Return to film: Spring flowers in San Francisco By By Dirk Dom

Return to film: Spring flowers in San Francisco

By Dirk Dom


The last two years I’ve been serious about black and white on film and I grew to enjoy grain very much. With my Hasselblad Xpan I shot Kodak Ektar and fuji Superia 400 and I immensely liked the results. My Olympus PEN digital camera is extremely good, but I got tired of color noise. Film grain is beautiful, digital color noise is ugly.

So when I went to san Francisco this easter, I had my Xpan, my canon F1 and my Olympus PEN with me. And, not to my surprise, I didn’t shoot a single digital shot.

I wanted a creamy and graphical look for my flowers. The cream comes from shooting with a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2, at f/1.2. The graphical part comes from Fuji Superia 800. I used a 3 stop ND filter all the time. I used extension tubes. I don’t think there is any modern camera system that allows this kind of shots with modern lenses. Digitally, the Sony A7 with Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 and extension tubes and a $30 adapter would do the job perfectly. But I shot at ground level a lot, you’d need to use the screen, then.

Today I got my negatives back and I’ve met my objectives. This was what I had in mind. Sharpness freaks will be disappointed: this is not about sharpness but about beauty and atmosphere.

Film is beautiful.


California is in its fourth year of draught, so there weren’t many flowers. Still, I got nice shots.

Pacifica. A lily.


At the beach.


Also near the beach.


Poppy, Golden Gate Park.


Golden Gate Park. Shot through a flower in the foreground, focused on a flower behind. With the Canon F1 speedfinder I can shoot right to ground level.


Cherry tree.


The 85mm sometimes gives rainbows.



Beach near the Golden Gate: great diversity of flowers. Unfortunately, they were mowing the path when I got there. 


Poppies at f/1.2.







Grain. Love it!


Bernal Hill, all the flowers were already gone.



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  1. This is, to my opinion, the closest photography can come near to painting. It makes me think of the French impressionists… Biologists may not like it too much, as they cannot count the stamens and stems, but let’s talk about art instead…!

  2. Thank You for these beautiful and real photographs! Grain, texture, smell, feeling… Yep, thats the beuty we have almost ruined in our digital world!

    • Hi!

      I shoot Ektar, Superia 400 and Superia 800. almost no experience with Kodak Portra.

      the Ektar is virually grainless and has incredibly rich colors. I use it with my Hasselblad Xpan. I had a shot scanned on a Hasselblad Imacon at 8,000PPI and i still couldn’t see the grain, although there was a bit of motion blur when i enlarged to two meters. the colors of Ektar are uncanny. Don’t try to make it look like digital, that ‘s not what this film is made for.

      Fuji Superia 400 is a very good film, also with a “film look”, especially in the detail in the highlights and very sharp edges and rich pastels. It sort of has a Leica M240 look. I use it everywhere I need those two extra stops.

      the Fuji Superia 800 I use for grain. It has about four times the grain size of Fuji Superia 400. Don’t use it for normal pictures, use when you want to play with grain. Would i love an Ektar 800!!

      Last, don’t worry about overblown highlights with film. I use Fuji 800 one stop overexposed to get even more grain. Blown out highlights just don’t happen with color neg film. In fact, shooting color neg film is much easier than shooting digital. (I didn’t say that about Slide film!! Velvia is very difficult!)


      • Totally agree with your view on color negative film, it really gives you vast leeway with exposure…. But lacks a bit of the punch of slide film.

  3. Dirk, I enjoyed every single one ! I shoot a D700 & a Fuji Xpro1 with a 90mm Tamron Macro re. FLowers. These are truly Ephemeral in ambience; and a NEW way of looking at an OLD ART FORM. THank you, and NOW I have something to RECONSIDER re. shooting Format ~ F I L M ! ~
    P.S. Do YOU prefer the Kodak or the Ektar as a preference ? Mike.

  4. I’m an A7r user and fan, and I would apploud even higher resolutions. But this is not to always use that resolution. I absolutely love images like these. I still own a few film cameras, A1 with FD lenses (the 85mm is a wonderful lens indeed, also on the Sony) and two Ikons. Only, I just can’t get myself to “the job” of film shooting anymore. Maybe when I’m retired… 🙂 Still your pictures are so inspiring, amongst the nicest stuff that’s being published here. Gorgious. Wonderful. Prachtig, Dirk.

  5. Man those are gorgeous! I was expecting ‘standard’ pretty flower shots, but these are knock outs.

    Best regards

  6. I love these! Simply beautiful, and so creative with the grainy film and shallow depth, extension tubes – all combined to reward with lovely painterly shots.
    With the obsession with sharpness and high resolution this is refreshing and proves the point that the obsessions are nonsense and pointless.

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