There’s something magical about the first roll developed in a new camera. The cathartic release of weeks (in this case, a month) of anxiety is almost unmatched (I don’t have kids though, so maybe that will top it). I started taking pictures on my girlfriend’s grandfather’s Pentax K1000 that had been sitting in her childhood bedroom for years – maybe there’s a story for another time! Since the first roll through that camera came back to me a year ago, I’ve experimented with different styles, film stocks, and succumbed to Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) as many other film shooters do. The camera with which I shot this project was a product of my newly-diagnosed GAS: an Olympus 35RC.
I had been reading about rangefinder cameras for weeks. Without the budget for a Leica, I was intrigued by the Olympus 35 series of compact rangefinders. Simple controls? Check! Automatic exposure settings? Check (for some)! A gorgeous Zuiko lens? Supreme check! I had scrolled through 35mmc and eventually eBay to learn more about them. I landed on a listing for a light meter inoperative Olympus 35RC for only $30 USD. This seemed reasonable and like a good time to learn how to manually meter a scene. Weeks later, I received the camera and found the original mercury battery still nested inside the camera (I’m a Gen-Z-er so naturally I licked the battery!) I replaced it with a Weincell battery as per internet-scholar research and contrary to the seller’s notion, the light meter worked perfectly!
I still hadn’t a clue how to “test” a new camera so in my brilliance, I shot a lot of pictures of family and landscapes; all pictures that would have devastated me if they were casualties of faulty shutter speeds or light leaks. By the grace of the Mamiyamigos above, the roll came back with (nearly) perfectly exposed images (focusing and composition, on the other hand…). It was a satisfying challenge; line up the images in the viewfinder and nail the exposure. The 42mm f2.8 Zuiko lens rendered the scenes gorgeously; I need to experiment with this lens more! After that test roll, my attention was drawn back to the Pentax and an Olympus Om-1 I snagged from a thrift store and the 35RC sat on my shelf with a look of longing.
Months and rolls of film have passed since then and in February, I decided to embark on a “1-photo a day” project. Initially, the camera and film choice alluded me, yet after some thinking, I decided to go with the 35RC. Its portability, shutter-priority, and easy focusing made it a clear standout for the job. Additionally, I had been trying to experiment with black and white and had grown to love HP5+. This pairing could handle the dreary Western New York winter well. And so, from February 1st to March something-th, I took a photo almost everyday. I focused on geometry and lighting that caught my eyes while trying to capture a snap-shot of everyday life.
Without further adieu, here’s the whole roll of HP5+ through my Olympus 35RC. All pictures were developed and scanned by Reformed Film Lab in Ormond Beach, Florida.
The results of the project were mostly positive! I was pleasantly surprised with a lot of the photos (the chair in front of the window is my favorite from the roll!) I love how HP5+ handles the balance between highlight, midtones, and shadows (especially when pushed 2 stops, but this whole roll was rated at box speed, ISO 400). The shots of the frozen bay were a mixed bag. I can’t decide if I like the harshness of them or if it’s not for me. I certainly, however, missed focus just enough for softness across the frame.
I learned a lot about my process of photography throughout this project. I enjoyed slowing down when I came across architecture, lighting, or a composition that pleased me. I think there’s a beauty in slowing down to examine the elements of our environment. I too often move through spaces as if I’m competing in a speed run (I certainly would have the any% speedrun record at my local Aldi!) There are infinite interesting compositions to be analyzed every day. Projects such as this one have helped me practice slowing down, looking around, and injecting some intentionality into my photography (and daily life, broadly). Not to overly generalize, but I think this is a skill a lot of people in Gen-Z are beginning to realize; look towards the discourse surrounding other analog mediums such as vinyl records and physical zines.
I carry a camera with me everyday now, though that spot has gone to a hand-me-down Leica Mini Zoom. The Olympus 35RC still sees some action and its lessons have informed my workflow overall. Maybe I’ll do another project like this again in a few years when my compositional eye is a little bit sharper. Overall, I found much more beauty in everyday life when I gazed through the camera’s little viewfinder.
Thanks for reading! You can find me on Instagram and, well, just Instagram for now!
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