Daily Inspiration #458 by James Stevenson

Hi Steve,

Your site has long been a regular daily read, a fix of inspiration, gear news and reviews. I thought it was about time I joined in!

I wanted to share with you some recent photos of a road trip I took with some friends to the Oregon coast. We settled on driving from Vancouver, Canada (where I recently relocated to from the UK), South over the US border to Cannon Beach in Oregon, a stretch of the Pacific Northwest made famous by “The Goonies”!

Like many of your readers I discovered rangefinder photography after using film and digital SLRs for years and, whilst I’m still getting into my comfort zone, my confidence is growing and I love the film Leica M cameras with their wealth of choice in great lenses.

I’ve also recently started shooting with a Hasselblad V series camera from the early 80’s. I’d been wanting to try one out for a long time but put it off, thinking it would be too hard to use without a meter and too fiddly. I’m so pleased I got around to it though, I’m finding it to be quite the opposite of my preconception. It takes no time to learn the basic workings, you can meter with a number of great phone apps (training your eye in the process) and its a real pleasure to use.

I used Kodak Portra 400 film in the Hassy and Fuji Velvia 50 slide film in the M7. I’d rarely shot slide film, feeling a little daunted by its reputation for having a very small latitude for exposure error, but i just shot like negative film exposing for the mid tones trusting the Leica’s meter and was really pleasantly surprised! Both films have their own characteristic colour signatures and scan very well; Kodak’s new Portra is rich and natural with the Velvia being bolder and more vivid.

I wanted to share in case anyone like me has been thinking about trying out medium format or rangefinder photography. I say just do it, personally I knew very quickly that the Hasselblad is a camera I’ll want to shoot for life, and rangefinders have their own unique appeal. The great thing is, you’ll lose little or nothing in resale if you decide it’s not for you, prices have plateaued somewhat in recent times on most film gear so there’s never been a better time to dive in!

I used the ‘standard’ Hasselblad lens – the Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 CF, and on the Leica a Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f/2.

Cheers Steve and have a great day!

Best Regards,

James Stevenson

Tumblr: http://jamespstevenson.tumblr.com/

My Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamespstevenson/

SH_Leica_M7_HaystackRock_Velvia_50_Voigt28

SH_Hasselblad_CannonBeach_Portra400

SH_Hasselblad_HaystackRock_Portra400

46 Comments

  1. Hi, James:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful images. As one who grew up near the California-Oragon state line (the current Hw. 101 split the farm on which I grew up), your photos of the Oregon coast brought back a great deal of nostalgia. I have long claimed that the stretch of Highway 101 through the redwoods of northern California and along the Oregon coast is one of America’s greatest driving treasures. Then on your photo sites the picture of the Speed Graphic brought back more memories. As the risk of dating myself, I will admit that I lugged one of these wonders around so much that I had calluses on the back of my hand where I inserted it through the strap to carry the camera more securely. And then the Leica M2 was another gem from a later era. Now I live in Panama where fresh film is nearly impossible to find and processing is totally unreliable, so I went into the digital age kicking and screaming. But it is a different medium with its own advantages and disadvantages, as you are well aware. I am lightening up on my Nikon DSLRs, and I am thankful for Steve’s blog in helping me decide what equipment is more appropriate for this stage in my life-long passion for photography.

    Keep up your good work, and may we see more of your lovely images both digital and film.

    • Wow! That’s a fine compliment, thanks very much and I hope you enjoy it! What did you go for? It was only through flickr contacts and sites like Steve’s that I learned more about them, eventually borrowing a friends Rolleiflex which really sealed the deal for me, seeing those huge negatives that scan beautifully.

      Enjoy the medium format adventure! 🙂

      • I picked up a Rolleiflex 2.8e, with no meter as i prefer the style and using a hand held meter if I use one at all. That is how i shoot with my M3.
        Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I really enjoyed your images. I live in Vancouver as well and really liked your ‘new’ eyes are my city. Vancouver is a very active ‘photo’ city and there are many groups here. I hope we can meet up some day as I like your style. I am a largey a film user as well. Cheers and well done!

    • Hi Geoff, thanks for the comment, it’s a beautiful city and I’m loving living here. Indeed there are a lot of enthusiastic photography groups and collectives here in Vancouver. I’ve met new friends here with a shared passion for photography who have started to meet up pretty regularly. PM me on flickr!

  3. Thanks for the post James.
    Funny thing is I am actively shooting film as my M-E has been in the shop for a while now. 9 months old and needs a new sensor with a three month wait as it is back ordered in Germany (which may explain why it is so hard to get new Leica Ms as it seems they order a very small run of sensors at a time). But I digress!
    Been loving using film in my M3 and Nikons, and I am now looking at getting a Rollei TLR or Blad. I’m leaning to the Rollei (even though Blads are a ‘better’ deal used) as it is much quieter.
    How are you developing your film? Self or sending it out?
    And yeah, I wish you had included more shots. The sea haze/mist which some people see as ‘flat’ to me is a product of being there almost in the surf. That stuff does not lend to a contrasty shot, but it does create wonderful diffuse lighting.

    Best regards
    Huss

    • Thanks Huss – I’ve long looked at the digital Leicas and would love to shoot with an M-E. Hope yours is returned soon. It looks like the perfect digi for a film guy!

      The Rolleiflex is a beautiful camera. Vivian Maier’s photos are wonderful, some friends introduced me to her work (and Rollei cameras). I settled on the Hassy in the end purely as I liked the idea of interchangeable lenses and backs. Both are a joy to use.

      I develop my own black and white and send out the colour locally. Also shoot an OM-D EM-5 which is a wonderful camera.

  4. Great post James, I recently sold all my DSLR equipment to shoot only with my M7.
    I am curious about how are you scanning velvia 50. You can easily spend a lot of money with scanning software when looking for accurate color calibration.

    • Indeed yes scanning can get very expensive once you step out of the ‘enthusiast’ marketplace! I’m just striving to get the best results I can from my Epson V700 flatbed with upgraded scanning mounts and good software. I’ve tried both Silverfast and VueScan and tend to prefer the latter, though this is a whole other discussion that everyone feels differently about!

      I’m happy with the results I’m seeing now – if the scan is bad it’s usually because the photo was to start with!

  5. You totally captured it, except for the 40 degree water! Next time, start in Cannon Beach and head to the Redwoods… it gets even better.

  6. Thanks for the post Steve, it was a nice surprise to find this on your site this morning!

    There was a very heavy sea fog this day, and it was amazing to see the peaks of Haystack Rock appear through this as we approached on foot with no real bearing on where we were along the beach.

    Thanks for the comments also, feedback is always very welcome and I feel I’m learning a lot from shared experiences.

    Ibraar – the rest of the images from this set are here on my flickr page if you’re interested:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamespstevenson/sets/72157636090268115/
    Congrats on the Rolleiflex, that’s a beautiful camera and I look forward to seeing your photos. MF is addictive!

    I shoot digital as well as film and love both, there’s just something a little bit special about the experience of shooting on film.

  7. Enjoyed the set, I wish you could’ve included more photographs.
    I love shooting MF, I have now acquired a Rolleiflex 3.5F and am looking forward to making some photographs with it.

  8. Hello James.
    Stunning images here and on Tumblr. Flickr I will check later 🙂
    How to you scan the film slides (negatives). I really want to reactivate my Olympus OM gear.
    Best regards
    Wolfgang

    • Thanks Wolfgang. There are lots of options depending on your budget. I tried several and settled on an Epson V700. Happy to reply to flickr pm’s if you’d like more detail. 🙂 Get using the OM! Lovely camera!

  9. It’s interesting that in a day where photographers beg for sensors with ever increasing dynamic range we have others who wax poetic about the look of film….washed out with low contrast and magenta colour casts…

    I have to admit…as someone who was born in 72 and shot a lot of film, I too get nostalgic about the look….but I would never want to go back to it full time.

    • Check out the tumblr feed. The “washed out with low contrast and magenta colour cast” is mostly due to the ocean spray. It’s an atmospheric effect that would also be accurately recorded with your digital. Check out some of the larger format images in James’s images – there are ample examples of dynamic range, acuity and just plain art. I am defending the work, it is very difficult to get film processing that fully realized the possibilities of the medium. It’s one of the reasons for it’s demise. The drugstore kiosk was not the best processor. But well done film and especially the medium format examples in this body of work show what can be possible. We were not all able to achieve the same level with our film work due to some of these limitations, but you also cannot deny the level of skill and vision that makes this possible. Photoshop skills vary, film skills vary.

    • I presume you’re criticising James’s Photographs, but I don’t think your criticisms are warranted – your Monitor or eye sight needs testing (or both), I see no cast here.

      • Ibraar…..you presumed wrong…I never criticized James’ work, I was commenting on the look of film. I actually stated that I too am nostalgic about the look of film…in fact that is the reaction I get from looking at James’ pics…a feeling of nostalgia…a blast from the past. His compositions are nice, and obviously so is the subject…Cannon Beach is one of my favorite places on Earth.

        With that said….my points above are valid…..the images are rather flat with a bit of a colour cast. Granted I am at work and not at home on a calibrated monitor…but I’ve looked at enough images at work to know what I am talking about.

        • All comments and thoughts are welcome guys!

          Scanning is a skill I’m still developing with a steep learning curve. I feel that I’ve found ways of getting a good amount of detail from 35mm negatives using third-party film mounts and software, but colour accuracy can still be something of a challenge. I’m not currently working with a calibrated workflow, though I have recently invested in an top end display.

          Having made prints, Kodak Portra always seems to scan beautifully with very little work, whilst slide films and other negative films like Kodak Ektar take more time and effort to correct.

          Part of what I love about film though are precisely these different characteristics, learning which are best suited to scenes and subjects.

      • no, the pictures here are “flat”, even on a calibrated monitor..the low contrast though may not be an issue for many but a virtue, the style, the sentiment so nothing wrong with flat pictures if it was the intent.

          • Mike953 – Why is ‘flat’ an unkind description…by definition the contrast curves on those files are relatively flat….so what’s the problem?

            Of course some people prefer a less contrasty or ‘flat’ image so if that was the intent then great. It’s seems like lots of people are being very defensive about this yet James is the one who took the photos and he seems pretty cool!

            James if you are reading this….looks like you live in Vancouver (I looked at your site), so if that is the case it would be cool to get together for a beer one day and do some shooting!

          • In all honesty I welcome any opinions and thoughts and it’s nice to be part of a discussion!

            Certainly it was a tricky day for photography as the sea fog and atmospheric haze really was thick, we were told this is not uncommon in the bay.

            In the case of the last photo especially, I felt I didn’t want to enhance the contrast as this look better represented what we saw on the day – people looked almost like ghosts!

            Re. the colour accuracy of the scans; using film, I usually just experiment until I get a look I’m pleased with and which makes a good print. As this is just a hobby for me, that’s all I feel is important.

            I like to use a variety of film types, each requires a different workflow and colour balancing to achieve a look I’m happy with. They all have a distinct and unique look to start with, some of which are easier to work with than others.

            I know that it’s possible to invest in calibrating hardware for the display and IT8 swatch targets for the scanner – and subsequently for each and every film stock you use, but this can get very expensive very quickly!

            Thanks for all the comments!

          • – Clint! Yes I’m in Vancouver, pm me on flickr and I’d be happy to meet for a beer and some shooting. There are a few of us here that get together regularly. 🙂

          • Any magenta casts on Film are usually the result of i) Epson Scanning Software, ii) A below standard Lab with exhausted chemicals iii) Long Expired Slide Film.

            To say Film is “Flat” and lacking contrast is a laughable and False statement as Fuji Velvia for example is anything but “flat” or lacking contrast.

            Freedom of speech means nothing to me here on an Online Website, however Opinions are welcomed but Facts are what matter, and the Fact is that Clint mate, you’re mistaken and not sticking to Fact in your statement. You continued to deny that you are criticising James’s work, but then immediately criticised it again by stating – and I quote; “..the images are rather flat with a bit of a colour cast. Granted I am at work and not at home on a calibrated monitor…but I’ve looked at enough images at work to know what I am talking about. “. If this is not a criticism, then what is it?
            I’m not debating here, nor do I wish to indulge in a meaningless tit for tat argument. I see no cast in james’s work, and just wanted to point out that I disagree with you on that point. As regards contrast – that is a matter of a creative decision according to what the minds eye see’s, and not all images must have contrast – some are beautifully soft and dreamlike and that’s all what creativity and vision is all about.

            As regards Digital, I only use an iPhone for that and a Kodak bridge camera for wildlife. I find Digital to be characterless, soulless, clinical and boring with drab colours – straight out of a Camera. only Olympus can do out of camera colour properly and beautifully – everything else needs shed loads of work in post, and that is a chore, bore and headache. Give me Film any day.

          • Any magenta casts on Film are usually the result of i) Epson Scanning Software, ii) A below standard Lab with exhausted chemicals iii) Long Expired Slide Film.

            To say Film is “Flat” and lacking contrast is a laughable and False statement as Fuji Velvia for example is anything but “flat” or lacking contrast.

            Freedom of speech means nothing to me here on an Online Website, however Opinions are welcomed but Facts are what matter, and the Fact is that Clint mate, you’re mistaken and not sticking to Fact in your statement. You continued to deny that you are criticising James’s work, but then immediately criticised it again by stating – and I quote; “..the images are rather flat with a bit of a colour cast. Granted I am at work and not at home on a calibrated monitor…but I’ve looked at enough images at work to know what I am talking about. “. If this is not a criticism, then what is it?
            I’m not debating here, nor do I wish to indulge in a meaningless argument, and I am not being rude or anything. I see no cast in james’s work, and just wanted to point out that I disagree with you on that point. As regards contrast – that is a matter of a creative decision according to what the minds eye see’s, and not all images must have contrast – some are beautifully soft and dreamlike and that’s all what creativity and vision is all about.

            As regards Digital, I only use an iPhone for that and a Kodak bridge camera for wildlife. I find Digital to be characterless, soulless, clinical and boring with drab colours – straight out of a Camera. only Olympus can do out of camera colour properly and beautifully – everything else needs shed loads of work in post, and that is a chore, bore and headache. Give me Film any day.

  10. Hi James,

    Your images of “haystack” drew me in, but if you are selling “film” today, I hope your audience spends some time on your tumblr feed. Truly an amazing array of images, cameras, film, technique each adding to the mountain of impressive results. I couldn’t quite looking.

    I now this is daily inspiration, but I have bookmarked the tumblr so that I can get a more frequent dose.

    Best Regards,
    Roger

  11. Thanks James,
    Makes me feel like shooting a roll of Velvia (my old favorite too!) in my M3. Inspirational.

    Best,
    Ben

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