Film Photography, Travel

The Chicago River at night, on Kodak T-Max P3200

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

Chicago at night is a perfect subject for Kodak T-Max P3200. The built environment generates plenty of light to render subjects beautifully.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Around the Chicago River - Kodak T-Max 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.

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Film Photography, Travel

Shooting Film Washi D

Wabash St.

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.

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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.

Cafe view

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.

Vans

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.

The Berghoff, Chicago

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.)

Phantom of the Opera at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

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.

The Loop, Chicago

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.

Umbrella Men

Not knowing this about the film yet, I lucked into using it to good effect here.

Shadowy Tower

But give Film Washi D some blacks and some whites to play with, and it brings them home with aplomb.

Painted rhino

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.

Seated

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.

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Film Photography, Travel

The Wrigley Building in Chicago on Kodak T-Max P3200

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.

Wrigley Building

The building’s south tower is the taller of the two, 30 stories vs. 21.

Skyscrapers

The building is covered head to toe in terra cotta, providing no end of interesting detail to study.

Wrigley Building

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.

Wrigley Building

The north tower is 410 N. Michigan Ave., the south is 400.

Wrigley Building

The two towers are separated by a little alley, with a third-floor bridge connecting the two buildings and framing the scene.

Wrigley Building

There are no shortage of wonderful angles from which to compose interesting photographs.

Wrigley Building

Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max P3200.

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Film Photography, Travel

The Chicago skyline on 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.

Chicago as night falls

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.

Chicago as night falls

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.

Chicago as night falls

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.

Chicago as night falls

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.

Chicago as night falls

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.

Navy Pier Ferris wheel

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.

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Film Photography, Travel

Chicago on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

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.

Smith & Wollensky - Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800 - Nikon F3 - 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor

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.

Smith & Wollensky - Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800 - Nikon F3 - 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor

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.

Bus - Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800 - Nikon F3 - 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor

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.

Michigan Ave

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.

Wabash Avenue

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.

Over the River

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.

Under the Umbrella

Here you can see some of that famous X-tra 800 grain. Not my favorite look in color film.

Statues

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!

Boss

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.

Cup

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.

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Film Photography, Travel

Shooting Fujifilm Superia Venus 800

Palmer House lobby

The whole point of fast films is to let you get shots in challenging light. Not just indoors, as in the photo of the stunning lobby of Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel above, but outdoors on overcast days too. Fujifilm Superia Venus 800 did a fine job on a Chicago weekend getaway my wife and I made early in January — prime time for dim, gloomy days in the Windy City.

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The generous folks at Analogue Wonderland gave me this roll of film to try in exchange for this mention. I wish I had shot it earlier, as Fujifilm discontinued this film late last year. It’s out of stock at Analogue Wonderland (check on it here). But fear not, they have more than 200 other film stocks to choose from. If you can’t find the film you need at Analogue Wonderland, you should question whether you need it at all.

Red Line

Oh my gosh is it ever great to go into the Chicago subway and make a perfectly exposed photo with all the depth of field you can ask for. Also, the Venus 800 seems to be less grainy, and tolerate greater exposure sins, than Fujifilm’s Superia X-tra 800. That was my go-to ISO 800 color film until it was discontinued in 2016. I shot my last roll of X-tra 800 on this trip, too; I’ll compare the two in an upcoming post.

Central Camera

I shot my Nikon F3 with a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens on this trip. I hadn’t shot the F3 in a year, and in that time its light seals finally degraded enough to leak a little light. You can see a faint red band on this photo of the iconic Central Camera sign. The longer I went between shots, the more pronounced the red band. Time for new light seals. I didn’t know this as I shot the roll, of course. When the leak intruded too much, I cropped the photos to remove it, as below.

River view

It was great to to shoot at f/8 for good depth of field, at shutter speeds fast enough for me to hold the camera in my hands. It may have been unusually warm for the first of January in Chicago — temperatures above freezing — but the days were plenty gray.

River view

One day we did get a few hours of partly cloudy skies. The Venus 800 let me choose even faster shutter speeds. It rendered Chicago’s colors beautifully — not too saturated, not too muted. The photo below lines up with my memory of that moment. That’s my favorite outcome for any film.

State Street

Even on a heavily overcast day, the Venus 800 got accurate color while delivering managed grain. My big beef with Superia X-tra 800 is pronounced grain. The Venus is a welcome improvement.

State Street

I’m super happy with the excellent color I got from Venus 800. I shot a roll of X-tra 800 right after I finished this roll and the colors were just meh.

Miller's Pub

Let’s take one more look at the spectacular Palmer House lobby, and pretend the light leak didn’t leave a red streak on the image. I’m used to my digital cameras being able to handle this shot, which I’ve made many times as the Palmer House is my favorite place to stay in Chicago. Only at ISO 800 have I been able to get a credible film photo here.

Palmer House lobby

Finally, I made this mirror selfie in our room on the 20th floor of the Palmer House. Those are my skin tones, all right. Not bad.

Selfie

Fuifilm Superia Venus 800 is a lovely fast film. It’s a shame it’s discontinued.

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