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My First Roll of Black & White Film

Thoughts & Photos from a Roll of Kodak T-Max 400

By Oliver DahlPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Rock Canyon After a Snow Storm

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I would definitely classify myself as a color photographer. Color is everything. How I compose, how I edit, and even how I plan out my Instagram feed.

But a good friend of mine (@lydiiarumsey) gave me a roll of Kodak T-Max 400 black & white film and invited me to branch out and try something new. It ended up being more of a challenge than I expected it to be, but I enjoyed the results!

My 35mm Film Camera Collection

Sometimes people are surprised to see me walking around with an old camera. "Do they still make film for that thing?" they'll ask. They do! And even black and white film, too. It's a timeless medium that continues to withstand the tests of time... and innovation. Buying a new black and white television set is out of the question, but companies like Kodak and Ilford continue to manufacture different varieties of black and white film. Up to now, I'd enjoyed looking at other photographers' B&W work, but always felt like I preferred the "color" version of my own photos if I ever edited them into B&W.

But I accepted her challenge, loaded the roll into a Ricoh Shotmaster Zoom point and shoot my grandpa gave me, (the bottom right camera shown above) and went through the roll over the course of the next month or two.

I'll share some of my favorite photos from the roll and why I like them so much!

First up is one of the first photos I took on the camera. I wanted to try out the built-in flash on the camera at night, and was drawn to all the details in this scene.

I love the flash reflecting off the balloon, the "CANDY" sign, and the lights on inside the store.

This shot was taken next door to the party store. The flash bounced off of the window I shot into more than I expected, but I was able to recover some details when I scanned. I especially like the tiled floor and flags hanging from the ceiling.

Another day, after it snowed in Provo, I headed to Rock Canyon to photograph the fresh snow against the dark branches and craggy mountains.

In this next shot, I think the footstep-worn path weaving through the trees makes the shot. The mountains themselves are stark and beautiful, but its the details like these that help soften the scene and give it purpose. I can't help but feel like I'm imitating Ansel Adams in these next photos.

Here again, I love balancing or juxtaposing the magnificence of nature with human touch. These man-made buildings manage to blend in and stand out in their own right, adding an interesting layer that draws attention.

In this next photo, the riverbed serves a similar purpose to the trail in a previous photo. My favorite part of this shot, though, is the top of the mountain in this frame. The snow, brush, trees, and rocks hold a lot of detail. The snow on the tree branches in the middle of the frame helps separate the foreground. I guess these are less virtues of the photo, and more commendations for the natural scene itself. I just pointed the camera in the right direction, and chose how much to zoom in.

Where the canyon empties out into Provo, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has built a house of worship called a temple. It's a uniquely beautiful building, featuring a copper sculpture of an angel named Moroni atop the steeple. This was one of the last photos I took on the roll for a while.

After most of the snow had melted, I was out on a photo walk in Provo when I encountered this guy: a (fake, don't worry) skeleton in the driver's seat of an old truck. The gritty texture on the window blends with the grain of the film to make a jolting scene. The soft curves of the truck's body with the white glow of bones work together really well.

In this next photo, my attention was drawn to the big office building looming over an otherwise normal, suburban scene.

While walking to my film lab in Provo, I had just a few frames left, and so took my last photo just a few blocks away before giving them the roll to develop. Taking "Shadow Selfies" has become almost a running joke for me, but I do think they're kind of fun.

So there you have it! The original roll had 36 exposures, and I only shared 12 in this post. (The best 12, or my favorite 12, anyway.) One or two others on the roll were out of focus as a result of tough lighting conditions or the camera's auto focus not working. A few seemed repetitive to share, and the others just weren't that great. But being happy with an entire third of a roll is actually pretty good for me! I'm not always so lucky haha.

I don't think I'm about to forsake color and convert to be an exclusively black and white photographer anytime soon. But this first roll of black and white film definitely won't be last.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed! If you'd like to help fund my next roll of film, consider leaving a tip or purchasing a print to hang on your wall. :)

To see some shots from my first roll of Kodak Ektachrome film:

To see more photos from Provo, Utah:


About the Creator

Oliver Dahl

Oliver Dahl is a published author and photographer from Boise, Idaho.

He currently studies marketing at Brigham Young University.


Instagram: @OliverWDahl

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