The Last Frame

I find it impossible to stop experimenting. Not only does my business depend on it, but my creative sanity as well. Boredom is not my friend.

At the same, my passion for photography is paradoxical. On one hand, I'm constantly striving to put together the perfect kit, discover the ideal adventure, capture the ultimate image. I've said to myself many times, "Now that I have this camera, I'm set. I don't need anything else."

And for the moment that's true.

Then, I read about this, someone tells me about that, and the whole plan is tossed in the air,  fluttering to the floor like scattered papers.

To be honest, I own many cameras. And I like them all. It feels a bit like a harem. One day I'm in love with the OM-D E-M5 II, then the next the Fuji X-20. Oh, that beautiful Pentax Super Program is calling to me now.

When I pack my Nimble Shoulder Bag for a daily bike ride, I'm never quite sure what's going inside. My only constant is the iPhone in my pocket. After that, it could be anyone's guess.

Many times of late, I've reached for a 35mm film camera. Those SLRs are comrades in my creative quest. My current favorites are the Pentax Program Plus, Pentax ZX-5n, Minolta X700, Contax G1, and Yashica FX-3 Super 2000. Film has added an element of excitement to this adventure. It's like kissing in an elevator and not knowing exactly when the doors will open.

In addition to all the things you already know about analog, such as not having an LCD to review the image right after you've captured it, there's one more aspect that I find intoxicating: the last frame.

Each roll of film has 36 exposures. I don't carry spare rolls for my adventures. If I see something interesting, I use a few frames to record it. If it's very interesting, a few more. 

Sometimes I'm less than half way through my ride, yet have just a few frames left. How do I meter them? How many do I save just in case something spectacular happens?

Yesterday, I saved just one frame. "I'm fine. Nothing's going on. I'm nearly finished with the ride," I said to myself.

Then, on cue, a woman approached up the path with four dogs. Two were tall, and two were short. They moved in unison like a gliding pyramid. She was in the center with a tall dog on each side, and the two shorties were flanking them.

They was coming right toward me.

One frame left.

I steadied the camera and waited for the perfect moment. She was staring at me too. When they were about 20 yards away, I squeezed the shutter button and recorded the last frame.

The film was still rewinding in the camera when she reached me.

"That's a shot I could not pass up," I said to her.

She smiled. "Oh really?"

"Are those your dogs, or are you a walker?"

"They're mine. We walk everyday. We keep each other healthy."

I smiled, thinking the same thing about my bike rides.

"Thanks for the great photograph," I said, holding up the camera.

"How did it turn out?" she asked.

"I have no idea. Won't know for a week or so. I only had one frame left."

She smiled curiously. "Film? Are you an artist?"

I pursed my lips. "I don't know."

"I just keep trying new things, hoping something good will happen."

She nodded in an understanding way, then continued down the path. I pulled out my iPhone to document the time and place, still thinking about frame #36.

The last frame.