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A Summer Fanning With Film

(Plus some tips if you want to start shooting on film)

By Damian Baranowski


2015 was a good year for me.

I got an “A” in English, the Oshawa General’s won the Memorial Cup, The Blue Jays went to the World Series, and I started volunteering with Rogers TV Durham. However, the highlight of this year for me personally, was that I was able to visit Toronto for the first time (without parental guidance) and take my interest in public transit to a new level.

Growing up in Oshawa, I never really took public transit a lot. My parents had a car that worked fine and if we needed to go somewhere, we took the car. However on a few occasions we would ether take the Oshawa Transit bus Downtown or the GO Train into Toronto. I only rode the TTC once in 2009 during a trip to the ROM. I believe this is what sparked my interest in public transit, the fact that I barley rode it when I was a kid and it sparked my curiosity wondering how it operated and where it went.

By 2015, I never really done any fanning (transit enthusiast term for taking photos of public transit), however I was starting to gain other interests in both media by enrolling in my schools media arts and yearbook class, and analog media as I often collected VHS, audio cassettes, and various cameras and camcorders. I had recently started shooting on 35mm and expired APS film (Kodak and Fujifilm stopped making this type in 2011).

That being said once I started fanning, I lost the battery charger to my camera and until I could get a replacement. In the meanwhile, I started living like in it was 1999 and shot mainly on film for the entire summer (until my digital camera batteries died around August).

Here is a collage of the best photos (or the ones that didn’t turn out like complete crap, I was still quite a freshman to photography) from that summer.

Note: some basic adjustments were made to these photos however they were shot on film.

A Summer Fanning With Film Image Archive

Tips for shooting with film on public transit.

Start small and go big later.

Unless you are a skilled photographer, I suggest you start with a “point and shoot” or “FunSaver” film camera. You can try a film SLR, but go for one with ether a digital light meter or one with Auto-Exposure (basically any SLR built in the 1990s). It’s a good way to start if you’re unfamiliar with film or photography in general.

You only get 24 or 36 chances don’t waste it.

Unlike digital where you can take 100 photos of the pie you’re about to eat and have 3,000 more to spare (depending on how much memory you have left). Film on the other hand depending on whether you have 24 or 36 exposure film. That’s all you get. There is no delete button, so once you hit the shutter, that’s one exposure gone. You also can’t view it as well until it’s processed. So plan your shots wisely.

Film Expires

The date is usually on the side of the box when you purchase the film. Apparently putting in a fridge helps it stay fresh (I’m not joking). But if it’s a few years expired there will be some slight issues with the photo, but after the 10 year mark it’s more noticeable. Polaroid Instant Film will be discussed in a different article, but that film does expire for real when it says so. Though some film photographers will buy expired film for the way it looks and experiment with it. You can find some nice examples online.

The APS film I used in this article expired in 2006.

Avoid flash unless there is no operator in the vehicle or when not in motion (with the operators consent of course)

This applies to shooting digitally as well. In some low-light conditions cameras with an auto flash or that have been set to flash will add a flash when taking photos to add extra light (interesting stuff I know). It’s great for the photos, but not so much for the operators. On most transit systems you don’t need a permit to take photos of transit vehicles, unless it interferes with the operation of the vehicle. Using flash not only interferes with the operation of the vehicle, it’s also very dangerous as it blinds the operator. It can also be annoying to bystanders as well. Be on the lookout when using FunSavers, Point & Shoot, or any camera when in “auto” as flash may have already been automatically activated and turn it off before taking photos of anything.

Pick the film, perfect for the subject.

The ISO setting is key to the conditions your taking photos in, The lower the ISO (100-200) is great for sunny days and producer a high quality image, while the higher the ISO (800-3200) is great for the dark and if you want to take a photo of a fast moving object (I.E. a bus or train?) though the photo will have more grain (In digital photos, it’s called “noise”). The beauty of digital is that we can use different ISO’s at any time with a click of a button, some digital cameras and photo manipulation software even has ways to reduce the noise in photos. But with film you’re stuck on that ISO of the film you have. So if you bought Kodak 200 film, your ISO will only be at 200. This is great for daylight, but not so much for low-light conditions.

With that being said, I really recommend you pick the right film for whatever your plan to take photos of. Want to do some plane spotting or catch a bus as it thunders down the road? Get a film with a higher ISO. Photos of buses parked at a garage? Get one with a lower ISO. Now these could change depending on the lighting/weather conditions so keep that in mind as well.

If you want, bring a digital camera with you along with your film camera as a reference.

If possible, try and see if a camera store your town does in-house film developing.

Now-a-days it’s rare to get 1-hr film photos done in a store; some “mom and pop” camera shops still do same-day processing that take a few hours (ex. Downtown Camera). However most large scale retail shops that offer it usually send it off and it takes about 7-14 business days to return (ex. Henry’s, Shoppers Drug Mart). Though if you want you could send it out yourself to places like Don Photo in Winnipeg or send it across the border to Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, USA. If you’re a real trooper, you could also do your own in house processing, but beware of the cost, space, and time it takes to master that craft.

Understand C-41, E-6, and B&W processing.

You might see these on the boxes or cartages of the film you are using, so what do they mean?

These are the types of processes used to…well process the film, each of these are applied to different types of film and the reason I’m explaing it is because not all places that still process film, do all of these types. So here is a brief guide.

C-41 - Is for color print or “color negative” film processing. The most common process, all places that still process film accepts film of this type.

Kodak: Porta, Color Plus, UltraMax 400, FunSaver camera, Gold 200. Fujifilm: FujiColor, Superia, FujiPro.

B&W- Black & White film processing. Great for that old school look, however not every place processes it. Downtown Camera does in-house processing which could take a week. Don Photo and Dwayne’s can take and process the film as well. However Henry’s will not take it, Shoppers on the other hand did process some rolls I gave, but as of writing this I don’t know if that’s still the case.

Illford Film
Kodak: TMax, Tri-X
Fujifilm: Neopan

E-6 - Used for transparency film or “slide film”. While being originally used by consumers showing their friends and family their vacation photos (before the invention of Facebook), but used by professionals for the way these films give off great quality. But finding a place to process it is as rare as BlogTo writing a fair critique of the TTC. For a while there was no place to process it in Toronto at camera stores. However Downtown Camera has since teamed up with two labs, Montreal based “BorĂ©alis” and local “E6It!” to process this film again, though they do not offer slide mounting. Henrys and Shoppers will not process this type of film. Don Photo and Dwayne’s Photo will process it this with the slides mounted.

Kodak: Ektachrome
Fujifilm: FujiChrome Films (Velvia, Provia).

K-14 - Used for processing Kodachrome. I shouldn’t really be discussing this but you may come across this. To start this off DON’T BUY KODACHROME FILM! Kodak stopped making this film in 2009, and processing ended in 2010. So if you buy an old role it’s pretty much a tiny paper weight. I heard some places process it in B&W, but if you want B&W film photos just buy some of the examples I listed before. Kodak had been taking about a possible revival however this is currently unlikely as stated by them. Until Kodak brings it back and restarts K-14 processing. LET MAMA TAKE YOUR KODACHROME AWAY!

Quick tips about getting other formats processed.

Also lookout for what types of film your Camera Store/Photo Lab processes. Most can do 35mm (or 135mm) and 120mm. However special or retired formats like APS, Disc Film, and 110 may only be processed at select places. Be sure to check with the business to see if they can process your film before sending it in.

I could go all day on this and explain more like DX Codes and 120,110, APS, and 4x5 film, but this is Transit Toronto not “Photo Advice” by Damian Baranowski. If you want to learn more about shooting on film I suggest to talking to photographers who shoot film, read different photography sites and magazines, or talk to your local photography store for more advice and tips. Remember, your first roll might not be the best, but practice makes perfect.

End Note

I’m glad I was able to head into Toronto when I did. I was able to see the Scarborough RT cars in their original livery, the former Bay Concourse, and the CLRVs and ALRVs running about. All of which have been gone in the years since 2015 and 2020.

As for shooting film, after that summer when I went back for my final year of High School I still kept it up for a bit (even when I was able to get a new charger for my Digital Camera). The following year I started to focus on Digital more and fully went back once I went to College. But I recently started going back to film by using it during the fishbowl charter and the ION Light Rail opening (both in June 2019). Even experimenting with Polaroid Instant Film (I’ll save that for another article).

One goal I would like to do next is film a transit video on film, but I don’t know if I ever will do that. Only time will tell.

…Or when Kodak finally releases its Super 8 Hybrid Camera.

If you would like to contact me about anything in this article. I left some links to my social media pages and to other resources.

Contact Info

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