Learning photography lessons with Fuifilm Velvia

Of the twelve images I made on that roll of original Fujifilm Velvia (expired 8/2006 but always stored frozen) at Crown Hill Cemetery, eight were stunning and four had exposure issues. I did what I could in Photoshop to rescue them.

I overexposed this one. Photoshop rescued the trees and sky, but the grave markers were simply too blown out thanks to reflecting sun. I did the best I could with them but I think they just look unnatural. Lesson learned: notice reflected light and consider its effect on the photo.


I wanted to see how Velvia handled this tree’s deep, vibrant red. But the sun was off to my left rather than directly behind me, which created some haze in the image I couldn’t Photoshop away. Lesson learned: invest in a lens hood for my 12.

Red tree

Heavy contrast between light and shadow tripped up the Yashica-12 and the Velvia. As I stood at the top of Indianapolis’s highest hill and looked south toward the Indianapolis skyline, such as it is, a cloud partially obscured the sun. The rest of the sky was bright, but the shadowy ground took on a sickly pall. Lesson learned: when using slide film, wait for the sun to come out for even lighting.

Down the lane from Riley's rest

Finally, as I crested this hill on this side lane, Crown Hill opened up before me. I thought it would make a lovely image but I didn’t realize, I guess, how poor the light was right where I was standing. I don’t know much about the Yashica-12’s meter and the Internet isn’t much help. If I had to guess, I’d say it measures the center of the frame. The center of this frame was in the brightly lit distance, so the 12 underexposed the foreground. Lesson learned: meter for the shadows, because with Velvia you can often correct overexposure, but never underexposure, in Photoshop.

Out toward the land

There’s always one more thing to learn in film photography. Especially when shooting Fujifilm Velvia.

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17 responses to “Learning photography lessons with Fuifilm Velvia”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Always good to remember that there’s a “correct” exposure and a “right” exposure, as we used to say. You can meter perfectly, but the film might have a very shallow ability to record photographic range (like Velvia), so wouldn’t hurt to over and underexpose a few frames of a scene you really like. Even if there’s a lot of dark items in a picture, and you’re exposing for the light falling on it, you might be disappointed by the “correct” exposure, and like one a half to a stop over exposed!

    50 years ago, a lot of transparency film had a very shallow range, so you’d bracket a lot. Velvia has the same effect today, a roll of latest gen Kodak E-100 (now available again in 35mm) might have a way wider exposure latitude and ability to record range!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I believe my Y-12’s meter to be accurate, so it was getting “correct” exposures at the center of the frame. That didn’t always match the “right” exposure elsewhere in the frame, and yep, with Velvia’s narrow latitude I got some unfortunate results! Thankfully, not too many.

  2. fishyfisharcade Avatar

    I tend to favour incident metering with slide film (or any film where I have to manually meter, for that matter). As long as you can get the meter in the same lighting conditions as the subject (not always easy if it’s far away from you!) then it tends to work well. I don’t have an accurate spot meter, so this method tends to work best for me – my Sekonic L-208 spot meter is good, but if you’re far from the subject theres no accurate way to tell what part of the subject you’re getting the reading from unfortunately.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I should learn about incident metering. I’ve always just relied on the camera’s reflective metering to do the job, and have learned some tricks to work around the inherent limitations.

      1. fishyfisharcade Avatar

        I like incident metering because in most cases it’s easy. :)

        I use the built in metering for most of my cameras that have it, but on a few of them a dedicated handheld meter tends to work better.

      2. 35mm Film Shootist Avatar

        For my two penny’s worth I seconded Fishy and these days I never rely on a cameras meter.
        This shot I used my Weston meter by taking a incident reading off the grey floor. My advice, invest in a good meter.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Sounds like solid advice! I’ll add a good meter to my wish list.

  3. Dan James Avatar

    Maybe it is more about the film’s latitude. I didn’t truly realise until using a DSLR extensively, how forgiving typical consumer colour negative film is with its -1/+3 exposure latitude! I understand Velvia, being slide film, is much more fussy, like a DSLR.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Velvia is famous for its narrow latitude. When you shoot a DSLR in full auto it adjusts everything it needs to to get the image, which obscures how unforgiving it actually is when you set all the settings yourself.

      1. Dan James Avatar

        I’m sure you’re right, I can’t remember ever using a DSLR full auto so I always have to work a little to get an exposure I’m happy with!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I frequently use my digitals in P mode with Auto ISO on. I change that only if I want some specific outcome. For example when I photograph my old film cameras for the blog I put the Canon S95 on a tripod, lock in ISO 200, and live with the long-ish exposures I get. Less noise in the photo that way.

  4. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    I learned to trust my camera’s AE for slide film, and it rarely disappoints, but shooting expired film is a different ball game!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This stuff was always stored frozen, so it should have performed like new. I think the Y-12’s AE is just not terribly sophisticated, and that’s how I got tripped up on these shots.

  5. analogphotobug Avatar

    Very interesting discussion. I’m starting to shoot Velvia again after being disappointed with the E100 film (too cold). Also has some implications for my experiments with LomoChrome Purple. It’s a negative film, but has a narrow exposure latitude.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I haven’t tried the new E100 yet. Velvia is interesting as all get out, but I can’t imagine me shooting it regularly. I’ve followed your LomoChrome Purple work with solid interest as I have a roll that someone gave me and I’ve hedged on shooting it as such stuff isn’t generally my thing. Your mixed results with it have only confirmed my reticence.

  6. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    I had the same experience recently with Provia 100 – I finally got a new battery for a lovely Rollieflex 6002 that my cousin gave me, and for some reason loaded the Provia in for my first roll. In the end I shot most of the roll in my garden, spring flowers etc. just so I could ge it processed and see how the camera performs. It has shutter priority metering, and I found it to be accurate where there is even light, but in high contrast situations it did blow the highlights a little. I really like the Provia emulsion, but it is a close relation to the Velvia and quite fussy with contrast. Lesson learned to think more about what I am going to shoot before loading film. It is a lovely camera by the way, shame the lenses sell for such high prices!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I need to learn that same lesson. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put a fussy film into a camera I didn’t know very well, or at all.

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