Shooting Film For The First Time | Q&A

First time shooting film travelling

Feather & Film came about, due not just to our love of travel and film (clearly they’re biggies!) – but also because we want to stand up and support the film medium. We want to get more people shooting film – we want to keep film alive!

So we have decided to add much more content to this site that will help that. Such as why shoot film, How to shoot film and resources to get you going. ANY questions you have to get you shooting film – just ask us! Head over to our Facebook page and we can also open up your questions to our lovely followers – a lot are massive film fans too!

We’re so so happy to share with you this great Q&A with Cat from Ekkleboom-White Photography who decided to give film a go on her recent travels.

Enjoy – it’s great to hear the views from a new film shooter!

Please introduce yourself! Where are you based, what do you shoot? What medium do you usually shoot with?

I’m Cat. I’m originally from Bury St Edmunds in the UK, but I’m now living in Innsbruck Austria. My main area of photography is weddings but I love travelling and being out in the mountains – so naturally I want to take pictures of that too. I usually shoot with a DSLR accompanied by many different lenses.

Why did you decide to shoot film for your holiday? Was it your first time?

When my Grandfather passed away we gave his old cameras to my husband, as he is a keen photographer too. But the cameras just sat unused in a cupboard in our apartment. Since discovering my passion for photography in the last two years and seeing such amazing film images from other photographers, I decided to give it a go myself. And my first attempt was on our holiday to Italy last autumn.

Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography Pisa Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography Door Way Vikkind Caterina Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography Reflection in the puddle

We’d love to know of any struggles you found when it came to shooting film. Please share.

To start with, I didn’t even know if the camera still worked. But feeling optimistic, I purchased a new battery and two rolls of film from my local camera shop and was ready to give it a go. Before we left Austria I tried to load one of the rolls of expired film that had been sitting in the cupboard, and ended up having to google how to do it, as it just didn’t seem to go in right the first 5 times! Still not sure if the film was loaded correctly, I took three almost identical shots from my balcony to see how (and indeed if) the camera worked. The clunky shutter was so hard and shaky, I honestly did not see how I would get any steady images. On my last roll of film, I also managed to get something jammed whilst rolling it back, opened the camera too soon, and letting a bit too much light on to the film. Because of this, the last two frames were completely lost and a few others have some strange lines and light leaks on them.

What do you love about film? What don’t you like?

Looking at my final images, I really love the colours that have come out on the scans. Many of the images are imperfect in many ways, whether the focus was a bit softer or they are a bit grainy, but there is something really lovely and authentic about that.

The main thing that I don’t like is that I worry that if I didn’t get the shot, I will have nothing to show for my efforts. At least with digital you can check the back of the camera and take the shot again. With film, if you get it wrong, you don’t find out until after you’ve paid and waited for it to be developed. The costs associated with buying and developing the film are the main things that put me off.

Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography rooftop view of the street Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography street photography and sunset   Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography_0004

What camera, film and lab did you use? Any reason why you chose these ones?

The camera I used was an Olympus OM-10, with a 50mm f/1.8 and a 135mm  f/3.5 lens. It used to belong to my Grandfather, and it was really special to think that it was the same camera he used to take some of the beautiful photographs that I have of my Grandmother and Mum.

I took 4 rolls of film with me to Italy. Two of them were expired rolls of Fuji Superia 400 that were about 2 years out of date. The other two were Kodak Gold 400 that I got from the local camera store. My film choices were simply what I already had and what was cheap in the camera shop since I didn’t want to spend a lot on film if the camera didn’t even work.
I sent the films to the UK Film Lab, as I’d heard wonderful things about them from other photographers and from the European Wedding Congress that I attended in the Netherlands last year.

How did shooting film compare to shooting digital?

It was a completely different experience to shooting digital. Everywhere we went, I’d spend time analysing the scene and the light, instead of taking a photo with my DSLR, checking the screen and re-adjusting the settings. I slowed down and focused completely on each shot before I took it, often recomposing a few times before I pressed the shutter. With a digital camera you get so used to taking a shot, looking at the back of the camera, analysing it and taking the shot again but with film you really have to think BEFORE you press the shutter. I think with film I became quite obsessive over getting the shot right.
Being a control freak, not being able to take a look at the back of my camera was a killer. I knew that if I’d thought the shot out properly, it should be fine. However, my husband constantly asking me if I’d “got a good one” drove me ever so slightly insane as he paraded off with my DSLR!
“With a digital camera you get so used to taking a shot, looking at the back of the camera, analysing it and taking the shot again but with film you really have to think BEFORE you press the shutter.”
 I’m also slightly ashamed to admit it, but I did find myself getting quite irate with other people when I was shooting film. My film camera had no automatic settings and was completely manual focus, so I’d be taking my time framing the shot that I wanted, and getting the focus as sharp as I could, only to have someone stick a hideous selfie stick right in front of it! Lets just say there were a few loud tuts and sighs (oh how British of me).

Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography_0005 Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography reflection in puddle Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography expired form

Do you think you will do it again?

Absolutely. I really enjoyed it, even though the thought crossed my mind a few times that I could get home and find out I still had blank rolls of film and nothing to show from my trip. I loved the feeling of slowing everything down and focusing on each frame, especially since I’m quite a hectic person normally. It’s almost like meditation (if you don’t count the getting angry at tourists part!)

Do you think this experience has made you want to shoot more film – not just on trips – but as part of your professional and personal photography?

Definitely. I don’t think I’ll be doing it in my wedding photography any time soon but I’d really like to use more film in my personal photography. My next goal is to get some black and white film and do some street photography around Innsbruck. I don’t think I’ll shoot it that often as it gets quite expensive with all of the film and development, but it was certainly not a one-off experience. I’ve even had a look online to see if I can find a Canon SLR that will work with my other Canon lenses, although I am rather attached to my Grandad’s beautiful old camera.

Any advice to those out there who are interested in film but not sure where to start?

Just go for it. It doesn’t need to be the best camera or film. Get a cheap camera off Ebay and some old film and just shoot. If you don’t want to risk it on your holiday, then photograph you family and friends. If you understand the basic principles of exposure then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can create without relying on the modern technology of the DSLR and lighting speed autofocus. It may sound silly, but focus less on the actual images to start with and just enjoy the process. By the end of it you’ll feel like a true photographer!

Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography_0007

Any good resources you found?

Except googling the camera manual, I didn’t really look to any resources. I wanted to just find my way by myself.

How did the process affect the way you photographed your trip? Was the outcome what you expected?

Going in to this holiday, I was thinking less about the final images (as I was rather pessimistic that they would be rubbish anyway) and more about the whole process and experience of shooting film. I really loved the feeling of travelling lightly, just me and my camera, a spare roll of film and a second lens in my bag. Even with a spare lens, my bag was so light compare to the massive DSLR and heavy lenses that I would normally carry.

The biggest difference I feel was that because I knew that my shots were limited, I would often take up to ten minutes trying to compose a shot, only to decide in the end that I didn’t think it was going to work and ended up not taking a picture after all – much to the annoyance of my husband!

Although I wanted to get some great creative shots on film, I did often find myself playing it safe and going for the “tourist postcard” shots as I always decided at the last minute a safe shot was better than an experimental one that went wrong.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the outcome. My biggest fear was that the images would be poorly exposed or shaky, but they actually turned out pretty well. The only ones which weren’t so good were a couple of shots of my husband, where he seemed to time blinking perfectly with when I pressed the shutter, and where I managed to mess up rewinding the film and opening the camera too soon and letting in too much light, which of course I had no way of knowing until I got the final scans back. Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography_0002

Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography_0008

Tell us a bit about your holiday! We’re nosey like that.

Living in Innsbruck, we’re only 30 minutes from the Italian border, so for the Autumn we planned a little road trip down to Italy for a few days in October. Our first stop was Milan, as we wanted to visit the EXPO. Although the EXPO itself was interesting, the masses of people around Milan was a bit to much for us, so we headed down to the coast to visit the Cinque Terre. This national park contains five postcard perfect fishing villages that are set along the dramatic coastline. Although we arrived by car, we left the car at one end and took the train that travels along the coast between the villages, passing through tunnels and over the cliffs. We completely fell in love with the brightly coloured houses and narrow streets, placed perfectly on the steep rising cliffside.

Not wanting to leave the Cinque Terre, our next main destination was Florence, via Pisa for one night, as I’ve always wanted to see the leaning tower. Most people come only to see the tower, and it’s hard not get get a photo of it without someone rocking the typical “holding up the tower” pose, but the other buildings that surround it are also beautiful and are definitely worth taking the time to look around.

Leaving Pisa, but staying in the Tuscany region, we drove up to Florence. My husband has visited Florence a few times before and had said that he wanted to take me there one day, but honestly it was never really somewhere that had been on my radar. Not really having a plan of action, we jumped on the tram from our hotel and headed in to the city. Not really paying attention, we marched in to the Piazza del Duomo while I still had one eye on the shops in a little side street. With a little nudge, I looked up and I honestly felt speechless at what I saw. Never did I expect to see such incredibly ornate, colourful details. The Duomo was possibly one of the most amazing pieces of architecture (and art) that I have ever seen, and I had to just stand there and take it all in for a while. Once I was ready to move on, we wandered the streets of Florence, discovering little alleyways that led to colourful boutiques, more ornate churches and towers and look-out points over the city.

As we started to head back north, our penultimate stop on the trip was Bologna. The streets and buildings here are perfectly coordinated in varying shades of orange, cream and brown, giving it a really warm feeling even in the cooler month of October. We only had a few hours here, so we climbed to the top of the tower and watched the sunrise over the city. Although Pisa is famous for it’s leaning tower, it seems that very few of the buildings in Italy are even close to being straight, including many in Bologna.

On our last day we decided to break our journey back to Innsbruck by stopping off at Mantua, and we were so glad that we did. Mantua is surrounded by three lakes and has magnificent palaces and cobbled streets to discover. Much less touristy than most of our other destinations, in Mantua it felt like we were experiencing a little slice of Italian life.

From Mantua it was straight back in the car to drive to Innsbruck, but we were still spoiled with amazing views as we drove through the magnificent autumnal landscapes in the South Tirol region. Between Trento and Brenner, the Italian vineyards creep up the rugged mountain sides in natural frescoes of red, orange and green, enhanced by the golden glow of the autumn sun.

Cat Ekkelboom-White Film Travel Photography_0009

Camera | Olympus OM-10
Film | Expired Fuji Superia 400 film & Kodak Gold 400.
Lab | UK Film Lab

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  1. 1

    Loved this article and photos! I have the exact same camera (OM10), which used to be my grandfather’s. This inspires me to break it out more often. ♡

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