Crap shoot

I brought the Instax 210 out with me on our morning walk today. The sun wasn’t quite up, and I wanted to see what I could get in the dim glow of dawn.

When I snapped my first shot the flashbulb popped. Annoyed, I checked the settings. I could turn on the flash, but there wasn’t a way to keep the camera from flashing if the camera thought it was too dark. I was frustrated that my low-light photo stylings were going to be a no-go. I was pretty convinced the colors in the photo would be washed out and unsatisfying.

I took another photo or two, then came up to a big puddle reflecting the sky, a light pole, and a concrete factory roofline. I wanted the photo so badly I forgot, once again, that the flash would go off. As I pulled out the undeveloped shot from the top of the camera, I groused that it would probably be a picture of an exploded fireball of white light.

I was wrong on both counts.

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The first photo has some of the best color I’ve captured with the Instax so far, and I really love how dark the sky looks against the bright stripes.

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The puddle photo did not get a massive bleach job. It not only got the reflection I wanted, but it also picked out the reflective tape of a sign and a few leaves in the foreground. I hadn’t expected to get those details at all.

Taking digital photographs was all about control for me. Assessing light levels, calculating the depth of field, focusing precisely, calibrating the white balance, framing the subject just so. The Instax doesn’t allow me to indulge in those things. Hard as I try to control how the image will come out, I’m usually way off on predicting which photos will work and which ones won’t.

The thing is, even though I might be frustrated at the moment of the shot, I’m curious and a little excited to see what the chemical reaction will produce. It might be crap, but it might be interesting. Photos that work out feel like tiny surprise gifts I wasn’t expecting.

Over time and use, I’ll probably learn more of the idiosyncrasies of the Instax. It will become easier to predict how a photo will turn out, and some of the randomness of the process will slip away.

I’ll try to enjoy the unknown while I can.

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