Film II

6 comments
Portraiture

Of all my short comings, the one that keeps me up at night (literally) is how forgetful I am.  This often manifests most frustratingly as the inability to remember where I put anything.  At home, I keep my possessions on open shelves or on hooks so I can visually see everything.  Once it goes into a drawer, it is gone.  I spend a lot of time staying in hotels, and I leave stuff behind everywhere including chargers, agendas, and clothes.  I once forgot my shoes at a friend’s.  We had walked a block before I had to sheepishly admit I forgot my shoes.  He didn’t understand at first, until he realized I was wearing only socks on my feet.

Julia_Portra_sm-8

Julia Rae. Hutch’s, Hamilton, ON. Nikon F100 w/ 50mm f/1.8. Portra 400 pushed two stops.

At photoshoots, it is just as bad.  How I haven’t lost a lens cap yet, I don’t know.  On a recent shoot with Julia Rae, I did leave my 85mm F/1.8 behind.  Luckily, it was still there when I returned later.  I also recently shot two rolls of film two stops underexposed.  I had set my F100 to 1600 ISO for a specific effect.  When I was done, I never switched it back to DX (auto), and then shot two rolls of 400 as 1600.*  Luckily, I noticed before I sent the film to the lab.  I knew while shooting that something was wrong.  I knew there wasn’t as much light as the internal meter was telling me.  Still, I shrugged and pressed on.  Realising my mistake, I sent my film to Indie Film Lab in the US since they push colour film and have a great reputation.

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Julia Rae. Hutch’s, Hamilton, ON. Nikon F100 w/ 50mm f/1.8. Portra 400 pushed two stops.

After a week and a bit, I got my scans and I was pretty nervous to look at them.  I assumed the worst.  After a deep breath, and a couple of beers, I was able to work up the nerve to peak at them.  I was relieved!  Yes, they are grainy and rough-looking, and that doesn’t really suit the mood of the photos, but they weren’t ruined.

There are a lot of cons with film, chief among them – for me, at any rate – is the prohibitive cost.  There is the cost of the film, then the cost of mailing it to a lab, and then the lab fees.  With the closing of Caribou Lab in Toronto, the only lab I have found that seems to actually care about what they do is Indie Film Lab.  Unfortunately, our weak Canadian dollar makes the cost even higher.

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Julia Rae. Hamilton, ON. Nikon F100 w/ 50mm f/1.8. Portra 400 pushed two stops.

Still, there are benefits to film.  When I shot digital, processing is cheap but a headache.  Nothing ever looks “right.”  The colours always look too green or orange or yellow.  Even when using a colour checker, gray card, shooting RAW, and calibrating my monitor; nothing ever looks correct.  It drive me nuts!  Then there are the little things that make me wonder if it’s just my perception.  I shoot Portra film, everything has a green tint, and I love it.  I use a VSCO Portra film simulation, and the green tint looks awful, no matter how subdued I make the simulation.  Film maybe expensive, but when I get my images back, except for some slight cropping here and there, I don’t touch them.  No colour correction, no contrast adjustment, no file conversion, no camera calibration, no fiddling with curves, masks, or any of that other crap.  Advancing technology, for many people, is liberating.  It’s also really cool.  For me, though, it just feels like it gets in the way.

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Julia Rae. Hutch’s, Hamilton, ON. Nikon F100 w/ 50mm f/1.8. TMax 400 pushed one stop.

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Julia Rae. Hutch’s, Hamilton, ON. Nikon F100 w/ 50mm f/1.8. TMax 400 pushed one stop.

Photos are of Nathalie Kas (Montreal) and Julia Rae (Hamilton), shot on TMax 400 (pushed one stop) and Portra 400 (pushed two stops), developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab (Alabama, US).

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Nathalie Kas. Montreal, QC. Nikon F100 w/ 50mm f/1.8. Portra 400 pushed two stops.

*For the record, I swear my old F80 reset to DX (auto) ISO mode when you changed rolls of film, as this was the first time I have made this mistake and it would have for sure happened to me many times in the 90’s and 00’s.

Posted by

I am a film photographer based in Prince Edward County. I make images of people, places, and things - you know, nouns.

6 thoughts on “Film II”

  1. Blair Kelly says:

    Ahhhhh… Hutches! The shakes, the fries, the Sportsman burger… All savoured as you look out over some of the coldest bathing water on the planet. Even in freaking August. Thanks for the memories.
    BTW You need to lay down that stick your hitting yourself with brother. (Due respect of course) Your memory my be spotty, but holy crap, you have a deft hand and a keen eye my friend. Your portraits in this post take a back seat to no one. Amazing work.

    • Thanks, but when I leave lenses, lose wallets, forget shoes, throw out money in a Tim Horton’s garbage, and have had more waitresses than I can recall chase after me with my forgotten phone or camera bag; I really do want to hit myself with a stick.!

      • Indeed same for me. But mostly i love film for the slow shooting and the meditation of developing at home. About digital and colors of film – i cant agree that lab scans are pure raw cos someome just choose the settings of the scanning process software – Vueprint or another one scanning program is full of the profiles of scan for the different film types and one can easy change the look and you can know about only wlafter self scanning process at home or to scan again in a diff lab. About DSLR – nothing can replace me the feeling of looking inside the viewfinder. I started my photography way too late in 2007 with some weird and slow like death digi point and shoot camera and after the year of learning my only dream was to have viewfinder and to use it. ,-))

      • I absolutely agree that film scans aren't "pure". I won't get into a long tangent (though it may serve as a blog post later on), but the chemists at the film manufacturing facilities get a huge say in how the colours render. Of course we can choose what film stock to shoot. We then get to add lens filters, push and pull or cross process, then when we print in the dark room we can add gels to the projector. Need to retouch? Break out the pigments. Digital and film is the same, just a different process. I'm old. I have a nostalgia for film and little patience to sit behind a computer screen. (I also don't own a microwave. Not sure why I feel that is relevant.)

        However, getting back to film scans, a good lab (such as Indie Film Lab) will make customer specific profiles and adjust colours for your tastes. And a good printer will give you ICC profiles for you to soft proof your prints on your screen - which should be calibrated.

        My work flow for film, before digital, was I shot Provia (E-6/slide) and all I ever adjusted with maybe some cropping. Black and white, I dodged, burned, and adjusted contrast with gels while printing. I then did some minor retouching with pigments. I just want less gear in my life, I want less stuff in general, and I want to have the least amount of chore between my interaction with the subject and the final image.

        Whoops! Looks like I did go on a long tangent. TL;DR, I agree with you, and I think storytellers need to find the appropriate tools for how they best work, from film to digital to a hybrid (modern film) to actual paint on canvas.

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