piece of the AE-1 Program though was Canon's new Program AE mode, which sets the aperture and shutter speed automatically. It is still only manual focus. This drew many more to SLR photography as it allowed those newer to understanding photography to take decent photos without having to understand aperture and shutter speed as intimately.  However, the AE-1 Program shutter priority auto-exposure and full manual modes, for those well versed. 

Shutter speed is limited to 2 s to 1/1000 s (as it retained the same electromagnet-controlled cloth-curtain shutter), ISO 12 to 3200, exposure metering EV1 to EV18 @ ASA 100, flash hot shoe with synchronization of 1/60 s. It uses Canon FD mount lenses.

back of Canon AE-1 Program

back of Canon AE-1 Program

So why the Canon AE-1 Program if I shoot manual and not the Priority AE mode? Well, partially nostalgia as I remember someone dear to me talking about this camera, and partially because I had seen gorgeous photos shot of this camera. 

What film did I choose?

Slightly limited by budget for film (as the Kodak Portra 400 I was eyeing was floating around 50 dollars a pack on Amazon) I went with Kodak UltraMax 400 and the classic FujiFilm 200 to start with. As I first get back into film I plan on sticking to cheaper film until I feel 'back into the swing' of the whole thing. 

Are you developing yourself?

While there are options here in Seattle to rent time/space to develop myself, I've decided to start just back at the beginning. I'm going to focus on the process of taking the photos this time around. 

In Seattle there are several local options to get my photos developed and scanned, so I am lucky enough not to have to send them away through an online service.

Interested in film?

Stick around as I continue my journey back into the world of film photography with my Canon AE-1 Program. I dropped my first roll of film off last night, and I can't wait to share how the photos turned out.