Thursday, June 22, 2023

The score, 21-13-5-5-4 to 48

You're probably wondering what sort of a game produced a score like that. The film photography game, that's what.

So firstly we're talking medium format, using the GW690 loaded with Ektar 100, or Kodak Gold 200. I'd taken some flower photos with the Gold 200, still working out how red appears on film. Then mid-June Sean (check out his many photos from a recent Europe trip!) and I headed out Sheep River. The winter gates had just been opened, so we went all the way to the end, and scoped out the state of the river. He is contemplating a hike where in the first 100 m you have to wade the river.

We drove back to the main target for the morning, Sheep Falls. I was pretty sure I'd been there, but I had no actual memory of it. Even the photos I have of it from a Zeller road trip didn't cue anything. However once I got there and wandered around a bit, it all came back to me. The main area these photos are taken from is a rock shelf that slopes into the river steeply enough that I was thinking very carefully about my footing, and it was dry. I don't think I'd walk out there if it was wet.

The point of the trip for me was film long exposures. I happily played with several compositions in tricky light, bracketing most of the photos. We had full morning sun, but with deep shadows on wet dark rock. From there we did the short drive downstream to Indian Oils. I remembered this well enough, but had forgotten just how badly the bridge messed up waterfall compositions. Darn those engineers for building a bridge in the cheapest and most convenient place! 

I was using a 10 stop ND filter, and most of the exposures ranged between 20 and 50 seconds depending on the film and the exact light levels. However, the concept of reciprocity failure did not enter my brain, and it should have for those films. All these could have used a bit more exposure time. Then again, trying to capture white water and dark rocks in a single exposure is tricky.

1. Three of Sheep Falls from slightly different places, slightly different exposure times. While many people like the falls themselves, I'm often more interested in the subtle textures and colours in the water just downstream of the falls.



4. OK, you got me, not a long exposure. 

5. Another not a long exposure. One of the thoughts I was thinking was to overlay a long exposure on top of a regular exposure and see what that does for the textures. The first attempt at doing that in Lightroom didn't work, so I'll have to buckle up and try Photoshop. If you hear distant swearing, that's probably why.

6. Two slightly different compositions for Indian Oils, trying to avoid the bridge. It's just behind my left shoulder as I'm working on these photos. You can just see the bridge and railing shadow lower left. 


8. Indian Oils canyon downstream of the bridge, with the wreckage of the old bridge visible in the distance. This is a tough exposure with the bright sun and deep shadows. I metered for the distant rock wall just beyond and to the right of the bridge wreckage. The small version below has the shadows a bit dark, but the full size version shows some detail.

9. This is the dark shadowed wall, slightly over exposed and if you do a deep pixel dive in Lightroom you can see it is ever so slightly out of focus on the left side.

The score, you ask?
48 is 6 rolls of film, 8 photos per roll.
21 photos edited. Some here, and in a later blog I'll show the flowers, Takakkaw Falls, and Moraine Lake.
13 bracketing photos that were under exposed, I think because I didn't account for reciprocity failure. My bad. 
5 (covers face in embarrassment) rookie mistakes, in trying to take a normal exposure without taking the ND filter off. Sigh. There are days I think I should print up a little checklist and tape it to the back of the camera.
5 grossly underexposed, badly composed, and out of focus almost images, trying to capture a small segment of the falls in deep shadow while trying to not slide into the river. One leg of the tripod was actually in the river.
4 where I had similar photos and these were ok, but there was a better choice.

After finishing at Indian oils we headed downstream, and I bribed Sean with an offer of lunch in Longview. That let me drop in on the Film Experience camera store to buy more film. We were disappointed that the lunch place we had in mind has closed. Diamond Valley (used to be Black Diamond, now merged with Turner Valley) is a happening place these days, and we had a great lunch there. All in all, another great photo ramble.

I'm thinking I'd like to try going back to Sheep Falls to try some combinations of black and white film, earlier in the morning, gentler light, accounting for reciprocity failure, and some different vantage points. One of the limitations of film is that I need to think about images in sets of 8, to finish off a roll and then try something else. The digital shooters out there are going "See! Digital is better!". And in the sense of changing ISO from photo to photo, doing colour or black and white, or doing in camera HDR, yes, digital is more flexible. However, it's limitations that spark creativity. I'm coming to understand that I want to be the one that creates an image, and not merely be a mobile tripod for the camera.

If you know what reciprocity failure is, or you know that you don't want to know, stop here. If you don't want to miss the next in my irregular postings, sign up for my blog notification email list. To do that, leave a comment here, email me at, or text me.

Big picture, reciprocity failure is film not responding to light in a linear way. For digital sensors if you double the exposure time, you get double the light through the lens, and (duh!) the image will be twice as bright. For film, it mostly works that way, until it gets dark. Film needs a certain amount of light for the chemical reactions to take place. 

So for example, if your light meter is telling you that you need a 5 second exposure, the film might not get enough light in that 5 seconds to trigger the reaction with the silver halide crystals to get an image. For Lomo 100 you'd need a 30 second exposure. With Aros II it would be 5 seconds, and with another film it might be 10 seconds. 

Each film has different reciprocity failure characteristics, which makes life complicated. Often you can estimate that meter exposure time to the power of 1.3 gets you in the ballpark, but it's probably something you want to look up for the exact film in your camera for that photo session. Which I didn't do.

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