Photography, TRAVEL

Developing Memories

assorted color photo lot
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on


While digital photography is here to stay, there are reasons I remember analog fondly.  Last week, though I moaned about the quality of analog snapshots, I found a number of reasons for enjoying photography the old fashioned way.  Whether you think taking pictures in analog was a blessing or a curse, let’s move on to the next part of the equation, getting the pictures developed.

Film Processing

Analog film came in different lengths.  A roll or cartridge of film could have anywhere from 12 to 36 shots on it.  When traveling, I always bought the 36 shot length, but when I was around home I switched to 12, so I could finish up the roll faster.  During some periods of my life, I was so boring it could take years to finish up 12 pictures.  One thing is for sure, you’d never just go ahead and develop an unfinished roll of film.  That would have been some kind of sacrilege.

So, whether I was finally through with a boring roll of film or had handfuls of rolls from a trip, when it was time to take them for processing, I first had to decide where to take them.  This is not unlike having photos developed today.  Sure you can share them indefinitely without printing them, but if you are a scrapbooker like me, you gotta print them.  (Yes, I know you can make online scrapbooks, but that’s not the same thing.)

Some people mailed off their rolls of film.  They’d boast of saving money or assure me that was the way to get the best quality processing, but that just didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to keep up with where to send them or store a stack of their envelopes or pay the postage, especially when I could drop them off around the corner and then go back by and pick them up later.

Used to be “later” was later than it is now.  One-hour photo processing has been the norm for so long, that most of us don’t remember a time when it wasn’t, but yes, you used to have to wait days to get back the photos you dropped off.  They were probably sending my photos to the same place they would have gone to had I been able to wrap my mind around mailing them, but whatever the case,  an hour or a week, the anticipation was part of the fun.

The Reveal

When you casually check out your phone to see the picture you just took, you can’t begin to imagine how much fun it was to wait.  I’ve already said not being able to immediately see the photos took some of the anxiety out of it.  Instead of anxiety, you had anticipation and lots of it.  You had to get home from vacation and unpack your bags.  Then you had to find time to drop off the film and time to go pick it up.  Then you got the envelope with your photos.

There was a time when I couldn’t even wait to get out to my car to look. I’d rip open the envelopes the second I got them and started looking at the pictures.  I’d go through the pictures two or three times before I could stand to put them away and go on with my business.  Many places would give you a refund for any picture you didn’t like, but it was only a few cents per picture and I thought even my worst picture was worth an ounce of gold.

Having to wait to see your pictures might seem like an inconvenience to many, but it was really just part of the fun.  Come back next week and we’ll share another stroll down the photographic memory lane.


6 thoughts on “Developing Memories”

  1. The big advantage of digital is that if you don’t like the picture then you can erase it and take another. I can still remember the anticipation of collecting developed photographs and being crushingly disappointed. Also the little stickers explaining why the pictures were so poor – ‘blurred’ ‘over-exposed’ ‘under exposed’ etc. I much prefer the digital way!


    1. Oh, there’s a lot to be said for digital, but I did all right with analog. Yes, I had a lot of horrid shots, but also some very good ones. For me stopping what I am doing to be sure the picture is good distracts from the moment at hand. It almost seems as if taking pictures dominates the experience. Just got back from Chichen Itza and the crowds were so consumed with creating images and sharing them, they were completely disconnected with the experience of being at one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Instead they were busy posing – doing handstands, splits, kissing etc. Did they get that the pyramid where they were kissing was used for human sacrifices? When they got home, did they understand what they had seen? One side of the pyramid had been destroyed because the Spaniards had peeled off the stones to build houses. The Spaniards didn’t understand what they had destroyed. I doubt the kissers and the gymnasts had any concept of where they were, either. I wish they’d just gone to swim with dolphins or ride jet skis and left the archaeological site to me.


      1. The selfie worshippers can be rather a nuisance Jane.

        Your thoughts reminded me of my trip to the US in 1995. I had a video recorder and after a few days I realised that I was seeing most of the National Parks through the viewfinder!


        1. At Chichen Itza it was way beyond selfies. All over the place were people capturing their friends doing crazy stunts in front of the pyramids. You could barely hear the guides for all the giggles and shouting. “No hold your hand up higher. Turn your head the other direction. OK, now take one of me doing the same thing.” (Only some of them were speaking English, most were Hispanic and a good number were Asian. The non-English speakers were performing the same antics, so I can only assume they were yelling the same sort of thing.) Other people complained because there were so many vendors all over the place and it was a little annoying, but the vendors were just trying to make a living. They were not taking up space in front of the edifices, obstructing the view, making lots of noise and imperiling people with moving body parts. I understand why there are so many disparaging remarks about Ugly Americans. I have seen a lot of bad behavior by fellow citizens of my nation, but it seems as if the whole world is trying to adopt our worst characteristics. It’s really sad.


          1. What do we blame? Cheap travel, mobility and easy access. I don’t believe in keeping people out and keeping places exclusive but it would be nice if some people had more manners and learned how to behave themselves!


            1. I agree. I don’t have much in the way of answers either, but it does take away from my ability to focus. I’m standing there trying to consider how people who built such beautiful monuments could live such ugly lives – a rigid class system, human sacrifice, slavery, painful bodily enhancements and so much more. Meanwhile, some barely dressed twenty-something is yelling at her friends while doing splits and someone else careens into me doing a cartwheel!


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