Saturday, November 22, 2014

Update on the Film Project

Historic Pierce Point Ranch: soft tones and subtle colors
handled well by the Kodak Ektar 100 film.

A couple of months ago, I posted a piece on rediscovering my vintage 1980 Canon A-1 film camera. I knew that it worked, or at least that the film advance worked, the shutter released and the meter was responsive. That's about all I knew after not using the camera for 20 or so years.

I did a little cleanup inside and out, bought a new 6-volt battery and a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film, and went shooting. It took me at least two months to complete the 36 exposures on this one roll of film, which would be zipped off in a few minutes of shooting wildlife with a digital SLR. One doesn't snap away so quickly when each frame costs money - and when there's no motor drive. 

Midday Southern California light
brings saturated skies and warm
tones of the official bellringer at
Mission San Juan Capistrano.
So, I just got back the negatives and a set of scans that the lab provided. Technically, everything worked. The meter was obviously still accurate and the camera and attached Canon 50mm lens were in sync. 

I have not shot film in close to 15 years. I had to retrain myself to shoot with film, as it really is a different process. You know that you are setting up one shot, and that there's no way you can check it until it comes back from the lab. It requires a more deliberate, thoughtful approach. Focus is manual, and you need to understand how the light meter is reading the scene. You can't bump the ISO to shoot a low-light image, so you work with what you have in camera. And I didn't want to be doing a lot of post-processing as that would defeat the value of film in capturing the moment as it truly was.

I have to say that I was pleased with my results. Apparently, the muscle memory was still intact and I mostly managed to properly frame, focus and expose the film. There's also a pleasing visceral sensation in handling the smaller, lighter and purely mechancial machine.

High contrast subjects were more challenging for the color film.
I was pleased with what the Ektar 100 delivered: saturated colors, soft tones and crisp details. High-contrast scenes were more troublesome, and I felt that with a histogram and the ability to run off some test shots, my DSLR would have better handled those scenes. But that could also be an issue of relearning my film technique. 

It was a fun experiment, and now that I know the camera is functional, I'll try some different films and subjects and see what develops (pun intended). Meanwhile, here's some images from roll #1. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Returned from the Arctic

So, we've been missing in action from the blog and Google+ the past few weeks. Apologies for the absences. I'll get a note from my mother. What's my excuse?

Well, first of all, I was away in a place with no connection to the outside world. I spent an amazing week in the Arctic photographing polar bears along Hudson Bay, at a remote location in Nunavut, 100 km from the nearest Inuit settlement. More on that in a future post, but the image above will give you a taste of what we encountered. 

Since returning, I've been busy processing the images from the far north, and at the same time redesigning and relaunching my website. It has a new look, with expanded content. Take a look at and let me know what you think. 

I'm also getting ready for a bit of a break over the Thanksgiving holiday and planning for 2015. Stay tuned!