Now and then, I mess around with different color films. You can probably tell by looking at my website that I am not a huge fan of color photography (apart from the work by some photographers widely regarded as the masters of color photography - think Joel Meyerowitz, Jeff Mermelstein, Alec Soth, etc.) but I recently discovered the VSCOcam app on my iPhone and film-like color photographs have begun to attract me quite a bit more. I like the old school film look of nicely rendered colors but unfortunately, that's not something you can achieve with Fuji Superia or any other crappy cheap film (don't know if you can but my experience has been really bad with these films). For that, you need to spring for the good stuff and dish out nearly $15 (AUD) per roll of either Portra 400 or Ektar 100 (when using negative film - slide film processing costs are stupid in Australia). I've shot with Portra 400 but, to be honest, I didn't like it at all. Color was too flat for my taste (when I want color, I want color) and there was something about it that just didn't sit right with me. It wasn't just the one roll that I shot; I've shot quite a bit of Portra 400 using different cameras and even tried different labs to see if something wasn't being done right. Sure, the results were slightly different but still nothing that hit the spot.
I had heard a lot about Ektar but was always hesitant to try it out because of the slow film speed and, so far, I've only seen the work of one person who's shot with it at ISO 100 on the streets (mainly still life photographs - nothing with people in them) and the color those photographs had in natural lighting really made me appreciate the film. That's when I picked up a roll of Ektar and stuffed it in my Olympus XA (from what I've heard, this camera's metering was quite popular amongst slide film shooters - slide film is very fussy about getting the exposure spot on).
I must say, I really liked the results I got from it - in terms of color (that was the main thing I was looking for) but this film is far too slow for me to use on a daily basis. Rating Fomapan 400 and Tri-X at ISO 1600 in my XA3 has spoiled my habits and, contrary to popular belief (for the Foma), I get very decent results when the processing is done right (I process using Rodinal diluted at 1:50 for 24 minutes at the usual 10 second inversions per minute). So jumping down from 1600 to 100 was a rather frustrating experience. I had to change my entire shooting style, which is definitely easier said than done. 9 out of 10 times I would have the 'slow shutter speed' warning light pop up in the viewfinder of the XA and I constantly kept reverting back to my run and gun style with ISO 1600 film and that approach almost wasted the entire roll.
I never shoot ISO 100 except for when I'm doing long exposures or when I'm shooting in a studio with artificial lighting so no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't avoid the camera shake. Even the shots I took in decent light (plus wide open at 2.8) had a bit of shake in them. Melbourne weather had been heavily overcast and miserable during the days I shot this and I didn't want to wait for it to clear up since I was missing far too many photo opportunities because I had to slow down...A LOT! Anyway, I ended up making photographs of landscapes with most of the roll (you can check some of them out at the end of the post). I figured that was the best I could do with the slow speed at that time. I wanted to see what results it produced on its native rating so I didn't push it to 400, which seems to be what most street shooters do with this film. I'll definitely be picking up another roll to shoot at 400 and see if it is actually usable. It's been a while I've shot anything slower than 800. I reckon it's going to be a challenge to shoot at 400 as well. I guess, this is a good excuse to properly try out flash street photography...
*All images in this post are straight scans with the exception of some dust clean up in Photoshop (landscape images only).
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