Film Photography

Cold days, suburban neighborhood, expired Agfa APX 100

Royal Run clubhouse

I don’t know why I thought an ISO 100 film made sense during the gray days of an Indiana winter. I need to tattoo it on my film-loading hand: fast film in poor light, you kook!

Rural scene

But I liked the results I got on original-emulsion Agfa APX 100 (expired 7/1998) so much the last time that when I came upon another roll in my film fridge I let impulse rule.

Snow-tipped bush

It had been an age since I shot my Nikon F2AS. A 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens was already attached so I just went with it. It was good to catch up with my old friend, even if I was relegated to slow shutter speeds and wide apertures and the resulting need to stand stock still or brace myself against fixed objects to avoid camera shake.

Snowy pine

I shot these images just before Christmas, during the loose-ends phase of my recent unemployment. I took a lot of walks on the two-mile main-road loop of our neighborhood. It was something to do and it burned the extra calories I was taking in thanks to always being near my refrigerator.

Pine on the walking path

Much of December was white around the edges, but a warm spell the week before Christmas erased all that.

In the subdivision

The bare trees are the only clue to these photos’ time of year. But even they can’t narrow it down all the way.

In the subdivision

I’m getting to the point in my photography where I almost don’t care what my subject is, as long as I can arrange an interesting composition or capture interesting light. That’s a good thing, because this vinyl village subdivision I live in is anything but interesting.

In the subdivision

On one walk I got a little direct sun. APX 100 goes all silvery in direct sun — it’s this film’s endearing charm. The soil in this flowerbed reminds me of those old TV commercials for Folger’s Crystals, all sparkling and rich.

In the subdivision

One more from before the snow melted. This road near our subdivision is an old alignment of a decommissioned state highway. It dead ends just behind me.

Side street

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Photography

Learning portraiture

My first wife made brilliant portraits. Through wit and charm, and sometimes even a little flirting, she was very good at drawing spark and life out of her subjects as she worked the shutter. She made many portraits of our young sons with her Pentax K1000, several of which were framed around our home. Two black-and-white portraits of Garrett, aged about five, somehow found their way into my hands and are framed in my living room. His eyes are full of light and joy.

I shied away from photographing people for a long time. I didn’t think I could ever be as good as my ex, so I wouldn’t even try. What a logical fallacy. But I let it be for years.

I wanted annual portraits of the boys, so we’d go to the Target portrait studio. They did reasonable work for the money. But after several years the photographer moved on, and the new one wasn’t very good. I figured I could do at least that well. So I started trying.

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 100, 2013

I bested the new Target photographer right out of the gate.

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak T-Max 100, 2013

I don’t own any lighting gear, so I photographed my sons outside. Broad daylight turns out to be challenging for good skin tones. I relied on my cameras’ meters; I see I should have underexposed by at least a half stop.

Garrett

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160NC, 2015

I used slower films for the finer grain, but found the in-focus patch could be mighty narrow even in blazing sunlight. I got lots of soft-focus photos, and even some that were clearly out of focus. I shoot handheld; perhaps portraiture calls for a tripod. Or faster film.

Garrett

Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160NC, 2015

I even started dabbling with 135mm lenses, because portraits are supposed to be taken with long lenses, right?

Damion

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

I could really fill the frame without having to put my lens right in my son’s face, which they liked. But I think a 100mm, or maybe even an 85mm, lens would be more useful.

Garrett

Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2016

And soon I busted out some medium-format equipment, and even started experimenting with poses, trying to do something artistic.

Damion

Yashica-D, Kodak Ektar 100, 2016

I still haven’t mastered the art of posed portraits. I just don’t have that ability to be engaging and charming with my subject as my ex did. She had a gift. I’m too buttoned down, too unsure of myself yet. My sons frequently look like they’re trying too hard to smile. Damion usually doesn’t bother.

Damion

Nikon F3HP, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fomapan 200, 2016

But now and then I do nail it, usually at a more candid moment. Garrett was just watching YouTube videos in my easy chair when I asked him to look up. He was relaxed and content, and it shows in his eyes.

Chillin'

Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8 AI Nikkor, Eastman Double-X 5222, 2016

Now that the boys are moving on into their own lives, they’ll be around less for portraits. Maybe now I need to put Margaret in my lens more!

© 2013-2017 Jim Grey. All rights reserved.

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Me at Crown Hill

Your humble photographer
Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
2016

When I took my son to Crown Hill Cemetery for some portraits, I asked him to shoot mine, too. He’s always been my official photographer. Pretty much every photo of me I have from the last dozen years, he took. I was trying to look serious here, but I think I managed only to look bored.

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0859825_0859825-R1-E033 proc.jpg

James Richard Bradford
Nikon F2, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
2016

A break from the Irish photos for a minute for this quick snap I made in Crown Hill Cemetery in August.

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Photography

A barn in the city

The old barn in the city

It stands among vinyl-village suburban subdivisions, this old barn. 25 years ago it was all farm fields out here. But cities inevitably grow outward and swallow up whatever they find along the way.

The old barn in the city

Except this barn and a farmhouse that stands next to it. I’m not sure why; stubborn owner, perhaps. I can just imagine the fellow: “They can just build their danged houses all around me! I’m not going anywhere!”

The old barn in the city

This is Indianapolis, a city that merged with its county going on a half century ago. Within the old city limits, you’d recognize Indy as a city. Beyond, it is suburban and even rural. You’ll find many barns around the “city.” (I ought to do a photo series on them.) But this might be the only one that anchors a subdivision.

Nikon F2AS, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, Foma Fomapan 100

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Shooting Foma Fomapan 100

I want cheap, decent film when I shoot casually or test an old camera. Fujicolor 200 fits the bill on the color side. It’s pretty good and I can get it for $2.50 a roll. On the black-and-white side my go-to, the wonderful Arista Premium 400, was discontinued and I recently used up my stock. Time to look for a replacement!

You might not expect to find a film manufacturer in the Czech Republic, but Foma has been at it there since 1921. They make black-and-white films under the Fomapan brand, at ISO 100, 200, and 400, in 35mm and 120.

Their films are about as inexpensive as you’ll find in black and white, a little more than $4 in most places I’ve found. Amazon recently offered 36-exposure rolls of 35mm Fomapan 100 for about $3.50, so I bought several while the price lasted. And it’s generally understood that Freestyle Photo’s Arista.EDU Ultra 100 is Fomapan 100, and as of spring 2016 Freestyle consistently offers 24-exposure rolls for $3.19.

I just shot my first roll of Fomapan 100; I used my Nikon F2AS. The quick verdict: it’s not bad. My test roll photos showed more contrast and less tonal subtlety than what I experience from T-Max, Tri-X, and Neopan Acros. But the film also never misbehaved with things like blown-out highlights, which I’ve experienced with other inexpensive black-and-white films (coughKentmere100cough). Here’s a selection of Fomapan 100 shots.

I started out with my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens. The office building where I work is lined with callery pear trees. They briefly each April. Briefly, thank goodness: the flowers smell like rotting shrimp.

Callery pear

The golf course behind my house went bankrupt and is essentially abandoned. I need to do a whole photo series on it, as watching it decay has been fascinating. This is the cart path behind my house.

On the abandoned golf course

Deeper inside the golf course I photographed this footbridge. I feel sorry for the people who bought houses on this course thinking they were living in a golf community. My house predates the course by 20 years; it’s happenstance that I have a golf view.

On the abandoned golf course

Back at home, I shot my daffodils in full bloom. I like the clarity and detail this film returns.

Daffodils

I switched to a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens I just bought for the rest of the roll. This shot in particular shows how contrasty this film is. I like the bottomless blacks.

Welcome

This film performed well enough in all kinds of light, but I liked it a little better under overcast skies than in direct sun. Diffuse light brings out greater tonal subtleties.

Shut

The sun came out for this photo, which made the whites mighty white. I toned them down a little bit in Photoshop to make them a little more pleasing.

Benches

Apparently, Foma’s b/w films all use old-fashioned grain structures. Some reviewers around the Internet liken these films to emulsions common during the 1930s and 1940s. But Fomapan 100’s grain, at least, is not prominent.

Tree shadow

I like this film. I can see myself using it for everyday black-and-white shooting. But before I stock up, I want to try the ISO 200 and 400 versions.

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