I’m a fan of Chicago’s gorgeous Union Station. I wish they still built buildings like this! On our recent trip, our plans took us by, so we went in.
I had loaded my last roll of film, Kodak T-Max 400, into my Olympus XA. I think T-Max 400 is my favorite black-and-white film. I love its smooth look, and I enjoy the rich range of tones it delivers. I also enjoy being able to shoot inside handheld, as I did here, as it’s a fairly fast film. T-Max 400 never disappoints me.
We didn’t stay long, as we had places to be. But in the fifteen minutes or so we were inside, I made all of these images. On the one below, I was trying to bring in as many details in as I could. I can see now that its not the most coherent composition.
But I made up for it, I think, on all of the other images. There’s a great deal of symmetry to play with inside Union Station, and I deeply enjoy symmetry. The XA’s viewfinder is accurate enough to frame that symmetry and mostly get it on the finished scan.
It is such fun to make photographs well after nightfall, holding my film SLR in my hands, with only building and street lights shining on the scene. As I walked along the river in Chicago, Kodak T-Max P3200 let me make photographs as if it were 9 a.m., not 9 p.m.
It was cold that night, being the first weekend in January. My Nikon F3 can handle that kind of treatment, which is why I chose it. I mounted my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens so I could fit more of the city in each frame.
My wife and I had just come from Navy Pier, where we photographed the Chicago skyline from the Ferris wheel. We had plenty of time for a leisurely walk along the Chicago River before our dinner reservations within the Loop. We walked on both sides of the river, crossing the bridges wherever we felt like it.
Chicago at night is a perfect subject for Kodak T-Max P3200. The built environment generates plenty of light to render subjects beautifully.
I forget exactly what apertures and shutter speeds I used to make these photos, but they let me shoot easily and comfortably. My lens wasn’t wide open, and I didn’t have to worry about camera shake.
As you can see, the P3200 does return noticeable grain. A couple of these photos do show slight underexposure. My F3’s meter did the best it could to read this light but didn’t always nail it. A few of these images looked a little foggy, but a little tweaking in Photoshop cleared that right up.
I remain amazed by how well this film works. I know some people push other films, such as Tri-X, to 3200 and get good results. But you have to push your processing accordingly. That’s not a huge deal when you process your own. But I send my 35mm black-and-white film to a pro lab. It’s nice not to have to pay extra for the push processing on P3200.
My wife and I had a lovely walk along the Chicago River as I shot this roll of Kodak T-Max P3200. I look forward to doing it again someday — and to finding other subjects that this film can make sing.
When it comes to black-and-white photography, I hew to the classics. Lately I’ve enjoyed Ilford’s FP4 Plus for its rich tones. When I want something faster, it’s a tossup between Kodak T-Max 400 and Ilford HP5 Plus. But I am also a deeply curious man. When I heard about Film Washi, a one-man film company from France, I wanted to try its films.
I’ve already shot a roll of Film Washi S, and here I’ve shot a roll of Film Washi D. Analogue Wonderland sent me both rolls in exchange for these mentions. Their Film Washi stocks vary with time; check here to see what they have available now. Or choose from any of the over 200 other films they keep in stock.
I loaded the Film Washi D into my Olympus XA and brought it on a weekend trip to Chicago with my wife. It was early January, cold and gloomy. Who knows whether this was the best light to test this ISO 500 film, but that’s what I threw at it.
Like so many boutique films, Film Washi D loves contrasty scenes. I knew this going in, because I read up about it on Film Washi’s site first. I learned my lesson after not doing that with the roll of Film Washi S I shot last year. Turns out this film was originally used for aerial surveillance and cartography. Strong contrast is likely useful in that application.
I had a devil-may-care attitude as I shot this roll. “I wonder if this film can handle this light,” I kept wondering. It kept saying yes. I’m especially pleased with how it captured the iconic sign of the Berghoff Restaurant.
We had tickets to see the new production of The Phantom of the Opera; this was the marquee. (I’d never seen the show in any form before. The production was first rate, but I was surprised to find I don’t like the story.)
There was a dull muddiness to all of these photos as scanned. I shouldn’t be surprised — the negatives were incredibly thin. I shot at the box speed of 500, but I wonder now if I should have shot at half that. Or perhaps my lab didn’t know what to do with this film and underdeveloped it. I opened these images in Photoshop’s RAW editor and used the Black and Dehaze sliders to tame the muddiness. Sometimes it wouldn’t be fully tamed without losing all the shadow detail. I had to stop short of that in the photo below.
Skies were overcast all weekend, creating diffuse, even light. But there wasn’t always enough light for Film Washi D to pull detail out of the shadows.
Not knowing this about the film yet, I lucked into using it to good effect here.
But give Film Washi D some blacks and some whites to play with, and it brings them home with aplomb.
If I had this roll to shoot over again, I would have shot nothing but street with it. I made exactly one street image, this one, shot from my hip. I thought there was something interesting in this lone woman at the end of this line of chairs, and I was right. The Film Washi D captured a reasonable range of tones.
The woman spied me with my camera, even though it was at my hip, and shouted obscenities at me. She was most unhappy about being my subject. So here you go, lady: you’re immortalized on the Internet.
Many thanks to Analogue Wonderland for the chance to try Film Washi D and give it this one-roll review.
Chicago’s Wrigley Building was built from 1920 to 1924 as the first skyscraper north of the Chicago River. It’s a stunner at any time of the day, but I especially like it at night. Its white facade, beautifully lit, stands in contrast to the dark buildings all around it.
The building’s south tower is the taller of the two, 30 stories vs. 21.
The building is covered head to toe in terra cotta, providing no end of interesting detail to study.
I focused my lens on the south tower far more than the north, but here’s one good shot of the north tower, its entrance.
The north tower is 410 N. Michigan Ave., the south is 400.
The two towers are separated by a little alley, with a third-floor bridge connecting the two buildings and framing the scene.
There are no shortage of wonderful angles from which to compose interesting photographs.
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max P3200.
“I want to get a good view of the Chicago skyline at dusk,” my wife said. “I’d like to photograph it.”
Instantly I thought of Navy Pier and its Ferris wheel. I’d ridden it before, years ago, and remembered its commanding view of the city. So we made our way over. The view was as commanding as I remembered.
It was only about 5:30 pm, but it was already dark on this early January day. Interestingly, the Kodak T-Max P3200 saw through the night right to the overcast sky, and that’s what it rendered.
The Ferris wheel cars are enclosed and heated, making it comfortable to make these photographs on a 25-degree evening. However, the glass is tinted, which robbed me of a stop or two of exposure. I shot these with my Nikon F3 and 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens wide open, which gave me shutter speeds of 1/15 and 1/30 sec. I’m glad I have a steady hand.
This is the same Nikon F3 that has developed a light leak thanks to a failed light seal. But at night, there’s too little light to sneak past that seal and leave streaks on the film. So this whole roll turned out fine.
The ride moved slowly and went around several times, giving us plenty of time to make these photographs. I arranged them here as if I made them in one pass, but in reality I shot one or two photos on each pass.
I forgot one key thing: my wife’s tendency to motion sickness. She found the gently swaying car to be a little challenging. But she got some fun shots with her DSLR, in color.
I bought this roll of P3200 that morning, at Chicago’s famous Central Camera. I stepped in the front door and there behind the counter was Johnny Sisson, of the Classic Lenses Podcast. He looks just like the photo he uses in social media, so he was easy to spot. I introduced myself and we chatted for a couple minutes. Affable fellow.
My main camera, the Canon PowerShot S95, wasn’t in its usual place the morning Margaret and I left for our weekend in Chicago. We needed to get on the road, so I grabbed my Nikon F3 and my Olympus XA — two cameras that have served me well in wintry Chicago before — and the fastest films I had on hand. It was going to be heavily overcast all weekend, and I’d need the speed. That called up my last roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800.
I bought a bunch of this film when I was the unofficial photographer at my church. I put it in one of my Pentax bodies with my 50/1.4 lens and made portraits for people. The colors were too muted and the grain too pronounced. But my subjects were always thrilled to get the prints I brought them.
I like this film better for these gloomy-day city subjects. The subject’s busy-ness makes it harder to notice the grain. And because color is sparing, it pops.
I shot this roll in my F3. Too bad there’s not a better way to find out your light seals have failed than seeing red streaks when you get the scans back from the processor. I cropped it out of most shots except where the effect was minimal, as in the photos above and below.
My 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens was on the F3 for this trip. It reaches out and grabs so much delicious Chicago context! I found myself making photos with no central subject. Every time I brought the camera to my eye, the viewfinder was crammed full of Chicago and I wanted to remember it just like that.
I shot this whole roll on a walk from our hotel in the Loop out to Navy Pier. We deviated for a stroll along Michigan Avenue as well. We love crossing the Chicago River and seeing all of those beautiful bridges.
I’ve been to NYC a few times and enjoy it but I prefer Chicago. The tall buildings seem almost artfully arranged. There are so many excellent details to look at in the built environment. It is so easy to compose an interesting photograph here.
I’m a sucker for public art. These are “The Gentlemen” by Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming. The city didn’t commission these statues — the nearby Langham Hotel did. They remind me of Japanese salarymen waiting for their train.
Here you can see some of that famous X-tra 800 grain. Not my favorite look in color film.
I grew up as downtown shopping districts were gasping their last breaths. Store after store closed in my hometown’s downtown. Nothing was left by the early 1980s. I liked going downtown as a child, and wish small-city downtowns had never lost their vitality. It’s exciting to walk State Street and Michigan Avenue in Chicago and find so much to see and do. We even stopped into Macy’s, bought my wife a gown for an event we’re going to, and had it shipped to our home. What a great life!
We stopped in a nearby Shake Shack for a snack. Even though it was just 4:30, light was already fading thanks to Daylight Saving Time. We wanted to photograph the nighttime Chicago skyline from the Ferris wheel. That involved a roll of Kodak T-Max P3200 I bought at Central Camera the day before. I’ll share those images when I get them back from the processor.
I’m not sad that I’m out of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800, or that Fujifilm discontinued this film a couple years ago. I’ve made a few lovely images with it, and it was reasonably priced. But I won’t miss its giant grain and muted colors.