Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Film Reviews

I already told you that I prefer Kodak film. I do! That doesn’t mean however, that I cannot appreciate the virtues of other film. The shot above was taken with Fuji 200 which I think of as Fuji’s version of Kodak Gold 200. This shot of my son Noah and granddaughter Claire was taken with the Pentax ZX-7 and shows the way this film makes the colors really “pop.”

Kodak Gold film will definitely make colors “pop but Fuji is especially great with the warm colors like red & yellow. Just in case there is any doubt, check out the photo below from the same roll as the shot above.

Now I still prefer Kodak, especially Portra and highly recommend it to you, but when you need to make your red’s and yellows really “pop” Fuji works.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Expired Film

I’m not one of those film photographers that go around looking for and shooting expired film on purpose. It just happens sometimes. This shot of Merlin was taken using Kodak UltraMax 400 color film (Pentax ZX-7 with 28-80 zoom) that expired in 2009. I don’t even know why I had a roll of old film unless someone gave it to me. In any case, no harm done! The pictures came out about as expected for this film and since I’ve shot it and it’s gone I don’t have to “worry” anymore about what to do with it.

Now I know there are folks that look for expired film. In fact, there are online stores and ebay (of course) where expired film is big business. …and I’m not talking about film that expired in 2009. There are folks eagerly buying and selling stuff that expired back in the 1970’s.  That’s just crazy! 

…or maybe it’s art! I know some the pictures I see that was taken with expired film are certainly interesting, one-of-a-kind photographs. Of course, I get the impression that the folks taking these photographs would produce that kind of photo no matter what they were shooting.

AS for me, I’m not that creative. I just try to make the best photographs I can and once and a great while I get lucky and capture something someone else might want to see.

Shooting expired film can be tricky. I’m told that for every ten years you have to compensate by dropping the ISO by one stop. For instance with an ISO 400 film from the 1970’s you would have to drop the rated speed 4 stops (40 years) which would give you an effective ISO speed of 25. There are also thing you can and should do in the processing so if you decide to do this don’t just drop the film off at Walgreens. Send it to a lab (like The Darkroom) that knows what they’re doing with this kind of thing.

So there it is – everything you’re likely to hear from me about expired film.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Film vs. Digital – Again?

Here’s a shot of my desk at the office taken with the amazing Nikon P-300. I offer it here simply because it is a really good picture of my desk and this is a photography blog. It just seems wrong to post to a photography blog without a picture of something although what I have to say in this post really has nothing to do with this or any other specific picture.

I know I promised that I was through with the film vs. digital discussion but I just read something that set me off again.

Ken Rockwell, one of my favorite photography bloggers (www.kenrockwell.com) recently disparaged Sigma lenses for making it possible to plug their lenses into your computer to tweak the AF settings as an unnecessary annoyance that Pro’s don’t have time for.  In his April 29th post, “Tinkerer vs. Pro,” Ken Rockwell says, “Something we learn over time is that when a product offers more adjustments, it's because it needs them.…Goodness gracious, why should I waste productive time tweaking a Sigma lens, when I could have just bought a real Nikon or Canon lens in the first place, which would just work perfectly?”

Now I don’t disagree with Ken’s point but I have to admit that I kind of feel the same way about the whole film vs. digital camera issue. Other than point & shoot cameras or sophisticated DSLR’s and MILC’s set on full auto mode, digital cameras have so many things to tweak and set that you can drive yourself crazy. No wonder most folks forget about all that stuff and just set them on auto and go take pictures. Film cameras on the other hand, have only two (three if it’s manual focus) things to worry about; shutter speed and aperture. There is ISO to consider of course but you make that decision up front when you choose your film and don’t have to worry about it again until the next roll.

I still shoot digital too, and I am trying my best to learn everything there is to know about it. At the end of the day however, all I ever wanted from a digital camera was the beauty and simplicity of a film camera except with a digital sensor instead of the film. I don’t think that will ever happen but working with the Pentax K-01 I have been forcing myself to slow down, ignore all the technology and just use it like I use my film camera. I find that much more satisfying and in an odd way – liberating.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Film Choices - Kodak!

The photo above of my son and grandchildren was taken with my new (to me) Pentax ZX-7 loaded with an expired (2009) roll of Kodak UltraMax 400 color film.

I have film shooting friends that swear by Fuji film, especially Velvia, because of the highly saturated colors. I have tried many of the films Fuji makes at one time or another, most of them over the last three years since I got bit by the film bug again and started this blog. I find that each film has its own unique advantages but I keep coming back to Kodak. I know I am probably prejudiced but I just like Kodak better. The film that has the “Look” I prefer is Kodak Portra.

Portra is available in two speeds, 160 and 400. To me either one produces better color photos than almost any other color film – ever! There are exceptions to everything of course and this is no exception. 

Last year for Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day I shot Portra 160 in my home-made 35mm pinhole camera and it rendered a very pleasing color photo with beautiful subdued blues and greens. This year I wanted to include some bright colors in my composition and I wanted a film that would really make the colors “pop.” I know Fuji Velvia will do that but slide films are generally not very tolerant of exposure deviations and my pinhole camera shutter is a hand operated piece of sliding cardboard. Needless to say, my shutter settings are not very precise and even though I do bracket each shot in this kind of situation a film with wide exposure latitude is a must.

Kodak Gold 100 or 200, like the 400 used for the photo above, is very forgiving, has excellent color saturation and is great for “snapshots.”  It is also usually very inexpensive too, but as a film developed in the “last century” it does not seem to scan as well as the newer 21st century films and since no one does “wet lab work” anymore scanning is now an essential part of processing film. I recalled however, from my earlier experimentation that Ektar 100 produced some beautiful blue skies so I retried it hoping it would render the other colors just as bright and pleasing – it did! If you want to see the results check out my last two blog posts. Now I know that if I am looking for bright saturated colors choose Ektar 100.

Kodak Portra, my first choice for most pictures has great color saturation too, scans beautifully and renders a kind of subdued, moody kind of color that I really like. While the colors don’t “pop” like when using the Ektar the intensity of intermediate shades adds a kind of texture to the color and the tones are so much richer than any other film I have ever used. By way of analogy it’s like the difference between shooting outside at noon or at five or six in the evening. The noon light causes the colors to be much brighter but harsher while the evening light mellows everything out and makes the colors seem richer and more intense in a completely different way. 

It’s taken me three years to come to this decision but once I shoot up the stash of various kinds of film I have now I will be buying and using Portra almost exclusively for color photos. I am currently involved in a similar exploration of black & white films and hope to have a similar report and decision in that regard coming up soon.