Shot 19
The Whole Roll

36 frames / My First Whole Roll of Film – #FullRollFriday – By Holly Gilman

August 21, 2020

I am sharing a whole roll of Ilford HP5. Is that not everyone’s first roll of film?

I really like the idea of sharing a whole roll. In fact on my learning log I regularly analyse a whole roll of 120 film to learn from the successes and the mistakes. When looking through previous contributors posts I was really drawn by Ed Worthington’s post, in which he shared his first roll of film and the stories behind the frames. So I dug out my first roll and it really got me reflecting on my photographic journey so far.

I can often fall into the trap of regretting the past. I wish that I had come to film sooner or that I had discovered photography in general earlier. Lately I’ve been trying to exercise self kindness and it’s helped me to see every step I’ve taken as part of the learning journey.

Digital

I would say that my photographic journey began in about 2007 at the age of 14. I was given a Canon digital compact camera and this allowed me to document my teenage shenanigans with ease but it also allowed me to start using photography creatively. I was particularly influenced by my best friend who had her own DSLR. With her by my side I started to experiment and learn more. Unfortunately another friend shot the camera into the sun and I ended up with a black spot permanently burned into the sensor.

example of broken camera

The dreaded black spot

I continued to shoot with it and came up with some creative ways to mask the black spot (see below) but eventually decided to ask for a new camera. I was a little bit daunted by the idea of a DSLR so asked for a bridge camera. Frankly a useless waste of money, I would never advise anyone to go for that option. More complicated and bulky than a compact but without the creative control of a DSLR.

Example of canon

Black spot creatively hidden in my friend’s hair.

Example of kodak bridge camera

I really didn’t get on with the Kodak bridge camera!

I was always disappointed with the quality of the images I got from it. It didn’t take me long to upgrade to a DSLR. I waited until I left school and, still living with my parents, I used my first full time pay check to buy a Canon 600D and 50mm prime lens. I’ll never forget how happy and proud I was about that.

This is the point that photography really took off for me. I experimented, took courses, read books and magazines, went to exhibitions… And after a couple of years I sold the 600D and bought a second hand 6D (I really wanted a full frame sensor) and added a couple of lenses to my arsenal. I also decided to add a micro 4/3s camera to my collection as I felt I would benefit from having something smaller when a full DSLR felt like too much. It was at this point that I became more experimental, using cheap, funky lenses and accessories.

Example of micro 4/3

Example from Olympus OM-1 (Micro 4/3s)

Ultimately though I never really felt that much of a connection with the Micro 4/3s camera and sold it after just a year or two.

Film

When I first bought my 600D my father gave me his old film camera. A Pentax ME Super. Unfortunately he had stored it in the loft with a battery still in it which had leaked and jammed up the battery compartment. I was so happy to have been given the camera but ultimately it went unused for a few years whilst I explored and experimented with digital.

In 2015 something happened. I don’t know what but suddenly I had the desire to try out the film camera. I took it to my father in law to see if we could get the battery compartment sorted and I bought a cheap roll of film from the high street pharmacy, Ilford HP5 Plus.

Of course we managed to get it working. This camera is a perfect starter for someone coming from digital as it has an internal light meter and its auto mode is actually aperture priority which is my go to mode on digital. I do sometimes regret having left it for so long because what happened next was an explosion into the analogue photography world.

I was and am hooked, I absolutely love shooting this way and it gives me something that digital never did. And I don’t just mean image quality/style, I mean something deeper. I’ve included the images from that first roll below, they aren’t all fantastic but they are varied and there was enough there to keep me coming back for more.

Shot 1

Shot 1

Shot 2

Shot 2

Shot 3

Shot 3

Shot 4

Shot 4

Shot 5

Shot 5

Shot 6

Shot 6

Shot 7

Shot 7

Shot 8

Shot 8

Shot 9

Shot 9

Shot 10

Shot 10

Shot 11

Shot 11

Shot 12

Shot 12

Shot 13

Shot 13

Shot 14

Shot 14

These first 14 were all shot on that first day of getting the camera working at my in-laws place. Many are incorrectly exposed or even blurry as I relied on the cameras light meter and learnt to manually focus.

These next images were taken on my commute/ after work one day. It’s certainly showing how good it is for street photography in London!

Shot 15

Shot 15

Shot 16

Shot 16

Shot 17

Shot 17

Shot 18

Shot 18

Shot 19

Shot 19

Shot 20

Shot 20

Shot 21

Shot 21

Shot 22

Shot 22

Shot 23

Shot 23

Shot 24

Shot 24

Shot 25

Shot 25

Shot 26

Shot 26

Shot 27

Shot 27

And so next we have some more random shots and experiments as I got to the point that I wanted to just finish the roll so I could see what the results were (I am happy to confess that I love 120 film partly for the fact that it is 12 shots to a roll).

Shot 28

Shot 28

Shot 29

Shot 29 – my beloved Pentacon

Shot 30

Shot 30

Shot 31

Shot 31

Shot 32

Shot 32

Shot 33

Shot 33

Shot 34 is missing from my computer but from checking the negative file I can see that this is a completely overexposed image (completely black negative) so the lab must have made the decision not to scan it.

Shot 35

Shot 35

Shot 36

Shot 36

Since the first roll

Over the next couple of years I went a little mad. I wanted to try out different types of film camera and film and bought quite a few cheap cameras, not knowing whether they worked or not. I shot a roll of HP5 through each, some successfully, some were awful. Through the pentax I tried different colour and black and white film. After just 2 years it all got put on hold.

I had all these romantic ideas of documenting my children’s early days in black and white film, I even had the pentax loaded and in my hospital bag. After a traumatic birth, I did not feel like taking pictures. In the haze of new motherhood and coming to terms with the trauma I had gone through, I did not feel like taking photos. Between children I shot only a couple of rolls of film and then I think I shot a couple of frames alone after my second was born.

A couple of months ago I felt compelled to pick up my cameras again. And that flood of joy came back to me. I can’t believe I kept telling myself I didn’t have time for it, frankly I must always make time for photography because it makes me feel like me!

This time around I am focused on improving my technique and my understanding of film. I’m being more considered in my composition and exposure, I’m learning to develop my own film and I’m using just a couple of my favourite cameras rather than testing them all out. If you’re interested in following my learning journey you can see full posts on my learning log here or follow my instagram here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look through my first roll of film.

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Ed Worthington
    August 21, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    I don’t think ‘I’ve ever inspired anyone ever before in my life so I’m glad my article made you want to write one of your own 🙂

    I especially like the image of the upside down trolley in the car park by the way. I’ve got a thing about minimalism and lines and the painted liens of the parking spaces and the lack of much else in that frame really appeals to me.

  • Reply
    . Charles Detheridge
    August 21, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    Read your article With interest. Seems like in many ways we followed a different similar Trail. My first camera was the legendary zenith EF2, followed by the Practika PLC2 -The one with the electric lenses. I still have the PLC2. Over the years I had the Olympus OM 10, which I was a fool to part with but needed the money at the time. Then later when back in work I had a Canon T 50 (I think it was) , Which I never really took to a , A Nikon 401, which I gave to my sisters daughter for her college work, and finally entered the digital age with a KodakZ series bridge camera which I still have and use
    At the start of lockdown I started looking at for the first time eBay and found to my amazement that the cameras I had had over the years were still available – at very handy money, this went for the lenses as well . So I took the plunge. And Olympus again, and 0M 10, Vivitar 70 to 210 zoom plus 2X converter , And being a gadget freak and Olympus fan, an 0M101-with basic zoom lenses. This has what they call power focusing ……And I called bloody heavy! I can see why it was not a success – put the heavy lens on the heavy camera body, and you have a perfect way to keep fit by weightlifting.
    Despite this, and it being the opposite to the OM10, I like it!
    Have had to explain to my next door neighbours son of age 9 why the camera pictures cannot be seen immediately, and why the unit has to be sent away for processing rather than put in the computer. Liz has confirmed his thoughts that adults are mad , But I prefer eccentric. Now all I’ve got to do is find a source for “in date“ PEREUTZ slide film .
    Charles

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      August 22, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      Everyone’s journey is so different. The Pentax ME Super has tripled in price on ebay since my dad gave me his and I can’t believe it. I don’t know if it’s the lockdown effect pulling more people to film? I’m not tempted to sell that one though!

  • Reply
    Khürt Louis Williams
    August 21, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    I think you did well. I’ll be happy if my fifth roll of film produces at leat 10 usable images.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      August 22, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      Thank you so much! I was lucky that the Pentax ME Super was really intuitive to use. Not all my rolls have this many good images!

  • Reply
    Ian Cann
    August 21, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    What fantastic photos -Love Spitalfields in the B&W there with shot 19 being my favourite – could definitely grace an indie rock album cover 🙂

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      August 22, 2020 at 2:17 pm

      Thank you! I’ve had others mention shot 19 as well haha!

  • Reply
    Michael J
    August 21, 2020 at 10:46 pm

    These are great, thanks for sharing- cameras and photos need narratives and lives to, er, bring them into real value.
    Having said that, ME Super’s the film SLR that my hands just know their way around without the brain having to worry too much… they were cheaper than the OM-10s which was just as well as I had one nicked and killed another on my way through architecture school and they weren’t too painful to replace.

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      August 22, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Yes, definately a good camera to get into film with. Coming from digital it was so intuitive to use. I think it will always have a place in my collection 🙂

  • Reply
    David Hume
    August 21, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    What a lovely story – thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    DeeDee
    August 22, 2020 at 4:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your images and your journey! I think #36 is the winner on this roll! (At least it’s my favorite.) Although #s 19 & 28 are very nice too!

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      August 22, 2020 at 2:19 pm

      How interesting, not many people pick no.36 but of course I love that dog so I like that image 🙂 No.s 19 and 28 are also proving popular. Thank you!

  • Reply
    David H Thurman
    August 22, 2020 at 7:23 am

    Very beautiful writing and the photography is bound to reach the same level as the person, but a lot of work, consistency, and dedication are always to be given! Film really is the love we return to…
    So well done!

    • Reply
      Holly Gilman
      August 22, 2020 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you so much, it’s such a confidence boost to hear that you liked my writing. Hopefully I will continue to improve and learn 🙂

  • Reply
    Where you can find more of my writing… EEEK – School of Holly
    September 3, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    […] My first full roll of film that I shot back in 2015 and a reflection on how I got there. […]

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