2016 – A Year in Monochrome

A year shooting only black and white film (excludes digital and underwater). Sounds simple but for those that know me and my love of colour it won’t be easy. However. it’s just what I need to challenge my ability to create powerful images. You only need to look at the most iconic images in history to see that they were made on Kodak black and white film and probably with a Leica M3 or Nikon F3. I can’t wait so stay tuned! I have my first roll of Tri-X 400 ready to go.

Metadata

With another 35mm roll through the Nikon F5 and back from the lab it’s been a productive weekend sorting images and uploading metadata thanks to Meta35. Now that I’ve used the software a few times, it couldn’t be easier and is well worth it! In terms of work flow it’s as simple as; shoot, develop, scan, embed, edit and make a contact sheet. If you have a compatible camera and shoot film even on an irregular basis, this product is a must.

6×9 vs 35mm

The past few months has seen me shooting a lot of 6×9. I was even lucky enough to borrow a GSW690II to see if I liked it enough to run two 6×9 cameras. Well, after a number of road trips I can say I’ve learnt a couple of things. Firstly, any more than two cameras is a recipe for missing the shot. Even if they are similar/identical formats, juggling at the critical time isn’t fun. Which leads to the second point, real estate isn’t everything when it comes to the pursuit of powerful images. The technical image quality of the Fuji 6×9’s is outstanding for landscapes, no arguments there. Sure they are quite portable and hand held work is ‘easy’ but most of the time a tripod is firmly attached. On the other hand, the freedom the Nikon F5 or F4 give me translates into valuable time to be creative and the ability to get the camera (and you) somewhere unique. The precision and automation of the F5 is also much welcomed after doing it ‘manually’ for a while (invaluable experience though!). As I look back at my images the ones that always stand out for me are those from Nepal. All were shot on an F4 with manual focus primes and no distractions. So, what have I learnt? Keep the kit small and simple and focus on the image. Chances are my 6×9 will take a rest for a while as the F5 and 58mm f1.4G take centre stage.

Kodak Aerochrome

I became aware of Kodak Aerochrome a couple of years ago when reading up on aerial imaging and spy satellites. However it was only recently that I stumbled across the last few rolls of 120 (re-rolled from the aerial format) being offered for sale. After much debate I bit the bullet and bought a roll for about 100USD. Now this is a lot of money for 8 6×9 shots but seeing as Kodak have been discontinuing the good stuff for a while now (Kodachrome and E100VS) I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity. Am I glad I did! The 8 shots weren’t iconic or ground breaking but they gave a whole new perspective on places I have shot before (Flinders Ranges). I also made sure that some of the images were aerial ones as a bit of a tribute. I really wish I had bought more of this stuff before it was discontinued. It’s certainly a real treat to look at on the light table and be mesmerised by the red/pink/purple hues that are given off by vegetation. I’m actually tempted to get another roll it’s that good. I may also pen something more substantial down as a review/article on this incredibly unique film. Stay tuned.

Thoughts on Ektar 100 and Street Photography

About a year ago I shot my first roll of Kodak Ektar 100 (120) and the results were nothing spectacular. Fast forward to this week and I just got the results from a 35mm roll of Ektar 100 I ran through my Nikon F5 (kindly given to me to help review Meta35). This time I was pleasantly surprised. The colours were vibrant and had that Ektar tone to them. Grain was excellent as was the ability to retain some detail in the highlights that slide film would typically washout. Overall, for half the price of Velvia, it’s a good alternative and when the light is harsh and a little too contrasty for grads to control then it’s a much better choice. So much so that I bought another 120 roll. Anyway, my main use for it lately has been to shoot a bit of street photography. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to try for a while and that can take years to master. It’s also not that easy, I’ve spent hours now walking around Adelaide camera in hand. It’s not like sunset or sunrise where you have a shot framed and all you’re waiting for is the right light. It’s much more fluid where you have to really work for your images, often visualising them before they happen. You need to immerse yourself in the city because walking around and around for a picture to jump out at you will just result in sore feet. It’s challenging, tiring, dynamic and right now I dig it!

Before and After

Google street view can be a great tool for scoping images and places. I thought I’d check an old building that I took a photo of some time ago to see if it was still there. As the results suggest it’s a little further run down and missing that striking red door that caught my eye initially. So what do I take from this, photograph what’s in front of you while its still standing!

New 50mm

I recently grabbed another 50mm Nikkor to add to the two that I already have (f1.4 AI-S and AF-D). This is the f1.8G Special Edition that normally comes with the Df and styled to match the AI and AI-S lenses that made Nikon famous. A cheap investment as I have a soft spot for ‘normal lenses’ despite my love of ultra wide angles. Firstly, it looks great, feels great and handles great on both my Df and F5. However, there’s no point putting this on the F4 or anything older as it’s gelded. You’ll also need a new 58mm filter because Nikon stopped thinking of you a few years ago when it started giving every lens a different filter size. Too bad for your set of 52mm and 77mm filters for real lenses. The hood now snaps on which is convenient but it’s covered with text telling you it’s Nikon’s finest plastic from China. Despite my ramblings this is a very nice piece of glass that is currently welded to my F5 for an entire roll of Ektar 100 and images that aren’t sunsets (personal street photography challenge). Which brings me to my next thought, I’ve been seriously looking at the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G. Yes it’s priced astronomically, covered in plastic and has a 72mm filter thread but this doesn’t seem to bother me that much for what you get optically. Some of the most iconic images have been made with 50mm lenses. It is however, easy to compare the 50mm f1.2 AI-S (52mm filter on a f1.2!) and 85mm f1.4D as absolute bargains in comparison. Yet I’m not as compelled by them. Could this be NAS and Nikon’s marketing genius playing tricks? I could of course go and get another Fuji 6×9 to which all the above becomes mute..

Meta35 Review

I was fortunate enough to review a unique and new product called Meta35 prior to it’s release. Head over to NikonF5.net to see what I made of it.

Lake Eyre

It has been a little while since my last post so hopefully you have noticed the new images in the gallery and Instagram posts. In short my week in the outback sleeping under the stars and visiting Lake Eyre was fantastic. There is nothing like getting away from it all and exploring the wilderness. The trip produced a few good images with two that I was really happy with. As for Lake Eyre, well it’s a long way to go. I stayed at Halligan Bay which is just over 60km from William Creek. Driving out there is almost like traversing a burnt moonscape that is void of everything. Its a great place to view the lake (much better than the South lake) with about 90 degrees of bare horizon stretching across salt pan. It’s also a very clean salt lake and you don’t have to walk far out onto it. Unfortunately it has lost most of the deep red colour it had back in February but that’s luck. Only a small amount of water is actually left. Would I go back? Not in the short term and only if it fills to capacity though it is certainly a place that must be experienced if you are up that way or just need to get out of town for the weekend.

Albox’ed Up

Last weekend I finally got around to something I should have done a long time ago. I channelled my inner Walter Mitty (Negative Asset Manager), put on some white gloves and organised my film library. It took a couple of days but was well worth it. I had been looking around for suitable products to archive my film for some time and only recently came across a local company called Albox. They offer a variety of solutions using Polypropylene. Their film sleeves are really good and even my local lab is using them. Transferring all of my film over to these made me realise how sloppy my previous pro labs had been. I also made my own labels from strips of coloured card (different colours for different film types) and hand wrote the sheet names (ie 120V50R13 is the thirteenth roll of Velvia 50 in 120 format that I have shot). The folder is pretty good and comes with its own sleeve, however it’s not dust proof so you’ll need a box for it and others once you fill them. All of my CD’s with scans and digital back ups didn’t escape the treatment either. Some great products I can definitely recommend.