Why Ektar 100 Rocks!!!

Out of the various film stocks I’ve shot with, I have to say that my favorite color grain is Ektar 100. This is only one slot ahead of Vista Pro 200 because well, who doesn’t love it?

There are several defining characteristics of a color negative film that I look for. Of course, there’s the color aspect of it, ROYGBIV and grain however I often try and find how true the white and black levels are. In terms of the color science of Ektar, I find the Red and Blues to be unique; the reds are quite muted, almost a coral-like appearance while the blues are very loud yet gentle in saturation. The yellow and greens are very soft and gentle yet they’re simultaneously perfect. My eyes don’t receive certain colors too well, namely the blue through violet end of the spectrum. I often have a tricky time with telling the vibrancy of certain photos where there’s a dominant amount of blue sky or ocean blues. With that said, Ektar is very pleasing for me to look at because I don’t have to strain my eyes to recognize certain tones and vibrancies. I love the subtle differences between shooting inside and outside with this film because while outside you receive gentle and rich tones, you get warm and robust images when shooting inside. It’s almost the difference between having a cup of iced coffee versus having a well-brewed cup of Guatemalan coffee.

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Most important photo to begin with is none other than this nice French press, f/1.7 Minolta XG-A. To start, I want you to take notice of how rich the wood of the table is along with the reflections along the press. The rich saturation of brown/orange tones in the grain of the wood is extremely comforting. As a frequent coffee shop attendee, and past barista, this image takes me to a solemn pocket of relaxation and comfort.

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This photo is more artistic than I often shoot, but I wanted to see what I got from an out of focus shot, f/1.7. This was taken inside of another local coffee shop of mine. This space has nothing short of infinite wonders to capture. The best thing I can recognize here is how the red and yellows are treated inside of a darker interior space. If you’ll notice, the reds are much less saturated while the white and yellow tones are very true to their nature of color.

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This rusty old post…f/5.6. Most noteworthy here is how mellow the rust is. There’s almost a bit of a haze to this photo, and while the grain is super fine, the rust truly pops.The shading on the left post still allows us to see the detail hidden within while retaining it’s masquerading nature.

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This was the most interesting shot in terms of color science…f/8. The red of the American flag is rich and vibrant, very much unlike the rest of shots I took on this role. The blue almost appears as if it’s black, while the grey/black of the roof looks almost green to me. Then we have the taupe and brown brick of the courthouse; the vintage punch of color I get from this is the oddest yet most interesting shot I got off of the role.

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The campus painter, f/4.5. Saving the best for last, this shot is in my top ten for the year—digital or analog. I find the level of detail and fine grain of the shot to be absolutely wonderful, and almost anti-film aesthetic. Fret not! The color here is where is gets interesting because take a glance at the red his brush was applying. There’s a taillight red sorta vibe I get from this. The wood-grain of the easel was rich and full again, just like that of the coffee shops table. Lastly, the blue and black saturation in this shot. Looking at his shirt, the bottle cap, and the black on the canvas really let me get a feel for how black is captured in this film stock. It’s a perfect gentle touch of dark, while retaining slight hints of lightness from exterior lighting. The blue of his cap absolutely jumps off of the page. I love how there’s an almost metallic appeal of his top.

Overall, Ektar is an amazing stock of film. I’ve yet to shoot with my roll of Portra or buy a roll of Ektachrome. But in my mind Ektar is definitely the one to beat. The fine grain, the color saturations and vibrancies, lights and darks, AND most importantly the warmth of the images makes this my favorite color stock out there. I’ll be excited for when I can get my hands on a roll of Ektachrome to compare the two. Until the next time, keep shooting and keep it analog!

 

My Time With Expired Kodak Gold 200

It’s been about six months since I began shooting with film; both 35 and medium format. While six months sounds like a long time, for the world of film it really is nothing more than a blip. That said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the learning process, and have much more to learn.

My greatest difficulty has been understanding what aperture truly does to an image. On my D750, stopping down my aperture means I’ll have a wider DOF with almost everything in focus, however I will also need a slower shutter speed to account for the lack of light. Shadow recovery and messing with highlights after the fact is quite easy to manage. This has not been the case with the rolls of film I’ve shot with. I find that while yes, a sharper aperture means I’ll have more in tack-sharp focus, I also have almost similar amounts of light. Obviously, this is all dependent on the box speed I’m shooting at, but if I were shooting 400 during the day, and I stop my aperture down to f/22, I’m going to have tack sharp focus with very little side effect on my shadow and contrast. This is the benefit of the iso you choose to shoot with, because while a digital sensor will have noise in an image at higher iso’s, film will also have its own cruxes for certain speeds.

Why exactly am I telling you about how aperture affects an image? Well it’s quite simple, shooting with film or a digital camera is wonderful when you have your settings dialed in…but what if something were to inhibit that? I’ve found myself wanting more and more challenges in terms of shooting, and I often come back to one thing: expired film. It’s a complete gamble when you pick up an old roll of film that’s past due. I’ve shot with rolls as old as 23yrs expired, and as young as four years expired. The fact remains that what will occur is nothing more than uncertain.

My most recent endeavor with expired film has been a roll of Kodak Gold 200 that expired sometime in 2011. I chose to shoot this roll at 400 to see how much I could do with it, and I will say I was shocked by the results of some of my shots. I found myself becoming rather frustrated in all honesty, because I did lose some wonderful shots due to the expired nature of the film. The greatest impact to the film itself was the blacks, shadows, and color balance. My familiarity with kodak gold images are of a sultry, smooth aesthetic similar to gentle browns and oranges, with rather vibrant blues, washed out red/yellows, and mellow greens. Many of my shots were rather unique when it came to color balance. I am aware that my choice of shooting at +1 probably impacted the images to an extent, however, I do not regret that decision.

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This was the very first shot taken on the roll, f/17 @400. Here you can see the blues are a nice deep saturation, with a gentle gradient from the top to the bottom of the image. also worth noting is the color noise present in the upper left areas; I’m fairly certain that’s due to the scanner, but I can’t know for sure as I don’t have access to many scanners.

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Here’s a wonderful example of where a shot went okay…f/13 @400. The red and blues are a wonderful mix of vibrant and gentle, with a side of umph. The shadows along the base of the porch are extremely dark, however that was more of a stylistic choice on my behalf due to my disdain towards the previous, ultra-grainy shadows.

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An interior coffee and cheesecake shop, f/1.7 @400. I really quite like this image as it has a kinda 90’s feel to it. something about the color of the wall mixed with the brick and golden sheen of the display case is eerie, yet comforting and delectable all at the same time.

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Another good example of how the color science is with this roll…f/9 @400. The red and yellow are rather vibrant, but desaturated all whilst the blue remains to be a deep and powerful mix of flat and sharp. Most notable in this is the presence of rust along the solder points of the figure. The gradient from brown to gold, then silver and black is quite interesting to see.

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An obelisk in town…f/22 @400. The dark nature of the sculpture in the foreground is no doubt related to my choice of aperture, however in this case I was going for a silhouette approach. I wanted the figure to appear so massive that it blocked out the sun, leaving nothing but darkness on the viewers behalf while also being able to see the beautiful plump clouds behind. An odd choice of balance probably, somewhat chaos and peace simultaneously, but it wound up working out.

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I think this was the best image produced from this roll…f/18 @400. There are two things occurring here; First is the composition of the image. I’ve been unable to capture the density of the buildings here in downtown Greensboro at this single spot for quite some time, however I believe I’ve finally done it. From the bridge to the building, and then the bank tower behind, I can really get a sense of dense clutter, but also maintaining a beautiful level of architectural symmetry. The second thing worth mentioning in this photo is that the dark and light color balance occurring is phenomenal. This image had some of the finest grain out of the entire roll, and I can’t quite tell why that would be. I’d love to find out, that’s for sure.

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The last image is my least and second-most favorite…f/1.7 @400. I really wanted to finally capture a decent portrait of my friend on film, this was not the day it seems. Even with the aperture open all the way and the shutter somewhere around 1/60 of a second, I couldn’t dodge the silhouette bullet. While I enjoy my earlier silhouette, this was actually supposed to let you see his face. Oh well, in the name of science, right? Rather than being able to enjoy a nice portrait and give it to my friend, I’m now thinking of  the “who’s that Pokemon?!?!” intermediary before and after commercial breaks. At least this will produce a good meme for us.

All in all, I quite enjoyed shooting with the expired roll of gold. While yes, shooting any roll of film feels the exact same, there is a dash of extra intrigue and excitement when I shoot with expired rolls. It’s that sense of not knowing whether an image will actually work out. Of course with any roll of film you have a level of uncertainty, especially with my medium format (no light meter, just sheer ability to understand light and composition). But I say again, expired film is a complete gamble; you never know what you’ll get!

 

Here are some of the shots that didn’t quite make the notable cut, but I still really enjoyed them.