So, after many months of shooting primarily digital, 16 rolls of black and white film (35mm and medium format) have come back from the processor. Time for a bit of film love, and a lot of scanning! You never know, the dark room (which is stored behind me as I type this) might even come out!
Today, I would say, has been the nicest weather of the year. Spring well and truly feels that it is on its way. I really like spring, it’s my favourite time of the year. You can enjoy spring knowing that the summer (what we have of it in Britain!) is still ahead of you.
At the moment, I constantly have two cameras on me. A Leica MP rangefinder and a Nikon F3 SLR. The F3 is for the red project and the MP is for general shooting of things that do not fit with the red project. My aim was to have 36 negatives on a roll with red in them. However, I have enjoyed using the Nikon so much that it’s become my main camera at the moment and the MP has been relegated to back up camera. Just goes to show that the most expensive camera doesn’t always win out.
So, I have ended up with Ektar 100 in the F3 (yet another 5 rolls on the way… that’s 15 bought this month, so far) and Portra 400 in the MP. Seems like a fair compromise to me, one for the good light and one for the lower light! I can just about get away with 400ISO at night, but’s it’s a push. I know, digital is easier…
What I have noticed about Ektar is that when the sun is out it produces pastel like colours and produces a look that is not dissimilar tonally to medium format. However, when the sun goes in and the light becomes darker the colours really seem to become saturated. I haven’t seen a film change so much in character in different weather conditions. However, I really like the effects. Of course in Britain, a lot of shots are going to be very saturated!
Last month, my project was to shoot with Cinestill film. The results were OK, nothing to really write home about. I shot three rolls of film in the end. Two have been scanned, but I still need to finish the third.
This month, I have been shooting with a Nikon F3, a 50mm 1.4 lens and Kodak Ektar. To add a bit of structure, I am giving myself a brief for each month. This month, as I am using colour film, I am focusing on the colour red. I have been very productive so far this month, and had to order more film as I shot through 5 rolls of Ektar in about two weeks. Mind you, it has been a very busy few weeks generally!
Two things I can say is that (1) Kodak Ektar is a great film, the colours are amazing. It’s certainly a film that I intend to keep using on a very regular basis; (2) the Nikon F3 is a lovely camera. I can see why they made them for over 20 years. It was a camera that I always wanted since being a teenager, so it’s nice to finally get my hands on one and shoot with it. The 50mm Nikon AI lens is not a sharp as a 50mm Leica Summilux. But that’s to be expected. However, it does have a lot of character. I really like the look it gives when shot wide open. The bokeh is very nice.
I am intending to publish the work as an e-book at the end of the month. Unlike last month, when I waited until the end, I am processing and scanning as I go along. So, hopefully, something tangible will emerge quicker. However, time for scanning has cut down on time for blogging!
In the last few weeks, I have been shooting film again (hence the lack of daily posts). I have been really enjoying it, the experience is lovely – you just take the shot and move on, forget about it. I would like to process the films myself. I have all the kit to do it myself, but I don’t the inclination time. So, I will rely on my local photography centre.
So, in the spirit of things, I am going to spend the next month just using one camera (Leica M7), one lens (35mm) and one film type (Cinestill 800T rated at ISO 500).
What I will do is shoot it, bag it up and wait until the end of the month to get it processed in one hit. I’ll post up anything decent!
Most of my photography is done using a 50mm lens in Salisbury. So, to make it more of a challenge, I am just going to shoot with a wide-angle 35mm. It is not a length that I use much, so that’ll be interesting for me.
Finally, my usual style is reasonably (I hope!) well composed, clean and simple images. For the next month, I am going to get messier and try out a different tack. I’m going to try and be more Jun Abe rather than Bresson. We’ll see how that goes, it’s going to be painful for me. However, it’s a good thing to get out of your comfort zone. Don’t expect any Alex Webb quality shots, I’m not that good at complexity in imagery!
Changing your sensor
Recently, I have been shooting a lot of digital and it has been fun. I do like the ‘clean’ look of a monochrome digital image. I have been slimming my photography kit down, getting rid of cameras that I don’t use often enough to justify keeping them. I don’t like the idea of having cameras sitting in a box collecting dust. If I am not using them, then hopefully someone else will. The only exception to this is my large format. I don’t use it enough, but this a camera for life for me.
I had been thinking about a digital rangefinder, as I like this style of shooting. I had one before (a Leica M9-P), but I sold it after a year. It would get noisy very quickly as you moved off the base ISO. Mainly though, I just didn’t like the feel of it. I didn’t really care about the crappy LCD screen on the back, but it just didn’t feel as solid or tough as the film cameras. Also, even though relative to other manufacturers’ Leica’s hold their value, they still suffer massively from digital rot. Any digital bought now is just a door-stop in waiting. My 1958 Leica M3 (out on loan to a friend) is still going strong.
The other thing that I have ‘realised’ more recently with film, is that if you want to change the ‘sensor’ you just load a different type of film. Hence, this new project. Whilst the film market has shrunk since I first started photography when I was a teenager, there are still a lot of films about (and slowly increasing again with the recent release of Bellamy Hunt’s Japan Camera Hunter film (Street pan JCH400), Film Ferrania’s P30 monochrome cinema still film, Cinestill medium format, and the upcoming re-release of Kodak Ektachrome (like others, I hope for the return of Kodachrome (unlikely, I know)).
There are some pretty interesting films out there like Rollei Redbird, Adox Colour Implosion, Infrared, bulk cinema films, as well as as a whole bunch of more common films that I have not tied (e.g. Kodak Ektar (on order)). So, I figured I might as well expand my photographic horizons and give them a go!
Yes, there haven’t been many posts recently – blame me film for that! I have been exclusively shooting film (Ilford HP5+ and Fuji Acros 100) for the last week. It’s been great, but not good for the blog. Good news is that a lot of film is going in to be processed tomorrow. Bad news is that it will be about a week before I get it back.
I am (slowly) putting together an ibook of the night photography that I have done in Salisbury over the last couple of years. I will post a link to it up when it is done. I am just debating in my tiny mind about adding a multi-media time lapse or video element to it. If people have any thoughts, feel free to comment.
In the meantime, here is an image that I took after I left the Anti-Trump protest in Downing Street that evening.
These are some of the photographs from last night’s run out with Cinestill. The first roll I put through was not very successful. This time, I downrated the film to 500 ISO (instead of 800) and did some more post processing with Lightroom after scanning the image. The details are improved and there is a little less digital noise in the colours. I scanned with an Epson v850 scanner, but it only has the standard software. I also have a Plustek 8200Ai scanner (out on loan to a friend) with Silverfast HDR, which has much better hardware / software for scanning such dense negatives. I will rescan some of the images at a later date to see if I can improve them. At the moment though, I think I will pop another roll into a camera!
The problem with having a lot of film processed is that you need to then scan it. Fortunately, a light box makes the whole process a little quicker!
I went out and shot with the film camera today. I shot quite a lot of frames of Cinestill. It’s a film I am very much in the process of working out how to get the best out of it. My first roll wasn’t great to be honest, so I have downrated the film from ISO 800 to 500 in the hope that I get some better results this time. I am dropping the film off for processing tomorrow, so we shall see.
The reason I took a lot of shots is not that I had some amazing subjects to shoot, more that I am used to shooting digitally (i.e. lots of frames) rather than ‘filmically’ (i.e.considered and careful)!