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.

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Film Photography

Shooting Agfa CT Presica 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.

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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.

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Film Photography

Shooting Kosmo Foto Mono

When Kosmo Foto announced its first film, Kosmo Foto Mono, last year I was among the first to preorder. Stephen Dowling, the man behind Kosmo Foto, has been a longtime friend to film photography and to this blog. I was very happy to support his venture and try his film!

This ISO 100 black-and-white negative film is an existing emulsion, repackaged for Kosmo Foto. Dowling hasn’t been forthcoming about what film this is, except to say that he’s shot it for years and loves it.

KosmoFotoMono

My Olympus XA was sitting on my desk when my order arrived, so I loaded a roll right into it. And then Margaret and I spent the following weekend in Chicago. The XA spent the whole weekend in my inside coat pocket — except when I got it out to shoot a scene.

I see why Dowling loves this film: it gives a wonderful classic black-and-white look.

Looking up from Daley Plaza, Chicago

This gray, dim weekend presented quite a challenge for the XA on ISO 100 film. I have a pretty steady hand and can dip down to around 1/15 sec. handheld without camera shake — but even at a shutter speed that slow the widest I opened that lens was f/4. My in-focus patches were correspondingly shallow. To compensate, I mostly chose distant subjects and focused at infinity. It worked out. Just look at all that great contrast! And while the film’s grain is detectable, it’s not pronounced.

Macy's Chicago at Christmas

I felt emboldened to try some street photography. I use that term loosely: I was on the street, there were people, I made some photographs. I focused on the built environment and waited until the arrangement of people on the street was not uninteresting.

Macy's Chicago at Christmas

This is my favorite Chicago street shot. I wanted the fabulous Oriental Theater sign in my frame, and aligned it roughly on a vertical rule-of-thirds line. Then I put the crowd’s faces on a horizontal rule-of-thirds line. It really worked out.

Chicago street scene

I shot about half of this 36-exposure roll in Chicago, and the rest closer to home. The grounds of the former Central State Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis is near where I go to church. The Christel House Academy charter school was built on the grounds a few years ago. The mural on the wall reads LOVE, but the film had trouble picking up the V and especially the E.

L O something something

Here’s my church, West Park Christian Church, in its context: an Indianapolis neighborhood built around the turn of the 20th century. The church building is steps off the National Road.

West Park Christian Church

Looking out from the church building’s steps, here’s Addison Street. Indianapolis’s old neighborhoods all have names; this one’s is Hawthorne.

Addison Street, Indianapolis

Where Hawthorne is a working-class neighborhood, you’ll find central Indiana’s well-to-do in the village of Zionsville. Its charming main street is lined with little shops and restaurants and even one little hotel.

Brick Street Inn

Any time I’m in the village with a camera I photograph the Black Dog Books sign.

Black Dog Books

Shooting in poor light as I did, Kosmo Foto Mono rendered moderately lit areas well but tended to lose detail in the shadows. I’d like to shoot my next roll on a bright day to see how it behaves. Other old-school contrasty films I’ve shot, such as Fomapan 100 and Kentmere 100, have tended to blow out highlights in bright light. I’ve learned to meter for the highlights to compensate. That’s what I’ll try with Kosmo Foto Mono, too. I look forward to it.

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Film Photography

Shooting Konica Chrome Centuria 200

When Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto launched his new site World on Film last summer, he asked me to contribute an article for its debut. That sounded like fun, so I wrote about my Route 66 trip, which I shot on a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye; read it here. To say thanks, he sent me a few rolls of expired slide film. The first one into my Pentax Spotmatic F was 2003-vintage Konica Chrome Centuria 200.

You never know what you’re going to get with expired film. That goes triple for slide film, given its narrow exposure latitude. Conventional wisdom says expose one stop less for every decade a film has been expired. But I’m not conventionally wise: I shot at box speed.

Each frame was badly washed out. Fortunately, Photoshop was able to make usable images out of the entire roll.

At Crown Hill

I started shooting this roll before I moved from Indianapolis to Zionsville. I wanted one more walk through Crown Hill Cemetery, which was so convenient to my former home.

Please sit

I’ve shot this view from Strawberry Hill, the highest elevation in Indianapolis, many times. But never before has it looked like it came straight from a dystopian apocalypse movie.

At the top of Indianapolis

Reading up on this film, I learned that it had a reputation for grain. I got plenty of grain, all right! But these heavily Photoshopped images aren’t a fair representation of what this film could do when it was new.

Down the hill

The 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens I used was just right for the cemetery’s wide-open spaces and interesting details.

They served

As a whiskey fan, the very thought that a pump might freely deliver delicious Woodford Reserve bourbon charms me no end. (Check the stamping on the pump body.) My sour mash dreams were dashed when I learned that this pump is from the Woodford Manufacturing Company of Colorado Springs. This looks like their Model Y34, which has been manufactured continually since 1929.

Pump

I finished the roll on an evening walk through Zionsville Village. It’s become tradition that I photograph the Black Dog Books sign. Then Margaret and I stepped inside for the first time, where I found and purchased a book of Edward Weston photographs.

Black dog

This expired stock let every color fade away — except red.

Oak St.

This film was still in my Spotmatic when Margaret and I traveled to Versailles, Indiana, for a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association. We met in a stunning Art Deco church. Look for photos of that church on this expired film in an upcoming post!

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Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Superia 100

Long story short, UK film-photo blogger Dan James offered to send me 25 rolls of Agfa Vista 200 he bought for £1 each at Poundland, which is to the UK what the dollar store is to the US. Poundland has since stopped selling the stuff, to the anguish of film shooters across the sceptred isle. Dan offered in the nick of time! And Agfa Vista 200 is just Fujicolor 200 in disguise. That’s my everyday color film! Even after I reimbursed him plus shipping, each roll was far cheaper than I can get Fujicolor 200 here. Win!

And then Dan generously dropped two rolls of long-discontinued Fujifilm Superia 100 into the box. Bonus win! He said, “It’s probably the single most impressed I’ve ever been with a colour film. Beautiful colours and subtle grain.”

North of 80 degrees

While I did see solid results on several frames, many others were a little disappointing. But I don’t think I have my scanner and my Silverfast settings sorted after my computer’s hard drive committed seppuku recently. Scanning is fussy enough even when the Silverfast settings are perfect. So I’m reluctant to pass negative judgment on this film.

Still, the shots that hit, hit big. Glory be, yellow! I don’t know of any other negative film I’ve tried that captures yellow worth a damn. This alone makes it a shame that Fujifilm discontinued this film.

Yellow flowers

And just check those dusky colors on my dianthus! Heavenly! (By the way, I shot this roll with my Nikon F3 and my 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor lens. That lens lets me focus from just a few inches away.)

Dianthus

After having the mini-forest of dead ash trees removed from my yard two years ago, two catalpa trees tucked in corners of my property have begun to spread. Their blooms don’t last very long. I was very happy to have noticed them.

Catalpa blooms

When I bought my house I was not thrilled it had a deck. My head was filled with visions of power-washing and re-staining it every few years. Ick. Turns out the one time it needed done I was able to pay someone for the job. Otherwise, it’s been lovely to sit out here on cool evenings and take in sunsets. The Superia 100 returned true-to-life color here. Spot on.

On the deck

Here are a few shots that don’t impress me much. Perhaps I was still wrestling with Silverfast’s settings. I don’t know. All I know is that the colors are meh. This is one of the Marsh Supermarkets that didn’t get purchased after the company went bankrupt. It and all the others closed for good last Saturday. One of my sons worked for Marsh; he’s now unemployed.

Experts in Fresh

Given that I personally spread the mulch in the shot below, I can attest that it’s not actually red-brown. It’s more black-brown. But the hosta leaves are the right colors.

Hosta

Dan suggested slight overexposure of this film to bring out its best, and in these last two shots I can see why. I had to bring up the shadows in Photoshop to make them usable. And in the shot below I got that weird glowing effect on my hedge trimmer. I’m sure there’s an official photographic term for that effect; if you know it, enlighten me in the comments. By the way, trimming my hedges is my all-time least favorite home-maintenance job.

Yard work

Ah, for the days when Fujifilm offered a complete range of consumer-grade films. They were all very good for the money. Thanks, Dan, for giving me a chance to shoot this one.

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