Las Vegas on Portra

I have brought 2 types of film Las Vegas trip. CineStill for the night and Portra 160 for the day. The big mistake, however, was that I only had 1 camera. I planned to shoot the Portra first and then switch to the more sensitive tungsten-balanced film as it gets darker. Well planed I thought and loaded up the daylight film. I shoot only a few frames on the first day on the way between venues.

I had to quickly realize that I had very limited time during the day and I would better off by shooting at night. The though the decision was made and I winded back the film and made careful notes how many frames I have gone through. I switched to CinceStill for the rest of the trip. Needless to say that I’ve put back the roll of Portra into the camera as soon as I got back home and finished not much later. But the adventures of these photos were not over yet as the Covid-19 lock-down hit before I could get back the film from the lab which delayed this post with an extra 2 months. But at the end of the day, I have got back the developed film and I was able to scan it. The rewind seemingly had no negative effect and you can now see my little collection of Las Vegas street photos shoot on Kodak Portra 160.

Las Vegas on CineStill

Ever since I have started to take photographs I was always chasing a cinematic look. In fact, this is one of the reasons I shoot film. While it is undoubtedly possible to achieve film look with digital cameras I find it easier by using film. Also, it is a lot of fun to experiment with different film stocks. Discover the characteristics of each individual film types. Under which circumstances to use one over another and what artistic effects can be achieved by abusing a particular type of film.

One of my holy grail films I desperately wanted to put my hands on is CineStill. It is a tungsten-balanced motion picture film converted to be developed in a regular C41 process and thus more accessible for still photographers. In theory, this film can provide that cinematic look in terms of color, tonality, grain as it is, in fact, an emulsion used by Hollywood. Of course, the cinematic look is a product of many other factors than the film stock such as lens, subject, lighting, but it is one of the main contributors.

For their color negative films, Cinestill Film modifies Kodak motion picture cinema film, allowing it to be developed with the C-41 process rather than the Eastman Color Negative process. Cinestill Film converts the Kodak motion picture cinema film by removing the Remjet backing, a separate Anti-halation backing used to protect the film in motion picture cameras. Due to the removal of this anti-halation backing, Cinestill Film exhibits a glowing effect on the image in areas with strong highlights.

Wikipedia

It was clear that sooner or later I was going to try CineStill, but I needed an occasion or project to justify it. Thankfully at the end of 2019, I have got the chance to visit a conference in Las Vegas (AWS re:Invent 2019). I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to try this film so I bought 2 roles from eBay. It was a week-long conference so I hoped that I was going to have some possibility to explore the city and shoot film.

My camera of choice was the Leica M2 paired with a Voigtlander color skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake lens. I also brought with me an 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar for the extra speed. But I ended up using the 35mm lens a lot more as it was easier to carry around and the wider field of view made a lot more sense too. The f/2.5 maximum aperture was bright enough because of the high speed of the film and because the city was brightly lit by the different advertisements at all times. My biggest problem during the night was not the amount of light but the ever-changing nature of it. Images on the screens were flashing, trucks were driving around with wall-sized LED light sources mounted on them. It was such chaos that I gave up on using a light-meter. Instead, I started to rely on gut feeling and intuition. I had to gamble on my exposure.

Use CineStill 800Tungsten when photographing:

  •  tungsten/incandescent light
  • candle light
  • fluorescent light
  • mixed tungsten and fluorescent
  • mixed tungsten and limited daylight

https://cinestillfilm.com/ QA

Night shift: He was trying to diagnose/fix the broken green section on the screen on the building’s facade. It was around 4 am.

As expected halation is very evident when bright light sources are in focus. This is due to the removal of the anti-halation remjet layer. I personally find this effect very interesting and unique. For the most part, this glow gives an extra punch to the atmosphere.

strong halation around the stop hand light.

Avoid using CineStill 800Tungsten (or expect a unique look) when photographing:

  • open shade
  • cool light
  • daylight overpowering tungsten
  • heavily backlit images
  • strong window light
  • ontent including intense points of light (christmas lights, chandeliers, neon signs, bright windows)

https://cinestillfilm.com/ QA

My impressions

I have to say that this film did not disappoint me. I shot it under numerous recommended and not recommended situations and as the expected unique look was delivered in a big way. I had been caught off guard regarding the amount of halation, but I must admit I like this effect very much. It helps to smooth out the otherwise not so great bokeh of the little pancake lens. I expected more noise given the 800 ISO rating, but I was pleasantly surprised about how well the noise is controlled. The colors are fantastic and it was very easy to set the white balance on the files in Lightroom. Not sure if it has anything to do with the film though. The only situation which produced results that I did not like and/or was very hard to color correct was in open shade. Especially if people were in the frame. Skin tone reproduction in shade is not the best application for this film based on my limited experience with it. It is also #1 on the not recommended situation on the CineStill website.

All in all, it is a great film with absolutely unique characteristics. I think it is worth to try.

A roll of Velvia

I have and always had a love-hate relationship with Velvia. It is a fantastic film stock for sure. When used for fitting subjects, it delivers results like no other film. It packs an extra punch in terms of color saturation, contrast, and resolution. My only problem is that I mostly shoot portraits and if anything this is not the best use for this film. Also, I am more careful with positive films as they need to be exposed very precisely, they cost more to buy and to get developed. That is why I kept a roll of Velvia 50 in my fridge for more than 10 years. I was waiting for the right moment to load it into a camera that moment has failed to come.
I think I became overly circumstantial with my precious film stash. So I decided to use up this roll of Velvia this summer. We have planned a holiday to visit friends next to Hamburg with plenty of opportunities to take pictures. I was especially excited about the seashore. In the end, we brought home many photos most of which were digital. Around the same time, we have got a nice telephoto zoom lens for our digital camera. We were eager to test the new lens and the little roll of Velvia got pushed back on the priority list once more.
Eventually, I have finished shooting this roll even though it has taken me months biting into the autumn. Despite the traditional wisdom, I have shot a lot of portraits on it besides the well-expected landscapes. I have used it for everything and I am glad I did. Most of the photos turned out just right. To be said, I had to dial back the reds in post-processing on all portraits. In this post, I would like to share some of these randomly captured moments. If you have any thoughts about them or about using Velvia, please leave me a comment.

Zsuki

During the Christmas holiday, I have managed to find the time to develop a few rolls of film. I am very happy about it because lately, I have struggled with my developing process. I have encountered many trivial issues including the use of an exhausted developer, air bubbles and the list goes on. This time I have tried everything to get better results. I have purchased a new developer tank so I could turn it over without pouring liquids out. I have also reverted to my trusted ID-11 developer which meant that I had to wait until enough rolls had been finished to make it worth to mix the chemicals.
All in all, I am pleased with the results even though there is plenty of room for improvement. My plan is to share some of the shots during the course of 2-3 posts depending on the themes I can find. Hopefully, I can get some feedback on from you.

This first set is from a family visit where I could take some portraits of my sister Zsuki. The color pictures are depicting me on the same occasion. I was having fun taking pictures of branches and other random objects at first. These digital shoots were taken by my lovely wife. I think they complement the analog pictures nicely as they show the camera and lens I used.

I am not sure why I am drawn to photograph branches like these. They are very rarely keepers. Still, it seems to be a good idea from time to time.

Finally, here are the portraits of Zsuki. Thankfully she is very relaxed at the front of the camera which made it very easy to photograph her.

I have used my C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 lens on my favorite f/2 setting which results in a fantastic creamy bokeh. I find it challenging to focus with this lens wide open and the bokeh starts to fall into crazy territory at f/1.5. So f/2 is my sweet spot.

As for the development, I have used 1+1 dilution for the ID-11. Developed for 10,5 minutes on 20° Celsius with agitation in every 30 seconds. The film was Ilford FP-4 Plus and I shot it at stock speed. I have expected a bit less grain from the film, but I am almost certain that this is because I have slightly underexposed and pushed too hard during post-processing.

If you see anything obviously faulty in the description of my development method please let me know in the comments.

Autumn shoots with the Yashica (Part 2)

The second half of the Fuji Superia 400 in the Yashica had been shot during a wonderful family trip at the south of Austria. We have picked an easy trail close to Arnfels this time but one packed with nice scenery and experiences. We have passed by beautifully taken care of wine yards and a forest filled with life and with the colors of the autumn. We have picked some chestnuts, had a closer look of a variety of strange mushrooms and met with all sorts of wild and domestic animals including a little deer.

I was equipped with the Yashica TL Super with the Pancolar 80 attached to it plus I had my old Weimar Lux Cds light-meter with me. Eszter was shooting with her Nex 6, and of course we shared the duty of carrying the little one (who did not get lighter), but at least he could also run around a bit on his own due to the easy terrain.

Autumn hike

The lights were initially quite harsh but inside the woods we were rewarded with some nice beams of light filtered through the branches of the trees. I find it very difficult to capture the delicate atmosphere created by such light conditions on any medium, but this small format film has done a decent job.

Pancolar Bokeh

As we moved out from the forest, I started to look for details. This pole of an electronic fence seemed to be a good idea to take a picture of. Now, I find it quite boring unless I use it to evaluate the creamy background blur of the mighty Pancolar even slightly stopped down to around f/2.2. Notice the orange blob at the top left quarter of the frame. It is obviously my 2 years old running around.

Sheep

Portraits of feeding animals are essential for any family photo book.

Cabbage

Not sure what happened with the top part of the cabbage photo. I think I must have overexposed so much that the film decided to make some color shift. In any case, I was indeed pushing the boundaries of the film because I tried to shoot as wide open as possible despite the abundance of light.

img137

All in all it was a great trip with a handful of shoots we like both analog and digital. The Yashica served well once again, but I cannot deny that this camera especially with a bigger lens is not easy to carry all day. The weight can become a real problem if the camera is not the only extra weight one needs to take care of. Would I take it once again for a hike now that the much lighter Leica came back from service?  I think will still take it occasionally, but more because of the lens not so much for the sake of camera.

Grüner See

What would a photographer do if he  would suddenly need to carry an ever moving child on his back to every location he would take photos?

Photographer with extras, Sony nex 6, Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS (taken by Eszter)
Photographer with extras, Sony nex 6, Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS (taken by Eszter)

Of course he would use the new situation in order to justify a new purchase of a lens for the sake of portability to compensate the extra weight he now has to carry. This is how I ended up buying a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake II. It is tiny, extra light and being a wide lens, it is slightly less prone to the shaking introduced by the little one in the carrier. The price is not too steep neither for a native M mount lens plus I have found a quite handsome copy on a local trading site. It was literally no way out of this deal and so far I am very happy with my decision. Thanks to Ben (Flickr) for selling me the lens.

One of our first trips with the new gear lead us to the Grüner See. This is a temporary lake in the mountains which is filled by the water of melding snow every year for a short period of time. As the name suggests the lake has a beautiful green color even though the water is crystal clear. The bottom of a lake is  essentially a meadow with grass and rocks and ordinary objects like a bench. The lake is surrounded with forest and mountains and it is truly spectacular. At the time of our (end of April) visit the level of the water has probably not yet reached the peak.

I have loaded a roll of slightly expired Fujicolor Pro 160NS from my stash, and even finished it on the very same day. Good weather, nice location, one of my favorite film stock and a new lens to test. I think it was a perfect start for the Voigtlander. I am actively fighting my G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so I hope that I will value this lens on a long term. So far I am quite satisfied with the images I have got with it and honestly I think that there will always be place for a small good performing 35mm lens in my bag.

Grüner See, Leica M2, Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Epson Perfection V700

Grüner See, Leica M2, Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Epson Perfection V700

Grüner See, Leica M2, Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Epson Perfection V700

Grüner See, Leica M2, Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Epson Perfection V700

Grüner See, Leica M2, Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5, Fujicolor Pro 160NS, Epson Perfection V700

John Gunn Camera Shop

As you may have noticed I have never written a post about any camera shops or labs I visited. There are many reasons behind this starting from the fact that most of them are quite uninteresting and ending with my intention to not make advertisements on the blog (apart from the ones WordPress kindly places here and there).

But today, I am here to write about a quite special shop which cannot be farther from uninteresting. As for my other rule. I guess it was just naive and idealistic. I am writing camera and lens reviews and giving out my opinion about film stocks. Why not deal with shops as well? After all we film shooters are all in the same boat, we need services which are more and more scare every day. From now If there is a place I can recommend to the community, I will share it.

Mr John Gunn from John Gunn Camera Shop (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 800, Epson V700
Mr John Gunn from John Gunn Camera Shop (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 800, Epson V700

Why is John Gunn Camera Shop is special?

This is a small camera shop and lab in the heart of Dublin specialized itself on film photography materials and development services. It is a family business which occupies (as far as I know) three generations of the Gunn family.

“We pride ourselves on providing our customers with top quality products and first hand access to a wealth of Photographic knowledge gathered over the last 40 years.”

I had only 2 weeks in Dublin and since I have not had a chance to travel a long time ago, I was very much inspired by the new environment. I was shooting a roll after another and I was really eager to see my photos as soon as possible. I could not wait until I get home. Normally I need to wait a week for the development and spend about 2-3 nights of scanning. Thankfully I was pointed to the right direction and I have received one of the best service I ever had with my film.

They developed and scanned my negatives within 1 day. No scratches or dust on the films whatsoever, cut to stripes nicely and the scans were wonderful.  I had so much disappointment when I asked scans at various labs, mainly because of the unbelievable levels of file compression. I even wrote about my struggle  some time ago: scanner crisis.  But finally these scans were satisfying.

Guinness (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 400
Guinness (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 400

After work (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 400
After work (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 400

But quick and precise work would not be enough to make me write this post. What really caught me was the treatment I have received. When I made a complement to Mr John Gunn about his shop, you could really see the pride and gratitude on his and on his daughters faces. This shop really means a lot to them, that is for sure. When I left he said goodbye and added a God Bless you at the end. It was really a lovely experience.

Oh and the shop is alive. There are other film photographers coming continuously, which was really good to see. In Graz, we have nice shops, but the feeling that film is still around and very much alive cannot be witnessed that obviously.

Gentleman from a pub (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 400
Gentleman from a pub (Dublin 2015), Leica M2, Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 @ f/2, Fuji Xtra 400

All in all, I have visited John Gunn Camera Shop 3 times and I am glad I did. If you are in Dublin, it is a safe lab to go. I will definitely stop by if I ever have a chance again to visit the city.  Their website can be found here.

Being a tourist

It is not easy to be a tourist. Visiting popular places has the obvious disadvantage that they are already photographed from every possible angle at every possible time of the year.

So what can a photographer do who is short on time and cannot afford the luxury of deeply explore his travel location?
In other words should one leave the camera at home when going to a family afternoon visiting a hipped touristic site? Some would say yes. Just enjoy the time with the family and do not break the flow with those annoying stops to stare through the viewfinder. There is no way to take new, refreshing original photos anymore. There is even a camera called Camera Restricta which checks online how many publicly available photographs have been made on a certain GPS location.

Viewfinder Camera Restricta

If the count exceeds a limit, the camera denies taking any more pictures. While this camera offers a really extreme solution to the issue, it certainly raises the awareness that we should approach spectacles with care. After all, no one wants to create the 10 000th identical photos about that waterfall.

In my opinion, it is absolutely possible to take outstanding photos at locations which are considered completely exhausted as photographic resources. It is challenging indeed, but challenges are there to accept and conquer them.

My challenge

This is what I have tried to do lately. I was sent on a business trip to Dublin and of course, I tried to get the most out of it. Due to the packed by work nature of my travel, I had not much time for exploring, but I had a weekend and a few afternoons to work with. So I teamed up with my college and friend and picked some quite touristic places to visit. So we went to Glendalough, an extraordinary place with a beautiful mixture of nature and early medieval architecture. We had a great time and we were truly amazed by the wonders of this place, but as expected there is quite highly developed tourism involved here.

I was terrified when I realized that people were taking literally thousands of pictures just under that few hours we spent there.

But after the initial hesitation, I have started to shoot and tried to make up a set of rules I applied to make a difference.

Glendalough, Leica M2, Sonnar

Think with a head of a tourist

I tried to picture what is the easiest shoot one could get. This is what most people are up to. It is also a good idea to step back a little and watch what locations others choose. After I have mapped the patterns, I have picked a little bit different, harder to reach so to speak less trivial spot and angle. Many times just a few meters what you need for a significantly better shoot.

Use something special

According to a popular saying, your camera does not really matter. I agree on that a talented photographer can take stunning images with just about anything. On the other hand, a bad photograph is not any better just because it was taken with some exotic gear.

But the reality is not that all black and white. In the age of mass-produced digital cameras, smartphones and even smartphone cameras, a good old film camera can really shine out.

Glendalough, Leica M2, Sonnar

This is not the primary reason, why I shoot film, but it is great fun to see how much people are surprised because of the image quality and (I hope) cinematic look of my pictures.

Focus on the details

The world is full of neat little details. Many see only the big picture. Want to squeeze somehow the Eiffel Tower into the frame. But sometimes details are just more interesting. Better still often there is no indication whatsoever about their origin. Therefore it is always a good idea to have a camera in the bag no matter how touristy is the place to be visited. There is always the chance for a nice rusty road sign lurking at the next corner.

Galway

I have to admit that this photo with the fern was not taken at Glendalough but in Galway. However, this is my favorite detail photo from this roll.

People make things interesting

All humans are addicted to the look of other humans. Why not exploit this property of the mind and compose someone into the frame. It does not work at all times, but chances are that a handful of these photos will be the best ones. At least this is the case many times with me.

Glendalough, Leica M2, Sonnar

I am really bad at photographing people without their acknowledgment. I am not just bad at it, but also I prefer not to do it. That is why I asked these girls for this picture.

This is my quick guide for myself. I hope some of you will find it interesting. If you have something to add, or just like to comment, I would be happy to read your opinion.

Jakominiplatz

The Jakominiplatz is one of the most important public transport centers of Graz. Tram lines meet here as well as it is the starting point of many local and medium distance bus lines. It is indeed a very busy, sometimes seemingly chaotic, ever changing colorful place. So many interesting and not to mention very different people are mixed here in this relatively small parcel of space that the Jakominiplatz is truly is a photographic goldmine. The combination of the crowd with the wide variety of heavy vehicles and infrastructure makes it an ideal location for street photography, portraiture or even abstract architectural shoots.

I am one of the daily passengers. Sometimes I pass by more than once a day and of course I always have some kind (mostly different) camera with me. It was inevitable that eventually I will end up with a nice collection of images taken here using a wide range of equipment under different light conditions and in many distinct styles.

I have captured the greenish mist of  winter nights painted by the army of mercury street lamps on heavily expired film as well as using a digital pinhole camera, I have played with the strong shadows cast by the pylons and with the perspectives of the tracks in strong back-light. I have taken sneaky street photos with a digital compact and I toke some nice medium format portraits here. I find it fascinating that every time I pass by here something is different and there is always a new perspective to explore. In addition it is really fun to see how much impact the particular camera/lens has on the end result even under otherwise similar circumstances.

I think that at the end of the day I found myself in an experiment which I have not planned through or intended to do at the beginning at all. An experiment to prove that the photographer’s choice of the tool does matter even though this is not the only factor. Furthermore to show how much inspiration can be found in ordinary places which we visit every single day and therefore tend to ignore. I hope that my pictures will encourage some of you to explore your own Jakominiplatz.