Film Photography, Travel

Shooting Film Washi D

Wabash St.

When it comes to black-and-white photography, I hew to the classics. Lately I’ve enjoyed Ilford’s FP4 Plus for its rich tones. When I want something faster, it’s a tossup between Kodak T-Max 400 and Ilford HP5 Plus. But I am also a deeply curious man. When I heard about Film Washi, a one-man film company from France, I wanted to try its films.

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I’ve already shot a roll of Film Washi S, and here I’ve shot a roll of Film Washi D. Analogue Wonderland sent me both rolls in exchange for these mentions. Their Film Washi stocks vary with time; check here to see what they have available now. Or choose from any of the over 200 other films they keep in stock.

I loaded the Film Washi D into my Olympus XA and brought it on a weekend trip to Chicago with my wife. It was early January, cold and gloomy. Who knows whether this was the best light to test this ISO 500 film, but that’s what I threw at it.

Cafe view

Like so many boutique films, Film Washi D loves contrasty scenes. I knew this going in, because I read up about it on Film Washi’s site first. I learned my lesson after not doing that with the roll of Film Washi S I shot last year. Turns out this film was originally used for aerial surveillance and cartography. Strong contrast is likely useful in that application.

Vans

I had a devil-may-care attitude as I shot this roll. “I wonder if this film can handle this light,” I kept wondering. It kept saying yes. I’m especially pleased with how it captured the iconic sign of the Berghoff Restaurant.

The Berghoff, Chicago

We had tickets to see the new production of The Phantom of the Opera; this was the marquee. (I’d never seen the show in any form before. The production was first rate, but I was surprised to find I don’t like the story.)

Phantom of the Opera at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

There was a dull muddiness to all of these photos as scanned. I shouldn’t be surprised — the negatives were incredibly thin. I shot at the box speed of 500, but I wonder now if I should have shot at half that. Or perhaps my lab didn’t know what to do with this film and underdeveloped it. I opened these images in Photoshop’s RAW editor and used the Black and Dehaze sliders to tame the muddiness. Sometimes it wouldn’t be fully tamed without losing all the shadow detail. I had to stop short of that in the photo below.

The Loop, Chicago

Skies were overcast all weekend, creating diffuse, even light. But there wasn’t always enough light for Film Washi D to pull detail out of the shadows.

Umbrella Men

Not knowing this about the film yet, I lucked into using it to good effect here.

Shadowy Tower

But give Film Washi D some blacks and some whites to play with, and it brings them home with aplomb.

Painted rhino

If I had this roll to shoot over again, I would have shot nothing but street with it. I made exactly one street image, this one, shot from my hip. I thought there was something interesting in this lone woman at the end of this line of chairs, and I was right. The Film Washi D captured a reasonable range of tones.

Seated

The woman spied me with my camera, even though it was at my hip, and shouted obscenities at me. She was most unhappy about being my subject. So here you go, lady: you’re immortalized on the Internet.

Many thanks to Analogue Wonderland for the chance to try Film Washi D and give it this one-roll review.

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Film Photography

Goodbye Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Fujifilm discontinued its Superia X-tra 800 film in 2016, so I’m four years late with this Goodbye post. I’m not sure what took me so long.

I’ve made a few truly lovely images with this film. But for the most part, its pronounced grain disappoints me. I kept shooting it because it was the least expensive ISO 800 color option while I lived on a tight budget.

I bought it primarily to make portraits of members of my church. We have occasional pitch-in lunches in our dim basement. I’ve tried ISO 400 films and an f/2 lens, but ISO 800 and an f/1.4 give me more margin for focusing error. My kit was always my Pentax ME with my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens.

Dave on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
Mother and daughter on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

I also made candids at these lunches, trying to build my skill at capturing an interesting moment.

Serving lunch on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
Mom on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
Sisters on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

This may be the film I’ve had printed most often, as I like to give prints to my portrait subjects. I am always surprised by how much better the prints look than the scans from which they’re made. It’s true when I have my usual pro lab make prints and it’s true when I upload jpegs to Walgreens for quick turnaround. The colors are richer, and the grain largely disappears. I would love to understand why.

I’ve also used Superia X-tra 800 whenever I knew the light would be challenging. I rather prefer it for that application. Here’s my all-time favorite photo I made on this film, from my Olympus XA. The grain is still omnipresent, especially at the bottom, but the film’s muted palette worked very well with the setting sun.

State Fair at dusk on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Here’s another good State Fair shot on this film, from the Pentax ME and that 50/1.4. I featured it in my book of photos from the Pentax ME — you can still buy a copy here.

I'm workin' here on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Sometimes I pushed this film too far. I know many people like a look like this, but it’s never what I envision when I compose and shoot. Pentax ME and 50/1.4 again.

Thunderbolt on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Superia X-tra 800 was at its best in diffuse, even light, as here. This is where the film delivers its best color. Nikon F2AS and 50/2 AI Nikkor.

Farmall on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

It even works fine in full sunlight, as here. You just get tiny apertures and gobs of depth of field. Still Nikon F2AS and 50/2 AI Nikkor.

Roann Bridge on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

Looking back, I’m not sure now what made me choose this fast film on such sunny days! Olympus XA.

Bridgeton bridge on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

I did some nice close work with this Superia X-tra 800. I shot these flowers in a hothouse on a gloomy day. Pentax ME and 50/1.4.

Hothouse flowers on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

This film looks especially good in this photo of some phlox on the grounds of Newfields. It was known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art then. Pentax ME and 50/1.4.

Phlox, I think on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

I think I expected this stuff to look just like Fujicolor 200, the color film I shoot most. That’s not a great way to approach any film. If I had it to do over again, I would have spent more time figuring out what situations this film excelled in, and I would have found a film that came closer to delivering the look I wanted in my church’s basement.

We’re not at a loss for ISO 800 color films despite Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800’s exit. Kodak Portra 800 is the obvious film to try next at a pitch-in. It is famous for its fine grain, and I can afford it now. I know CineStill and Lomography offer ISO 800 color films and it would be fun to try them someday. Also, I’ve heard of people having good luck shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 at EI 800 and then push-processing it by one stop.

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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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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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