Film Photography

Portraits in a church basement

It’s funny how much I had to push up my courage to ask these people if I could take their portraits. I go to church with them; we know each other pretty well!

I shoot mostly old buildings and old cars because I like them. I like people, too, but they have feelings about being photographed that my usual subjects don’t. But my fellow congregants sure do enjoy it when I bring them prints of the portraits I make. And when I make their portraits I can speak with them as people far easier than I can otherwise.

So for our recent pitch-in lunch, I mounted a 50/1.4 onto my Pentax ME and loaded a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800. I set the lens to f/2, which I figured would give me the depth of field I wanted, and used the camera like a point-and-shoot.

This is Debra, a woman of few words but of vast faith. When I need prayer, I ask Debra first.


Meet Margaret. This is not my wife Margaret but one of the other two Margarets in our congregation. Our church is a Margaret-rich environment. This Margaret is an elder and has sung in our praise team (and in the choir that preceded it) since 1962.


Here’s Dawn, going to town carving a ham. We all come to church on our best behavior but I bet Dawn is quite ornery outside the church!


We had a guest preacher this Sunday, Nick, pictured here with his daughter whose name I didn’t catch.

Nick and daughter

Dave is a longtime member who at some point moved out to the suburbs. He drives in every Sunday.


Jenny and I had a moment of connection recently when she saw on Facebook that I’d been to the Anthrax concert. She was surprised that I even knew who Anthrax was. I project a pretty buttoned-down image.


We see Amber only sometimes. She’s a young adult making her way. Amber could well be the happiest person I’ve ever met. Every time I see her, anyway, she seems to be on the verge of rapturous joy.


Amber’s mother Rhonda is on the right, with her man Steve. They’re a great couple and seem to be good for each other.

Steve and Rhonda

I think these compositions are all right and I did get the depth of field I was looking for at f/2. I wish the colors were fuller, but I guess this is what you get shooting ISO 800 film. I had the processor make prints of these so I could give them out, and the prints have better color and less grain. It seems paradoxical, really — the lab made the prints from these scans.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.



Sons at diners photographed with box cameras

It was going to be a series: photos of my boys leaning on my car in front of various restaurants where we ate dinner. And I was going to use nothing but box cameras. Then I made just two photos. It’s not much of a series.

Boys at Waffle House

Ansco B-2 Cadet, Kodak Ektar 100, 2016

I suppose I could make more, eventually. But now that both boys are out of high school we’ll simply go out together a lot less often. And what are the odds I’ll have a loaded box camera then?

The boys at Perkins

Kodak Six-20, Kodak Verichrome Pan (exp 9/1982), 2016

The boys live near an Interstate highway, so the available restaurants are the chain diners you expect to find at an exit. I have a bunch of dietary restrictions which make ordering at a restaurant tricky. But I can always confidently order the bacon and eggs.

It so happens that I sent both rolls of film to Old School Photo Lab for processing. I didn’t order prints, but they printed these two images anyway and sent them to me for nothing. The prints are truly wonderful! Far better than these scans. Crisper, more vivid. If I didn’t tell you I took them with box cameras, you’d never know.

© 2016-17 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.

Like this post? Share it on social media with the buttons below! And subscribe to get more in your inbox or reader six days a week.    Click here to subscribe!

Garrett, waiting

Garrett, bored
Pentax ME, SMC Pentax 55mm f/1.8
Kodak T-Max 400

I shot this while we were waiting for his mom to pick him up. She was late, he was bored.

This photo is in my book, Exceptional Ordinary: Everyday Photography with the Pentax ME. If you enjoy this photo, you’ll surely enjoy the book, which you can purchase here.

© 2013-17 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

single frame: Garrett, bored



Life at 135mm

I had planned to spend 2014 shooting almost nothing but my Pentax ME. In preparation, I had been quietly buying K-mount lenses in various focal lengths, including one at 135mm. I’d made only a few photographs with a prime telephoto lens before, just fiddling around. I decided it was time to get serious.

Nikon F2ASBut then a Nikon F2AS walked into my life, followed quickly by a few Nikkor lenses. I immediately abandoned my K-mount plans and set about Nikoning. Most of my efforts this year have involved my 50mm f/2 and 55mm f/2.8 macro lenses, because they’re just great fun to use. Meanwhile, a 135mm f/3.5 lens patiently waited its turn. At last, late this summer I clipped it to the F2AS and loaded some Fujicolor 200.

But then I realized I had no idea what to do with this lens. I wasn’t used to seeing the world at 135mm! I aimed it at a bunch of stuff, including my new grill, and pressed the shutter button to see what happened.

My new grill

I’ve taken the F2AS on a lot of walks this year. I live pretty close to Indianapolis’s great Broad Ripple neighborhood, where I photographed this detail of a larger sculpture mural. One of my Flickr followers thinks he sees the 1970s advertising character from Quisp cereal in here; do you?


The Indiana Central Canal cuts through Broad Ripple. I stood on a pedestrian bridge next to College Avenue to photograph the canal and the 1906 concrete-arch bridge at Guilford Ave.


Margaret and I took an evening walk along Main St. in Zionsville and stopped for ice cream. I focused on the sign, but missed somehow. A few other shots on this roll suffered the same way — the in-focus area fell right behind what I thought I focused on. I had this and a few other photos printed to give to Margaret, and interestingly the sign lettering is as crisp as can be on the print.

You can't buy happiness

Dark clouds gathered while we walked, and shortly we were caught in a downpour. We waited it out on a bench under an awning. But I got this photo first.

Threatening sky

It appears to be conventional wisdom that 135mm is the focal length for portrait photography, and so naturally I gave it a try. It worked out fine.


I took this photo of Margaret at about the same time I schlepped my sons to the Target portrait studio for our annual sitting. I know the mass-market portrait mills are a roll of the dice, but we’ve had good luck at Target for years. But this year, even after making the photographer take us back into the studio four times to get it right, we still got wooden poses and plastic smiles. But now that I know I can do work like this, I think I’ll just photograph my sons at home from now on.