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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

The Kodak Challenge

fun with film

in Film , Thursday, October 16, 2014

Continuing the report on my trials with Kodak Provia 400 in Sardinia, I’ve now got the heavyweight stuff processed, i.e the rolls that went through the XPan. Interestingly, without really planning it, I have two shots taken a few minutes apart of the same scene, one on the last frame of a roll of E100G that was in the camera, and one on Portra 400. Both were taken handheld, so the framing is a little different. And the light changed slightly, it was a little sunnier for the top image.

Both were scanned on the Opticfilm 120, using Silverfast. For the Portra, I used the 400NC Negafix profile. Both images are straight scans, no further processing. Can you tell which is which? (Try just looking at the colour, there are a few other giveaways for the more astute viewer…)

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Ferrania — Kickstarter

100 more years of analog film!

in Film , Tuesday, September 30, 2014

100 More Years of Analog Film by FILM Ferrania — Kickstarter

Still want to shoot film ? Now’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. I certainly will be.

ferrania
 

The Portra Report

sentimental journey

in Film , Friday, September 26, 2014

As I mentioned a few posts back, partly inspired by the photography of Johnny Patience and a few others I discovered through his blog, I decided that on my recent trip to Sardinia I would take just 5 rolls of Portra 400, and my resurrected Minox ML. Oh, and my Hasselblad XPan.

The Monox was a lot of fun to use. With no real expectations, there was no pressure, and I just pointed it at things and clicked. I’ve just received the processed films and low-res scans back from the lab (Fotolab.ch) and below are a few samples. I’m very pleased with the colour and tonality, but the scans are a little dark and of very poor quality. There is a linear defect running all the way across most of them which is not on the negatives.  And one film came back with a handwritten note saying “the emulsion was damaged”. Possibly time to change labs, and I certainly would think twice about sending mission-critical stuff to them.

I don’t know if I’ll carry on with film, or at least with negative film, but I have to say aesthetically I can see the attraction.

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There are some shots I’d never have attempted on digital. Then again, others that I couldn’t take with Portra 400.  All a matter of choices.

 

 

Negative Time

reversing into the future

in Film , Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tomorrow evening we’re off for a long needed week of relaxation, in the very familiar surroundings of Sardinia. My initial thought was not to take any camera at all, because if I do I’ll feel under pressure to use it.  Last year, also in Sardinia, I did get a few interesting shots, but by and large I’d probably have done better just to settle for the beach.

But, well, what I’ve ended up doing is I’ve decided to try something different. I’m getting a little jaded with digital cameras, even though the Olympus E-P5 is very nice, and the Sigma twins are fabulous when they’re having a good hair day, I just don’t feel like dragging all the paraphernalia of chargers and whatever with me.

So I bought some film.

Drm 2014 09 04 P9040335

I’ve never used Portra 400 before, but since sooner or later I’m going to need to move away from reversal film, I decided to give it a try. It gets a pretty good write up from all sorts of people.  Hopefully it will be better than Ektar 100, which is a bit too Velvia for my tastes.

My earliest visits to Sardinia were film-only, so this is a bit of a nostalgia trip. Not decided yet if the XPan is coming along. I might just take the Minox. And maybe the XA, one with Porta, the other with Scala. E100G is reserved for the XPan.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the revival of film, and how film is better and just switching to film turns you into an instant mega-hip star photographer. Well, frankly, that’s utter bollocks. Back in those pre-digital years when everybody used film, was everybody a totally brilliant gifted photographer ? No, they weren’t. Most were crap. A far higher proportion than today were utterly hopeless. The instant feedback and accessibility of digital has had a huge impact of helping many, many people to become brilliant photographers.  Most people who have “rediscovered” or just started using film are producing truly ghastly work, seemingly believing that drastic overexposure will turn any sow’s ear into a silk purse. Of course there are exceptions - many exceptions - but as a trend, it’s all more than a little hollow.

I’ve also just discovered and download a nice little iPhone app made by Kodak - remember them ? Anyway, it’s largely a bit of marketing fluff for Kodak film, but I’m all for that, and it is very pretty. I haven’t found the section on Kodachrome or Ektachrome yet though.  It does include a location finder for approved development labs and film retailers.  In my case, these (both of them) are 250km away, on the other side of the highest mountain range in Europe. No one said shooting film was getting easier.

Kodak

(I can highly recommend Photo Studio 13 by the way. One of the very, very few labs that still process Agfa Scala)

 

I STILL use film

Stubborn old git

in Film , Sunday, January 26, 2014

Of all the reward and enjoyment that photography can bring, for me there’s still nothing that can quite match seeing a newly developed, well exposed transparency on the light table for the first time. The digital alternative of downloading a file from a card, opening it up in some application, applying basic corrections and pixel-peeping it on a screen is nowhere near to the same league. The colours in slide film just leap out at you, the contrast is already there, there’s a delicate vibrancy and luminance that is practically irreproducible in the digital world. Of course that’s where the fun stops and the pain starts.

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Some film, yesterday.

The long process of scanning the film, while trying to keep it dust free, of carefully storing it, of checking the archive scan, converting the scan into a viewable and printable version is just starting, while over in digital workflow world you could have munched through 30 files at least. But it’s worth it. There’s no misty eyed nostalgia at work here: to my eyes, a well processed and printed photo scanned from slide film still has a character which digital can’t match. Or at least my digital can’t.

Maybe $50,000’s worth of Hasselblad or PhaseOne gear might change my mind, but that’s not going to happen on my pay grade. It’s purely subjective, of course, and by most if not all technical measurements it makes no sense, but I still find that I get a far higher proportion of keepers from film than I do from digital (interestingly, just after I wrote this, I read a blog post from Ming Thein which makes exactly the same point). And then there’s also the point that there is nothing in the digital world like the Hasselblad XPan, which is now my only regularly used film camera.

But increasingly the end looks to be nigh. Film cameras have their needs, and handling film does too. The obvious risk is that the ever dwindling supply of slide film on the market will shrink to nothing. Just today I discovered 3 rolls of the now defunct Kodak E100G lurking on the back shelf of a shop. They expire this month, but I still grabbed them. Then there’s the scanning part. My Minolta medium format film scanner is still going, after 12 years of constant use, but it’s getting cranky. The only feasible replacement on the market is the $2000 Plustek Opticfilm 120, which may or may not work well for XPan format slides. I have my doubts, and there’s no way to check it short of buying one. Then there’s another vital part of the chain: the light box for reviewing and editing slides, and preparing them for scanning.

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Slide film on the light panel

I have a high quality Cabin A4 size light panel which I bought about 14 years ago. These days the company doesn’t even exist, and the light tube is not going to last forever. I’m not sure you can still buy anything even vaguely similar. Even more trivial but still vital: residue-free canned compressed air for blowing dust away. Whenever I see a few cans on sale, I buy them ... as today, when I also found those 3 rolls of E100G. Exotica such as electrostatic dust cleaning brushes have quietly vanished from the market over the last 5 to 10 years.

Sooner, probably, rather than later, the weakest link in this chain is going to break. Maybe even the camera itself will pack up. And at that point, photography is going to stop being quite as rewarding.

 
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