Three years ago my grandfather gave me a camera bag. In it was a 1980s-era body, a manual 50mm f/1.8, a walk-around zoom lens, and an unexposed roll of Kodak Gold 400.
It took a year or two before I did anything with any of it, but eventually I tried my hand at film photography and shot a dozen or so rolls of 35mm. It was good fun, but I never really did much with the photos. Fast forward a year or so, and just a few weeks ago I picked up a proper Canon EF film body so that I can pair all of my everyday glass with rolls of film.
Last Friday when I packed my bags for the Mooneyes Xmas Party at Irwindale Speedway, I reached back into my grandpa’s bag and pulled out that dusty, beat up film cartridge. I’d been saving it for something special. Something vintage, something I truly enjoyed.
I stowed it away in my backpack along with some Kodak Portra 400, just in case I wanted to hold on to grandpa’s old roll.
Upon my arrival at Irwindale’s dragstrip, I instantly reached for that expired Gold 400. Today was finally the day. I had no idea what I was getting as I shot all day; seeing as how the film was from the early 2000s and had a couple of knicks in the seams, I half expected to get nothing in return for my efforts.
Thankfully, after picking up my exposed negatives at my local developer, Bay Photo Lab, everything seemed to have turned out precisely as planned.
Far too much grain, off-beat colors – almost exactly as I’ve been manipulating some of my recent digital work. Mostly a bit under-exposed too, but shooting in the harsh Southern California sun is never smooth sailing, regardless of what you’re shooting with.
Mooneyes provided the perfect setting for me to experiment a bit and get used to my new film body. Photography aside, these guys certainly know how to throw a party.
Having never been to the Mooneyes Xmas Party event before I didn’t really know what to expect. One of my favorite aspects of the whole thing was how many people showed up in vintage attire, something I didn’t give nearly enough attention in these 24 shots.
I’ll give you the proper, expected, all-digital version of this event soon enough, but for now, here’s that expired roll of Kodak Gold 400 in its entirety; missed focus, exposure screw-ups, and all.
Having not shot terribly too much film before, I am only just now beginning to understand the indescribable appeal that so many of my friends have been trying to tell me about.
Where I spent the better part of this roll was on the drag strip, you know, hunting speed and that sort of thing.
Even standing still, American cars from the ’60s just look fast. There’s really nothing else like them in the world.
The same is true of the drivers of these cars, especially when an exposed big block is thrashing away in front of you and unleashing colossal amounts of untamed, analog horsepower with the slightest movement of your right foot.
I actually didn’t mean to take this second shot, but I’m glad I did. Look at that grit and concentration; I’m not so sure I could do it.
It really was a special day for me, getting up close to cars I love and focusing that bit extra on each shot. Actually, quite a lot extra if I’m honest.
Of course, all good things do eventually come to an end. As the sun started heading down I went across the parking lot to catch the cars rolling out.
Looking at these shots from the weekend, I just want to go back. To surround myself with the rumble of an American land yacht; to indulge in the smells of burning rubber mixed with spent ethanol. As with most events involving cars, you really have to experience them in person.
These 24 photos certainly aren’t the best in the world, but due to their source, they have managed to shift my focus just enough to change my own little world.