Thoughts on Shooting Film

My First Experience of Film – Guest post by Ross Gibson

My name is Ross and I’m 14 years old. I first met Hamish at my mum and step-dad’s wedding, he was the photographer along with his friend James. A while after the day I got in touch with Hamish to see if I could do work experience at his company. This post is about one of the highlights of the week I spent at F8, shooting with a film camera for the first time.

Until now I have been using a Nikon D3300 which, for my requirements was all I needed. It has 24.2 mega pixels, a night-mode setting and many more advanced features at an entry-level price. So when I arrived on Monday and was confronted with a hefty metal camera without an On button or a zoom dial, my first thoughts were ‘How the hell do you work this thing?’ and ‘Where’s the trigger?!’ it certainly looked like a camera but I was reluctant to think it really was like one. Hamish then explained to me that this was a ‘film’ camera which ran without electricity, didn’t autofocus and required manual altering to the aperture and shutter-speed; what black magic was this!? This ‘film’ camera was a concept which was very new to me, because until now, a camera was something you point and shoot.

After having a good look at the camera, I was introduced by Hamish to a small part of the principles of reciprocity which made a bit of sense: different levels of light require a different balance in aperture and shutter-speed. To help explain the aperture and shutter-speed relationship, Hamish used the garden hose analogy; with the water being the light. The aperture is the width of the hose and the shutter speed is the length of time in which the water is running, bearing this in mind, you need to get the right amount of water through the hose. This analogy was useful to my understanding of photography and how it works.

The first night I had the film camera I almost managed to open the camera before luckily being stopped by my mum and informed of what the outcome would be.

On my phone, I then downloaded a Light Meter app to assist me in taking photos with the correct exposure, this proved to be difficult as I juggled the camera and my phone between my hands while Hamish and James casually took photos with no need for petty light measuring apps or extra time to think about which dial to turn!

My biggest problem was remembering to measure the light and change the aperture and shutter-speed without getting carried away with snapping at everything (that and also filling the roll of film). Even with all the extra effort needed to operate the camera I was beginning to prefer the manual focus and the way in which the camera generally worked.

By Friday, I managed to fill enough of the film (20 shots out of 36)so me and Hamish could begin the process of developing the rolls. We both shot a roll of HP5 film so we did rolls of film at the same time in a development tank. The first stage was to retrieve the rolls from the cameras in a changing bag so the film didn’t get damaged by the light, once this was done the film had to be winded into the spirals and placed into the Dev Tank with the lid on.

The first liquid to be drained into the dev tank was DD-X which had to be mixed so there was four parts water, one part DD-X at 20 degrees celsius; this developed the film for nine minutes and the dev tank had to be shaken for ten seconds every minute. The DD-X was then drained out and ‘Stop’ replaced it, this had to be shaken for one minute straight before the next liquid ‘Fixer’ was drained in for five minutes, shaking for ten seconds every minute. The final step was to wash the film under running water before hangings them out to dry, this was when we finally got to see our images and how they’d turned out: mine were quite dark but not too bad for my first time.

All in all, I came on Monday with an interest in photography and have left with my eyes opened to a whole new side to it and how it works, film will definitely be an interest in the future. Here are a few of my photos scanned by Hamish on his Noritzu scanner:

 

Thanks for reading

Ross

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22 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    February 18, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Well done, Ross! And welcome to the Wonderful World of Film!!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

      Thank you Frank.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Paula Smith
    February 18, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Excellent post Ross! You just wait till you make your first wet print in the darkroom! There is nothing more magical.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:17 am

      Thanks Paula, hopefully I’ll do printing in the future.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    George Appletree
    February 18, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Nice camera. I had an FE, close to that, time ago. And good results!
    Just some suggestion. Water time is never too much; after developer and stop liquid you can wash it for a while (actually I never use stop bath). Also drying can sometimes generating stains, depending upon water quality; for that proceed to a last bath using distilled water plus the wetting agent.

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    February 18, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Hey Ross,
    Nice photos. Film is a good vehicle for self-expression. Keep up the good work and enjoy your visual journey. Shoot anything that catches your eye.
    You’re lucky to have met Hamish & James and to have supportive parents. They’re lucky to have you.
    Please occasionally post articles on your film adventures. I’d look forward to reading them. Now, go out & shoot some film!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:14 am

      Thanks Dan, I’ll try and write some more posts for the future.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Vernon
    February 18, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Great photos Ross, I really enjoyed these.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:14 am

      Cheers Vernon.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Victor
    February 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Interesting article Ross! Your remarks concerning manual focus and ‘on’ switch certainly made me smile… and feel quite old! I particularly like the lorry with headlight and the tree lined path.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Thank you Victor, the lorry is called a Unimog which was built in 1975.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Victor
        February 19, 2017 at 9:08 pm

        Ah, a Unimog… cool – thanks for the info!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Aukje
    February 19, 2017 at 5:57 am

    Great article, and very promising results for a first time. I am a bit surprised though that someone who is used to digital photography, with usually a lot of files in a short time, finds it hard to fill a roll of 36 in a week 😉

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Thanks Aujke. I can see what you mean, I guess I didn’t want to waste the film.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Ray
    February 19, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I am intrigued to know what the guy with the cider and measuring cylinder is doing?!? I could invent several stories to explain the scene….. but I probably better not.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ross Gibson
      February 19, 2017 at 8:20 am

      Ha ha! No, the man was mixing some ciders for the camera but apparently it tasted quite nice.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Malcolm Myers
    February 19, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Hi Ross,

    Welcome to the world of film! Just two tips:
    1) If you ever do open the back of a film camera before you’ve rewound the film don’t panic! Film is so tightly wound and it’s black or at least opaque before you develop it that light doesn’t penetrate very far. If you close the back quickly you’ll probably only lose the last 3-4 exposures. The rest of your film should be fine.
    2) I save water when washing film by using the ‘Ilford method’. Basically you fill the post-fix tank with water and a small drop of wetting agent, invert for 10 seconds and get rid of the water. Repeat this process twice more for 20 seconds and 30 seconds and you should be fine. It’s always worked for me.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    carlos albisu
    February 22, 2017 at 8:08 am

    It was great to read someone`s fist approach to film. Guess you have already been bitten by the worm film : ) NIcely done Ross.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Andy Cannning
    February 23, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Ross this is brilliant, you make me a very proud Grandad and I think you are at the start of a lovely journey………

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    February 23, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Dear Mr Canning,
    Your grandson displays a keen sense of composition & design. He seems like a cool kid.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Andy Cannning
      February 25, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks Dan, Ross is very focused and maturing fast, he is already good company and has astounded me with his attitude and enthusiasm in such a short time. Thankyou for your input…….

  • Avatar
    Reply
    r_kt
    February 27, 2017 at 4:27 am

    Awesome, Ross! When I was around your age my uncle gave me his Canon AE-1, a film camera. I took a class on black and white photography that included learning the basic operating skills and darkroom skills. The experience that summer set me down a path that I still continue today. And one that I think of in fond remembrance. learning and making mistakes and continuing the process of improving and learning again and again. Stick with it my friend. Whatever you choose to do in life, you will always be able to trace back to this time! Keep shooting….anything…Film, digital, smartphone, anything and everything!

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