Why I love Fuji slide film

I might shoot a whole lot of Double-X and Tri-X, but when it comes to color, Fuji still has my heart.  If you need a reason to shoot a roll of slide film, look below.  I mean, what’s not to love?

The price, I suppose, so I usually save this film for special occasions.  And it’s the processing costs that really can drain one’s bank account fast, around $20 for developing and scanning (plus $10-15 for the roll of film itself).  Yikes.  But then I look at a slide on a light table or scanned, and all misgivings go by the wayside:

I don’t shoot a whole lot of slide film, but that’s changing the more I get good results.  While I will shoot Ektachrome when it returns (and with Ferrania not too far away either), Fuji is still my first love for color film.  As I look through these pictures, I notice that a lot of them have very striking shades of blue, a favorite color of mine.  To be honest, Velvia 50 and I didn’t get on very well, but then I’ve only shot one roll and I probably need a bit more practice with it.

The modern slide films are remarkable.  Compared to Velvia 50, which is a bit of an older emulsion from the early-’90s, the more modern Provia 100F and Velvia 100 are pretty remarkable in their latitude, being able to survive one stop of over- or underexposure with only slightly noticeable differences in color.  Color, in fact, that is supposed to have an archival life of 300 years.  Color negative film doesn’t come anywhere close.

It’s a bit sad the direction that Fujifilm as a company has gone, and I don’t doubt that at some point in the next decade we will be holding the last-ever Fuji slide film.  I’ve been on the fence about whether or not to continue supporting their business when they have obviously abandoned film photographers.  Perhaps it would be better to not get attached to anything Fuji makes, because I know that whatever it is, its days are numbered.  But then I look back to the point when I knew Plus-X was discontinued, and only bought one roll to shoot, or when I passed up the opportunity to buy a few rolls of Provia 400X, or Superia 400 in 120 size.  Or the fact that I never got a chance to shoot Kodachrome (or Ektachrome, Astia, Sensia, Fortia, or Velvia 100F); I regret those things.  And so, like marrying a person with a terminal condition, all I can do is enjoy the time that is left, knowing that at some point all good things must come to an end.

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Final project: portrait outtakes – Intro to Photography

Fall 2013.  A continuation of this post.  Here are images that for one reason or another didn’t make the cut.  Some I printed along the way for critiques, some I didn’t look at until after I had scanned everything.

Minolta SRT-MCII Outtakes:

Canon AE-1 Outtakes:

Pentax Spotmatic SPII outtake:

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Final project: portraits – Intro to Photography

Fall 2013.  I had been taking portraits here and there throughout the semester, this time around I decided to pursue it in a more serious way.  I started looking at other photographers’ work more, looking at what it means to take a good portrait.  They say that all portraits are actually self-portraits of the photographer, to some degree.  Living in a small mountain town, I have some nice-looking backdrops pretty much wherever I go, and some pretty interesting-looking friends as well.  The first I found that was a keeper was actually taken Summer 2013 before the class even started, with the faulty Hi-matic 9 that I have since given away.  It featured a son of some friends of mine, one of my favorite photographic subjects:

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It’s really hard to just put these up without talking about them, so I’m going to group pictures a bit.

Woodland Park used to host several different series of local music, all non-profit (don’t know how many there are at the moment).  The one that I was affiliated with was called the Mountain Acoustic Music Association (MAMA), unfortunately due to lack of attendance and too large a venue, they had to shut down.  This was the last show they put on, bittersweet memories.

Being in a photo class, I decided I had an excuse to spend a few bucks on a portrait lens, and the local camera store just happened to have a few new Canon FD lenses in, which was nice because I really wanted to try out the AE-1 I’d been given and see how it compared to the Minolta.

It did alright, one thing I discovered was both light meters lied about their readings indoors: if I followed what they told me, I ended up overexposing by 1 stop with the Minolta, and underexposing 1 stop with the Canon.  I did like the winding action better with the Canon…  Up above are final presentations from two rolls of Tri-X and the only roll of Plus-X I ever bought.  Three out of four were with the 50mm 1.4 S.S.C. lens, so that $100 I spent on the 100mm 2.8 S.S.C. doesn’t seem quite worth it, and which lens did I return?  The fast-50.  The middle two came from a roll that I accidentally exposed by opening the back before I’d rewound the film.  Thankfully, it didn’t affect the early exposures!

In the Canon outtakes you’ll see a picture of two bearded individuals: that one was my original portrait, but the fact that I fudged the focus so badly (that Canon 50’s depth of field is narrow) nagged at me, and I redid it when I went over to my friend’s house to take more pictures of his beard.  I went back to the Minolta, because I still had a few more exposures in the Canon, and this particular roll I pushed 2 stops to get faster shutter speeds, the first time I’d ever pushed a roll of film before:

Once again, all on one roll.  Perhaps it was because I was just used to working with that camera?

The last thing I did was to make portraits of two newborn babies, as two sets of friends had just given birth (only hours apart).  I had just the week before (and only several days after buying that Canon 100mm lens) found a screw-mount portrait lens for the Spotmatic (and it didn’t cost $100 either) at a thrift store, a Chinon 135mm f/2.8.  I decided if there was ever a time to break out the Spotmatic, this was it.  Since both families wanted pictures in time to send out as Christmas cards, I decided using some chromogenic film was in order, and I bought a 36-exposure roll of Kodak BW400CN for that purpose, knowing I could get it developed and scanned in a day, then make my own prints at a more leisurely pace.

At the time, I’d never used Photoshop for correction, and the scans I got back were actually pretty low-contrast.  I have to say, now that I know what I’m doing I quite like the look of BW400CN.  Unfortunately, it’s no longer made.  The Chinon turned out to be a worthy lens, but I sort of retired it after I found the 135mm Super-Takumar.

I spent more time talking to my subjects than I did taking pictures, and usually I’d be taking 5-7 shots in a row; it seems that burning a couple shots up front helped my subjects relax, helped me get more natural looks.  My little bit of street photography experience helped me out as well, as some of those portraits were completely candid.

I have lots of pictures that I didn’t end up using, and they can be found here.

From Sound Recording class

Fall 2013.  This was actually the first recording session I photographed.  We had split the class into two groups, and since I had already recorded some guys with my group, I showed up the second day with my camera, hoping to get a few good shots for my final project in the Intro class shooting portraits.  Nothing really worked for my assignment itself, but I still liked a few of the pictures I took.

This was the first time I brought out the Canon AE-1 that my friend had given me, and put the 50mm 1.4 SSC through its paces.  I won’t say that I disliked the lens too much, and maybe I’m not attuned to the Canon look, but for the most part, I didn’t think that lens had it.  What it did have, was some pitting (or at least flaws in the coating) in the rear element, and I ended up returning it, as I didn’t think it was quite worth the price I paid.

Home: Project 1 – Intermediate Photography

What is home, what is family?  How do we define just what that means to us?  When thinking about the concept of family, I usually go back to a passage in the bible where Jesus describes a his concept of family: “A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers…’” (Mark 3:32-34). The concept of family (or home) seems to be in flux so much of the time, but I also remember the old saying, “Home is where the heart is.” We create home wherever we go and wherever we are most comfortable, and the people around us that we accept into our lives become our family—indeed, frequently better, because we don’t get to pick our biological family.

In this idea I was inspired by Larry Clark, from his book Tulsa to his film Kids, and his later work.  He seems to really have adapted well to niche societies in a way that I don’t think I could have.  I really admire the way he has become involved in the modern skateboarding culture and other groups of young people, as if after all his old family died around him, he was welcomed into new homes. As a man in his mid-60s, he’s become an adopted child, or at least a foster child.  In execution I was inspired by some good friends of mine whose kids’ rooms feature some great photo collages (the kids are my age and have since moved out, settled down, gotten married, but their rooms are still pretty much the way I remember them being when I was in my late teens).  I’ve known this family for nearly 20 years now.

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Being from central Ohio, I think the first phrase I ever learned to say was “Go Bucks!” and with my parents both graduating from Ohio State, it was only natural that I (and my brother) follow in their footsteps.  Sadly, I never graduated from there, but I keep the spirit alive out here.  One of the things that I am able to do more often now that I’m living in Colorado Springs is attend the Pike’s Peak region OSU alumni association get-togethers to watch the football games.  A lot of the rest of the images were taken in and around my church, or at related functions.  There are quite a lot of food pictures; nothing says family and home to me like breaking bread together.

I printed on Oriental cooltone fiber paper (glossy) for the black & white, and Ilford Gallerie Pearl for the digital prints.

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Cyanotype onesies – Alternative Processes

So here are the final examples of the cyanotypes I did on cotton.  I never was able to determine why exactly they turned yellow, but I have ideas, and perhaps one day I’ll experiment more.

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I tried washing the onesies beforehand, that didn’t work.  I tried washing afterwards in cold water, but they started to fade.  I tried prewashing cold without detergent for the last one, didn’t make a difference.  The only thing I can think of right now, is that I was on well water at the time, whereas the cyanotype solution was mixed on campus with city water, but aside from that, I don’t know what I did wrong.  Other people printed cyanotypes on cotton with no problem!  For the record, they were a gorgeous deep blue until I took them home and put them through the washing machine.

I snapped this just to have a record of it before I sent these off to my friends (and their new baby) in Boulder.

The first part of this post is here.

Shooting people with Velvia 50

I found an old post of mine that I never finished, just forgot.  These pictures were taken on Easter Sunday 2014From what I’ve heard, Velvia 50 isn’t supposed to be good for people.  Supposedly it turns their skin too reddish.  I think they’re right, but it didn’t stop me from trying, and I took a chance on our overcast Easter Sunday.

Unfortunately, like a fool, I used too low a shutter speed and ended up botching some of my better shots.  Let that be a lesson to you:

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100mm f/8 1/60  This man gave me a whole bunch of Canon FD lenses (used in the landscape pictures above) and a T-50 body.  As you can see, he’s now joined the enemy, but at least his old stuff won’t be going to waste.

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100mm f/8 1/60  So maybe a bit unnaturally reddish, but not overly so?  These two guys actually work outside for a living, so without having them right in front of me they may look like this in real life, if they had just had a really bad sunburn.

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I assume that the day being overcast helped rein the colors in a bit.  Now that I know better, I’ll stick to shooting landscapes with Velvia 50, but still, it was worth a try.

Honestly, I don’t know if I’d consider color reversal film to be “affordable” in the sense that color negative film is.  For starters, rolls of film cost $15-20.  On top of that, processing on that one roll cost me $20 (a package deal that also included scanning, slide mounting, and a set of 4×6 proofs).  And I had to wait the better part of a week, too (the camera store had to send it to their main location in Boulder).  Add that to the fact that you really have to know what you’re doing…so not for beginners, then.  However, if the results justify the means (and that is one of the main reasons to use film), then it’ll be a good thing to use.

I kind of liken shooting Velvia 50 to making a bet double-or-nothing: get your exposure off and you miss the shot, but nail it and you’ll have a beautiful-looking image the like of nothing you’ve seen before.  Still, I’d keep this more for landscape work given the choice.  I’ve shot two rolls of Provia 100F which has a much more forgiving latitude (for a slide film) which looks great for people, and not too bad for landscape.  I really want to try Velvia 100 as well, from what I’ve read it’s like Velvia 50 but with less wild reds, much better for people but still more vivid than Provia.  Still, I’ve got 6 rolls of Ferrania Chrome that should be arriving sometime in Spring, so that’s the slide film I’ll be using for a while.

To make this as affordable as possible, I used (refrigerated) expired film that was half off; I think it looks great, nothing wrong with the film.  Except for the 100mm lens that I bought from the camera store, all my Canon equipment has been gifted to me.  Here are other posts that are from this same roll:

Slide Film: Bracket Your Shots
UCCS Going Green
Shooting Daylight Film inside (without a Filter) Pt. II