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.
My friend and colleague Charlie has worked with me at two different software companies. He’s a skilled engineer who specializes in site performance and test automation. He currently works for Salesforce, the giant software-as-a-service company. They have a large office in Indianapolis in the city’s tallest building, renamed Salesforce Tower when they moved in.
Charlie and I met for lunch not long ago, and he took me to the top floor of Salesforce Tower so I could see the views. Here’s the entire north side of Indianapolis. In the center near the bottom you can see the Indiana World War Memorial, and north across the long plaza from it is Central Library. Behind it, I-65 cuts across the landscape. I can even see the Michigan Road running off at a diagonal at left, a little north of center; can you detect it?
On the south side of the building, this is the view of Monument Circle below. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, at 284 feet, 6 inches, was the tallest structure in town until the 372-feet-tall City-County Building was completed in 1962, a couple blocks away. When you see photos of Indianapolis from many years gone by, the Monument towers over everything. Today, not so much.
Other skyscrapers went up in the decades that followed, crowned by Salesforce Tower at 811 feet tall. It’s not just the tallest building in Indianapolis, but also the tallest building in all the Midwest outside Chicago and Cleveland and the 58th tallest building in the US.
Salesforce Tower was completed in 1990. It was originally to be the headquarters for American Fletcher National Bank, but before construction even began, Bank One bought American Fletcher. Later, Chase bought Bank One. Salesforce became the building’s biggest tenant in 2017, which gave them rights to put their name on the building.
Here’s a view of the Indianapolis skyline from the highest elevation in Indianapolis, where James Whitcomb Riley is buried inside Crown Hill Cemetery. It’s about five miles away as the crow flies. Salesforce Tower rises above the rest.
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 work in Downtown Indianapolis. Yes, it’s capital-D Downtown here. My favorite way to take a work break is to grab whatever film camera I have with me and take a walk around capital D. For a few weeks recently, that was my little Olympus Stylus, into which I’d loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus.
The generous people at Analogue Wonderland sent me this roll of Ilford HP5 Plus so I’d write about the experience and drop their name. You can buy HP5 Plus from them here. But do explore their site — they offer over 200 other films! Click the logo to see.
Last time I shot HP5 I used my big semi-pro Nikon N90s SLR. I wanted to see what kind of results I got from a different class of 35mm camera, hence the Stylus. Answer: every bit as impressive. I got excellent detail and balanced contrast shot after shot. As a traditionally grained film, you will absolutely see grain on HP5. But it looks natural and doesn’t detract from sharpness or detail.
I shot this roll little by little in December and January, two of Indiana’s gloomiest months every year. At ISO 400, HP5 Plus had the speed to cope with the poor light and give me big depth of field.
Even on a day with some sun, the HP5 Plus delivered good balance between the bright and shadowy areas.
I walked around on idle lunch hours with the Stylus, photographing anything I thought might look good in black and white.
There are plenty of lovely older buildings Downtown with interesting details to study. HP5 Plus did a great job navigating the natural contrasts.
Even though Indianapolis is Indiana’s largest city by far, it’s not large like Chicago or Dallas. The core of Downtown is about one mile square, beyond which the tall buildings give way fast to shorter office and apartment buildings and then neighborhoods full of older homes. Roberts Camera is just beyond that mile square. They process 35mm color film at a reasonable price. They also happen to be the US distributor of Ilford products.
While I’ve never used them, there are a few auto mechanics just outside Downtown’s mile square. Convenient!
HP5 Plus is a great film for everyday photography. If you’d like to try Ilford HP5 Plus for yourself, you can order it from Analogue Wonderland here. They provided me this roll of film in exchange for this mention.