A Study in Light, Form, and Films

     I've been on a roll (...get it?) recently with experimentation.  Sometimes I get bored with my regular work, and so I force myself into something new: new film, new camera, new lens, new subject, etc.  Last weekend, I loaded up an Olympus XA, a gift from my dad, for the first time.  As if shooting with a new camera wasn't a challenge enough, I also decided to use some Retrochrome (government surplus of Ektachrome that was discontinued years ago) that was graciously given to me by a fellow film enthusiast.  

     The intriguing thing about this film is that it can be C-41 or E-6 processed.  Supposedly the results are best with E-6, but that would've required a lot of waiting and I was feeling impatient, so I dropped it off with my local lab for C-41 instead.  The results were interesting and I feel confident in saying that I should put a roll of Portra 400 through the Olympus next, and a roll of Retrochrome through my Leica instead; combine new-with-familiar systems rather than new-with-new systems.  I put the film through every kind of lighting I could find and found that it performed best in open shade.  I also discovered that the Olympus viewfinder is pointless and I should just study the rangefinder to determine focus.  Here are a few from this combination.

 Most images came out extremely green/yellow.  Here's some dappled lighting/end of the roll :-)

Most images came out extremely green/yellow.  Here's some dappled lighting/end of the roll :-)

 Indoor, artificial lighting.

Indoor, artificial lighting.

 Indoor natural, directional light.

Indoor natural, directional light.

 Full, almost direct sun.

Full, almost direct sun.

 Open shade.

Open shade.

 More open shade.

More open shade.

 Backlighting :-p

Backlighting :-p

 Side lighting.

Side lighting.

     So that was take 1 of really investigating obscure film.  I've got 15 more rolls of off-name emulsions to shoot through, so definitely more fun on the way.  Surprisingly, this wasn't enough to scratch my creative itch and I was excited to find an expired roll of T-Max 400 in the fridge that came from my dad years ago.  I've really only shot with HP5 for B&W work, so I was curious how this would perform.  

     I've long wanted to get into fine art nudes but could never find any willing friends, for some strange reason...so I took matters into my own hands.  Now, when someone thinks of film photography, they tend to think of light and airy outdoor shots, oozing with glowing happiness and lush reds, peaches, and greens.  I, however, consider myself the melancholic philosopher type (albeit with a healthy dose of optimism!) that is more drawn to dark and moody images, even better if they're shot indoors.  The trick?  It's HARD to pull this look off on film, but I was determined to try.

     Even though the film was long expired, I still rated it at its box speed, 400.  I figured since it's medium format, I'd be able to deal with any grain that may result regardless, so I chose not to overexpose in camera (I was right...I'm still shocked at how little grain was present).  I then set up my Mamiya on top of my scanner since my tripod couldn't get low enough of an angle.  Half of our bedroom walls are painted black, so that was the perfect backdrop, and then I opened up the curtains only about 10 inches to let in a small stream of overcast light.  I meticulously metered off of my leg to get my settings just right, 1/30 and f4, and was finally ready to shoot.  Here is a handful of results:

     I had to set up a mirror behind the camera to study the light and shadows on myself before setting the self-timer, but I was unable to see that the top of my hair would be cut off in the frames.  Oh well, still pleased with the results and honestly absolutely shocked at the detail T-Max provides.  The fogging in some of the shots was due to a processing error on my part, but it doesn't kill the images for me.  I screwed up the amount of fixer I needed since I've only developed 35mm film up until this point (120 film on the reel in the tank is wider, so the chemicals didn't reach all of the emulsion unfortunately).  I'll do better next time, and hopefully track down some fresher T-Max!