Film Photography

Shooting Kodak Portra 400

Salem Cemetery

How is it that I’ve been back into film photography for 13 years but have never shot Kodak’s Portra 400? My 2018 EMULSIVE Secret Santa gave me the nudge I needed by dropping two rolls into the gift box she sent.

Magnolia blooms

As I’ve seen others shoot Portra 400, some use it as a general-purpose color film and others find it most useful for photos that involve people. I don’t often shoot people. I tend to shoot things that don’t move. Like cemeteries. And flowers. In cemeteries.

Served

I had been shooting my Nikomat FTn and decided to keep at it for this roll. I had my 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C lens mounted. Portra gave me just enough exposure room to shoot inside, albeit with shallow depth of field.

Books

I can’t decide whether I think the colors are muted or not. So many people have said Portra’s colors are muted that I don’t trust my judgment. I see muted colors in these books, but that might be because the books’ colors are genuinely muted. The magnolia flowers and the American flag above don’t look muted to me. Are the greens below muted? I want to say no, but I also can’t recall how vivid the scene was in real life.

Down the path

I don’t notice grain in these photos at this size, but I do when I look at them at full scan size. It’s neither pleasing nor disruptive. It’s workmanlike grain, faint and unobtrusive. However, I scanned these on my flatbed scanner. Lab scans might have made the grain even harder to detect.

Flowers for sale

The Portra was at its best at early evening, the sun in that golden-hour sweet spot.

Blooms

Portra 400 is a very good film. I haven’t pixel-peeped to be sure, but it might have the least obtrusive grain of all the fast color films I’ve shot.

Starkey Park

But the film I use most, Fujicolor 200, suits me fine and costs a lot less.

Starkey Park

My EMULSIVE Secret Santa sent me two rolls of Portra 400, so sooner or later I’ll put the other one through a camera. I shot it at box speed this time, so next time perhaps I’ll shoot it at EI 200. Several photo bloggers I follow get really nice results when they do that.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Advertisements
Standard
Film Photography

Shooting Ilford FP4 Plus

This post is sponsored by Analogue Wonderland, who make film photography fun and accessible for everyone.

Tulips

You’d think I would have shot Ilford’s FP4 Plus by now. It’s a traditional-grained ISO 125 film, much like Kodak’s lamented, discontinued Plus-X, which I loved. Also, Ilford films are easy to buy in central Indiana given that their US distributor, Roberts, is located here. I can walk into their store and buy any film Ilford makes.

But it wasn’t until the nice people at Analogue Wonderland asked if I’d like to write some sponsored posts for them in exchange for some film from their extensive selection that I thought, “Here’s my chance to finally shoot some Ilford!” FP4 Plus was at the top of my wish list.

On the pond in the office park

As much as I miss Plus-X, I’m not going to compare the two films. It’s been overdone. Search “Plus-X vs. FP4” and prepare for the link avalanche. No, I’m going to evaluate FP4 Plus on its own merits, through the lens of my Olympus XA.

On the pond in the office park

FP4 Plus is a very good medium-speed black-and-white film. Its blacks are inky rich and it authoritatively captures a full range of middle tones. Best of all, it does not tend toward blown highlights like so many other ISO 100-125 black-and-white films I’ve tried. I’m looking at you, Kentmere and Fomapan.

Central Park

Even in mixed lighting, FP4 Plus delivers the details. Its grain is almost undetectable, it’s so fine. It leads to delicious sharpness.

Little Tree

The only time I wasn’t thrilled with FP4 Plus was on a particularly gloomy day. An ISO 400 film would have been a better choice, but FP4 Plus is what I had in the camera and so I shot it. This photo conveys the feel of the day all right, but lacks detail in the deepest shadows.

Wet parking lot

I plowed ahead shooting on this dim day. I had to run an errand in Lebanon after work, so I photographed around the town’s square. You can drive only one way down this alley.

One way

The original Boone County Jail is now a bar and restaurant. You can have dinner in one of the cells.

Cell Block 104

This seriously old house is about a block off the square.

Old house

Down another side street off the square is the First Baptist Church. Just look at the great tones and all that detail!

First Baptist

FP4 Plus is a lovely, lovely film. I regret not trying it sooner. I need to always have some cooling in the film fridge.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Film Photography

Shooting Kodak High Definition 400 (expired)

Thorntown Marathon

When I moved in with my wife, she had a bunch of film she never got around to shooting before she bought her DSLR. Most of it was Kodak Max 400, but one roll was Kodak High Definition 400, a film I’d never heard of.

Looking it up on the Internet, people agree that this was Kodak’s Royal Gold 400 film rebranded. That film was known for smooth grain, saturated colors, and punchy contrast.

I found this film in a drawer with an expiration date in 2007, so I knew it wasn’t going to perform like new. The rule of thumb is to increase exposure by one stop for every decade of expiration, but I rated it at EI 400 anyway and loaded it into my Nikon F3. On my previous outing with the F3 the shutter misbehaved, leaving vertical light streaks on several shots. I thought maybe the camera was misbehaving thanks to having not been used in over a year. The best way to find out was to shoot a couple more rolls. My cache of expired film was perfect for the job.

B&S

The film performed all right, yielding well-saturated but slightly shifted color. A quick hit of Auto Tone in Photoshop un-shifted the color lickety split. Grain was pronounced at full scan size, though it’s hard to tell that at blog sizes.

Wrecks

The F3 and the HD 400 came along on our post-Christmas road trip up the Michigan Road. Here’s a block of downtown Plymouth.

Downtwn Plymouth

The F3’s shutter performed flawlessly, thank goodness. Still, it’s time to put this wonderful camera in the queue to send out for CLA.

The Corbin House

I gather that Kodak introduced this film as its Gold 100/200 and Max 400 films had grain that could show up on enlargements. Remember when a standard print was 3.5″x5″? Through the 90s and early 2000s the standard size became 4″x6″, and some labs let you order 5″x7″ prints at nominal extra cost.

Post

I’ve never had trouble with grain on my prints of Kodak’s regular 200 and 400 color films. Maybe they’ve improved those films since HD 400’s days.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Provia 400X

Fire station

Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto sent me a few rolls of film from his fridge in thanks for a favor. It was mostly slide film, something I haven’t shot very much as my skinflint tendencies reliably turn me to inexpensive stuff like Fujicolor 200. I’ve been shooting it a roll here and a roll there. After enjoying a roll of my usual inexpensive stuff in my Nikon N2000 recently, I went for broke and loaded a gifted roll of slide film: Fujifilm Provia 400X.

The Bungalow

My 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens was already on the camera, so I left it there. Say what you will about zoom lenses, and this zoom lens in particular — Ken Rockwell calls it one of Nikon’s worst lenses ever — but I like this lens. It’s sharp enough, the zoom range is super useful for the subjects I shoot on photowalks, and it offers a macro mode. The wicked barrel distortion evident at its wide end is easily corrected in Photoshop.

Monon bridge

I am pleased with the rich color this film delivered. It hits a sweet spot between realistic and deep. These are the colors I remember when I was on the scene, but they’re richer, deeper somehow, and they make me want to go back and experience them again in person.

Purple link

This place, by the way, is Broad Ripple, a hip neighborhood on Indianapolis’s Northside. I visited it because it’s so colorful. I loved being able to shoot this ISO 400 slide film on a cloudy day — most slide films I’ve shot before are much slower, ISO 50 or ISO 100, requiring slower shutter speeds and a steadier hand.

The Depot

I also shot some of this roll on a bright, sunny day in downtown Fishers. This was the last time I shot any film there before I lost the job that brought me there five days a week. I hated that long, tedious commute and don’t miss it. There’s no good way to get to Fishers from anywhere. After you’re there, though, it’s not too bad.

Fountain

The Provia 400X kept on delivering. Just look at those blues and greens.

Mean street of Fishers

Here’s a quick look down one of Fishers’ few remaining original downtown streets. I showed you some of them not long ago in this post. I’m sure that in the next few years this will all be gone in favor of urban density. I shot this in late October, just as the trees were beginning to turn. We had an unusually warm early autumn, which delayed the onset of color. But when it came, it came fast and intense. The trees were largely bare after just a couple weeks.

Red leaves

The 35-70mm lens’s macro mode let me get right up on some of the leaves.

Pillow on our couch

Provia 400X’s speed let me experiment with a few shots inside. The subject isn’t terribly interesting but the colors are spot on with reality — after I Photoshopped out a green caste that the ambient incandescent lighting imparted.

Bathroom selfie

I tried a bathroom selfie. My black hoodie was a bit of a stretch for the Provia, even with 240 watts of light burning right over my head.

The Ruins

I also made a quick trip to The Ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis. I just love that place. I need to go photograph it proper one day and show it to you. This one photo will have to do for now.

My other slide-film experience has been a single roll of Velvia 50 and a whole bunch of Ektachrome E100G. The Velvia is super ultra saturated, which would be fun sometimes but isn’t my style most of the time. The E100G is nice stuff but a little too blue. This Provia really hits a sweet spot for me: realistic but rich color rendition.

Fujifilm doesn’t make Provia 400X anymore, and remaining stocks are all past their use-by dates. This roll was expired, but Stephen obviously stored it properly and it performed as new. This is very nice stuff and it’s a shame it’s discontinued.

If you’d like to see my photography in your inbox almost every day, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Film Photography

Shooting Agfa CT Precisa 100, original emulsion, cross-processed

While I had my Nikon N90s out I decided to shoot one of the rolls of expired slide film that Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto gifted me some time ago. This time I chose Agfa CT Precisa 100, expired since January of 2006. This is another of the Agfa films that survives, zombie-like, after Agfa stopped making its own films. The film sold as CT Precisa today is made in Japan, and by all accounts it’s not the same.

Word on the street is that this stuff loves to be cross-processed — that is, developed in the C-41 chemistry used for color print film. So that’s what I did. Roberts, the photo store Downtown, still has a minilab and they cheerfully processed and scanned my roll.

Stout's

I shot part of the roll Downtown after I got a good barber-shop haircut. I’ve bought shoes at Stout’s — it’s like stepping into 1942 in there, with the same technology and the same service.

Downtown Indy

I aimed my camera (with the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens) at anything colorful as I walked along Delaware Street and on the first block of Massachusetts Avenue. The entrance below was to a Burger King when I worked in a building across the street more than 20 years ago. Today it’s a tapas joint.

Barcelona Tapas

I made the photo below to finish the roll before dropping it off for processing at Roberts. I’m a little disappointed that the sun washed out the hood and snout of the Camaro so strongly but I’m showing the photo anyway because of all the colors I got otherwise.

Corvette snout

I also brought the camera to Zionsville Village and made some of my usual shots.

In Zionsville

I really liked how cross-processed CT Precisa rendered the greens of grass — so supernaturally vibrant.

Black Dog Books

Look around online for people who’ve cross-processed this film and they’ll all tell you it really brings out the blues. Sure enough, that’s what happened here.

In Zionsville

After my last roll of expired slide film was so washed out, I researched online whether exposure compensation could help. The wisdom I came upon over and over was that if you weren’t sure how the film was stored, overexpose — but only by about 1/3 stop given slide film’s narrow latitude. So I did. And I didn’t need to; everything was slightly overexposed. Photoshop rescued every shot. This stuff must have been stored frozen until I got it.

Checkers

Shooting this roll of CT Precisa was great fun. Maybe I’ll come upon another someday.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

 

Standard
Film Photography

Shooting Agfa APX 100, original emulsion

If you buy an Agfa film today, Agfa doesn’t make it. The company got out of the consumer market in 2004.

They licensed their brand to other manufacturers, which use some of the old Agfa film names even though the emulsions are different. It’s confusing. One such film is Agfa APX 100, a black-and-white negative film. Photographers who’ve shot both tend to agree: the new APX 100 is adequate, but the original Deutsche APX 100 was wonderful and special.

And so I was greatly pleased when three rolls of the original emulsion, expired in July of 1998 but always stored cold, were gifted to me. It didn’t take me long to drop a roll into my Pentax ME and take both on a walk in Downtown Indianapolis. That’s the Indiana Statehouse there at the end of Market Street. I made this photograph standing on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the city’s center.

Market St. toward the Statehouse

I confess that I’ve already shared the best photos from this day with you in a series of posts a couple weeks ago; see them here. But there was hardly a bad image on this roll. This film captured rich blacks without ever washing out whites. It absorbed strong reflected sunlight, returning good definition and detail.

At Court St.

My 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens was attached as I walked around Monument Circle. Above is Meridian Street looking north towards the Circle; below is Circle Tower.

Circle Tower

I had an objective: to make my way over to Roberts Camera and buy a 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens I knew they had in their used inventory. I mounted the lens to my camera before I exited the building. One of the first shots I made was of Leon’s, a tailor shop just down the street from Roberts. Leon’s made the suit I got married in.

Leon's

I walked away from Roberts and Leon’s down St. Clair Street enjoying my new lens’s wide view. Had I been three seconds faster, the walking fellow would have been in a much more interesting spot on the frame below.

Pennsylvania

Here’s the same building in the whole. Leon’s is behind it, and Roberts is barely in the photo behind Leon’s.

Brick building

Spinning around about 90 degrees I made this photo of Central Library, with my car in the foreground. The Scottish Rite Cathedral lurks at left. One day I’ll make a subject of that stunning building.

Library

Central Library is at the north end of the American Legion Mall; the Indiana War Memorial stands at it south end. I scaled its steps to make some photos, including this one of the Minton-Capehart Federal Building. The flag is at half staff because on the day I made these photos, a Boone County deputy killed while on duty was laid to rest. That’s the county to the northwest of Indianapolis.

From the Indiana War Memorial

From the War Memorial, here’s the view of the American Legion Mall, with Central Library at its other end.

From the Indiana War Memorial

I adore the War Memorial as a place to make photographs. I’ve been here many times and always seem to find something new to see.

Indiana War Memorial

Growing tired, I made my way home. I stopped in the neighborhood at 56th and Illinois Streets to finish the roll.

Restaurant

I love the surrounding neighborhood. Margaret and I wouldn’t mind living there. But the homes sell fast, which has driven prices high. We could probably afford the payment, but at our age we’d be making it until we are 80. It makes us sad, but we have to say no thanks.

Illinois St.

And oh, look, I’ve told you more about my walk than I did about Agfa APX 100. It’s because I have no criticism to offer. Letting the Pentax ME control every exposure on this bright, sunny day, APX 100 managed the light that fell onto it with great balance between shadows and highlights. APX 100 is a lovely black-and-white film and it’s a shame it is no longer being made.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.
Standard