Hothouse flowers on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Just before Christmas I toured Oldfields, the grand mansion on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I loaded my Pentax ME with Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800, clipped on my 50mm f/1.4 lens, and took a bunch of photos inside. When I got them back from the processor, only a couple pleased me. On the rest, the colors were off, or I muffed the focus, or the image was very noisy. Bleh. Meh. Grumble, snarl, snort.

The IMA also boasts a greenhouse that I gather grows all the plants that decorate the lush grounds. You can also buy plants there for your garden. I caught the greenhouse open, so I took a tour. I had much better luck with my camera in that light.

Hothouse flowers

That’s not to say I didn’t have to do some tweaking in post to improve contrast and color. It’s just that these photos could be made better, and most of the ones I took inside Oldfields couldn’t.

Hothouse flowers

I have no idea what any of these flowers (or plants, in the case of the leaves above) are called. But it’s always nice to see lovely flowers in Indiana in December.

Hothouse flowers

The Superia X-tra 800 renders reds, blues, and greens pretty well. Not as nice as Ektar 100, but I couldn’t have made these photos with Ektar in this light.

Hothouse flowers

I’m not as impressed with how this film handles oranges and yellows. These flowers are a lot hotter in this photo than they were in real life.

Hothouse flowers

The Superia X-tra 800 never gives me good definition on yellow objects. These petals are just yellow blobs.

Hothouse flowers

I’m interested in trying other higher-speed color films for available light work. Which do you like?


14 responses to “Hothouse flowers on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800”

  1. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Ektar 100 + tripod.
    If really brave…Velvia 50 + tripod.

    I don’t think you’ll ever get the true color rendition you are hoping for with high speed color films.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I was afraid of that.

      A tripod wouldn’t have been welcome in these venues. Maybe I could have gotten away with a monopod. I do have one of those.

      1. bodegabayf2 Avatar

        High speed color print films…great for shooting a rock concert under available light.

        Flowers, landscapes, the incredible colors of the great Southwestern deserts…nothing beats fine grain color transparency film.

        1. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

          +1. Flowers are pretty stationary objects so I’d say use a tripod, or if you’re adamant about shooting it handheld, maybe break out the Lynx 14 and try shooting at 1/15, 1/8, if you dare. Though looking at the scans zoomed in, I wouldn’t say I was impressed that much, and might have something to do with your color problems.

          1. Jim Grey Avatar

            I’n less adamant about shooting hand held that I am about not using a tripod in a place where it’s not welcome. This roll of film was definitely a learning experience for me. Dwayne’s scanned these negatives. Maybe they had an off day.

  2. Carole Grey Avatar
    Carole Grey

    Verrry nice! I don’t know what the shrub plant is but, I believe, all of the flowers are orchids.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hunh — we must have been in an orchid room then.

  3. Mike Avatar

    Those actually look pretty good considering the 800 speed of the film. I’m always somewhat surprised at the quality which modern high-speed color films can deliver. I’d probably shoot it more often, but the prices lately are discouraging.

    I was reminded today about the difficulties of making good flower pictures when I visited the Mediterranean Conservatory at our local botanical garden. The first thing that happens when you walk into the place on a cool day is that your lens immediately fogs over. Then the light and shadows are constantly changing and I find myself fumbling for different lenses. I carried along a tripod, but didn’t get around to actually using it.

    It is useful to spend time looking at the floral and botanical work of the great photographers and to try to sort out what made their efforts successful. It seems nearly everyone pointed their cameras at flowers at some point. As it turns out, probably more than half shot flowers in black and white. I’m thinking for instance of people like Imogen Cunningham, Paul Caponigro, Weston, Adams, et al. Of course, early photographers like Blossfeldt didn’t have color as a practical option, but many later ones still stuck with monochrome even when color was commonly available. A very good book on the subject is Flora Photographica by William A. Ewing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Mike. You know, the big reason I keep ISO 800 film around is that I’ve ended up as the event photographer at church, and my Pentax ME with the 50mm f/1.4 and ISO 800 film makes it possible for me to shoot handheld candids inside our old, dim building. Just having that film around makes me want to try other subjects with it.

      I like your suggestion about studying the work of accomplished floral photographers. I know I’m by far not the first to tread this ground. I bought a book of Ansel Adams Polaroids late last year and just keep going back to it — not a flower in the book, but the point is, there is so much to learn just by looking. I need to do more of it.

  4. pesoto74 Avatar

    I think sometimes with yellow flowers there can be a problem with exposure. The yellow is often much brighter than the surroundings. So there can be a loss of detail from that. I have had some luck with yellow flowers using hdr techniques. I don’t think I have ever used Fuji 800 for flowers. I do like it for a lot of other things.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for explaining your experience on the yellows. Perhaps what I should learn is that ISO 800 film isn’t ideal for subjects such as these.

  5. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    The post did generate lively conversation! :-)

  6. davidvanilla Avatar

    Which? This means I get to choose only one? I like the colors, but I think I am partial to the green
    -and-white leaves in the second shot.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks David! I’m partial to that one too.

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