I’ve had extension tubes for my Pentax 67ii for a while now and only used them once, if I remember correctly (which is not something to take for granted), so I thought I’d do a quick project in the kitchen and take some photos of some flowers we’d just bought. It was fairly light in the kitchen and I knew I’d probably need to shoot around f/5.6 or narrower to allow the depth of focus to be a little greater than a single grain of pollen and so I chose Portra 800. To get an aperture of f/5.6 at a shutter speed I could handhold the giant beast securely I had to go up to ISO 3200, which then gave me a meter reading of 1/100 sec which I subsequently shot at 1/60 sec, so I therefore had to push the Portra 800 by 2 stops in development. I know Portra 800 can give excellent results when pushed and given that I had good, natural daylight I wasn’t particularly worried about any ill effects from the 2 stop push. I also used a small silver reflector (camera left) to fill in the shadows a little given that pushing works less well on the shadows. The other thing to bear in mind is that depending on which extension tube you use, you have to increase your exposure to compensate for loss of light.
Focusing with the extension tubes was surprisingly difficult; not only do they produce a darker viewfinder, the depth of field is so thin that I admit I wasn’t very confident at how many shots on my 2 rolls of 120 would be in focus. I was pleased to find that in the 20 frames I shot, I hit sharp focus in 17-18 frames, but focusing did take me some time and my arms were often aching before I’d hit the shutter button. In terms of extension tube choice (given that it’s a set of 3), I only shot with tubes 1 and 2….tube 3 just got me closer to the subject than I wanted and would also have required greater exposure, which I couldn’t have achieved without a tripod.
Nevertheless I’m pleased with the results and I can definitely see me taking these tubes out in my bag more routinely when we head out with the cameras. Dev/scan: UK Film Lab
The last time we walked around the industrial estate where UKFL HQ resides we came across a collection of industrial units tucked away around a corner, and to our surprise we found an old abandoned car- a Rover V8- engine removed, but keys still in the ignition. At the time we first came across it I was shooting b&w film and Erica was camera-less, so we decided to return another day with colour film. Further to my previous experiment pulling Portra 400 in development, I decided to experiment some more to see if I would like it just as much as before and to see whether the particular traits I had experienced during scanning would be apparent again.
I’m happy to say that I’m really liking the effect that pulling has on Portra 400. As I’ve said before, I don’t usually shoot Portra 400 for my own work and prefer the colour palette of Fuji 400H, so I’ve been keen to experiment with Portra 400 to see if I can find a look with it that I like. As I found with the previous rolls that I’ve pulled, there is actually quite a remarkable difference in how ‘available’ the shadows are during the scan process, compared to Portra 400 that has been developed normally. The combination of brightness, shadow detail and contrast are almost perfect for me without having to do hardly anything other than colour correction.
So here are the images of ‘Jessica’, shot on my Pentax 67ii with Portra 400 pulled in development at UK Film Lab. If only a car could talk, I would love to hear her stories of a time gone by.
It’s been quite a while since I shot any Ilford FP4, but I saw a batch of it in the fridge and so I decided I’d try some out in my Leica M6. The location we went to was the industrial estate where UK Film Lab resides; we’re very lucky to work on what’s actually quite a pretty industrial estate….surrounded by trees, on most days there’s an abundance of birdlife to be seen and heard, and on many a day I see the same photographer walking around armed with his super-telephoto lens and tripod. Many of the industrial units have small planted areas or lawns, and it just makes for a nicer, more pleasant feel to an area which has the sole purpose of being a home for industrial business.
One aspect that I particularly like about this location is that if you look hard enough there’s always something different to see; this time, the door to a small derelict building next to UKFL was hanging open on its hinges….it had either rotted and broken under its own weight, or it had been broken into. Either way, we finally managed to see inside and to our surprise it became evident that the building had previously been some kind of electrical sub-station. On the wall we found hanging a collection of handwritten meter readings going all the way back to the 1970s, and a key which appeared to be for the door. Everything else inside had more or less been stripped, but leaving behind curious structures and bits and pieces.
Walking further around the estate we found a small area tucked away that we’d not seen before. There were a collection of industrial units but no signs of life apart from a very conspicuous blue Vauxhall Cresta parked up outside one of them. Apparently these cars were manufactured some time between 1954 to 1972, but it looked like it was fully in use, unlike the yellow, engine-less Rover we found parked round the side, keys still in the ignition!
Here are the photos I took, starting and finishing at UKFL. All shots taken on my Leica M6 with Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron, and of course processed at UK Film Lab.
I hardly ever shoot Kodak Portra 400; I tend to find Fuji 400H suits me better in terms of the overall colour palette I like so I thought it would be interesting to experiment with pulling some Portra 400 in development to see whether I can find a look that I like with this film stock. Now, pulling colour negative in development is rarely necessary unless you’ve done something dramatically wrong, so it’s fairly rare to come across colour negative being pulled. It can also be a dangerous game to play given that colour negative is usually best when exposed for the shadows and given some over-exposure…doing something that reduces the density in the negative is not something you would normally want or need to do otherwise you risk the negative not having enough detail. With that in mind, I rated my Portra 400 at ISO 400, metered for the shadows, and added roughly 1 stop more exposure; doing this ensured that I would be exposing to put a good amount of detail into the shadows. I then pulled the roll 1 stop during development back at UK Film Lab.
As you might expect with reducing development time, to the eye the negatives look slightly less dense and less contrasty than you might expect with normal development. The experience during scanning was also a little different to when I scan Portra 400 that’s been developed normally; in order to bring out shadow detail in over-exposed and normally developed film the density adjustments on the scanner are the key…in essentially brightening the scan you open up the shadows without blowing the highlights, and this has the effect of reducing the contrast and giving an overall bright look. What I found when scanning my pulled film was that shadow detail was more obvious and I didn’t have to adjust density as much as I do for film that’s been developed normally. This is really quite important for me simply because I don’t usually choose to brighten my images in the scan beyond the level of brightness that was actually in the scene, meaning that if I want to access that shadow detail I often have to do it in an edit. That’s no big deal given that the detail is there anyway, but if I can expose and develop my film in a way that gets me closer to my desired look, then that’s what I want to do. Additionally, if in doing this I can find a look from Portra 400 that I like for my work, then that’s all the better because it means I have access to more film stocks!
So here are my results, all shot on my Pentax 67ii and developed/scanned back at UK Film Lab. Generally, my observations during scanning and from looking at the results are that this pulled film is softer and less saturated than Portra 400 that’s developed normally. If anyone is thinking of trying pulling film for themselves, my only caveat is to judiciously check your exposures and ensure that you are definitely putting enough detail in the shadows.