This past week, after much anticipation, I received back my first rolls of the new Kodak Ektachrome 100, exposed in Chicago over the Christmas holiday (thanks to Denver Digital Imaging Center). After all the hype and fanfare surrounding Kodak releasing a new chrome film this far into the alleged afterlife of film I was excited to see the results. Spoiler alert: the wait was worth it. You’re going to love the new Ektachrome 100, as I did when I saw the first frames come on screen.
Jewelers Building, Chicago, Illinois (2018). Manual Matrix Metered 25 sec. @f8 = +0.7EV
Color is what I’d consider to be fairly natural, with a definite warm bias – especially when contrasted to my (expired) rolls of the older Ektachrome 100G, which the new Ektachrome was reportedly based on. Grain is super fine – for all practical purposes, if you want to process the photograph so it’s grain free it doesn’t take much. It’s a very sharp, contrasty and punchy film but not like Velvia, or the more vivid, Ektachrome 100VS. The new Ektachrome is just right. Remembering you can always punch contrast up in Photoshop – it’s nice to have a more ‘normal’ base line starting point.
Reciprocity Failure: honestly, I didn’t do a whole lot of math here – I just bracketed. Here’s a link to Kodak Alaris data sheet for Ektachrome 100. If the frame metered at 10 seconds, I bracketed three shots. Typically the longer exposure was better – but it’s not an exact science. Exposure times and +/-EV is listed for each image. You can see the F6’s meter – once again – did an excellent job resolving the scene. Always manual, always mirror-up with cable release.
Upper Wacker and Chicago River, Chicago, Illinois (2018).Manual Matrix Metered 8 sec. @f8, = +0.8EV
When I bought my F6 I’d already been familiar with the advantages of L-brackets, having them mounted on most of my other contemporary cameras (they’re not available for my older Nikons and consequently I find I don’t use them as much for this type of shooting). At first what I liked was the additional element of protection for the camera – against bumps and shocks, setting it down on a wet surface, etc. So outfitting the F6 with an L-bracket straight away was a natural thing to do. At the time I didn’t think, “now that I have an L-bracket I’ll shoot a lot more verticals.” But that is in fact what has happened.
Shooting verticals with an L-bracket is a snap. You simply mount the camera upright and shoot. Simple. And with a ball head and spirit level, it’s a snap getting the frame perfectly level too. There’s no contorting the stem of the mounting platform into the groove, and wondering if it’s really vertical because that’s as far as it will go.
TRUMP Tower, Chicago, Illinois (2018). Manual Matrix Metered 8 sec. @ f8, = +0.3EV
Another thing that just occurred to me… I’ve been trying to figure out instagram (show of hands.. anyone else?) and realized something important – at least in regard to viewing social media on your smart phone. Verticals are good again – better than horizontals. For the same reason people shoot video vertically (which drives me nuts) – when you look at social media on your smart phone there’s a pretty good chance you’re holding your phone upright – instead of on its side. When you look at images on your computer screen you’re most likely looking at them horizontally. But in social media, on your phone – it’s almost always vertical. This makes vertical photographs ‘in’ again.
These images were made with the famed Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AI-S manual focus lens, shot from the Penthouse of the Wyndham Grand Chicago River Hotel. Late one night I headed up the elevator to the Penthouse hoping there wasn’t any kind of event scheduled for the large, wide open room with windows all around and stunning views of the city. With the room found empty, the next challenge was trying to compose shots that didn’t include the few, random interior lights that I couldn’t find switches to turn off. At first I was composing frames that minimized reflected distractions, but it was getting in the way. Putting on my Macgyver hat I scoured the room for a solution and spotted a black table cloth. I found that by standing on a chair behind the camera and holding up this black table cloth the reflections in the windows were eliminated – the glass reflecting only black – which of course worked for the subject matter surrounded by night sky.
Make sure when you use any non-CPU lens with the F6 you set the profile up in camera. There will be a blog post about this in the near future. There was minor barrel distortion/pincushioning with these frames, but (very) minor and easily corrected using Photoshop’s Lens Correction filter and dialing in manual settings in the 2-4 realm. So not much at all.
If you’re looking at possibly shooting some of Kodak Alaris’ new Ektachrome, you’ll be pleased. It’s a great film and I’m super excited to have fresh film stock now available. Thank you Kodak Alaris. And if you’re going to shoot in a city at night and reflections are a problem – pack a big, black table cloth in your tripod bag next to your cable release. You’ll be glad you did. And don’t worry too much about reciprocity failure unless you’re getting really crazy long exposures (longer than 2 minutes). Just use a good meter and bracket if in doubt. And get an L-bracket for your camera to make shooting verticals easier. Your social media followers will like you for it. If you’re a chrome film shooter wondering who to send your film to, look no further than Denver Digital Imaging Center. They’re friendly, reliable, fast and do great work. And finally, if you’re an F6 shooter, learn Custom Setting B5: Extended Shutter Speeds. It opens up new avenues shooting in dimly lit, long exposure situations.
Thanks for reading
A brief follow up on the previous post.
As a recap, while photographing Scott Lenaway, Artist I figured Delta 100 would be my optimum film so began with it. I burned through 2 rolls pretty confidently, knowing essentially what I’d get because of the previews on the digital camera.
(frame 01) Scott R. Lenaway, Artist – Fort Collins, Colorado (2018)
Moving to ISO400 Delta, I figured these images might be better, relying less on flash and more on ambient light.
After those 4 rolls were shot there were more photos to make, so I reluctantly reached into the bag and pulled out a roll of Ilford PanF ISO50 film, honestly not expecting much. My digital camera can’t mater at ISO50 so essentially I left the settings the same as for ISO100 (1/100 @ƒ2.8) film assuming the flash would kick up a notch using TTL. I’d never shot flash with PanF before and had no idea what would happen. But I knew I already had a lot of good frames so wasn’t risking anything.
(frame 06) Scott R. Lenaway, Artist – Fort Collins, Colorado (2018)
When it came time to develop I did so in the same order according to my expectations: Delta100 the best, Delta400 second best and PanF, well… whatever I got was icing on the cake. All developed in Ilford DDX chemistry at 1:4 at 68°. I developed the last roll – PanF – yesterday and was shocked.
It was far and away the best of the bunch. I’m still trying to understand why – but it is, and has me re-thinking my approach to an upcoming shoot.
(frame 22)-Scott R. Lenaway, Artist – Fort Collins, Colorado (2018)
After years of searching to acquire one of each single-digit F-series Nikon camera has concluded, I’ve been focusing again on 35mm with the F6. The ‘total package’ the F6 offers makes it uniquely capable of super high-resolution, high-quality images using the right film, right lens, good light and of course the (creative lighting) system behind it. On top of those things its relatively small footprint allow ease of set up on location and make it easy to work with.
The F6 is creatively satisfying because it’s uniquely positioned to make unique film photographs. Now with this discovery of Ilford PanF50 and flash, I’m excited to see how far it can be pushed. Not just for bright light and landscape photography, Ilford PanF Plus ISO50 film is capable of much more.
Lava Cliffs Triptych, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Photographed with the venerable Nikkor 180mm ƒ2.8 AI-S prime lens.
Not long ago I decided to spend some focused time shooting Ilford’s PanF 50 Plus. In an effort to minimize variables the decision was made to focus on 35mm using the trusted and favored F6. The F6’s venerable meter virtually eliminates exposure error, and I really wanted to dial in +/-EV, development time, agitation, grain, scanning, wet-printing, etc. The decision was also made to use exclusively Ilford’s DDX developer. What follows are the results. The executive summary: I have ordered lots more Ilford PanF50 Plus film for an upcoming trip to Santa Fe where I’ll look forward to continuing this ‘experiment,’ though I now feel quite comfortable that PanF is all I could hope for in a 35mm film.
frame 22: Laval Cliffs, RMNP, Colorado. 180mm f2.8 Ai-S, PanF50+, DDX 1:4 by the book: 68° for 8 minutes.
I’m not really a numbers guy. I mean – I am – but don’t perseverate over them. I like to use numbers as a starting point; get things figured out, then use that knowledge to extrapolate as I shoot. I’m not one of these people that tweaks and tracks every variable just to reconstruct later. Ilford made recommendations on their film based on good authority. I’m not one to second guess. My interest in numbers is really searching for a baseline – then (rather unscientifically) adjusting exposure based on the scene. If in doubt, bracket (but I hate wasting film). If I think it’s going to be an especially worthwhile shot I’ll bracket – but usually trust in the flexibility of film and the F6’s infallible meter.
Mammatus Cumulus Clouds, Fort Collins, Colorado. June 18, 2018. Ilford PanF50 shot at ISO50, 50mm ƒ1.4D @ƒ5.6, 1/125 sec. Nikkor Y48 Yellow Filter. Development: DDX 1:4 by the book; 68° for 8 minutes.
Something I have been doing a lot lately is working with filters. Yellow, orange and a couple different reds. Being a Nikkor devotee (and making no apologies for it) – I have a nice assortment of vintage 52mm Nikkor filters I use use regularly – especially when shooting my old pre Ai, Ai and Ai-S lenses. More and more I’m prone to favoring these smaller, lighter primes over hauling around the big-barreled, gold-ringed f2.8 zooms with 77mm filter threads I was infatuated with with in my ‘earlier years.’ I also have a nice set of 58mm B+W F-Pro’s for the Mamiya 645 rig I’ll use with a step-up ring if needed. Usually one of the 52mm Nikkor filters does the trick though.
Where I was experiencing some interesting results was using the deep red B+W F-Pro filter. It’s super dark – darker than the Nikkor R60 Red. Here’s what Schneider says about it on their site: “Compared to the lighter 090 red filter, this one even darkens the reds near the yellow tones in the spectrum, as its transparency only begins in the orange-red region. It produces dramatic effects and extreme tonal separation for graphic effects. That accounts for the large filter factor of appr. 8.” It’s so dark, focusing is sometimes made difficult. And when you shoot a ISO50 film you’re really needing a tripod to get an aperture that’ll provide adequate Depth Of Field. But the real ‘problem’ (if you want to call it that) is, it darkens any greenish vegetation to the near black range. This isn’t something I’m typically after. Enter the Nikkor Y48 Yellow. Especially when working off the hand, I find it just right to deepen tones in the sky and increase separation, but leave other elements largely as is. A bump to deepen midtones, minimal light loss and a relatively unchanged TTL experience.
Lava Cliffs, no.5, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. 180mm f2.8Ai-S, Ilford Pan F50, DDX 1:4 by the book; 68° for 8 minutes.
Not long ago I acquired the lovely, ancient 180mm f2,8 AI-s. I have long been a fan of shooting landscapes with telephoto lenses – but upon close inspection, anything shot with the 70-200VR has been somewhat disappointing. Not to mention its size and weight being a deterrent. The 180 f2.8 solves all those issues and then some. Mounted on the F6, this ancient lens benefits from the F6’s ability to dial in Non-CPU Lenses. Doing so while working with the lens allows the correct shooting information to be recorded in the shooting data for that frame. The 180 has no tripod socket because it doesn’t need one. The L-bracket on the camera is more than sufficient to hold its relatively light weight. The one negative is I’m not about to invest in a set of 72mm filters for it and have to carry them around too. So when I’m shooting the 180 I’m going so with the rectangular front-slide-in filters.
Unnamed trail above treeline, Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. 50mm f1.4D, Ilford Pan F50, Nikkor Y48 yellow filter, DDX 1:4 by the book; 68° for 8 minutes
Snow, Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. 50mm f1.4D, Ilford Pan F50, Nikkor Y48 yellow filter, DDX 1:4 by the book; 68° for 8 minutes
Alpine Ridge Trail, Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. 50mm f1.4D, Ilford Pan F50, Nikkor Y48 yellow filter, DDX 1:4 by the book; 68° for 8 minutes
and a few PanF50 Plus shots from the past to show a little more diversity:
San Luis, Colorado. Nikon F2, Nikkor 50mm 1.2 Ai-S. DDX 1:4 by the book: 68° for 8 minutes.
Bisti Wings, Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, New Mexico. Ilford Pan F50, 28-70 f2.8ED @70mm, f7.1@1/60 sec. (-0.2EV) DDX 1:4 by the book: 68° for 8 minutes.
Valley of the Gods National Monument, Utah. 28-70 f2.8ED @42mm, 1/1.6 sec @ f16 (+1.7EV). DDX by the book: 1:4, 68° for 8 minutes. Something else I routinely love about the F6 is the ability to go back and review shooting data. In the above shot, for example, I was amazed to realize the frame was made at +1.7EV.
The amount of detail and resolution PanF50 holds is remarkable. Without moving to my medium format system, PanF50 provides all I need when exposed, processed and scanned properly. Like other ‘high performance’ films, it’s not as flexible as say a TriX. But getting to know and understand it is well worth the time. I’ve ordered a bunch more for an upcoming trip to New Mexico in July.
Flying with film doesn’t need to be complicated. Plan ahead, be nice and follow a few, simple tips and you’ll wonder why you ever thought it was so intimidating.
There are many film shooters who might be reluctant to fly with your favorite film camera packed for the simple reason that flying with film is too complicated or difficult. I’d like to propose that it’s not as much as you think, and the benefits are worth the perceived cost. Having just returned from a trip to Chicago, recording some information and fresh insights seems like a good idea.
The questions have been asked millions of times: can film go through the x-ray and survive? Do you put your film in a checked bag, or carry it on the plane. Here is what I’ve learned in my own research from different sources including Kodak and Fuji, and from my own personal experience.
Removing your film from original packaging in the hopes of cramming more into whatever case you’ll carry is a bad idea.
First and foremost do not pack your film in checked baggage. The X-ray used to scan checked baggage is stronger (in some cases considerably stronger) than the x-ray used to scan humans and carry on baggage. If you think you can put your film in a lead-lined pouch and be free of worry – you’re wrong. They’ll simply crank up the X-ray to penetrate whatever you put your film in, further damaging whatever is in the bag they’ll eventually see into.
Always ‘carry on’ your film, and ask a TSA agent to hand inspect it. Here are a few tips:
I put my film in a small, black, zippered, padded case made by Eagle Creek Travel Gear. It fits 24 boxes of film perfectly. I always leave my film in its original packaging.
Years ago on a flight to Haiti I made the mistake of removing all the film from its boxes to be able to fit more film in the case. When TSA opened it they had to swab every single canister of film for gunpowder residue, which is protocol. This took forever and I could tell they were a little exasperated by the whole thing.
Live and learn.
Nice n’ neat. When the TSA agent opens the zippered case to see the contents they’re met with original packaging, clean organization and a speed of ‘high speed’ film right there in front.
Now I leave all film in its original packaging. While it’s true I can fit less film in the case – I still have more than enough for my needs. When TSA opens the case and sees the nicely organized, neat, clean original packaging they’re far more willing to visually inspect, swab a few boxes, and call it good.
My experience has been that TSA agents actually seem happy to break away from the grinding line of scolding people for putting to many items in a bin or being frisked – to step over to their table and investigate this neat, clean package for a brief moment. It seems to give them a break. It goes without saying that smiling, being polite, courteous, respectful and patient is good human behavior where ever you go – especially when someone has the power to either make your day miserable – or easy. Choose easy. Be nice.
Occasionally I’ll have a TSA agent tell me film doesn’t need to be hand inspected if it’s not ‘high speed’ film. Rather than getting into a discussion about what constitutes ‘high speed’ film and arguing the counter points there in line (see below) – I simply add a few rolls of super high-speed film to end the debate. If they care to open the case and check, they’ll see ISO3200 film front and center.
What may not be common knowledge is that x-ray scanning is cumulative. So if you allow your 400 speed film to pass through x-ray on the first leg of the journey it will probably be fine. But if it then passes through again, and again, and again – the effects of x-ray build up and at some point it fogs. I don’t know exactly what the point is.
The Whole “film thing”… If you’re reading this blog, I’m sure I don’t need to explain the whole “film thing” to you.
Empty the camera before sending it through x-ray. They will not hand-inspect the camera so whatever you have in it is going to get x-rayed. There’s no way around this. Best to simply fire off your final frames, remove the roll and tuck in your case for hand-inspection.
If you follow these simple guidelines there’s no reason why you can’t fly with film. It does represent an additional step, compared to simply using a digital camera – but if ease were the main goal we probably wouldn’t be shooting film to begin with.
So why go through all this? Why not just bring a digital camera and be done with it? This year my son went to Latvia for the summer. I remember having the conversation with him prior to leaving about his choice of camera. I offered one of my film Nikons, reasoning it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he might be glad of something besides his iPhone. It turned into a rather comical skit of millennial vs. whatever I am (Boomer, I suppose). I let it go. A few weeks after he arrived in Latvia we were Face-timing and he admitted he’d made a huge mistake. Upon returning home he bought his first camera – a digital camera – but hey – baby steps, right? At least it was a Nikon. My point is, the trips in our lives come and go. The afterglow of a trip can last for many years if not a lifetime. The question I ask myself when getting ready to travel is, what gear is going to provide the results I’m most satisfied with a month or year after returning. The answer is always film.
Hope that helps. E-mail me with any questions or comments about your experience flying with film.
This is pretty exciting… (rather then re-hashing the same information, this post was lifted from DPReview)
Kodak first announced the rebirth of Ektachrome way back in January at CES. Along with Kodak Alaris—who will distribute the 35mm Kodak Professional Ektachrome film for stills shooters—the company said it would bring back Ektachrome by the end of 2017… and then promptly stopped talking about it.
But if you were worried that Kodak had given up on the idea, fear not: in a new episode of the Kodakery podcast, a few of Kodak’s higher ups (including Marketing and Product Manager Diane Carroll-Yacoby) updated the world on the progress of the Ektachrome reboot, how they’re making it, and what testing still stand between your hands and a fresh 36-shot roll of the stuff.
You can listen to the entire Kodakery podcast update below:
The first half of the podcast is mostly a photography and history lesson: discussing the origins of Ektachrome, its ‘characteristics’ (read: limitations), and how Kodak has managed to bring it back to life after discontinuing it in 2013. But if you want to get into the “how and when” of the matter, you’ll want to skip to the 22 minute mark.
That’s where we get to learn about how difficult it is to bring back a film like Ektachrome—which is made up of 80 ingredients, some of them no longer available to purchase—and how Kodak is making the economics of Ektachrome work by creating it in smaller, more sustainable batches.
You’ll want to listen to the discussion to really get the details of how the film is made, but here are a few of the most interesting tidbits about the revival process (for us anyway):
- Kodak has managed to either find or manufacture all 80 ingredients required to make Ektachrome.
- Much of the process so far has involved retooling the formula so it will work on the machines available to them, because they no longer have all of the equipment they had when Ektachrome was being developed previously.
- They’ve already produced some ‘pilot coatings’ that they are testing to ensure they’re ready to mass produce Ektachrome that’s up to snuff.
- When they’re ready to go, they will be making rolls using a coater that produces the film on sheets that are 4 feet wide and 6,000 feet long. The first of these ‘wide’ rolls will be produced before the end of 2017, and will be used for internal testing.
- Kodak will be making a single (4ft x 6,000ft) roll for the first production run, so they don’t have to hold on to too much inventory at one time.
- Kodak Ektachrome’s market release is planned for 2018.
Eastman Kodak itself will produce all of the film and plans to distribute the Super 8 cinema version of Ektachrome, while Kodak Alaris will distribute the 35mm slide film for stills shooters. For now, we still don’t know exactly when Ektachrome is coming back in 2018, but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know so you can mark your calendars.
Over Christmas we had the opportunity to visit Chicago again. Growing up in the suburbs I’d never had occasion to overnight in the city, with home being only 30 miles away. This trip we decided it was time we changed that.
Harry Caray’s, Chicago, Illinois Part of the Chicago at Night Series from December, 2016. Images made hand-held pushing Ilford HP5+ to ISO1600. Developed in Ilford DDX.
One of the wonderful things about spending the night in the city is – the night! Chicago, as many other cities, is so active at night, with so much light that it’s easy to photograph hand held with the right setup.
The City at Night, Dearborn St. Bridge over Chicago River; River North District at Night, Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois Part of the Chicago at Night Series from December, 2016. Images made hand-held pushing Ilford HP5+ to ISO1600. Developed in Ilford DDX.
In anticipation of various low-light scenarios on this trip I stocked up on Ilford HP5+. In the past I’ve shot it at rated 400 with success. One goal for this trip was to simply drift about the city at night to see what I could see. Pushing HP5 was an excellent way to avoid a tripod and open the experience up to simple creative experimentation. This outing was shot with the Nikkor 17-35 f2.8 ED (remind me to tell the story of how I stumbled upon this incredible lens some time…) at ISO1600, off the hand, just having fun. Processed in Ilford DDX at 71° for 12 minutes.
353 North Clark, Chicago, Illinois Part of the Chicago at Night Series from December, 2016. Images made hand-held pushing Ilford HP5+ to ISO1600. Developed in Ilford DDX.
353 North Clark, Chicago, Illinois
The only thing really notable working with the F6 for these shots was taking advantage of the ENORMOUS viewfinder. To this day I’ve never seen anything like it.* It’s huge and bright, allowing easy composition in poorly lit situations. One of the other benefits of the F6 covered in another post is Custom Setting B5, Extended Shutter Speeds. Though shutter speeds were high enough for this roll to hand-hold, I always have Custom Setting B5 enabled on the F6.
House of Blues, Chicago, Illinois Part of the Chicago at Night Series from December, 2016. Images made hand-held pushing Ilford HP5+ to ISO1600. Developed in Ilford DDX.
The creative liberty of shooting film, then processing your own film to desired tastes, is what film photography is all about. With what seems to be a true resurgence interest in film, there’s no better time to dive in. With a camera like the F6 that is flexible, dependable and durable for the rest of your natural life – it’ll be a robust adventure attempting to exceed its creative capabilities.
*A big thank you to Chris, our Canadian F6 Project reader, for pointing out he felt the Olympus OM-2 and Pentax ME Super actually have larger, brighter viewfinders than the F6. What a great time to be a film photographer, with so many wonderful tools accessible to work with.