I originally found out about Sarah through my friend Dawn (a fellow film photographer) and instantly fell in love with her work, Sarah is a dedicated and passionate photographer who is consistently putting out great work, her eye for landscapes and natural light is something quite amazing. Her interview is super in-depth and I had a lot of fun putting this one together, it really encapsulates the emotions and feeling behind shooting film and I totally resonate with her words.
If you don’t already follow her, click here (plus she has the best dogs you can view on her stories from time to time)
I’ve been following you for a while and I love your photos of Scotland, what’s it like to shoot there?
Thanks Jake. I am lucky to live and work in one of Scotland’s National Parks which means I’m surrounded by mountains, forests and lochs on a daily basis. That’s certainly helped during lockdown. Generally Scotland is either cold and wet in the winter and warm, wet and midgey in the summer!
I actually don’t tend to go out to specifically shoot so the majority of my pictures are from when I am out and about anyway. I’ll always have a camera in my bag or round my neck – either walking the dogs, hiking on the weekend or at work (I am a maintenance ranger and work outside in all weathers).
My job and recreational activities have probably hardened me to the Scottish climate. We travel a lot in Scotland too (prior to Covid) and I have just never been anywhere that has such incredible light, landscapes and interest around every single corner.
One thing I notice about your work is that you have a great eye for natural light! Is there anything specific you do to compose your shots around this?
Thanks Jake! That’s so nice to hear. Years of experiments I think. But the light up here just seems to make it so easy as well. I love the winter sun through the forest and the sunrise turning the snowy mountains pink. In the summer and through Autumn the light on the leaves and reflections in the lochs are stunning. It just inspires me. Moody low light and mist layering the forest and mountains are my favourite and really sum up where I live.
I’m also not ruled by the ‘golden hour’ , mainly because, apart from in winter, I am never up that early in the morning or by summer I am usually in bed. That being said an aim for this year is to try to go out to specifically shoot film, rather than a by product of my day to day life, and I will be setting the alarm or staying out late and seeing what happens. We do camp a lot from Spring through to Autumn and therefore many of the sunsets you see on the west coast are taking on these trips. I do like to have a subject in the picture, usually my husband, a friend or a bird etc.. To bring a sense of scale and reality to the pictures.
What does travelling with a film camera mean to you?
When we aren’t travelling around Scotland I spend time in Europe with my mum or friends and over the last twenty years have spent a lot of time in Brazil with my family. Re-finding my film cameras 6 years ago and travelling with these is both exciting and cumbersome! I am forever worried I’ll lose my film before I get a chance to either use it or develop it. We spent 3 months in Brazil a few years ago and I would obsessively check where I had stored it every day.
For me, travelling with a film camera means noticing so much more. Taking time to think about the one shot that may sum up a whole day of travelling or the whole trip. There is a photo that my husband took (I handed him my camera and gave him strict directions) where I am sat in a pool above a waterfall on the island of Ilhabela (Sao Paulo state). I love the photo but more than that, every time I see it I remember the long hot weeks staying at my cousins house and every morning making the decision over coffee to either go for a fresh water / waterfall bathe that day or to the beach. But the same photos reminds me of the end of our long trip when my mum came over to the island. She’s scared of water but 4 of us helped her into the same pool and she was laughing so much; it reminds me of night time walks to the falls to watch the glow worms and stars; and of long ago trips I made here with my grandfather. Even though none of these moments were that photo, that photo has become all those moments.
And I am probably saying the same as most people who shoot film, but how exciting is that moment you have the film developed – days, weeks or even months – after returning from your trip? The expectation, the excitement and anticipation. Nothing beats it.
How long have you been shooting with film and what aspects of shooting film do you enjoy the most?
I shot with film all through my teens and early 20’s but rediscovered it just after my grandfather passed away and my mum handed me all his old cameras. So for about 6 years this second time round.
The aspects I enjoy the most are numerous! Firstly, trying out different cameras and film. I’ve become a little stagnant the last year but have felt fired up again since subscribing to @coolfilmclub where I get two pot luck films per month posted to me. It keeps me motivated and spurs me on to try new things. I also love the moment. That moment when everything lines up just as you want it to in the viewfinder, the light is right, I probably hold my breath. And then the excitement of waiting for your film to be developed.
First time round I used to develop my own black & white film and that’s something I’ve been thinking about starting again but it isn’t top of my list. I rarely shoot on black & white and I also have found some fantastic labs and I love their results. Finally, I enjoy that I feel part of a club of sorts! I’ve met some lovely people through my film instagram account (both in real life and virtually). I was on an island on Loch Lomond 5 or so years ago and saw a women with a film camera. I just started talking to her straight away because it was still pretty rare back then. Check her out (Sofia at @analoguetravelling). I’ve heard that some people think the film community can be a little cliquey or hard to navigate but I think it’s like anything in life. The more engaged I am, the more open people are and the more I learn from other people.
Has your relationship with film changed at all from when you started to now?
Oh yes, it’s a world away. I actually did my photography A-level with film cameras because it was before digital had really kicked off. I was very serious about it and wanted to know all the technical details of the whole process from cameras to developing. I wanted it to be my career. This wasn’t the way I went with my life in the end and I now I have so much else going on away from shooting film that these things have taken a back seat. Although they still interest me I now just take photos to make memories and sometimes frame a print or send one to a friend. I have no expectations and I feel no pressure.
What’s your favourite camera?
I can’t pick just one! SLR, it has to be my Pentax ME Super which I used for my college course. It was my grandads and he shot with it for years prior to passing it onto me. It just feels so right in my hands and I always have such a warm and happy feeling when looking through the viewfinder. For compact cameras I love my Pentax Espio 120 (and actually have three of them in case one ever breaks) and my mums old Olympus Trip 35 (such a bonus it doesn’t need batteries).
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into shooting film?
You don’t need to buy lots of kit to start. Just pick up a working film camera (second hand shop / eBay) and experiment. Take your time and really thing about the image you want. The first rolls may well only have one or two photos you are happy with but as time goes on the ratio will increase. Start relationships with other film photographers, film suppliers and labs. They are a great source of advice. Really try to engage with others if you use Instagram, ask questions and tell someone if and why you like their work. I have learnt so much and am so inspired by actually having conversations with other film photographers more so than just looking at their work.
I’m also not afraid to ask what may be perceived as a stupid question because you’ll find people are actually really happy to engage with you. I’m about to inherit my first medium format camera and I have no idea where to start so I shall do lots of research, chat to some people who use them regularly and then just get out and give it a go. Oh and if I can’t figure out a technical aspect of a camera there are some amazing Youtubers who do step by steps guides to most cameras.
Who are your top 3 favourite photographers at the moment?
At the moment I am really blown away by what Lena Jeanne (@love.errs) is producing. Her self portraits are incredible and her photos have an other worldly light. She’s inspiring me to try self portraits which is my aim for 2021.
I’ve been following Maya Beano for a long time too (@mayabeano) and her experiments with film are stunning. I feel like I’ve been on part of the journey with her and I am particularly blown away by her silhouettes. She makes me want to step out of my comfort zone and be braver with what I shoot and the film I use.
Katie Silvester (@ktsilvester) has been so supportive of my photos since I started on instagram and her portraits are phenomenal. I am actually framing one of her prints next week and trying to decide where best to hang it.
Thank you for reading!