Saturday, October 21, 2023

Medium format Ilford FP4+ in Jasper

 I have exposed several rolls of Acros II in my GW690 and quite liked it, but when the time came to buy more, there wasn't any. Such are just one of the trials of a film photographer. I picked out some Ilford FP4+ to try.

The first chance came in Jasper during a mid October trip with Neil Zeller. This was during the Dark Sky festival, but must admit the skies were not as dark as I had hoped. There's a story there, but that's for another time.

One of the nights we went out to a road that's closed for the season. We walked around the gate to the nearby bridge, and set up there. I had a number of digital photos that turned out well, but this is about film. Since it's difficult to aim and focus a rangefinder at the dark sky, I set the focus to infinity on the dial, which I know from experience is quite close. Composition? Given where the clouds were, I set up and aimed the camera straight up. 

One difference between digital and film is the exposure time to produce star trails like this. With digital the photographer figures out the settings to take a photo of the night sky. For me on a dark night, using a f1.8 lens, an exposure of about 15 seconds at ISO 1600 is a good starting place. From there I might tweak the settings depending on how the images look.

Once dialed in, the photographer will set the camera to take photo after photo with no time between them. That's about 4 photos a minute for about 20 to 30 minutes depending on how long you want the star trails to be. Then drop the photos into one of several software programs to stitch the photos together. It can look pretty amazing. Or stitch the images together in a time lapse movie. That's fun too.

With film, one sets up the camera, opens the shutter, and leaves it alone. Oh, and start a stop watch so you know how long it's been open. How long to leave it open is a bit of a question. It depends on the camera lens and the individual film characteristics, and they're all a bit different. My light meter isn't particularly accurate in the dark, and I'm not keen on spending lots of money for an accurate one. Reciprocity failure becomes a relevant word, which is why I liked Acros II for this. 

Which is better? I decline to answer that. They're just different. One difference is that if someone shines a light on the digital camera, that one image is probably ruined. You could drop that one out, and probably nobody would notice. Do that to the film camera, and it might ruin the whole exposure. I'd told people that I was running a film camera down at the end of the bridge and don't walk into it. They didn't. But gradually people migrated down there, and they brought their lights with them. Red lights, but still. I'm a little surprise that third one isn't brighter.

The negatives look a bit odd, in that they are almost entirely white. Once digitized, they are surprisingly easy to tweak to look nice. 

1. 15 minutes exposure.

2. 25 minutes exposure. No change to camera position. I advanced the film and clicked the shutter again. I could probably have gone 30 to 45 minutes.

3. About 20 minutes. At some point during this exposure the dew settled so the white in the middle of the photo is probably condensation. I'd been hoping to let it run for 30 minutes, but people were tired and wanted to pack up.

4. The rest of the photos are around town one morning, wanting to see what street scenes looked like under overcast skies. This is Jasper the bear.

5. Look carefully and you can see the tramway terminus at the top of the mountain.




Overall, I'm not sure what I think of the film. The light was flat and it was tough to figure out exposure with a fairly bright overcast sky, and mostly shadowed streets. I did a bit of extra processing to bring up the shadows and get some cloud definition. Next time I think I'll try in a daylight scene with lots of light and lots of detail. 

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