I got three rolls of film processed today, and have been sobbing ever since. Why? Because only 17% of the shots came out. You might say it's my own fault for using film in a digital world, but you're wrong.
I guess it is my fault, though. While I've been using Lomography's toy cameras for a few years, I recently sprung for an LC-A+ camera, which is pretty steep at $US250 for something that takes deliberately saturated/wonky/messed-up photos. Getting the odd roll of under/overexposed film back is part and parcel of shooting non-digitally, and admittedly adds to the rollercoaster of emotions Lomographers face with their dinky little cameras. But almost three rolls of film, blank? THREE ROLLS OF PHOTOS FROM THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD, GONE?!
You can see why I've been blubbing away as if I just found out there won't be a tomorrow.
The LC-A cameras take either LR44/SR44 or A76 batteries. Supposedly the former are good for around nine rolls of film, but the latter (as I've just learnt) are notorious for not holding their charge. I'd shot just one and a half rolls of film using the GPA76 batteries that my LC-A+ had come bundled with, before they died and rendered my camera useless.
I guess I just forgot that there's an easy way to tell when the batteries need changing. It's a new camera, and I just didn't think the batteries would run out so quickly, so ignored the fact that the tiny red light on the left-side of the viewfinder had disappeared. I merrily went about my way, shooting on some lovely (and expensive) X-PRO Chrome film over the Christmas period...only to receive 19 shots back today. Most of them with their colour and lighting way-off, as the batteries had already started their decline. In fact, the only shot I semi-like in the collection is the one below, of some man I encountered in a little seaside village, holding a pet rabbit. I wonder if he's related to our Jason Chen?
Sure, I'm peeved about the money (the three rolls of film cost me £18/$US28, plus processing was £27/$US42), but it's the lost memories which have upset me most. I'm lucky my husband was shooting on our Canon DSLR over Christmas, but anyone who shoots film will know it's just not the same.
And so, I finish my regret-tinged little rant with a word of warning for new LC-A+ owners: don't use the GPA76 batteries the camera comes bundled with, and buy yourself some SR44 batteries instead. While my story is sad, I'm sure there are plenty of worse stories out there from photographers who forgot to change their batteries on their wedding day, or like this Flickr user, didn't realise his camera was broken before shooting off five rolls of unreplaceable photos.
In fact, all photographers going out tonight to celebrate the dawn of another new year should heed my advice: don't forgot to check your cameras. Whether that's by charging up your cellphone; checking your digital camera has enough memory left, or checking there's film in your rusty old clicker, don't start the new year with regret over a foolish mistake.