07 Big Bend Birthday; An 8mm Short Film

May 17, 2021  •  4 Comments

Every February for my birthday, I make my annual trek out to the Big Bend region of Texas. It's always my first trip of the year and helps me slow down, reflect on the year before, and set intentions that carry me through the next ten months. I find the area very inspiring and do some of my best thinking on those long drives southwest.

Last year, my dear friend Kellee Bolden gifted me a Yashica 8T-2. The camera is from 1953 and was the first of the 8mm movie cameras. I knew I had to take it on my annual birthday trip to document why I love the region so much.

Though a devastating ice storm hit Texas the week of my birthday, I was able to postpone my trip to March which allowed to experience my favorite region in the springtime. The Bluebonnets were in full bloom, birds sang lovely tunes, and the weather was perfect.

I started the trip with a night of camping at Rio Bravo Ranch outside Presidio, Texas on 1,100 acres of private land overlooking the Rio Grande River. I eventually made my way to Big Bend Ranch State Park for a day of exploring ruins and relaxing riverside with the coldest Lone Star beers one could find (note: drinking beer in Texas' state parks is illegal but I've never been much of a rule follower). The following day, I took a drive into Big Bend National Park and enjoyed hiking Boquillas Canyon (Pron: Bow-key-us). The Boquillas trail sits on the U.S. side of the Texas/Mexico border, with Boquillas del Carmen, a small village of 50 families, sitting just on the other side of the Rio Grande. I watched burros grazing before crossing the river into Mexico and sat in awe as vaqueros rode horseback along the border before continuing into the river through the canyon. 

This trip was my first time shooting with the Yashica 8T-2. I loaded it with a roll of Cine8 Daylight 40 ISO film from the Film Photography Project, which is a 25ft roll of film that records 16 frames per second or roughly four minutes worth of movie footage. 8mm film is double sided, so when you're finished with the first half, you'll remove the spool of film from the camera and flip it over, load it back into the camera, and record the other side. While I realize black and white film might feel more authentic to the camera, I prefer to shoot color so that's exactly what I packed along. I'll admit that I have probably never been so excited to try a new roll of film. Unfortunately, due to new user error (note: Kat error 😬), I loaded the second half of the film into the camera wrong and I only captured the first leg of the trip. Damn those pesky spools...

8mm film is more difficult to develop than most other film stocks, so very few shops still process it. Processing times typically run a month and a half so patience is certainly a virtue when shooting with these films. I sent my film to Cinelab near Boston, Massachusetts. While the footage turned out great and I strongly believe they do good work, I did not have a good experience working with them in large part due to miscommunication with the staff. In the future I will utilize another shop.

Though I am disappointed about losing the footage from the second half of my trip, I'm thrilled with what I was able to capture. And, hey, having a few mistakes here and there is just part of shooting film! All in all, I got to spend a week in my favorite place while learning how to shoot a new format so I'm calling this a win.

🎞: Cine8 Daylight 40 ISO by Film Photography Project
📽: Yashica 8T-2
📍: Rio Bravo Ranch, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park, Boquillas Canyon




Erinn Hughes(non-registered)
Wow, what fun! It's like your birthday happened in the 60's! Haha.
Mike Gillum(non-registered)
Unedited. I love it. I got my BA in photography in the 80’s. Film age. I spent months in the darkroom. Your work is OUTSTANDING. The way it is meant to be.
Steven Bross(non-registered)
I’ve been following FFP’s interest in movie film and cameras but this is the first footage I’ve seen by someone else. Looks like fun, I sent away for an Ebay 8 mm camera but not sure the one I got works.
Kellee Bolden(non-registered)
Kat, this is a fantastic story of your adventures on your trip and your use of the camera. I feel the footage came out great and this first time using a cine camera was good experience to prepare you to shoot your 16mm masterpiece, next!
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