“Do not be surprised that the return of the light lifts your spirits. Do not be surprised that warmth on your back calms you and makes you glad…this is part of who you have been for a million years. Find the warm places; do not expect them to come to you. When you find them, stay there and be still.” (A passage from ‘Wild Comfort – The Solace of Nature,’ by Kathleen Dean Moore).
Recently I started re-reading a book that I previously stopped reading after a few chapters. I didn’t stop reading it for any other reason than not finding the time to continue, but re-reading the initial chapters now, however, reminded me of why I bought the book the above passage is taken from. So much of the book and the author’s experiences and thoughts chime with something in me – a something that I find has been growing year upon year for the last few years and even more so now that I have learned to ‘hear’ the feelings within me. It’s as if I have somehow found the frequency that my inner mind broadcasts on from the depths that tend to stay buried and hidden under the detritus from the activities of modern daily life.
Last December we returned to Canada. As always with my personal work, I used only film. I have come to realise just how much shooting film fits in with the ethos of the passage above; aesthetics of the finished image aside, the process allows me to feel much more from the moment than I ever can when I have a digital camera in my hand, LCD screen glowing away to show you what you can see better in your own mind if you allow it. I’ve not done anything ‘formal’ with the photographs from this recent trip, partly out of busy-ness but partly out of wanting to give them the attention they deserve and not rushing into anything. Aside from having shared single images here and there, this is the first ‘mini collection’ that I’ve put together. I put them together based on the feelings they evoked within me both at the time I took them as well as when I look at them now. For me, implicit in this collection is a sense of wonder, wilderness, nature and peace.
For the technical among you they are all shot on either my Pentax 67ii or Leica M6, using either Fuji 400H or Portra 800, and of course they’re all developed and scanned at UK Film Lab. I think that takes care of all the information people tend to ask, but what I would really love to know is what sense you get from these photos. How do they make you feel?
Originally I was intending on going into detail on creating the look of these photos, because let’s face it, the general consensus on Fuji 400H is that it’s all about those pastel hues; those light and airy tones…that shooting Fuji 400H guarantees those things because of the belief that that’s the look of 400H. It’s a myth. But I don’t want to go into that here; I just want to say a little about the location and the mood and let the photos speak for themselves.
If you’re anything like me, there are some places you’ve always had in mind to explore. The places you stare at as you pass by at speed in the car and you wonder, “is there a way to get there, or is it private/fenced off/inaccessible on foot?” For some time now there has been just such a place, and it’s literally only 15 minutes by car from home. It’s by a fairly fast road through the Peak District and I don’t think I have ever seen anyone on this land…generally I think everyone passing by is headed to the popular parts of the Peak District and doesn’t really see this area that I have had my eye on as anything worth closer inspection. After all, it’s a fairy featureless area; a large expanse of fairly flat heath-land, but the more I’ve driven by at particular times the more I’ve thought about driving there one day with the specific intention of finding out if there is a space to park and a way over a fence. I’d also been noticing that due to the geography of the surrounding land, in particular light there was some quite special atmosphere to be captured.
So this weekend we did what I’ve been thinking about doing for some time, and we drove up there, found a place to pull over in the car, and then we walked until we came to an opening in the fence that allowed us to get through to where I’ve been wanting to go. The light was already fading very fast when I loaded my first roll, and the light was pretty much perfect for what I was wanting to achieve – a moodier, more muted look than the look most commonly associated with Fuji 400H. By the time I had shot a couple of rolls it was too dark for 400H so I switched to Delta 3200 rated at 1600, and I subsequently decided to push this one stop in the lab. So here is the collection of photos I took. The colour is all Fuji 400H and the b&w is Ilford Delta 3200 rated at 1600 and pushed one stop. Everything was shot through my Pentax 67ii. Thank you to Erica for being my beautiful model despite the cold. Dev/Scan UK Film Lab.
I managed to get hold of some Ferrania Solaris FG Plus ISO 400 and I’ve been itching to give it a try to see what it looks like. The first thing that struck me when I started scanning my film was just how atmospheric it was appearing; throughout the course of the time I was shooting it the light was constantly changing; from a very overcast, dark and almost stormy light to full, contrasty sun…and everything in between, and I was really aware of the changes in colour temperature. The film appears to have really captured the changing light and changing colour temperature and for me it really reflects the mood of the day and the ever-changing light. It was a pretty good day to put it through its paces and one thing I would say is that this film stock does not have the latitude of film stocks such as Portra and 400H. Not that that’s always a bad thing – I have no problem with something that makes me concentrate that little bit more on my exposures – but I did notice that anything above 2 stops of over-exposure did not produce results that I would want to use. It did handle well the variety of different light, from flat and dull to really contrasty scenes. In terms of grain it’s not as fine as pro film stocks of an equivalent speed, but again I’m not really averse to grain anyway so it doesn’t bother me! With regards to the colour palette, this is really fairly subjective and I have not tried to assert any particular look to the scans, but I would consider the colours to be a cross between 400H and Portra, which I find quite appealing…the cool Fuji greens but still with some of the true to life colouring of Portra. There are even a few scenes that appear quite similar to the old Portra 400VC. All in all I’m really happy with how it’s come out and if this old film stock is anything like the new film stock that Ferrania are going to be manufacturing then I can definitely foresee a place in the market for it! Ferrania are a hot topic at the moment what with their Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for setting up to produce a new C41 film stock. They’ve done amazingly well and have already reached their target, which is pretty exciting, but it’s not too late to back the campaign if you want to support a very worthy venture and also bag yourself some of the film from the first production batch….find it here!
But anyway, here are the photos from today. All film is Ferrania Solaris FG Plus 400ISO, shot though my Leica M6 with a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 lens and, of course, developed and scanned by UK Film Lab.
For some time now when leaving the lab at night time to see the last remnants of a golden summer evening, I’ve had it in mind to go to one of our favourite spots to take some photos of those final few minutes of sunlight. Well, we finally managed to make it happen and I am pleased to say that I achieved the kind of photos I had been envisaging.
There are many myths about Fuji 400H, one of them being that its natural look is light and airy and made of soft, pastel colours. Like some of the other myths about this film stock, it’s simply untrue. Fuji 400H is my ‘go to’ colour film stock now unless I am photographing bright, contrasty travel/editorial scenes in which case I love Kodak Ektar for achieving shots like these and these. So what with my own use of Fuji 400H as well as working with it daily at UK Film Lab, I am used to seeing just how versatile it is and how many different types of light and scene it can excel at capturing. More and more I have been trying to take photos that show some of the nuances of light – the subtleties we often appreciate with our eyes – photos that have the light as the subject rather than an object or person or place. It has also been a very useful exercise for me in continuing to improve my metering, and more frequently I find myself using spot metering and really thinking about where I want my different ‘zones’ to sit in the scene in front of me.
So here are some photos of one of my favourite places in England, taken during those last few minutes of light. I exposed them in a way that attempts to capture the light and mood of the time, and I love the rich colours that Fuji 400H has provided.
Fuji 400H | Pentax 67ii | UK Film Lab
Ever since I started shooting film seriously, most things I’ve read and seen about film photography are about creating soft shadows, images filled with light; images that glow. I confess I do like that style but on a recent trip out I felt I wanted to explore a more low key look – to capture some of the different elements of light that I tend to avoid in my usual approach to photography.
I’ve said before how much of a fan I am of nearby Chatsworth House & Gardens; we visit there when we can no matter what time of year and it always looks different and there is always something to photograph. For some time now I have been shooting with diptychs in mind and I usually tend to post my photos that way; this time, though, I decided that some of the photos lost a little impact when paired up, so this time I’ve chosen to let the beauty of the 6×7 format just be.
So I set out with Ektar first and foremost because it was sunny; I really, really love its contrast and saturation in those conditions. I came across a few scenes that were much more about the highlights than the shadows – scenes that (I think) often look better to the eye than when you try to capture it with a camera – and so I set about trying to capture the scenes in a way that really replicated how I saw it with my eye. So this is my attempt to shoot Ektar in conditions where for me it’s all about colour and contrast, but there are also a few photographs in conditions where it’s much more about the highlights than the shadows.
All images shot on Kodak Ektar with my Pentax 67ii and 105 mm f/2.4 lens. The close-up of the pine cones in the dappled light was shot with the help of an extension tube. Developed and scanned by me in UK Film Lab.
I came across these Orondo cherries from Washington State the other day and loved the colour. Shot on my Pentax 67ii with a 105mm f/2.4 lens. The close-up shot was taken with an extension tube.
Film: Fuji 400H | Dev/scan: UK Film Lab