Down the alley 1

Boone County Courthouse down an alleyway
Olympus XA
Ilford HP4 Plus
2019

I’ve been out of the photographic mood much more than I’ve been in it lately. Life’s been busy, stress has been high. Yet I know that a good photowalk can cure what ails me.

When Analogue Wonderland (who is sponsoring this post) sent me some films to try it was the boost I needed. They included some Ilford HP4 Plus, a film I’ve long wanted to try. So I spooled it into my little Olympus XA and carried it around with me for a couple weeks.

I had to run an errand up in Lebanon, the seat of Boone County, Indiana, one day after work. Errand done, I parked on the square and walked around hoping interesting compositions would jump out in front of me.

When I walk with a camera, I go places I wouldn’t otherwise, such as down this alleyway on the square. The contrast between the dark alley and the lit courthouse caught my attention. It looks even better on FP4 Plus than it did in real life. I enjoy the tonal range and detail, but I love how the alley’s pavement, damp after a rainshower, looks like silk.

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Film Photography

single frame: Boone County Courthouse down an alleyway

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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.

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On the pond in the office park

Office building across the water
Olympus XA
Ilford FP4 Plus
2019

I shared a photo from about the same place a couple weeks ago, one I made with my iPhone. I recently got the chance to try some Ilford FP4 Plus, an ISO 125 black-and-white film, and I decided to try the shot again to see what I got.

I’ll do a more comprehensive review of this film tomorrow, but in short, me likey. The tones are just so, so good.

This is the office building I worked in until last Friday, by the way. My new job’s office is in Downtown Indianapolis. There are no man-made ponds there.

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

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Office building across the water

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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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Photography

Vacation camera audition: Olympus XA

I’ve decided to take the Nikon N2000 to Ireland. The results were just too, too good. You all swayed me heavily in your comments on that audition post, by the way. But when I made that decision I hadn’t finished the audition roll in my Olympus XA yet, so I kept shooting. Not that this was a hardship; the XA is delightful.

Olympus XAThis little camera seemed like it would be the perfect vacation companion. Indeed, Moni Smith got great shots from hers in Italy and Ireland this year.

And did it ever handle beautifully for me! It really was everything I thought I wanted in a camera for this trip: small, light, capable.

But shooting an SLR just feels right to me, righter than even the most delightful tiny rangefinder camera. And when the images from the XA came back from the processor, it sealed the deal. I wasn’t quite as happy with them as I was with those from my N2000. I’ll point out why as I share photos from this roll of Kodak T-Max 400.

Margaret and I walked the Old Northside and adjacent Herron-Morton here in Indianapolis one hot August evening while I had the XA along.

1219

It resolved detail well, and returned the fine tones I’ve come to expect from T-Max. I bought five rolls of the stuff for my trip, by the way.

Old Northside

But some of the shots on the roll suffered from a serious lack of shadow detail. I don’t get why; the light wasn’t especially challenging. Could it have been the processing? Different soup, different results? I sent the T-Max I shot in the N2000 to Old School Photo Lab; I sent this roll of T-Max to Dwayne’s.

Old church, Old Northside

Fiddling with these photos in Photoshop I kept seeing blobs of blue in the dark areas. That means those areas resolve to full black. No amount of sliding sliders or curving curves could fix it, meaning the detail just wasn’t there. That was never a problem on the roll of T-Max I shot in the N2000.

Apartment House Entrance

There were also the usual challenges with the viewfinder not exactly lining up with what the lens sees, which is a pet peeve. When I framed this shot, the “Foundry” logo on the right was completely in frame.

The Foundry

The XA and Margaret and I went on a walk through the cemetery near my house. This Liberty Bell replica is a favorite subject.

Liberty Bell replica

I stepped way back for this landscape shot of the bell within its housing.

Washington Park North Cemetery

I finished the roll with a few la de da shots at home. Am I one of the last men alive who irons his own shirts? Who wears ironed shirts at all? I wait for the unironed shirts to pile up and then polish them all off in marathon sessions in my bedroom while I watch shows on Netflix. You can sort of make out, there near the top of the photo up and left of the iron, some plastic boxes under the dark area that is my dresser. Those boxes contain the old cameras I haven’t shot yet.

Ironing

Really, I could do just fine with the XA in Ireland. If some of you hadn’t so strongly suggested taking an SLR, which led me to try the N2000, I would be taking the XA to Ireland!

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Bridgeton bridge

I have made occasional pilgrimages to the covered bridge at Bridgeton for more than a quarter century now. Well off the beaten path, I enjoy the quiet there — except in October during the Covered Bridge Festival, when it teems with people. I avoid Bridgeton in October.

I shot this using my Olympus XA on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800. I have had mixed results shooting this film in my Pentax ME, but every photo I shoot on this film in my XA turns out grand.

Photography

Captured: Bridgeton bridge

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