Film Photography

First roll impressions: Fujifilm Reala 100

A reader who comments here as tbm3fan contacted me recently and asked, “What are the best medium-format cameras you own?” I replied “my Yashica TLRs.” He responded, “That’ll work. I’m going to send you a whole bunch of film. It’s good stuff you can’t get anymore. It’s always been stored frozen. Shoot it on subjects that matter in those Yashicas.”

A box soon arrived containing a whole bunch of film in both 35mm and 120, two rolls of each emulsion he included. All of it is negative film; some of it is color and some is black and white. The first roll I shot, while in Madison, Indiana, recently, was Fujifilm Reala 100 in 120 that expired in April of 2005.

I’ve loved Fujifilm’s ISO 100 color negative films when I’ve gotten to shoot them in the past. Those rolls were always 35mm, though, so I was excited to try a roll in 120. Interestingly, there was no film called Reala 100 in 35mm. There was a Superia Reala 100 in 35mm, but not plain Reala 100. The word Superia does not appear on my two boxes of Reala 100 in 120. Some light Googling did not find data sheets for either film for me to compare them.

No matter; the fun is in the shooting. I shot the whole roll on a long walk along the Ohio River. This is the Lanier Mansion, Madison’s most famous house.

The Lanier Mansion, Madison, IN

I shot the roll at EI 50 to hedge against the effects of age. The whole roll delivered very good color, fine grain, and good sharpness. Straight off the scanner, you could hardly tell this film is expired. Dark areas tended to be a little too dark for my taste, so I lightened them in Photoshop.

On the Ohio River at Madison

On the Ohio River at Madison

Despite having mounted a lens hood onto the taking lens, I got a lot of haze and flare unless the sun was well behind me. It tended to wash out images on this roll. I rescued this one in Photoshop, but it rendered the earth tones extra earthy.

On the Ohio River at Madison

There’s lots of old houses around Madison, and many of them are painted in bright colors like this. I’m not a fan of painting brick — the whole point of brick is that it needs little maintenance, and once you’ve painted it, you have to keep painting it.

Old house in Madison, IN

My experience with Fujifilm’s 35mm ISO 100 color negative films is that the colors are candylike and bright. I found that this roll also returned earthier, burnt colors that were true.

Decay

But it still faithfully renders the primaries.

Chillbilly Treats

In all, this film is a winner.

Table

I’m thrilled to have all of this film to try. But I have a sinking feeling that the more I shoot it, the more I’m going to realize just how much we lost in discontinued films. So many of them did not survive the early digital era, and few if any will ever return.

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When Margaret and I visited Madison, a town in southern Indiana right on the Ohio River, in October, I brought a lot of film. One roll was Fujifilm Velvia 50 in 120 that I loaded into my Yashica-12.

Autumn colors were in full display that weekend, and the sun was out in a partly cloudy sky. It was a terrific time to be shooting Velvia.

Here are the photos from the roll that I like best.

The Joy house
Downtown Madison, Indiana
Downtown Madison, Indiana
Horror festival
Autumn accoutrement
Livery Stable
House in Madison, Indiana
Lanier Mansion, Madison, Indiana

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Photographs

Madison, Indiana, on Fujifilm Velvia 50

Some brilliant color transparencies, scanned, from a visit to an old Indiana city.

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Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row
Yashica-12
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros
Rodinal 1+50
2019

In my new book, Square Photographs, I shared an image of Sycamore Row. That image shows the historic marker that was there at the time I made the image in 2019. (That marker was damaged in an accident and a new marker with a different message was put in its place; see it here.)

I was on the fence about whether to include that image in the book, or this one. That image showed the historic marker, but this one did a much better job of showing the road itself, and how narrow it was. This was a state highway until 1987! Imagine encountering an oncoming semi in here.

I landed on the other image, but I’m still not sure I was right.

My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!

The Standard Edition is $15.99 at Amazon.com. Get yours here.

The Deluxe Edition, on premium paper and ink, is $24.99 at MagCloud.com. Get yours here.

Photographs

single frame: Sycamore Row

A b/w image of Sycamore Row, a narrow passage on the old Michigan Road.

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Physical plant

Physical plant
Yashica-12
Ilford Pan-F Plus
2018

In my book, Square Photographs, I include a couple images I made at the Central State Hospital for the Insane. One of those photos is a detail of this building, which I entitled “I Wonder What This Could Be?” It was so named for the boarded-up window I photographed, onto which someone painted those words next to a little girl holding her arms out to the sky.

I said in the book that the building was in sad condition, and that an extensive renovation would be needed to make it usable again. This photo shows you what I mean. I didn’t share this in the book because I’d already selected two images from Central State and I needed to move on to other subjects.

I made this on Ilford Pan-F Plus, an ISO 50 film. I bought a five-pack of this stuff hoping it would be a good film for my box cameras. But it turns out it lacks the exposure latitude of Ilford’s FP4 Plus and wasn’t a great choice for my old boxes. I burned this roll in the Yashica-12 and sent my last roll to a blogging friend to try. As you can see, it performed beautifully in this camera that has an onboard meter for precise exposure.

My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!

The Standard Edition is $15.99 at Amazon.com. Get yours here.

The Deluxe Edition, on premium paper and ink, is $24.99 at MagCloud.com. Get yours here.

Photographs

single frame: Physical plant

A dilapidated building at the former site of an insane asylum.

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Garrett & Damion at Starkey Park

Damion and Garrett at Starkey Park
Yashica-12
Kodak Ektachrome E100G
2018

It should be obvious why this image didn’t make it into my new book, Square Photographs.

This was my last roll of the late, lamented E100G, and six of the 12 images were marred by light leaks. I wondered at first if I hadn’t wound the roll tightly enough when I removed it from the camera. But that would have affected all of the images where an edge was outside the spool ends. This happened randomly through the roll.

I worried that my Yashica-12 had developed a light leak, but when I used it again this problem didn’t recur. The Y-12 has worked flawlessly ever since.

On this day, my sons had come to visit. I drove them over to Starkey Park here in Zionsville, where we hiked the trails. Here, one trail ends in this ramp, which leads up to the Zionsville Rail Trail.

My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!

The Standard Edition is $15.99 at Amazon.com. Get yours here.

The Deluxe Edition, on premium paper and ink, is $24.99 at MagCloud.com. Get yours here.

Photographs

single frame: Damion and Garrett at Starkey Park

My sons, and a light leak.

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Film Photography

My new book, Square Photographs, is available!

My new book, Square Photographs, is available!
Get the Standard Edition (left) now on Amazon
Get the Deluxe Edition (right) now on MagCloud

My first cameras as a kid made square photographs. The first was a Kodak Brownie that took 127 film. The second was a cheap Instamatic knockoff that took 126 film cartridges.

Even though cameras for 126 film were hugely popular in the 1960s and 1970s, most cameras make rectangular photographs. The 3×2 aspect ratio is standard for 35mm cameras and DSLRs, while 4×3 is standard for digital point-and-shoots. Remember the 110 film format? It made images in the weird 10×7 ratio!

Me and Yashica-12

Since I cut my photographic teeth on the 1×1 ratio, shooting on the square feels like coming home. I’ve moved far past those basic cameras, however. I own two twin-lens reflex (TLR) cameras from the 1960s made by Yashica: the Yashica-D and the Yashica-12. These are well-built cameras with wonderful lenses that make images on medium-format film.

As you can see from the photo of me holding my Yashica-12, a TLR is a large brick. It’s hefty! It’s also sturdy. You could knock a sucka out with one if you swung it at their head. (But don’t do that.)

Up top you see the viewfinder cover flipped up. You peer down into it to frame your image, which renders backwards on the ground glass. It’s disorienting until you get used to it!

I’ve collected 40 of my favorite photographs I made with these two TLRs into a book. I titled it Square Photographs so that, as the British say, “it does what it says on the tin.” Next to each photograph I’ve written a short essay, meditation, or history. Here’s a look inside:

I made two editions of Square Photographs, a Standard Edition and a Deluxe Edition. I did it as an experiment. Let me explain.

When I published my previous photo book, Vinyl Village (info and where to buy here), I used Amazon Kindle Publishing for the first time. I wanted that book’s price to be easy to afford, and Amazon made it possible.

But I heard from a number of readers that they were very disappointed with the book’s image quality. I had chosen Amazon’s entry-level paper and ink, and it led to images of low contrast with blacks that looked dark gray. I thought it worked with the subject matter, but I heard it loud and clear: you expected better.

I still wanted an affordable edition of this book, so once again I turned to Amazon Kindle Publishing. This time I chose Amazon’s best paper and ink — and it turned out very well, with good color saturation, deep blacks, and good contrast. This is the Standard Edition, it’s 8½”x8½”, and it’s $15.99. It’s priced similarly at Amazon sites worldwide.

I published the Deluxe Edition through MagCloud, which specializes in printing top-quality photo books. The paper and ink are both a cut above. The colors are richer and the blacks are blacker. That costs extra, of course. The Deluxe Edition is $24.99 plus shipping. It’s also slightly smaller at 8″x8″, because that’s the square size that MagCloud offered.

Square Photographs. 86 pages, available worldwide on Amazon and MagCloud.

My new book, Square Photographs, is available now!

The Standard Edition is $15.99 at Amazon.com. Get yours here.

The Deluxe Edition, on premium paper and ink, is $24.99 at MagCloud.com. Get yours here.

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