Persistence (52frames: roll of film)

by Lee Santiva May. 08, 2020 280 views
Roll of black & white film

Roll of black & white film

You may have guessed it, yes, I've fallen into a slump these past weeks.

Somehow I have lost all enthusiasm for photography, as if I had been transporting it in a basket on the back of my bicycle and it fell out and by the time I noticed, it was gone and I had no idea where to go to look for it.

I took my camera with me when I walked through the woods and captured Soft for week 17 but mostly I couldn't find any inspiration.

Soft sommer air

Soft sommer air

Then I started skipping challenges, I had no inspiration, there was no creativity and I was disappointed in my results and then resignation: if it wasn't any good, then I don't need to even bother.

This week I read this: "If you can push through the dip - if you can keep putting in the work even when it feels like you're going nowhere - you can achieve extraordinary results." (*1)

So when this weeks challenge "Roll of Film" was posted in 52frames I recognized this was the "back to the roots" type of "deliberate practice" I needed right now.

The theory of deliberate practice is to perform an activity in a highly structured way in order to practice of one sub-skill required for your goal.(*3)

The challenge is to shoot as if you had an analog camera with one roll of film. No practice shots, no redos, just shoot however many exposures you had on your "film". This meant you had to be much more careful in setting up the shot, thinking through your settings and framing your composition.

The digital advantage is that I can perform simulations and see the results before I release the shutter. Once I finally had the inspiration for photo #1 - what I was going to capture - the roll of film - I spent about one hour setting it up, composing, simulating and then I released the shutter. Done with one click. I didn't even need a whole roll of film.

Analog photography

Analog photography

I remember living this challenge when I first started with photography over 30 years ago. Each photo had a significant cost associated with it: the cost of buying the film, getting it developed or paying for time & materials in the darkroom to develop it myself, paying for prints or again paying for time & materials to make my own enlargements.

Thus, each frame was precious and I didn't want to waste it. I rarely experimented because the time in-between when I made the capture and reviewed the result was sometimes weeks or months. By then I had forgotten my settings and any details of the shooting.

Digital photography allows me to experiment without having the pressure of making every shot "count". There also wasn't the pressure to "use up the rest of the film" so I could get the results fas

Many of you will remember the dilemma of "finishing up the roll". Do I just wind it in, do I shoot anything to finish the roll or do I wait for another session?

Several days ago, I set out into the woods with the intention of capturing in black & white like my inspiration Ansel Adams for the 52 frames challenge. Adams spent days in the darkroom burning & dodging to get the results he wanted. Photo #4 was my first attempt and it felt like a failure. I didn't want to spend hours in Photoshop. I took a couple more photos and packed up. I was so frustrated.

Sad eyes and face in the trunk of a 300 year old oak tree

Sad eyes and face in the trunk of a 300 year old oak tree

Today as I am writing this blog I noticed the dog's face in the tree trunk. I did not see it when I captured it, but my inner eye must have. I see the face of a large dog like a San Bernandino - you might know the breed, they have sad eyes and big jowls. I hope you can recognize it?

If I spent more time on burning & dodging I could probably enhance the dog's face a little more, unfortunately, it's unlikely I will, since right now I'm still struggling with my inner lazy dog which the Germans call a "Schweinehund".

My intuition - my mind sent me a direct message with the image of the Schweinehund in the tree trunk: Lee, you need to confront your beast and deliberate practice may be a good way to do that.


  1. "If you can get through the boredom of consistency, you can achieve 10x bigger goals" by Anthony Moore
  2. "the 10,000 hour rule is wrong" by Rob Nightingale
  3. Deliberate practice by Rob Nightingale

Join the conversation
There are 10 comments , add yours!
Abderrahim Laab 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Very good article, thanks for sharing, I cannot wait to experience shooting film.

10 months, 4 weeks ago Edited
Lee Santiva Replied to Abderrahim Laab 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you! Do you plan to use an older camera, ie manual, analog? If you‘re using film for the first time and want to learn from it, I suggest to shoot with 2 cameras: same object, scene once with your digital and once with analog. Good luck to you

10 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Abderrahim Laab Replied to Lee Santiva 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes, I used it before, but never had a chance develop them, thanks a lot for the tip :)

10 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 11 months, 1 week ago

I had dips like that,sonehow we get out it . Analog is something I do more of these days . I find s good in between is using vintage lenses on our modern cameras. Or you can do a 36 shoot. 36 shots of an subject , no deleting any photos on the way. Do the same as with filmroll,it makes you think more of your photo before taking it

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
Lee Santiva Replied to Berckmans Peter 11 months, 1 week ago

Hi Peter thanks for the encouragement! I can imagine that shooting analog makes the experience less “routine”. So how do you handle “finishing off the roll” esp when there’s 36 exposures?

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
Berckmans Peter Replied to Lee Santiva 11 months, 1 week ago

I have a great shop here. Bring the roll in and next day you can go get them. You can choose, only devolp or print also or digital, or only digital scans. Many options. Not cheap, bit it makes you think about a shot. If I bring them to a big store it is more cheap, but you have to wait almost 3 weeks .

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
John Waco Jr 11 months, 1 week ago

Although sports photographers and other professionals have long used expensive add-on motor drives to shoot action sequences of athletic events and fast-moving subjects of all kinds, the average user will find one of the light-weight auto-winders that are available for many SLR cameras equally useful, less expensive, and more convenient to use. These can shoot 1 1/2 to 2 frames a second, compared to five to six frames a second with a motor drive, but this is generally adequate for most amateurs. I can remember a motor drive shooting at 6 fps and hopping that you would get one good shot!!

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
Lee Santiva Replied to John Waco Jr 11 months, 1 week ago

Thanks for sharing! I never tried a motor drive maybe because I mostly capture subjects which don’t move 😀

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
John Waco Jr Replied to Lee Santiva 11 months, 1 week ago

Your a Stills Photographer +1

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
Lee Santiva Replied to John Waco Jr 11 months, 1 week ago

Yes, I’m still a photographer 😜 play on words- I haven’t given up yet 👍

11 months, 1 week ago Edited