Friday, June 10, 2022

Why digital or film?

Regular readers will know I recently bought two film cameras, a Fujica GW690, and a Canon 7.  (Here's a photo of them both.) Plus the Canon 6D mk2 I've had for several years, and an older Canon T6i. To say nothing of a fairly current iPhone, which is a pretty capable camera for most subjects in most light, and is probably all the camera that most people need.

I borrowed a pair of film cameras from my friend Sean to see if I liked shooting film, and I did, though those particular cameras didn't feel happy in my hands. Then I discovered the GW690, and love shooting that. Then the Canon 7 because who can afford a Leica?

So now I have the question, why would I shoot a particular scene on one particular camera, and not another? The trite answer is that it depends on which I'm carrying at the moment. I might have gone out with a specific camera or specific lens to look for suitable images, and happened to come across a scene where I wish I'd been carrying a different camera. It's happened any number of times, and that was before I bought the film cameras.

I'm still noodling through, but thought I would talk about what I intend to shoot with each camera, recognizing there's some overlap.

The easy one first, the iPhone. 
Documents to be sent to someone. Taking a photo of a scene for the meta data, typically the location. In a related sense, I might take a photo of a scene taken with another camera to help remember what colour those scooters actually were, or what the phone thought a particular scene looked like. When I want to capture a scene, and it happens to be the only camera available. If I need to put a photo on social media right now. The V word, as required, which is really rare.

Another easy one, the T6i.
I use this and a macro lens to photograph the film negatives to create a digital image. Plus it's a backup during an important shoot in case something happens with the main camera. Plus, sometimes during night shoots I'll set it up pointing in a different direction than the main camera. Or I'll lend it to a particular friend if we go for a camera walk. She loves doing macro shots with a 'real' camera.

Canon 6D mk2.
This is the workhorse camera. I'll use it for races, community association events, trips, and client shoots. I'm usually still taking it on walks where I intend to shoot film, with the intent of capturing something I don't want to use film for. Or dialling in on exposure settings in tricky situations. Or when HDR is needed. Or night sky shots where I want to capture many exposures in a row. Or where I need a long lens, or a really wide lens. Or when I want to capture a film image as digital for whatever reason. There are many 'or' situations here. I have no intention of jumping on the mirrorless bandwagon, though in a sense, I already have. Both the film cameras are mirrorless in the usual sense of the word.

The joy of this camera is the huge negatives, nearly 6 x 9 cm, meaning an enormous amount of detail can be captured. The fixed lens on this camera is a 90mm, which means it's about the same as a 40mm lens on a 35mm camera. In practice that means a bit wider than normal, which is considered to be a 50mm lens. Buying and developing film costs about $3 a photo, so I'm not going to take shots on a whim. They are almost certainly going to be carefully considered and composed as best I can. So landscapes or group portraits in a setting. Shots where there is lots of detail and texture (see May 2022 Image of the Month). Art (which could mean darn near anything, but I'm not going to get into it here.) 

Canon 7
A much smaller and more nimble camera. Not quite a shirt pocket size, but it will go into a generous jacket pocket. It's about a third the cost of the GW690 per photo, so I'm more willing to take risky shots, and have fun with it. Experiment with different films. Urban scenes. Informal portraits. 

As an added bonus, the film cameras are great conversation starters. Walk around taking photos with the big DSLR or a phone, and typically nobody pays any attention. But film, I've had several people come up and ask about the cameras. That's fun.

The overlap.
This is a bit of an odd situation. Most people look around and they see what they see. Something shiny or unusual might catch their eye, or some clever bit of advertising, or a specific thing they're looking for. Or maybe the woman in the red dress.

Most photographers are looking for something that will make a good photograph, and even more specific, one that can be made with the equipment on hand. It's remarkable how specific this can be. If the 70-200 lens is the one on hand, I'm not going to 'see' macro or close up shots. If I've got my mind set that I'm going to shoot a scene on film, even if I've got the digital camera with me, I'm likely to think of it as a sophisticated light meter, not a camera.

An example, you ask? Last weekend I worked with Michelle on trying to get a nice selfie in B&W. Read the back story here. As it happens, I took the GW690 and some black and white film (Acros II, if you're interested) with the idea I might try portraits with that film. After we finished the digital photos, I put the film in the camera, tweaked the settings, and coached Michelle on finding focus. Several clicks. We moved outside and tried that. I did not think of using the digital camera while we were doing these shots, not even a little bit. I was concentrating on the film experience.

These are not intended to be formal portraits, but rather to find out how skin looks with this particular film, without any lighting tricks. If you remember the selfie post, I'm sitting in the same place for that first shot. Then outdoors, in the shade. The background is whatever it happens to be. There is no special editing to soften skin or try to create 'dramatic' light.

As ought to be obvious, these are not selfies. Michelle did really well holding a big camera at a fairly slow shutter speed. These are all cropped a bit to an 8x10 format, but there's still lots of detail left; I could crop in much further. Something to keep in mind if I want to do a tight head and shoulders shot.

Michelle is in really harsh mid-day sun here. I tried softening the shadows, but what I really needed was someone to hold a reflector or something to create some shade. Or move elsewhere, but the chair was so comfortable...

Another from a slightly different angle, with slightly different settings, making a subtle change in skin texture. Pity about the the change in the fencing and bright spot in the upper left. Note to self, bring the reflector package next time.

An all round great learning experience. I'm not as un-photogenic as I thought. Being relaxed in front of the camera is really important. I love what a fairly wide open lens does to the background. B&W and all the shades in between can be really interesting. I think film (carefully done) is more flattering for my skin than digital, but then again, with editing anything is possible. Michelle just looks great on film or digital, B&W or colour. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Ukrainian colour on Fuji Superia 200

There's a couple overlapping stories here, and I've been unsure how to tell them. So let's start with with the event itself, and when it veers into film stuff, the readers not interested in film can stop. How's that for a deal?

My friend (which is a simple word for a multi-faceted relationship) Michelle recently (in the great scheme of things) got several tattoos done by a talented Ukrainian artist. Anya told her about a downtown walk to fund raise for Ukrainian war relief efforts. I heard about it and thought it would be a great way to try out the Canon 7 and Fuji Superia 200 colour film in an urban setting.

A short digression. I don't have any Ukrainian ancestors, as far as I know, but I'm still horrified by what is being done to Ukraine. My massage therapist has Ukrainian ancestry, and I've donated some money to her, to flow to aid efforts. There's a lot of personal initiatives to funnel money to various forms of relief. Whatever works. 

We met up with the group, and tried to ignore the very bad Christian rappers importuning the growing crowd. I don't know if that's their regular beat, or they knew of the walk and decided to try to convert some souls. They were not successful. It was very bad rap.

I loved the colour and intricate needlework! They sang as they walked, and though I didn't understand the words, I could tell it was deeply meaningful to many of the walkers. A few of the photos worked out. At the end M and I went for a fancy ice cream cone, and did some further strolling and more photos. Because taking photos of M is such a hard thing to do.  







Only 6 photos out of the roll, you ask? What happened? Two and half things. Not all the film got shot during the walk, some of it was after. Some of the time I blew the focus on the Canon 7, my bad. And some of it gets into a complicated film thing. Non-film people might just want to scroll down to enjoy the photos, and skip the text.

I'm mostly pleased with the colours coming out of the Superia 200. Look at the red of the bridge in photo 7A, that's pretty close to the colour it actually is. The rich yellow and blues came out quite nicely, and the green of the trees looks right. 

However, that film hated Michelle's skin. That's one of the complicated film things. The two A photos below are the Superia 200, and I had to work hard to get her skin to come out even this nice. Given some selfie experiments yesterday with my face, I can only imagine how badly that film would treat my skin. Yet, scroll up again and look at the woman in photo 4. I didn't do anything special in editing, and her skin looks great.

The other complicated thing is converting the negative to digital. In simple terms, I take a photo of the negative with a macro lens, and normally it is simple. The negative goes into a holder that is supposed to keep the film flat. Click, done. Most negatives are pretty flat so it isn't hard.

Except if the film isn't flat, the digital camera image will be out of focus or distorted. That's what happened to many of the photos from the walk. This film curls hard in 3 dimensions. It curls up like it was in the little canister it comes in, it also cups from side to side, and worst of all it twists longitudinally. (No, I don't think the lab would have done anything different with this film, compared to other films.)

I also think it's a fraction of a mm narrower than other films, which makes it even harder. It is brutal to get it flat in the holder. Some of the shots I could tell looking at the negative they were out of focus, so I didn't mind those. But the rest of the shots just weren't good photos (again, my bad), so I wasn't going to the frustrating effort of getting them into the holder properly.

I've got two more rolls of the Superia 200, and quite frankly, I'm not interested in putting them in the camera. If any of my film buddies wants to have a go, get in touch and we'll go for a walk. If you develop your own film, maybe there's special tricks to tame the curl. Or maybe you use the anti-Newton ring glass trick for digitizing. Get in touch, I'll give you a deal.

So what's the B photos, you ask? Those are Kodak Gold 200, shot on the GW690. Again, these are not meant to be a direct quality comparison. There's very little editing done to these photos, and nothing special done to her face. The red of the bridge is slightly more orange, but that might be an exposure thing, and could probably be tweaked in editing.

7A. Superia 200, then Kodak Gold 200.



8B. I'm still working on exposure, and happy when it works. What I should have done here is opened up the lens and gone for a faster shutter speed to blur out the tree blossoms a bit more. Live and learn.

9. One last shot with Kodak Gold 200 for today. If  you remember the May Image of the Month, here's another view of that space.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Ektar 100 in Canon 7 downtown, plus bonus

So that was a lot of film in a short time! I'd wanted to run some Ektar 100 through the Canon 7, and you'll see the downtown shots below. Then there was a roll of Fuji Superia 200 during the Ukrainian walk. About the same time a roll of Ektar 100 was in the GW690, then a roll of Kodak Gold 200. 

So there's lots of film to look at, which sort of leads to the question, what's the story to go along with them? Which get shown, in what order, and with which other photos? Decisions, decisions. Some people might choose to present them in chronological order, but that's actually really tough, since the film cameras don't date time stamp the photos.

So I'll start with the downtown Ektar 100. This film loves light and colour, so that's what I was looking for. The walk started at The Camera Store to pick up some odds and ends. 

1. The Husky towers, unless there's been some A&D activity and a new company has exerted their primal naming rights. 

2. This mural looks a bit faded in real life, but the film seems to bring some new vibrancy to it. The problem with murals is that often they face a parking lot, or other obstructions. Some might choose to edit all that out and present an idealized view of the mural. I choose to accept that the obstructions are part of the mural. Call me lazy if you must.

3. Part of the fun of using a rangefinder camera is not focussing before shooting. The idea is that you set a fairly closed f stop, and an acceptable shutter speed for the light and being hand held, then some markings on the lens will tell you the range of distances where everything is in focus. Aim at anything between those distances and you'll be good. People doing this get really good at estimating distances. I was doing a bit of his, and this is the best example. I was working on shooting some people on the ubiquitous scooters, when this rowdy pedal pub appeared from the other side of a big truck. Click.  






9. As a bonus, Superia 200, after the Ukrainian walk.

10. And a bonus bonus, Kodak Gold 200, GW690, after the Ukrainian walk.

The other photos will appear here when I figure out a coherent story to go along with them. What do you have to look forward to? Flowers, landscapes, reflections, Ukrainians walking, Michelle, and Fish Creek. Some might appear in my other blog's 'Of the Day' section. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Canon 7 film experiment

Those who have been following along know that a few months ago I picked up a Fujica GW690 film camera, and have been out with it several times. The most recent trip was Lesueur ridge walk. Those shots are part way through the roll. I'm hoping to finish the roll this weekend and see what I got. This is a rangefinder style, which I find is fun to use, though I'm still coming to trust the distance scales on the lens.

But I'd been thinking that a similar style camera for 35 mm film would be fun, and easier to deal with in an urban setting, or under less composed circumstances. Plus, it's easier to experiment with a film or exposure technique when there's 36 shots, rather than 8. 

The most well known choice is a Leica. Even non-photographers know the name. Most photographers know that some of the most famous photographers used them. They are considered to be some of the most desirable cameras to own and use because of their superb build quality. Many people think they are the most perfect camera of that style yet produced, and are often the standard by which others are measured.

The only problem is that they are expensive. Really expensive. Now, I'm a firm believer in the idea that you often get what you pay for, and that buying cheap is a false economy. But this is over the top. I have held in my hands a Leica about my age old, and could have bought it. (Let's not say too loud it looks much better than me, with far less wear and tear.) The body and a good lens were north of $5000. Yes, 3 zeros. 

I continued my research, and came up with the Canon P and Canon 7. They're of a similar vintage and considered excellent quality. There were others on the list as well. So during the most recent trip to the store in Longview with the Leica I asked if he ever came across either of those two in his travels. As it turns out he had two Canon 7 cameras in stock. The camera, a lens, some film, and some other odds and ends was less than $1000. (As a side note, if you know that store, and are burning to buy a Leica, be advised he knows perfectly well what he has there, and doesn't haggle.)

Now imagine putting the same kind of film into the 7 and that Leica, and carefully taking the same shot with each. Same settings and everything. Develop the films in the same batch of fluids. Scan or print them as identically as possible. Even experienced photographers would have trouble identifying which image was shot by which camera. Which is another illustration of why the photographer is the important part of the image taking equation, not the camera.

When I got home I told Linda I had saved more than $4000, and if I did this every day, I'd make far more than when I was working. Except, as she gently reminded me, it doesn't work like that. Sigh. For the photographers out there, the lens is a Canon 50 mm f1.4. Please don't drool on it.

Here's both cameras posed on a pile of film, the Canon 7 on the left.

I started off with some Visions3 50D cinema film wound into a 35mm canister. This is a film that loves colour, so I loaded some up on a sunny day and went looking. I was trying to be careful of the settings (pretty much dead on what the light meter and sunny 16 advised) and how the camera felt in my hands. Overall I was astonished at how vivid the colours are! Tweaking the white balance was a bit tricky, but these are shot with a DSLR, and run through NegativeLabPro with pretty much the default settings. 

Here's some of the photos. 

1. Those yellows!


3. For me, one of the tests of how a photo looks is how it handles green. We all know what grass, and plants, and trees look like. Pushing the settings to get an 'artistic' effect can sometimes drive those greens into looking strange. Do these look strange to you? I thought not.

4. The chairs, blue vases, and the stone wall look like this in life under strong sunlight.

5. I've never really liked digital reds, but I swooned when I saw this garden decoration. That is exactly what colour it is. I can't wait for the red peony to bloom.

6. An attempt to produce art out of shipping containers, but the colours are very true to life.

7. More industrial colour. I think it's been a while since it was painted. Or cleaned.

8. Our car is that blue.

9. The graffiti  really pops, although remember the orange.

10. More graffiti, no tweaking required.

11. Yes, it really is that lurid.

12. My one downcheck. Remember the orange above? I remember these scooters being a similar orange. Yet they come out as a peculiar red orange, and nothing I did would change that.

Am I going to get more of this? Maybe. I love the colour, but I'm still getting a grip on what Ektar 100 looks like, and I want to shoot some of the new Kodak Gold, and I just picked up some Fujifilm Superia 200. The downside of the cinema film is that it takes a specialty developer process, ECN-2, and my lab has a two roll minimum for it. 

At the moment I've got Ektar 100 loaded in both cameras, so I'll probably take them both out and try to do at least one photo of the same scene, using equivalent settings. 

Am I loving the Canon 7? Yes. More than the GW690? Not more. I'm thinking they'll be used for different kinds of photography.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A city walk in film

My intent was mainly to go for a film walk with friends. It's always more fun with friends. Kelly had to bow out at the last moment, but Cam and Ann came along. Cam was shooting infrared, Ann was shooting both film and digital, and I only brought the GW690 and 2 rolls of Ilford Delta 100. I was looking for contrast and texture, and places where there's some detail to see how it shows up, although I'm still getting the hang of B&W. I put a yellow filter on the lens. 

We met up in Kensington mid-morning. The day started cloudy, and gradually cleared. It ended up being a lovely day to stroll and look for photos. I took careful notes so if you really want the settings, and ask nice, I'll tell you.

If you've skipped ahead you know there are only 12 images, out of the 16 you were expecting. No, I'm not holding out on you. I blew focus on one of them, even though I was trying really hard. Maybe I moved the camera a smidge. I don't have a lot of luck shooting up at buildings so far.  Two of them were the same shot with different settings and neither worked out, not even a little bit. And the last was another skyline shot with different settings. Trying to expose to bright and dark clouds is tricky.

These are generally fairly lightly edited in both Negative Lab Pro and Lightroom. I'm still trying to get a feel for how much to edit film photographs, and which program to do it in. There were only a few dust spots and one hair to deal with.

1. I was liking the tangle of vine stalks on one side of the window, and the shadow of the tree on the other, but I didn't 'see' the vertical shadow. Then I saw it on the negative and wondered what had happened. I'm pleased with it as a focus exercise, and to get a grip on the detail the lens can capture on film.

2. The textures of the white wall, the concrete, and the newspapers caught my attention, but somehow the photo doesn't capture what I saw.

3. We all loved this house. It took forever to get the shot because there was a group of kids picking up garbage along the sidewalk, and they hung out in just the wrong place. I'm not sure what the pentagonal reflection above the door is, but the same thing showed up in the Plaza shot later, so I'm wondering if there's something on the lens or yellow filter that catches the light just like that.

4. This really should have been a colour shot. 

5. Cam working on an idea.

6. One of the better images from the day. I liked the contrast between the two buildings and the trees. Kind of a pity I didn't have someone posing in front of the gate, but they would have been tiny in any case. That building on the right was dark, and it took a bit of doing to brighten that up, (and nothing else) to bring up the texture of the brick. The detail in the tree branches is just amazing! Embiggen and enjoy.

7. This image turned out exactly like I envisioned it! I loved the play of light on the stairwell and door, and I'd love to try to convince you I saw the hand rail and shadow alignment. This is my winner from the two rolls.

8. I wasn't in quite the right spot for this shot, but there was a car in the way. The difficulties of street photography and all. 

9. There's that pentagon of light again. This was one of the shots I wanted to get from the walk, and it's mostly what I envisioned. I needed a bit wider of a lens, but the other problem is that they've parked an Airstream trailer just out of frame on the right. I just thought of this; I don't have a lens hood, so maybe the solution would be to have someone holding something so the camera is in shade. Or I could clean the lens and filter really well.

10. Photographers have taking black and white portraits since forever, and I wanted to see how this film would work out. We're in pretty direct sunlight, and in hindsight, I should have got a bit closer. I'm pleased about how the skin tones and textures are handled. We actually got a tour of the Plaza and chatted to the nice lady running it, and she was happy to pose with Cam and Ann. I'm not sure if she is the manager or the owner. Their coffee is good. 

As a side note, Linda and used to go there all the time, back in the day. We'd get their magazine and plan out the month taking the movie showings into consideration. I can no longer recall when we stopped, but I suspect it was late 90's or so, when we started ballroom dancing lessons. 

I'm glad to see that someone bought it after the former owners sold, and hope these guys can make a go of it. I sometimes wonder how movie theatres are still in business when you consider the amazing technologies available now to watch just about any movie or TV show ever made, at any time you like, in the comfort of your own home, with the sound at a comfortable level, and being able to hit pause whenever the bio-pressures make it necessary. But then, why did I let people know I was going for this walk? Like I said, it's more fun with friends.

11. You're probably wondering what the heck is going on here. This used to be a Mexican restaurant at the corner of Memorial and 10th st. I don't know what else it might have been. I'm shooting through the filthy window, trying to get both the reflection of the intersection behind me, and some of the interior details. I'm pretty pleased at how it turned out, since I had no expectations.

12. I ended the walk with 4 shots left. The next day I was off to find them. I was thinking about Strathcona Ravine, but I couldn't figure out where to park. I had to go into the Signal Hill mall anyway, and saw the giant numbers behind it. At the same time I was looking at the dramatic clouds, with a little hole to see some of the mountains. I walked up the hill to the lookout point and tried a couple shots with different exposures. I'm not going to show you those. They're mostly grey clouds with no definition, though my eyes could see it. Even the digital shots didn't show any detail.

Two shots to go. This is a spot I knew existed, and had almost been to it before, stymied by snow. Another try produced this view, which I was  quite pleased by. I used the light meter and took several digital photos trying to figure out exposure and composition. I did better here than the mountain view.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this. I've done lots of skyline shots, but this is almost more a cloud shot than skyline. (For those that don't know, Calgary is an amazing city for skyline shots. They can be had from almost every direction.) The buildings kind of blend into the the ground, rather than stand out from them, yet trying to brighten them up didn't go so well. Nor am I convinced this composition is good, but just cropping doesn't seem to make it any better. What do you think?

Introduction to this blog


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