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My Analogue Life: My Favourite Mistake

Surprise and anticipation are two of the very best things about analogue photography. It’s exciting, fun, and a thousand things digital photography can’t possibly be. But sometimes the surprises aren’t so super, like when an alternative processing experiment goes horribly wrong, or the back comes off your camera and exposes the film inside. And then there’s that occasional roll of damaged film that’s too damaged and the negatives end up being a long strip of nothing at all.

Thankfully, these instances are rare and more often than not, “mistakes” turn out to be anything but. I’ve made every “mistake” possible, I think — many repeatedly, sometimes on purpose, but much of the time not. One of my all-time favourites is the “fat roll” and its resulting light leaks, which I discovered by accident during my first summer of analogue photography, while using a Holga CFN.

If you haven’t encountered a fat roll yourself here’s the deal: there are slight differences and quirks in every medium format toy camera, and frequently one of those quirks is that certain brands of film will fit differently in your camera than others. Because the plastic Kodak spools differ ever-so-slightly from the Fuji ones, when you switch between films you have a good chance at getting a fat roll (ie. shooting a Fuji film onto the Kodak spool from the film that was last in your camera).

The film will feel tight when you wind it, almost to the point of being stuck. And when you finally finish and pop your camera’s back you’ll find a loosely-wound roll that’s at least as wide as the ends of the spool. This is a fat roll and you’re going to get light leaks along the top and bottom of your frames, sometimes more.

My first fat roll had one of my all-time favourite photos, of a hipster fox/child wearing a gold tunic and black tights. The light leak was spectacular, perfectly placed and made the image so much more distinctive than it would have been without.

I’ve learned to control fat rolls and light leaks (unless I want a fat roll or leaks, I keep a camera dedicated to Fuji film and another to Kodak), but sometimes I forget and load a Fuji roll after a Kodak one. And those are the days I can’t wait to get to the lab — to see what kind of “mistakes” I’ve made this time.

What’s your favourite mistake? Share your stories and images with me!

Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.

written by pamelaklaffke

19 comments

  1. mikahsupageek

    mikahsupageek

    I love mistakes too ! great article as usual Pam =)
    http://www.lomograph(…)os/11813699

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  2. wuxiong

    wuxiong

    Yes, I have once got a fat roll shooting fuji on my Diana+, of course with lots of leaks. hahaa... love the article.

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  3. antibiotyx

    antibiotyx

    i've done of lots of lomo mistakes too, or should i say, beautiful accidents - accidental double exposures, light leaks, burnt edges, over exposures, etc. love them!

    my favorites so far are: my holga cfn abstract shots (when i forgot to change the bulb setting from B to N) - http://bit.ly/bDnHiQ & accidental double exposures of oktomat and robotcam - http://bit.ly/aisuGj

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  4. wilfbiffherb

    wilfbiffherb

    ive only shot 5 rolls so far and only 1 has not been a fat roll!!!

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  5. nicolas_noir

    nicolas_noir

    You know, I don't think I've ever had a fat roll! Or at least if I have, I've not go light leaks from it. The only light leaks I get from my Holga are by not using a frame. I love the light leaks from my vintage Diana. I don't tape up it at all, which is usually alright but I did lose half a roll when the back fell off once :-( Other recent mistake has been a roll of expired Neopan 1600 not coming out at all :-( An expensive mistake too!

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  6. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    mikahsupageek: i'm glad you like the article — writing the column every week is a lot of fun (and your 'off with his head!' photo is great!
    wuxiong: it's funny how all of the rolls i've ever had and the one that you got as well was with fuji film. i never have had a kodak or agfa fat roll.
    antibiotyx: 'beautiful accidents' is a great way of putting it. i get a lot of blurry bulb photos, too. sometimes i forget to check the switch at the bottom of my holga and it often switches from N to B when i'm carrying it around with other stuff in my handbag. i'll sometimes be surprised by the results, but rarely disappointed!
    wilfbiffherb: i have a camera like that! one of my holgas is constantly giving me fat rolls, while with the others it's only occasional and again, i only get them with fuji films. i don't know if you've found this as well, but if so, you may want to try shooting a different brand if you don't want leaks all the time.
    nicolas_noir: wow — no fat rolls? ever? that's amazing. it's funny how every camera is so different. i've only had one toy camera ever that i've had to tape or that light-leaked all the time. and that's a drag about your neopan 1600. rolls not coming out at all is one 'mistake' that's not fun at all!

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  7. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    mikahsupageek: i'm glad you like the article — writing the column every week is a lot of fun (and your 'off with his head!' photo is great!
    wuxiong: it's funny how all of the rolls i've ever had and the one that you got as well was with fuji film. i never have had a kodak or agfa fat roll.
    antibiotyx: 'beautiful accidents' is a great way of putting it. i get a lot of blurry bulb photos, too. sometimes i forget to check the switch at the bottom of my holga and it often switches from N to B when i'm carrying it around with other stuff in my handbag. i'll sometimes be surprised by the results, but rarely disappointed!
    wilfbiffherb: i have a camera like that! one of my holgas is constantly giving me fat rolls, while with the others it's only occasional and again, i only get them with fuji films. i don't know if you've found this as well, but if so, you may want to try shooting a different brand if you don't want leaks all the time.
    nicolas_noir: wow — no fat rolls? ever? that's amazing. it's funny how every camera is so different. i've only had one toy camera ever that i've had to tape or that light-leaked all the time. and that's a drag about your neopan 1600. rolls not coming out at all is one 'mistake' that's not fun at all!

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  8. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    yikes! sorry about the double-comment — my connection timed out while the page was loading so i pressed send twice without realizing the comment had indeed been posted. appropriate, i guess, for a column about mistakes!

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  9. bordes

    bordes

    love fat light leaks! I had a friend ask to you my diana last year to take a picture of me (seeing how there are usually none), and not knowing that a square picture would be produced she fliped the camera on its side and took a picture...
    http://photos.lomogr(…)87c6f21.jpg

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  10. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    great picture, bordes! it's the same with me: i'm always the one taking the photos and am rarely in them (but i like it that way).

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  11. mikahsupageek

    mikahsupageek

    haha thanks pam, glad you liked it =)

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  12. tallyho

    tallyho

    Great article! I'm looking forward to reading more of them. I do have to confess that I've now taped my Bulb switch. But I learned a lot from that mistake - like how overexposed slide film yields completely different color shifts than underexposed slide film.

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  13. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    i've done that, too, tallyho, especially if i'm shooting a series and need a specific (ie. not blurry) result. and you're right about the colour shifts — every small thing can make a world of difference with our plasticky camera friends, and half the fun is figuring out all of those differences and sensitivities.

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  14. travishood

    travishood

    no problems going back and forth with Kodak and lomo film in my cfn.. thanx

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  15. travishood

    travishood

    in my diana mini i encountered a problem with one roll of film (do far) where at shot 29 it locked up so i released it wound it back all the way but 2 inches, then rolled it back on and shot again.. and it made it to 38 shots this time... i'm excited for the results.

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  16. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    interesting situation with your diana mini — let me know when you post the results! i did a similar thing with my L-CA tonight (ie. rolled it back and shot again) at an arcade fire show, so we'll see how that goes....

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  17. bex11

    bex11

    I forget to wind the film sometimes... and end up with accidental multiple exposures haha
    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  18. esterch

    esterch

    nice article!!
    thx for sharing, i didn't know using different brands would affect the photos in the future..

    about 4 years ago · report as spam
  19. diomaxwelle

    diomaxwelle

    My holga's spoiled me; never had a fat roll ever. But my friend got herself a Diana, and that rolls out fat rolls every time! XD It almost scared me off buying a Diana, but those rolls--when she gets something out of it--often give a few gems. My favorite mistakes come from my DIY Recesky, which often leads me to forget to advance the wheel when taking photos, or not advance enough and get blended shots, even great light leaks.

    over 1 year ago · report as spam

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