Learning to Shoot Film – Rookie Mistakes
My first experience shooting film wasn’t perfect. In my haste to Just Start™, I made a few rookie mistakes.
Before I went out and purchased the Minolta SLR which I used in my previous post, I decided to try a camera I’d stashed away years ago. It was a 35mm Konica 35C rangefinder, produced in 1968 and found by me in a garage sale in the twenty-teens in Jackson, Mississippi.
The camera is beautiful, compact, and simple enough to understand. I cleaned it up with rubbing alcohol and Q-tips and figured it should work just fine.
- The shutter? Check
- The light meter? After replacing the old mercury battery with a custom-designed non-toxic equivalent, check.
- The film? Fujifilm Fujicolor 400 Superia X-Tra. Check.
Here’s where I went wrong. The Konica, like all film cameras, has an indicator showing you which exposure you’re on. Once you’ve loaded your film and taken a few shots to roll it into the winder, the indicator sits at “1.” Having never shot with film before, I assumed the camera would stop me once I reached the maximum number of exposures on my roll of film.
(Spoiler: I was wrong.)
When I reached 24, the exposure limit on my roll of Fujicolor 400, I kept winding, and the exposure indicator moved ahead to 25 with me. Unfortunately, my film didn’t. I felt resistance and heard an unsettling grinding noise at about exposure 26. At this point, I assumed something was wrong with the camera. It was an old garage sale find, after all. I also somehow got it into my head that my roll of film had 36 exposures, so I kept taking shots until I got there.
Seasoned film shooters (or even smarter beginners) are cringing right now.
Then came rookie mistake number two. Once I had “finished the roll,” I attempted to rewind the film into the canister. Strangely, I thought at the time, it seemed to be having some difficulty. So without thinking, I popped open the back of the camera to see if it was working at all. On the beach. On a sunny day.
It was doing just fine, and simply needed a few more winds.
Having committed two egregious film-shooting errors, I finished winding up the roll and decided to send it out for processing anyway. At this point, I was mainly curious to see if the camera was functioning at all and didn’t care much for how the pictures would turn out. I used Walgreens and waited five days for the results. Here’s what I got:
Focusing and hand vibration are two additional human errors visible in these shots. The camera I was using doesn’t display the shutter speed, so I was never sure how steady I needed to hold the camera. It was also my first experience with a rangefinder, which is a manual focus camera where you adjust your focus with a lever to make the image within a small box in the center of your viewfinder look clear. Definitely something I need more practice with.
Opening the back of the camera resulted in the excessive grain, fuzzy images, and orange “light burn” that you can see throughout these photos. Continually winding the film past the limit simply wiped out those shots, which is a small price to pay for such a silly mistake, in my opinion. I’m surprised I didn’t rip the film completely out of the canister.
As poor as these photos are though, it was a fantastic learning experience. I’m typically a perfectionist, which can be a blessing and a curse. It often stops me from even attempting to do things if I don’t believe I will do a good job. My first experiment with film allowed me to throw caution to the wind and learn a few valuable lessons in the process. I’m sure there will be many more mistakes along the way, but hopefully no repeats. And hey, if you ever start shooting film yourself, I hope this helps you avoid making these same errors.
What’s a mistake you’ve made that taught you a valuable lesson? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook!
Until next time!