My first roll… Of 120 film: Kodak Portra 160 in a Seagull TLR – by Tobias Eriksson

I think that it is a wonderful idea to share the thoughts we have when trying something new. Sharing not only perfection in photography but also personal bewilderment makes one more humble towards others’ results and preferrably one learns things in the process. 

My first roll of 120 film wasn’t entirely my first ever but instead, was my first after a twenty-year hiatus. I’d bought my Seagull TLR – the first medium format camera I had ever touched — when taking a year of journalism classes at the age of 21. I exposed maybe six or seven rolls before the camera was put on the shelf (or rather in a box) for almost two decades. Over the years it got picked back up to accompany me to the annual Gothenburg Film Festival, but the roll had been sitting in the camera for years before being fully exposed.


I never felt confident composing with the square format but kept bringing the camera with me to the festival only to, again and again, be put off both by the bulky shape and the frustration of not getting my head around how to compose for the square format in a satisfying way.

Having gotten more serious about photography in the last five years — a process that included going from pocketable plastic camera to manually controlled metal ones — one morning three years ago, I got round to loading the Seagull, having convinced myself that I needed to practice square format composition.

I took my daughter on a bicycle trip along the coastline to the north of where we lived at the time. We found an off-season camping-site and just next to it a pier and some fishing huts. I exposed the film (ten exposures) there.

The photos are presented here as they were from the scanner. I know in hindsight that including the blacks and whites of the borders in the scan obstructs the light as compared to not including them. An image that seems overexposed after it’s been corrected by the scanning program may not be, actually.

#1 Of course, the photo would be much more interesting…

…if the guy’d been on his way here instead of walking away..

#2 An example of when ambition and time constraint collide

Catch the always-moving child + make something fun with the lines of the boards. I did catch the child… This is exposed like I would a 35mm camera. In that format, the disturbing background would have been cropped.


#3 Here are the boards, but so what? And an unfortunate double exposure too.

#4 This would have gained from a larger depth of field…

…or another angle. It’s in the shade so the shutter speed would possibly have been a problem.

#5 This one I’m happy with.

I exposed it a bit too cautiously since it was in bright, slightly overcast sunlight.

#6 Don’t ask me about this one. Well exposed though.

#7 Blocky rocks

There’s nothing in the composition that shows the scale (each block is 2m -ish high!) The exposure is good, no blown highlights.

#8 Another accidental double exposure…

…which turned out rather well, don’t you think?

#9 Back home

Several visual tricks at play here. I always love to play with shallow depth-of-field.

#10 It’s a favourite

I used the shallow depth-of-field to make the tree and its lights the centre of attention.

That’s the ten! I hope you’ve gained some insight from reading about my first proper attempt at exposing a 120 roll. I have since then used this Seagull for more 6x6cm photography, a 35mm Agfa Rapid for 24x24mm photography as well as a Yashica 44 in 4×4 cm format all to polish on my compositions in the perfect square!

Please comment, and also check out my Instagram at #ourbooksmalmo. Visit my Etsy camera shop getOurBooks. I have a blog called getOurBooks.


~ Tobias

Want to share your first roll or sheet of film?

Poorly exposed, badly framed and blurry photos? No-one is perfect, especially when shooting their first roll of film...but that's ok and I'd like to spread that message. Submit as many frames from your first roll as you're able to with an accompanying text of at least 500 words using this Google form. If you would prefer to submit another way, please use the contact link at the top of the page.

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Tobias Eriksson
Tobias Erikssonhttp://tobbetecknare.blogspot.se
Amateur photographer who uses and experiments with these wonder machines, and writes about it on his blog. He also sells used cameras at Etsy under the name getOurBooks.

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