Aug 022012
 

Three Months of shooting film and here is what I learned by Ryan Lussier

Hello Steve,

A few months back I had sent you a few shots to see if I could be part of your daily inspiration. Thank you so much for posting that I was so happy to share some thoughts and hear back from some great photographers who read your blog. In that post I mentioned that I had ordered a Contax G2 and I was about to embark on a film journey. Well some time has passed and I wanted to share with you and your readers how the journey is going.

Kodak Portra 400 and Zeiss 50 f/2

First a quick recap…

I’ve grown up on digital I’ve never shot film and I love the fuji X series. For awhile I had been using programs like DXO film pack, VSCO, and others to try to emulate film and then having seen the post from Ibraar I had a feeling that despite some really good programs that are out there the look and feel of film is something all of its own. Now I am no expert in this and this post is to hopefully guide someone as new to film as I was (and still am) on some suggestions on work flow. Why shoot film in the first place, for those of you who haven’t I can only describe the results as a sort of creaminess that I haven’t been able to accomplish or see from digital files. There is a beauty in the transitions from highlights to shadows and a softness to the skin tones that I love.

I know that digital can resolve more fine detail in some cases is smoother and cleaner but there is a beauty in the imperfection of grain, and more importantly film has taught me that you don’t need a razor-sharp film or to be able to see the tiny hairs on someone’s upper lip viewed at 100% to have a photo with soul and character. Some of the results of film even when I’ve messed up have surprised me in their beauty despite their imperfections.This is not meant to be film vs digital as I use and love both this is more of me urging people to try out film if you haven’t or for those who have to come back to an old friend. The fact is with the recent announcement of Fuji cancelling Velvia 100f some of these wonderful films may be gone before you’ve had a chance to try them, and I truly think that is a shame.

Kodak T-Max 400 and 45 Planar

You can pick up a used film camera for cheap look around read reviews there are tons to choose from. Most of the examples that I’ve included are shot on the G2 and scanned myself so this is where I hope to add some value. I haven’t had any luck in lab scans they take control away from you and put in the hands of the lab so my first suggestion to you if you want to start shooting film is to buy a scanner. These can be fairly cheap I bought and use a dedicated film scanner OpticFilm 7600i by Plustek through B&H Photo for around 269 on sale not bad. So now you have the scanner what about the software I use and love Vue Scan 80.00 bucks for the professional edition.

My workflow is simple set up Vue Scan to scan your negative in RAW format which creates a RAW TIFF. I usually scan at 3600dpi, 48RGB and 16RGB Gray for black and white. Now that you have your RAW negative it’s time to turn that negative into a positive this is where ColorPerfect comes in, it’s a plug-in for Photoshop that will convert the negative file into a positive thus allowing you to skip the scanning softwares colour profiles that don’t really look good anyways. In ColorPerfect you can adjust the gamma (I use this for black and white) and they have a handy highlight recovery tool that works great if your scan has clipped some highlights. ColorPerfect has a ton of profiles for different films and I’ve been very happy with the results. I then bring my new tiff file into Aperture 3 to fix up any dust spots, do a light sharpen to restore what you loose in the scan and maybe tweak colours or curves but my intent is to be as true to the film as possible. Speaking of dust spots my first few months were filled with anger over the amount of crude I had to remove until I found Antistaticum by Ilford as well as canned air to help me out. I can scan 36 exposure and do some quick adjustments in about an hour, my developing costs 3.95 a roll.

Kodak Ektar 100

So all in all the costs of film are not bad. Skip the Starbucks in the morning and you can develop your film at a lab. There are cheaper ways by developing yourself and buying in bulk, but I haven’t done this myself. So there you have it! My thoughts and suggestions for someone feeling like I was that it’s time to get some film and give it a go. Most of these shots are very personal to me as I got into photography to photograph my lovely family and friends. The beautiful blond in the shots is my wife, she is ever so patient with a camera stuck in her face every time she turns around, and my constant stream of new and old cameras and all the time spent reading Steve Huff photo.

Cheers,

Ryan Lussier

Kodak Ektar 100

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Delta 100

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Kodak T-Max 400

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Fuji Reala and the 45 f/2

If anyone would ilk e to find a Contax G2 for themselves you can try Ken Hansen (email him at [email protected])  who always seems to have used film gear, or even PopFlash.com. B&H Photo has a used Titanium G2 for under $600 right now as well!

Mar 212012
 

Capturing Morocco with a Contax G2 and some film

by Jens Franke – Website Here

Hi Steve,

I really love the stories on your site! I’m a german based Designer and an avid photographer and I wanted to share my impressions of my last photo-journey to morocco with you!

Morocco – the strangest country which is so close to us. The cold country with hot sun, stone-old culture and probably the most open-hearted people you can imagine. During my preparations i was researching a little bit to get first visual impressions and inspirations for my trip. Everything i found there was suggesting me that the South of morocco must be an austere and dusty country with just a few people living there on the country side. In the main cities you could get the feeling that some people are just pleasant when you intend to buy something for the doubled price … It’s not! Behind the curtain you will be convinced of the contrary! You’ll find benevolence, friendship and real warmth beyond wealth and poverty!

In my pictures I wanted to capture a glimpse of the southern Moroccan spirit close to the western Saharan border. But a lot more I wanted to capture the people in their natural environment – Moroccos inhabitants are the real points of interest of the country!

The following pictures are made with my Contax G2 loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 and Portra 400vc mostly using a 45mm Planar. I’m looking forward to hear what you’re thinking about my photographs!

Thanks and Greets from Stuttgart, Jens

 If you want to share YOUR experiences with gear, travel or just photography in general and have it posted here for tens of thousands to see every day then e-mail me here and let me know what you have in mind! – Steve

Mar 132012
 

User Report: Choosing and Using a Black & White Film by Ibraar Hussain

With the demise of Kodak Ektachrome things seem to be getting from bad to worse for Film and options for film users seem to be dwindling. A shame, as I adore e100vs and nothing in my opinion can replicate it. But with all the doom and gloom, one thing, which in my belief will always be around, is good old Black and White Film. There are more B&W Film manufacturers than Colour these days, and a decade ago this would’ve been unthinkable.

So many choices are available for the photographer; we have Kodak, Ilford, Efke, Rollei and Agfaphoto to name a few. B&W Film has its own beauty, and each emulsion is very distinctive. Digital photography has progressed and has reached new horizons, but I think it still lacks the feel, look and character of Film.

Many digital photographers have been pushed and have striven for grain free images, their quest for the extermination of Grain has led to, in my opinion, more clinically flat images lacking depth and character. Sure, they’re very high-resolution and have a beautiful range of tones and qualify as B&W fine art, with some being far superior to others, but in the transition I think something has been lost. I’m no master photographer, and most may consider my skills and vision has mediocre at the best, but that’s not why I’m writing.

My aim is to try to demonstrate and show some examples of different film, their individual characteristics, and the use of Filters, which can give a different look and feel. Developer used and developing times also have a large influence, but my Negatives are always developed at manufacturers recommended times and temperature.

The beauty of B&W Film is that the choice of film/ filter/ lens/ developer plays a vital collective role in the creative process. A creative decision is made prior to the shots being taken, i.e. The subject and location matter, of course, but the photographer may decide upon a certain look and feel and for that will choose a certain Film and/or Filter to give them what they’re after. The choice will also be constant – i.e. once the camera has been loaded there’s no turning back! (Unless the camera is a MF with interchangeable backs).

Grain is a thing of beauty, it gives character, detail, and mood, and is used to good effect, and to portray a certain atmosphere or feel. I tend to try different fast films for a different look – Kodak TMNZ 3200, Ilford Delta 3200 and Fuji Neopan 1600 all have their own beauty. Pushing film, say Ilford HP5+ from 400 a couple of stops also heightens grain.

Some photographers may require lots of grain, to give the photograph a gritty reportage like feel, or to give stormy skies a more dramatic and moody look, others may require grain to give their nudes or models a certain effect. And this can be achieved to some extent with artificial grain adding filters and plug-ins, but it’s not the same!

Filters add a lot too. Some people shoot all day every day with a Yellow filter permanently attached. One such Great is Don McCullin – B&W photographer par excellence. His photographs are simply spellbinding, stunning, grim, dark but his vision is on another level entirely. Best known for his War photographs and pictures from Cambodia, Lebanon and Vietnam – his landscapes and documentary photographs are brilliant – utterly!

A few books to look out for are; In England, In Africa, Don McCullin and Open Skies.

Red filters add more contrast and darken blue skies and a light blue filter strengthens skin tones. A really good book to read and which explains a lot about B&W photography is The Art of Black and White Photography by John Garrett. I enjoy experimenting with Film, and my Contax G2 has helped me along in the creative process. The G2, being a rangefinder is superb for B&W. The reason why I say superb is because you don’t view ‘through the lens’, but through a Viewfinder, and attaching Filters – even semi opaque deep red filters doesn’t impede your vision.

The G2 is also quick, has a great meter and the lenses are very contrasty – some may dislike this aspect, others love it. As for myself, I enjoy photographing people – friends, family, people on the street, and travel shots and the G2 is great for this – and I love using fast films with plenty of grain (most of the time)

I’ve included various shots here, with a brief description of the film used and Filter/developer – they’ll give some visual information as to the feel of the different Film/Filters.

My negatives have been scanned with an Epson 4990 into 16bit TIFF. Loaded up into Photoshop, and then I use layers – new later – overlay – 30% (or as required) to use the brush tool to dodge and burn. I also use levels to play with contrast. I’ve also started playing with prints in my darkroom, and when I’m free, the weather is dire, I’m at home and the missus isn’t busting my balls I enjoy playing in the darkroom just as much if not more than going out shooting! There’s heaven and Earth difference between pratting around on Photoshop and in the traditional darkroom – if you have never tried it, give it a go!

I hope photographers can try out some B&W Film, and give developing a go. Developing is easy, as is scanning, and I believe there was an article on Steve’s website not long back about basics of developing Film.

Young lad in a suit. London. 45mm Planar T* Ilford HP5+ pushed 1 stop @ 800 asa.

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Guy on a  boat. Istanbul, Turkey 2008. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ 3200. Ilfotec ID11.

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Galata Tower Istanbul, Turkey 2008. 90mm Sonnar T* Kodak TMZ 3200. ID11.

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Istanbul by the Bosphorus. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ 3200. ID11.

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Kids on a Boat. On the Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ 3200. ID11

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Turkish Market vendor. Istanbul, Turkey. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak TMZ3200. ID11.

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Amongst the Pillars.  In The Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey. 21mm Biogon T*.  Fuji Neopan 1600.

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Dad watching TV. 45mm Planar T* Ilford HP5  pushed to 1600 asa

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Mr Ali. London. 45mm Planar T*. Fuji Neopan Acros 100. ID11

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On The South bank of the Thames. London. 21mm Biogon T*. Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Red 25 Filter. ID11

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Elvis with shades on. People watching a street performer. South bank, London. 90mm Sonnar T* Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Yellow Filter.

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Homeless Guy on the Golden Jubilee bridge. Embankment, London. 45mm Planar T*. Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Yellow Filter.

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Heart on her lapel. Cranford, Middlesex. 45mm Planar T* Ilford Delta 100 pro. Red 25 Filter. From my first roll in the G2 2005.

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Storm clouds a Brewing. Twickenham, Middlesex. 90mm Sonnar T*. Ilford HP5+ @ 3200 asa. Red 25 Filter.

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Epping Forest. Essex. 21mm Biogon T*. Ilford SFX 200 with red 25 filter. SFX is a pseudo IR Film.

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Pashtuns. Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. 2007. 45mm Planar T*. Kodak Tri X 400.

Feb 212012
 

The Contax G2, Travel Companion by Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, I thought I’d write in again, just to relate some of my experiences with the Contax G2 around Northern Pakistan and the Punjab. I’ve been there a few times over the last five years and have had my trusty Contax G2 with me at all times. I know most people shoot with Digital, and finding an almost full time Film shooter is quite a rarity.

In Pakistan, my Contax was a rarity – people were constantly wishing to view the image on the rear panel, and much to their chagrin they were disappointed. The strange thing is that even in the most remote parts, the most remotest and rustic people expected digital cameras and an LCD screen! I was surprised at first and then realised that it’s been over a decade since digital cameras became popular, and many years since Film has ceased to be in use in places such as Pakistan.

Pakistan, as Flickr will show you, is rife with native photographers, and I’ve yet to see ANY photographer anywhere in Flickr, of Pakistani descent, using Film. In Pakistan and India I think Film IS DEAD, you may find the odd mini-Lab but trying to find a lab of any sort which develops E6 or even sells E6 Film stock is impossible in my experience. In 2007 I had to be driven all around Islamabad and Rawalpindi before I found the Headquarters of Fujifilm Pakistan – the only place I could pick up a few rolls of Fujichrome Sensia 100 – rolls which had been sweltering in the heat for Christ knows how long. in 2009 and 2011 I made sure I was well stocked up BEFORE I left England! :)

So I felt a bit privileged in a way, sure, it’s foolish feeling, but it was a feeling which had much of pride in it. I had to rely on the characteristics of the Film stock and my rudimentary ‘experience’ to try and grab the shots I wanted, with a long wait to see my results. I know digital gives a higher resolution and pixel peepers will probably get annoyed at the fact that I don’t care, I don’t think that’s important, I’m more concerned with contrast, colour and latitude, and trying to be more creative and artistic. (note the word ‘trying! :) )

I also use B&W and the Zeiss G lenses give fantastic results, though they are sometimes a bit too contrasty and sharp for nice gradual BW tone!! :) haha! I prefer the look of Film, and the fact that I’m beholden to the Film stock and have the option of choosing what I’d like to load up to fit the occasion. For example, trips to Pakistan always ensure my G2 is loaded up with either Kodak e100vs or Fuji Velvia, so I know what to expect from my Slides. I’ll get heavy contrast, vibrant colour and will have to be careful with exposure. That’s where I reckon experience comes into it, experience with the Camera in use. I tend to use Exposure lock on the G2 very often, and can judge the correct exposure by looking at and locking the shutter speed after noting the difference between shadow and highlight in a scene, and I never have any focus problems, any blurred shots are the result of camera shake (using slow film is a pain at times).

But ultimately, the Film stock gives me the results I want, the tone and graduation, the gentle granularity, the pop of colour and it’s all so pleasing to the eye. The colours also add to the ‘exotic look’ of the places, the dust, the red earthy tones, the dress – everything.

I use both Film and Digital, I currently own a lovely Olympus XZ-1, and am looking with lust at the OM-D (I like Olympus colour) I’ve been using a mix of cameras over the years; from Canon, Nikon and Konica Minolta DSLR’s to various Compacts, 35mm SLR’s and 35mm Compacts, but one thing has remained constant: when I wanted to capture something important and special I always resort to using my G2.

It’s about as perfect a travel camera as you can get, it’s solid (I’ve knocked it, dropped it many times and it has survived!), well-built and is fairly compact. Battery lasts a good long while – in heat and cold,, focussing is quick and accurate, it has a really good meter, ergonomics are as sound as you can get and the lenses are stellar! With the G2, I find I can lift the camera focus and shoot in a quick movement, and if I wish i’m able to zone/pre focus using the (crappy but effective enough) Manual focus.

I have a couple of manual focus cameras, and a manual focus RF – I’d love to own a Leica and perhaps one day I shall, but to be honest, it’s the AF which gives the G the edge when travelling, as time is usually of the essence.

FLAWS.

Firstly, the smallish VF, it’s not bad, things are clear enough, but one always wishes for a larger brighter VF. It’s a bit silly, as Kyocera put a perfect VF in the Contax T2, why couldn’t they replicate the size and brightness in this? Filters, using Polarizers can be a pain, and the thing about mountain environments, a Graduated Filter is a MUST, but square filters are a pain to use on a Rangefinder. And finally, the G2 is so quick with a nice snick and zippy shutter that it’s easy to blow your way through Film! So have got to slow down a bit!

I hope my, as well as others use of Film, and such tools as the Contax G2 encourages people who use or have been brought up on Digital, taken up photography fairly recently, during this last 10 to 12 years and others who long ago abandoned the medium and ‘went digital’, to use this beautiful medium and utilise fantastic Film cameras which are at bargain prices these days; such the G1 and G2 and T series, Contax SLR’s, Olympus OM, Nikon F’s and others including Yashica/Rollei TLR’s, and MF gear (and Olympus Pen Half frame – I have a splendid Pen F which I have bought recently and am loving using it) , and I hope exposure on your superb site encourages photographers to use Film, enjoy and create using the characteristics of this medium along with their usual Gear.

Keep up the excellent site, the reviews are brilliant, as are the offerings and contributions from Site users! Love it!

Local lad with striking eyes. Minapin, Nagar Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karakoram mountains. 2009. Fuji Velvia 50, 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8
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A local lad trying to sell me some snacks, Malam Jabba, Swat Valley. NWFP Pakistan. 2007.
Fuji Sensia 100. 45mm Planar T* @f2

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The strain and tension of life shows in the eyes of this young lad from Swat Valley. 2007. Fuji Sensia 100. 90mm Sonnar T* @ f2.8

 

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Mulhon, Kalash girl, Grom Village, Rumbour Valley, Hindu Kush. 45mm Planar T* @ f2, Kodak e100vs. 2009

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Man with firewood, Chitral Gol national park, Hindu Raj range is in the background. Hindu Kush mountains. 21mm Biogon T* Kodak e100vs.
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A guy on horseback at sunset. Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan. 2009
21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8. Fuji Velvia 50.
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Villager collecting firewood and fodder. Rakaposhi base camp trek, bang-e-das, Nagar Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan. 2009.  21mm Biogon T*@ f2.8 (I think) Fuji Velvia 50.
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Shepherds and their Dog. Swat Valley, NWFP. 2007. Fuji Sensia 100. 21mm Biogon T*
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Mystic/ Fakir at the Shrine of Pir-e-Shah Ghazi, Kharri Shareef, Kashmir. 2009. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8  Fuji velvia 50.
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Two Kalash Girls, Grom, Rumbour, Hindu Kush. 2011.  45mm Planar T*, Kodak e100vs
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Rabi Gul, young Kalash girl in traditional dress. Grom, Rumbour, Chitral, Hindu Kush. 45mm Planar T* Kodak e100vs
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