Let it Develop 365 Challenge

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of podcasts. As I mentioned a few posts back, I’ve been a guest a number of times on the Shuttertime With Sid and Mac photography podcast, heck I even co-host my own podcast called digitalSoup! Of course since I’m so involved with podcasting it means I also listen to a lot of different podcasts and one of the more recent ones I’ve added to my “Must Listen” list over the last 8 months has been the Against the Grain podcast. It’s a terrific show in which 4 excellent photographers discuss their primary photographic passion, film photography.  Go check it out if you haven’t already, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Anyhow, as you may also know, I am primarily a digital camera guy. My Fuji X series cameras are rarely far from my fingertips and I absolutely love using them. That being said, every now and then I like to pull out an old Nikon FA 35mm film camera I picked up for cheap a few years back and I’ll shoot a roll of film just for something a little different. Usually I shoot just some of the really inexpensive Fuji Superia400 that I can pick up at my local Walmart at a rate of about $13 for four rolls of 24 exposures. Like I said, it’s kind of just for something fun and to challenge myself a little bit.

Late last winter I shot a test roll after reading an article about that particular film and how when treated properly it actually really can shine. So I proceeded to shoot this roll while completely messing up the instructions the article had given. I still ended up with a handful of images that turned out okay but there were a number of them where I severely over-exposed. The article stated that when this film was treated as being over exposed by 1 to 2 stops the film actually has some beautiful colors. SO me not thinking clearly set my exposure compensation to +1, then dialed in the ISO/ASA on the camera to just 200(-1 stop under the box speed), then metered solely for the shadows in spot metering mode, THEN FINALLY when I sent it off to the lab I gave them instructions to Push the film in development by 1 stop….I know I know…I REALLY messed it up. Which is why it’s a miracle anything even remotely decent came out of that roll! Have a look and you’ll see what I mean.

As you can see, add in the harsh lighting conditions and super contrasty scenes with a lot of snow and I kind of messed up big time. But we should always continue to learn and somehow I did manage to get a few out of this roll that turned out decent. Here is most of the rest of that roll. I’ve held back a couple as they were just kind of duplicate photos of the same scene and also those magical couple of frames that happen each time you load the roll of film. They may be a project of their own lol.

Nothing super spectacular there, but all things considered, I was decently pleased with the results. Especially as I had totally botched things on my side of it and so huge kudos to the awesome folks over at The FINDlab for salvaging these and giving me feedback on where I had gone wrong!

Well, fast forward to early August and I happened to find a really good deal on another lens for my Nikon FA. I had been using it paired only with a 35mm f/2 lens I had kept when I sold off all my Nikon gear and made the switch to Fuji X series. But I stumbled across an old Nikon 75-150 f/3.5 Series E lens for super cheap and so I picked it up and on the drive down to pick it up I listened to the episode from Against the Grain that talked about their Let it Develop project. You can find out more about it by clicking the link I’ve provided. Basically it’s a 365 photo project, kind of. There are no hard and fast rules saying you have to take a new photo every single day, rather you shoot as often or as little as you want. You pick a theme for the year to shoot, if you want. You can use a specific camera/lens combo or just use whatever you feel like. The goal of the project however is to shoot film over the course of the year and not get any of the film developed until the year is up. The original name they had for it was the “No Peek” challenge and when I heard them talking about it I started thinking….always a dangerous thing.

After a few conversations with the amazing Cody Priebe from Against the Grain he convinced me to join them and I soon found myself signed up on the website.


I had just picked up that new lens and really wanted to test it out anyways and now I had to get ready for this project I signed up for. I figured I’d try to shoot another test roll, this time without messing up the settings like last time, and see how this new(to me) lens performed before the challenge started on Sept. 1st. But I still had no idea what I was going to do for a theme for the next year.


This test roll came back much better. I set the exposure compensation to +1 stop, ASA/ISO to box speed of 400, metered for the shadows and let The FINDLab process the film normally. This got me much closer to the results I was hoping for and I think the only thing I will change is to not meter so heavily in the shadows, or at the least just be a little more careful when shooting backlit subjects. All in all, I am pretty pleased with the scans from this second test roll. Let’s take a look!

So the big question now that it is September 5th already, what exactly am I going to do with this project. I know just a couple things for sure about my approach to the project. *First – I will shoot it all on my Nikon FA and use probably the 75-150 for most of it. I may switch to the 35mm occasionally though.
*Second – I will shoot at least one photo of my two children each week. (One photo of each of them) I’d like it to be a more candid moment when they are cheesy mugging for the camera if possible, but since they are both youngsters I’ll take what I can get!
*Third – I’m debating on if I want to do just the 2 photos per week or if I want to do actually about 5 photos per week. If I do 5 photos per week I will do 1 photo of each of my kids individually and then some sort of photo with my wife and the kids. That leaves me 2 more photos to shoot just the random nature/landscape/everyday exploration type of photos that I normally do.
*Fourth – I have 9 rolls of film in my possession. 3 rolls of Fuji 400H, 3 rolls of Fuji Superia400 and 3 rolls of Kodak Portra400. I am starting with 1 roll of Portra 400 and will likely stick with that through the Autumn season and then maybe do a roll of Fuji 400H next over the start of winter.
*Fifth – I really need to figure out some kind of system for keeping track of the photos. I’m thinking a super detailed journal with date/subject/time of day/exposure info and film stock. Should be interesting to learn from it going back through it next year.

Don’t worry though, I’m still going to be shooting my digital Fuji’s and I won’t be waiting a year to look at those. However I do think there is value in letting your photos sit for a bit after you take them, just long enough so that your immediate emotional attachment to the photograph has faded. This allows you to look at your photos more objectively and see what is working and what isn’t. This challenge should be a really interesting retrospective, especially to see how my kids change over the course of a year.

I can’t wait to see what I manage to come up with and more than anything I hope I don’t mess everything up and end up with blank rolls of film!


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