Photo: The Iron Horse Trail on Analog Film During the Early Pandemic

There’s a certain undeniable allure to analog photography – the tangible connection to a moment frozen in time, suspended on a strip of film. In the strange and disorienting days of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, I found solace in the act of capturing scenes with my film camera, loaded with the legendary Kodak Tri-X black and white film.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kodak Tri-X, let me give you a brief introduction: this film stock has been the go-to choice for generations of photojournalists, revered for its grainy texture, deep shadows, and versatility. I’ve used it to photograph the Mission District and other places around the Bay Area.

Tri-X’s characteristics–an ability to dwell in darkness, the versatility to adapt to nearly anything–perfectly encapsulate the mood of the pandemic, adding an extra layer of emotion to the images.

On a sun-drenched day, I ventured to the Iron Horse Trail in Danville, California, and was struck by the dramatic interplay of light and shadow created by the overhanging trees. The grainy nature of the Kodak Tri-X film seemed to meld the shadows and trees together, creating a sense of unity between nature and the photographic medium.

In the distance, two cyclists receded along the trail, their presence a subtle reminder of the isolation we all experienced during the lockdown periods. Yet, as they disappeared into the horizon, there was an underlying sense of hope and solace. The Bay Area residents, like myself, sought refuge in nature to escape the confines of our homes and reconnect with the world outside.

The resulting image, immortalized on Kodak Tri-X film (and developed at home in DF96), serves as a poignant testament to the power of analog photography and its ability to encapsulate the emotional nuances of a moment.

As the world continues to grapple with the lingering effects of the pandemic, this photograph captures that specific moment in the pandemic journey in a tangible, concrete way that I couldn’t achieve with digital.

Related Reading

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button