Shooting film, again

It’s been a long time since I have shot film, but I managed to shoot a roll last week in London. It was a really nice experience to focus, click, then move on again without knowing what the image was going to turn out like. There was no chimping option.

I got the film processed on Saturday and scanned it late on Sunday night. Scanning took ages. I haven’t used my scanner for what seems like aeons, so I have forgotten how to set it up properly. Still, I will get around to that at some point. But, the images that came out from those scans were definitely worth it.

Kodak Portra 160 has always been one of my most popular colour films (next to the 400 version and Ektar), the images have such a lovely natural look to them. I forgot you could get colours and grading like this…

Phone gazing, Trafalgar Square

So, in short, very glad to have picked up film again!

The slow return of film photography

For much of the last year I have primarily shooting in digital. However, in the last few weeks there has been a slowly returning interest in shooting some film again.

I am really enjoying shooting digital, it’s so easy and convenient. But, I have also got lazier when out and about doing street photography. My style (with digital) has been to just point and shoot at any interesting subject passing by. I do quite enjoy doing this. But, there is a nagging part of me which doesn’t like this less considered approach. I find it quite difficult to shoot digital like a film camera as I know I can just keep firing away to get another image (or a sequence of images).

A friend and I have decided to do a project based on Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places. In this book, I particularly like the idea that wildness does not have to be the classic vast landscape wilderness. It can also be a very local area, where nature is just doing its thing without human interference (at least for a little while).

The idea of this project is to shoot it from the 1st October until the end of the month. Then, we’ll see what comes out of it in the following month. I am going to shoot film (Kodak Tri-X and Portra) on a Nikon F3. I am going to keep the project local, in line with Macfarlane’s comments about ‘the local wilderness’ (so to say). Most likely, I will just keep to Salisbury and see what I can find there (hopefully not discarded perform bottles left by Russian agents…). I have spotted a few potential images already. In part, this is because the town is very easy to access for me. But, it is also because I am so bored of shooting in Salisbury after 6 years that I need to do something different just to try and make the (relentlessly) familiar unfamiliar again.

This little glimmer of resurgence for film has been partly fuelled by me missing my Leica M camera. It’s pretty obvious to me that once I sold the Leica, I stopped shooting film shortly afterwards. I am some way off buying another Leica at the moment, but you never know…

There are no recent film shots to post up at the moment, mainly because I haven’t processed any yet. However, here are some recent digital images where I have been playing with under exposure. Enjoy!



Time for a bit of film love

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!


Fine day

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!

Magenta, Bournemouth

One camera, one lens, one film, one month… one project.

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!

Red chairs, Bournemouth

One month, one camera, one lens, one type of film

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!

Leica MP, 50mm Summicron, Kodak Portra
Leica MP, 50mm Summicron, Kodak Portra

A brief pause

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.