At the wheel of the old Buick Pentax Spotmatic F, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar Kodak Plus-X 2017
I’ve never been very good at moving fast. I’m more the slow, thoughtful type. But there are moments in my photography when a wonderful scene emerges before my eyes and I have to move fast before it disappears. Such was this moment.
I forget what my camera’s settings were. I probably didn’t even know as I framed and focused. I probably just twisted the aperture ring until the viewfinder’s exposure needle registered good exposure, pressed the shutter button, and trusted that on such a bright day I’d have settings that would give me enough depth of field.
I was right. And I moved fast enough to catch the girl’s delighted smile.
I love Kodak Plus-X. It’s a shame Kodak discontinued it.
All of the Plus-X photos I’ve shared on this blog have come from some expired stock I bought a few years ago. It was promised to have always been stored cold, and it performed like new.
My last roll had been moldering about the refrigerator for going on two years because I wanted to honor it with the perfect subject. Finally I decided that no subject would ever be perfect enough. I might as well just shoot it up.
I loaded it into my Pentax Spotmatic F, mounted my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens, and carried the camera with me wherever I went. Naturally, I started in the yard. I often do. I hadn’t moved out of my old house yet.
I had the Spotmatic along while Margaret and I took an evening stroll down Main Street in Zionsville. It’s become tradition that I shoot the Black Dog Books sign.
This shop on Main Street had closed for the night, but there was enough light for me to press the lens to the window and make this photograph.
And then a perfect subject came along: the Carmel Artomobilia. I’ve already shown you color photographs from this show here, and I’ll show you more black-and-white photos from this roll in an upcoming post.
But as a preview, here are a couple wide shots.
I’m sure I could buy more Plus-X. It shows up from time to time on eBay, and the Film Photography Project has been known to sell it sometimes. It is said to usually perform well even when it hasn’t been stored cold.
But I think it’s time I shoot up my backlogged stock and then stick largely to films that are still being manufactured. Expired, discontinued films certainly have their charms. I might still be wooed here and there. But I wish to find my go-to films, the ones I reach for again and again because I know them well and can shoot for their strengths. If Plus-X were still being manufactured, it would absolutely be my slow-speed black-and-white film. Alas.
Ghostly church Kodak Six-20 Kodak Plus-X 2010
The first time I photographed Second Presbyterian I was shooting my folding Kodak Six-20 and some Plus-X that I bought pre-respooled as 620 from B&H. The entire roll came back looking like this, to my disappointment.
I came across the negatives recently and they look normal. My wife bought me a new flatbed film scanner for my birthday, and it takes medium-format film, so I may try scanning the negs myself when I get moved and settled.
I’ve reviewed the Kodak Six-20 twice: here and here.
I usually frame, focus, meter, and hope for the best. Practice has improved my odds considerably, making hope less a part of my photography strategy. But given that I shoot with whichever of my classic cameras feels right on a given day, it’s hard for me to know most of them deeply and be sure of what I’ll get from them.
But a well-designed, highly functional tool sometimes makes up for what I lack. I had one of my last rolls of discontinued Kodak Plus-X spooled into my Nikon F3HP and was driving through Crown Hill Cemetery looking for interesting subjects. The cemetery is bisected by 38th Street, but a grade separation featuring a concrete-arch bridge creates easy connection between the north and south portions of the enormous grounds. There was more light under that bridge than this film and my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens captured — but didn’t the F3 do a great job of setting exposure to keep detail in both the light and dark areas? This might just be my favorite shot of the year.
The more Kodak Plus-X I shoot, the more I love it for its rich blacks and low grain. I wish I could shoot it forever. Alas, Kodak discontinued it four years ago. It was only through the Film Photography Project’s cache of cold-stored expired stock that I had any at all. But now it’s out of stock at the FPP. I’m going to move on, probably to Kodak T-Max 100. But not before shooting the last two rolls chlling in my fridge.
I shot one of them in my Canon EOS Rebel, but you might recall that its shutter was busted. Thank goodness I figured that out before I sent the Plus-X in for pointless processing. I fished the leader out of the film can and dropped the cartridge into my reliable Nikon F3HP, as it needed some exercise. I also attached my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens, and took the camera along from time to time over the next few weeks.
That was such a colorful day! And the color shots I got on the same day were lovely. But there’s something about a cemetery that just begs to be shot in black and white.
I also took the F3 along on the elders’ retreat. The shots overlooking the lake turned out best.
Such sure tones everywhere in these lakeside shots. And the Nikkor delivered the sharpness.
I liked this one best because of the wonderful reflection.
I took a couple shots around the church. I liked this one best, of one of the concrete blocks that separate our parking lot from the alley.
I finished the roll around the house. I love shooting this trio of trees on the golf course behind my house. That tree in front is an ash tree and it’s dead, thanks to the emerald ash borer. The golf course will eventually have to remove it, and then this favorite subject will be forever altered. I doubt I’ll like it as much.
I had a yellow filter on that afternoon, and shot my leafless front-yard trees against this sky filled with wispy clouds.
Come back on Friday, and I’ll show you my favorite shot from this roll. It’s just a perfect exposure.