Friday Film: An ode to Agfa Ultra 100 and Goodbye Summer
By Ibraar Hussain
Dear Steve, it’s been a long time since I have written to you and a long time since I have submitted an article or photographs.
I’ve been enjoying myself this last year, and experimenting with different camera’s and formats; mostly my iPhone 5 and Hipstamatic, also my Canon 700D, but mostly I’ve been enjoying photographing for my own pleasure, working on composition and trying hard to make things look and feel right to me.
I always find myself coming back to my old friend, my trusty Contax G2 – a camera I can use without thinking as it’s so intuitive, and such a pleasure to handle and use, and so reliable, and a camera which I prefer over any other.
I went to Barmouth in Southern Snowdonia in Wales this summer for a week, and shot a few rolls of Film with my Contax G2.
Barmouth is a lovely secluded Sea Side town, at the southern end of Snowdonia. A dreamy place, on The Irish Sea dominated by the Mawddach Estuary, golden sand, the harbour and the wooden Barmouth Bridge.
I also took along one precious roll of Agfa Ultra 100 – a punchy and highly saturated print film which is very rare nowadays.
Agfa Ultra 100 was released to replace the splendid and superior Agfa Ultra 50.
I do love using old world Films, especially Agfa emulsions which I find to be extremely pleasing with their own unique look.
Sure one can hope to get the technicolor look with Apple Aperture or Photoshop but there’s nothing like the real thing, my opinion of course.
It is quite grainy, but has an old world look and feel and obviously false colour which I think is perfect for Summer Holiday snaps.
The prints are superb, luscious vibrant things, fit enough to treasure and mount, and the straight Lab scans (as I have here) are delightful in their vibrancy; all I did was adjust horizons and crop/frame.
I have sourced quite a few rolls of Agfa Ultra 100 and Agfa Ultra 50 in both 120 and 35mm, and am using them sparingly.
These Agfa emulsions are long gone and very rare, and I take great care in crafting every precious frame – slowly, taking my time and I was quite pleased that all 36 exposures were keepers.
Photography to me is about composition, balance and vibrancy, and colour is an essential element, and it plays a big role in what I find attractive and appealing – I don’t care one bit about bit depths, pixels or resolution.
The prints I have made (on paper and canvas) on 35mm are big and very pleasing to the eye, and are to be found mounted on the walls of friends and family – so I don’t understand this extreme need for greater and greater resolution and detail (though it helps if one is a Pro and makes mural sized exhibition prints).
I like the simple things, things which make me happy and give me a feel of the place and situation, be it white clouds, a blue sea, brightly coloured houses and boats.
I think many people have forgotten the joy and simplicity of photography and miss the point entirely, and for this I think Print Film and apps such as Hipstamatic on the iPhone are brilliant tools to use to express.
Anyway, I’ve submitted a few snaps which I hope you can publish, as an ode to long gone Agfa Ultra 100, a Summer Holiday Film, where reds are really RED and the colour reminds one of a sunny seaside holiday and dreams of childhood.
Only snaps, but I adore this Film
Agfa Ultra 100
Contax G2 with 45mm Planar, 90mm Sonnar and 21mm Biogon
Developed and Lab scanned by Forest Photographic, Walthamstow, London.
And a nice hot summer in Barmouth
AGFA Ultra 50
Dear Steve, as an addition to the Contax G2 and Agfa Ultra 100 article, I’d like to add some snaps I took with a precious roll of Agfa Ultra 50 last summer with my Rolleiflex 6008i.
This Film, Agfa Ultra 50 is warmer and with more colour saturation than the newer Agfa Ultra 100.
Agfa Ultra 100 was made to replace Ultra 50 a few years after Ultra 50 was discontinued.
Last Summer I was lounging around in Dorset, on the South Coast of England and managed some Summer snaps with my Rolleiflex on one precious roll of Agfa Ultra 50.
Thank you for your pictures. The lighting, colors and composition combined to bring the feelings, and sadness, of summer coming to a close. You really got it. I have enjoyed studying your earlier postings and then going to your wonderful Flickr site. My old T2 is loaded up!
Cheers Mike! Appreciate the comments!
Thank you my friends!
have sent Steve a Hipstamatic article with some ‘snaps’, 🙂 and I think I’ll contribute and ask Steve if he could publish another Friday Film one soon!
Glad every one likes the Agfa Ultra emulsions, as they really deserve credit for the look and feel.
Agfa ultra emulsions were my favorite. I took a roll in highschool to Florida and she the sunlight combined with the colors were amazing. You can still buy it used on ebay but it is very expired.
Wow I need to get some of this for this summer amazing. Love the last photo
just picked a brandnew, never used Contax G2 at a local photoshop, clearing their long lasting anlogue camera stocks. I saw this camera, went into the shop and simply bought it with an 28mm and 90mm lens. The seller tried hard to find a spare battery for testing, and after inserting it the camera awoke.
We shot a short 12exp film, that was developed in his minilab right after. Everything is okay ! I am really, really happy with this new gem … cannot wait to develop the first roll.
I love seeing your “snaps!” Thanks for sharing them with us!
I don’t know if they’re lovely ..but they’re certainly evocative!
The photos look just like the seaside postcards (of Wales and elsewhere) which I remember from the fifties & sixties ..many of them were hand coloured (BEFORE printing) ..not each individual postcard hand coloured! ..so that boats in the bay, and people’s swimming costumes, looked bright red, yellow, green and blue, and the sand was a vivid beige!
So – to me – they look weird ..but wonderfully nostalgic!
No talk about realistic WB here David!
No, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about realistic White Balance, as I’m rather colour-blind anyway, and can’t distinguish “realistic” WB from what’s “unreal”!
..I don’t bother too much about, for instance, “skin tones” ..unless I’m being paid to shoot something, and then I always ask for someone else’s (non-colour-blind) advice about whether skin looks OK or not.
But – just for me – I don’t bother too much about whether colours look “correct”: I go more for what’s in the picture, and the overall (often quirky) look, rather than naturalistic representation!
David, I’m glad you have totally understood the whole thing here (as have most) – it’s all about the feeling rather than any critique of technicality or equipment or ability.
“Nostalgia” is what I should’ve titled this.
Mmm, I first read this, and responded, on my little iPad, where things don’t look quite as sharp as on the Mac laptop I’m using now, so they looked even MORE nostalgic, as they were just slightly fuzzy ..just like older postcards.
And the feeling is – as you say – pure nostalgia!
(I’ve just come back from an event celebrating a company’s 50 years in business ..and their marquee [big tent] was festooned with items from ’63; children’s toys, a radio, a typewriter, a calculating machine, a Hoover, a 1963 telephone ..and these pics should have been amongst them, too!)
That long line of people in the bay – with their backs to us – and the tents on the sand, and the beached boats ..they’re pure British picture postcard! You chose the right film and the right shots to take us right back to the nineteen fifties.
I agree with all that was said before: lovely images that reproduce the warm feelings of holidays long ago. I can see Ibraar is a perfectionist. So am I, and in that context I would have leveled the horizon in the first image: the walls of the buildings all lean slightly to the left, and even in Barmouth they don’t do that in reality.
Thanks – shows exactly why I and many others have gone back to the beauty of using film over the somewhat bland uniformity of digital imagery. Thats not to say I have given up digital, far from it, my Nikon V1 has been a revelation thanks to Steve but sometimes you just cant touch film- full stop!
I hate to be the only sour note but the longer I am away from film, the less I like its look. Blocked shadows, burnt out highlights, excessive contrast and saturation and image softness… Maybe its because I’m old and have worked with film and digital to make ads, catalogs and reproduce art, but these are the very characteristics I’ve fought all of my working life. I just don’t see the charm.
The composition and subject matter, however, is quite lovely. You are a talented photographer, Ibraar!
It’s not the film, it is THIS film. You like it or you don’t (I mean saturation & contrast). But honestly, even if I like what digital brings to the image industry, I often see more pleasant colors & greater highlights with movies shot classically (Breaking Bad vs Dexter).Anyway, it’s not the best C41 of the world but it fits what Ibraar what to show; those blues has so full. Blue orange and calibrated apples…
I understand what Ibraar wants to show and appreciate that film has a look and an appeal, but the films used display here show what I find to be the worst characteristics of film.
I’m not being critical of the photographer or the photographs – I just don’t get how so many find the super contrasty, super saturated look attractive. Its probably just me.
For Steve, the look of Playboy in the 50s and 60s had as much to do with the reproduction process as the film used. The PB photographers used 8×10 Ektachrome and Kodachrome which were contact color separated using the indirect separation process. This process uses 4 (and sometimes 5 – including the unsharp) masks then 4 separation films and then 4 separation positives (sometimes a backlight enlargement) followed by 4 contact negatives. Retouching would take place before and after the separation process to remove the warts, moles and stray hair. Every photo reproduced took a lot of film and at least a day’s time. I remember because I served my apprenticeship in the late 60s.
Got it! It’s not the worst for me because I do like the blue so blue but it’s a very limited dynamic range for a casual film.
About Playboy, the models were catchier… Indeed, essentially large format in the 60’s then Hassy then Nikon F in the 70’s. Anyway, I fully agree it was a very long process. In the 90’s, we checked with video assist then shot with Hasselblad.
Tom, thanks for the comments man. I do think you’re being excessively unfair on Film in general though, as not all Films exhibit what you described as having “..Blocked shadows, burnt out highlights, excessive contrast and saturation and image softness..”. If I wanted natural colour and extreme amounts of DR I’d shoot Kodak Portra which is as extreme as you can get and loved by many. I don’t like Portra though, as it has less contrast, and not enough colour in-yer-face punchiness.
If you were to say that you dislike the saturation and false exaggerated colour of the Films above then that’s fair.
Your description of the blocked up shadows (on Ultra 50 especially) is also fair.
I’d like to add that the whole point of using these Films in particular are for the exaggerated colour and contrast, I explained as much in my writing.
But I don’t see any blown highlights in any of my photographs above. Sure, the boy on the beach dressed in white has his garments very white, but they’re not blown – they have the full force of the hot strong midday Summer sun beaming down at them, with plenty of reflections from the sand and sea. The colour and contrast is there to show and give a sense of heat and Summer and colour – and that’s why I like this Film (Agfa Ultra 50).
The Agfa Ultra 100 Film has excellent Dynamic Range, and shadow detail is better than Agfa Ultra 50 (which has been described in a comment above as having black shadows which is true).
Picture #3 above in particular is an example of the ability this Film has. The picture was made by shooting towards the direction of the Sun.
My Canon 700D DSLR which has a sensor as modern as any out there was unable to handle this, and the sky was blown, whereas 13 year old Agfa Ultra 100 managed to hold the blues – it did the same for every other shot as with the DSLR the blues were muted as the light was extreme.
If you look at Neil Buchan-Grants excellent excellent photographs on a previous post here just a few articles below (with Olympus OMD) Picture 1 especially gives you an example of the limitations of the Digital sensor – the blue has blown towards the right of the top-right of the screen – whereas the same picture taken with Agfa Ultra 100 would hold the blue and give better graduation, though no doubt it’d be softer, grainier and not as sharp (which to many is a moot point, as when has extreme sharpness ever meant anything?)
Anyway, thanks again.
The one thing I take from your article is your passion for what works for you. And that is what any creative venture is all about!
Great shots as usual with the wonderful G2.
Film is just so different and unique.
It has a look that digital has not yet, nor may ever emulate, and that it a shame.
These pics of yours are classic and timeless in that film way.
This example tells the story: Think of the Playboy magazine pics from the 50’s and 60’s and compare those to today’s playboy pics.
Nothing more need be said.
Thank you my friends, for the kind comments.
Most of my pictures are mere snaps compared to most of the work exhibited on this site, and sometimes I feel a bit embarrassed at having the cheek to have my stuff published (thanks to Steve’s good will for this) I just hope to give some inspiration more than anything else.
And it’s been a long time since I’ve put any effort into actually trying anything other than taking snap shots.
I did manage some work I’ve been proud of with the Fuji GA645 (BW work – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/04/23/traveling-and-film-photography-by-ibraar-hussain/)
And Travel shots with the Contax G2/Olympus XZ1 and Kodak e100vs in the Hindu Kush/Karakoram a few years back.
I hope to shoot some Autumnal Fall colours with the Agfa Ultra 50 (I have 21 exposures left in my Contax TVS III) so will hope to post more.
Using Film suits me, as I seldom shoot, and when I do I am very careful and only shoot a Roll or three at the most in a week long trip.
I haven’t the time or money to invest in another system (I have a superb Contax G2 and Rolleiflex set up and the kit will last me until it breaks or Film is no more), or the time to spend hours post processing on my Macintosh.
I have shot 5 rolls of Film since Summer 2012, and that isn’t expensive nor time consuming.
Some people may ask why Film when I’m either scanning or uploading online – well, in answer to this, I must scan to upload in order to share or have published on this Site or Flickr (for feedback and sharing).
I upload to my Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/
Most of my time photographing is snapping away with Hipstamatic on my iPhone 5. It’s such a brilliant app – and perfect for working on composition. I think I will send Steve a selection, hoping he’ll publish! 🙂
Ibraar, there is in your photos a pretty magical charm. And you remind us fairly well that photography as Art is an interpretation of Reality, not a slavish and a little fetishistic reproduction.
+1 to Jean,
Hoping to see your iPhone photographs as well, i am too using it quite a lot.
Magic moments in silver halides. I do love your posts and philosophy (composition, balance & vibrancy, that’s it!). I shot my last rolls of Reala 120 this summer in Brittany near Brest (Ricohmatic 225 TLR 6×6; not yet print).
I too find myself hankering back to film and a trusty simple om10 or Pentax K. I have many times picked up a G1\G2 or a Konica Hexar 35af, but could not quite afford them. Loved you images and understand the need to make great images of special times with your stock of film. Look forward to your next posts.
my favourite contributor to the site! great eye
I used to shoot exclusively on Ultra 50ASA film. I was devastated when they stopped producing it. The 100 was never as good but I went on to use it because I felt I had no option. Late I went to slide film and scanning and then on to digital but that was so much more work. I’m down to my last roll of Ultra, waiting for that special occasion which will probably never come!
Thanks for the photos, very evocative.
I am just a silent reader of the site normally. But your photos capture the wistful mood of summer so nicely that I could not resist. It made me fill up with nostalgia for those lazy hazy days of summers gone by. Very nice.
Beautiful tones and I can see why you like the film.
Wonderful photos. I can see why you love Agfa — just spectacular tones.
These gentle images remind me of very special childhood holidays taken in Barmouth in the Sixties. Thanks for posting them, beautiful work.
Lovely photos. Indeed film look is different and in my eyes it looks really, really beautiful.
These are very nice examples of the beauty of film.
I especially like the shots in 120. Of course the content has a lot to do with it.
What a reminder of how different film looks! These don’t look like any of the PS/LR film emulation plugins, either (to my eyes). Very cool. Hope you find some more rolls of your favourite emulsions!
Good to see something from you again and what a nice set of photos this time.
I also miss the Agfa film and remember being very sad when the dealer told me there was no more Ultra 50 in the fridge. As i remeber the 50 it had the ability to make shadows completely black.
Now i just stick with digital as i feel it has matured and gives me the possebility to process each frame to my taste.
Colors reminiscent of Agfachrome 50 slide film… (Sigh)
These are gorgeous photos Ibraar, don’t sell yourself short by calling them just snaps!
The composition, subject matter and film tone really captures that moment in time feeling.
Ugh! This never ends! I now find myself wanting a Contax GII