Film and Loathing in Oceanside, OR
A camera from 1988, an ’85 BMW, a Porsche from 1980, and a rental beach house from the 70s: if you ignored the smartphones, it could have been a postcard image of yuppies enjoying success in 1989.
Last month, on a trip-within-a-trip, some friends and I headed to the Oregon coast. Daniel Sloan brought his BMW 325 E30, Chris Nguyen joined as a co-driver, and I had my 911SC (currently stored at Daniel’s house).
This post could have been about this mini-vacation, about driving and enjoying a beautiful region of the Pacific Northwest in dumb old cars. But instead I’m going to focus on my decision to bring my [Giugiaro-designed] Nikon F4 along instead of a digital camera.
I am once again humbled by my lack of control and skill with film. This was a roll of Kodak Portra 400. None of these photos are offensively bad, but everything is just a bit duller than I was hoping for. When you develop a roll, you always hope to find a ‘good surprise’ somewhere — something you couldn’t have achieved without film. It’s a letdown when every image is, instead, a bit disappointing compared to what you had envisioned weeks earlier when shooting the roll.
- Some locations didn’t work at all, so I left them out — such as under trees on a sunny afternoon. Weird, dull colors, spotty shadows. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not this.
- In the sunny scenes, where I think the colors came out best, the chromatic aberration — that magenta fringing effect — is really noticeable.
- The film grain isn’t …nice… or creamy. Instead, it looks like the Noise filter in Photoshop.
- A lot of times, the thing I thought I was focusing on isn’t in focus. On previous rolls I shot in Egypt, I thought the lens on my Nikon F4 was soft, but this is a different lens, and it isn’t any better. 🤷♂️
I fault myself and my expectations, not the film. I’m completely spoiled by digital — being able to see, and adjust, and know what I’m capturing in the moment. I’m not panning the entire medium of film here!
I complained a bunch, but it was nice to carry the film camera on a short vacation trip and leave everything else behind. I’m sure someday, looking back, I’ll be happy I have these unique images, which will stand out from all the endless digital stuff I’ve taken in 2023.