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March 2014 Newsletter

Film photography – sticking to the basics

Scan 1Last summer, camper John C. and I worked in the darkroom to develop his first roll of film. We had limited time and I was trying to rush a chemical process. The chemicals were too warm and the film developed far too quickly. The roll of film came out so overdeveloped and dense that it was ruined; just blackness. John never saw the images on his first roll of film and he never will. In a digital world where photographs are instant, easy, and lower quality, the disappointment of never seeing highly anticipated, thoughtful work is never an issue.

Scan 11At Forest Lake Camp we are intentional, all summer we set goals and choose the activities that we are interested in. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately”. This is why film photography is so important; each ‘click’ of the shutter is thought-out. There are 36 exposures on the roll of film, that’s it. Learning to take a good photograph begins with the notion that you don’t have unlimited chances to get the right shot.  After shooting a roll of film, the film is opened in complete darkness in the FLC Darkroom(located in science) and wound onto reels and placed in containers where chemicals can enter but light cannot.  The wet negative hangs overnight in our traditional darkroom as campers leave excited to return the next day to see what they have captured.

The real magic comes next. We blast light through a small 35mm negative in the enlarger, which projects a cast of the image onto a large piece of paper. Like a negative, the paper has no image until it is processed in chemicals. Through the dim red photographic safe-lighting, we place this seemingly plain paper into the developer. Slowly, the picture you imagined all that time ago appears on the paper!

Camp is the perfect place to return back to basics and black and white photography is a great reminder of that!

Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the fathers of modern photography, took candid “street” portraits across the world. He believed that one should only ‘click’ the shutter release when all the elements of a photograph had come together. Just capturing life for what it is and sharing it. This is what we will work to achieve in the darkroom at camp this summer.


*Parents, you can help support the new film photography program by donating old cameras you may have or sending campers with their own 35 mm film camera and film, this will allow more campers to enjoy the darkroom. Contact us at [email protected] to help.

*Campers, if you are interested in photography, come ready to learn about the darkroom. Be prepared to learn AND take home black and white memories from your 2014 summer at FLC!                                                                – Olivia Ridge