Overexposing Portra 800

Being in a small town means a lot of what I learn about film photography comes either from trial-and-error or the internet, so I end up trying different films and various experiments to see how I like the results for myself. I’d read online that Portra 800 is able to be overexposed a lot, increasing saturation but maintaining great skin tones, so I set out to try it. I snagged a box of the stuff in 120 from The Black and White Box to take on our summer camping holiday in Kaiteriteri, and here are the results!

Technical Notes

I metered at 200 ISO (rather than the film’s “box speed” of 800 ISO) for the shadows with my handheld Sekonic incident light meter - i.e. if there was harsh sun I would shade my meter, so no sun was falling directly on it, and take my reading there.

I really like how they all came out and I will definitely be doing this again in the future, especially when I have plenty of light available to allow me to overexpose.

Click/tap a photo to open the slideshow.

-Sam


Hasselblad 500cm // Portra 800 // dev+scan by The Black and White Box

Expired Films: Ektacolor Pro 1000 & T-Max 100

IMG_4855.JPG

Recently I’ve stumbled into buying or receiving a handful of expired rolls of film, mostly expired in the 90s, and I’ve enjoyed shooting them a lot more than I thought! I have come to a place with my photography that I know what film types I like to shoot - I know how they will respond to changes in exposure, I know how to get the colours I want, I know how to work around changing or less-than-ideal lighting scenarios. It’s a good work flow. I know what to expect.

But maybe that’s not the point, for personal photography, to “know what to expect”. Shooting these old rolls (especially the Ektacolor which I couldn’t find much about on the internet) has brought back some of that excitement of when I first started shooting film. It’s kind of exciting not knowing what the colours will look like or if I gave it enough exposure.

I metered for these shots by adding one stop of exposure per decade since the film’s expiry. For example, the TMax was ISO 100 and expired by 20 years, so I set the meter to ISO 25. Ektacolor was ISO 1000 and expired by 20 years, so I set the meter to ISO 250. You’ll see some of these Ektacolor shots are still underexposed (hello grainy/faded shadows/VSCo look), but they still look cool and I had a blast shooting it and waiting for my scans!

Click/tap a photo to open the full size version.

-Sam


Kodak Ektacolor Pro 1000

Shot on Hasselblad 500cm // 80mm f2.8 // dev+scan by The Black and White Box


Kodak TMax 100

Shot on Hasselblad 500cm // 80mm f2.8 // dev+scan by The Black and White Box

Expired Film: Agfa Vista 100

Recently I found a bunch of Agfa Vista 100 for sale locally, and at a bargain price, so I snapped it up! After selling a few rolls and throwing some to Mr. Waru (check out our “Cam & Sam” film adventures on youtube), I loaded up my Olympus XA with a roll to give it a jam myself!

I’d previously shot AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400, so I was expecting that same over-saturated, consumer film look. I didn’t like that film when I shot it so I wasn’t expecting much of this roll. For you film photographers - it’s worth noting though that the more modern 400 speed Vista is not even produced by the same company that these expired Vista 100 rolls were. Without significant research I gather that Agfa at some point became AgfaPhoto, and people claim that the modern Vista 400 is just rebranded Fujifilm stock (it is suspicious that both Fujicolor C200 and AgfaPhoto Vista 200 were discontinued around the same time).

Ramblings aside, these expired rolls were made a long time ago and expired in 2008. I applied the usual rule of 1 stop of extra exposure per decade of expiry, plus the Olympus XA shoots in aperture-priority so I added another stop when I was shooting in the day, to make sure I didn’t underexpose the film. That means I was shooting at ISO 25! Unlike digital, overexposing is better than underexposing, which should be avoided unless you like faded grainy shadows.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the film didn’t have over-saturated colours and the skin tones came out great! I’m glad I saved a few more rolls to shoot myself. I have a few other various types of expired film thanks to Cam, so I’ll be sharing those results soon too!

-Sam


Dev+scan by The Black and White Box // click images to open lightbox

Pushing Portra 400 to 1600

Portra 400 - everybody’s favourite colour film (me included). I’m sure we’ve all read and seen online the rave reviews, the under/over exposure camparisons, and seen the gorgeous tones it renders. What I found out recently though that I hadn’t heard about, was it’s ability to be pushed to 1600 or even 3200 (see Jonathan Canlas)!

I stumbled upon a blog post that claimed Portra 400 pushed one stop (to 800) gives more satisfying results than Portra 800 shot at box speed (800)! What?! Check out that blog post here. Obviously “better” all depends on what look you are after, so I set out to see for myself. Full disclosure: this isn’t a comparison as I haven’t tried pushing Portra 800 - just a test to see what Portra 400 looks like pushed.

My Setup/What is “pushing”?

I loaded up a roll in my Olympus XA. Normally if I’m pushing Tri-X or HP5+ to 1600 I set my meter to 800, so I did the same here. The XA shoots in aperture-priority (meaning you can basically forget about metering) with manual rangefinder focus for the sharp little 35mm f/2.8 lens. It’s nice being able to just focus, frame and shoot. Another benefit of the rangefinder camera is you can shoot slower shutter speeds than you would on an SLR (no mirror = no mirror slap/camera shake)!

So what is “pushing” film? The Darkroom Lab have a very clear guide to this on their blog, if you’re interested in pushing film you should go give it a read here, then come back! It would be a waste of time to repeat it all here but basically, you underexpose the film when you shoot it and you develop longer to compensate for that. When you push film, make sure that you tell your lab how many stops to push it in processing, and that it is marked super clearly on the roll/s! In this case it’s a 400 ISO film pushing to 1600 ISO which is 2 stops, marked as “+2”.

Results

When pushing film you will see added grain and contrast. I really like the way the colours came out! You still have gorgeous Portra tones but with more contrast (a side affect of the push processing) - really nice blacks with little/no weird colours in the shadows. Being able to shoot with smaller aperture or higher shutter speed indoors or in low light is really handy, so I may just have to do this again!

Click an image below to scroll through the gallery and see the results for yourself. Leave me a comment if you have any questions.

-Sam


Ahiaruhe House

I’ve driven/ridden past this house so many times over the years, but never taken the time to get up close. I did take one photo recently while on a motorbike ride with my Dad. This is without a doubt the most photographed house in the Wairarapa - wanting to avoid a cliche shot I got down in the grass:

Shot on Ilford HP5+ pushed two stops / Minolta XE-7 / 50mm 1.4

Shot on Ilford HP5+ pushed two stops / Minolta XE-7 / 50mm 1.4

Some friends (and fellow film shooters) came to the Wairarapa and were keen to check the place out, so we headed out one overcast morning. I was shooting two rolls of film I’d never shot before:

  • 35mm Delta 400 in my Minolta XE-1

  • 120 Ilford FP4 (expired) in my Hasselblad

Shout out to Zach and Xin for the good company! You can check them out on Instagram: @zachetc / @___xin.__ . They just completed a big roadtrip of the North Island and are currently sharing some of their images.


Shooting Thoughts

I don’t often shoot one subject with two cameras (I’m usually carrying one camera with me for the day) but this was a chance to finish off both of these rolls I had loaded so I took both cameras along. My lenses were 50mm on the Minolta and 80mm on the Hasselblad, both ‘normal’ focal lengths for their negative size, so it was relatively easy to switch between the two.

One thing I’ve been struggling with lately is the 50mm lens, especially after using my inherited Olympus XA with it’s nifty 35mm lens. The 50mm lens was a great lens to learn on, lending itself to simpler compositions and subject isolation. I still love it for portraits (and I’ve taken heaps of my favourite photos with it) but I find that over the last year or so I’ve been increasingly looking for a wider field of view - for portraits that capture more of the environment, more dynamic lines/angles that a wider lens can capture. That would have been especially handy in this situation i.e. inside the house. The missing staircase had some interesting light coming in from upstairs and broken stairs in the foreground, however due to the positioning of the walls I just couldn’t get it all in.

Interestingly I don’t have the same feeling with the 80mm lens on the Hasselblad - perhaps this is because the square format lends itself to different compositions, so I’m not looking for the same dynamics in a shot as I would be when shooting on 35mm film with a 2:3 aspect ratio. Any photographers relate?

It was also nice to shoot a still subject - usually I’m trying to capture kids playing or people interacting so this was a nice change of pace. I really “got in the zone” of shooting as I was able to take as much time as I liked to think about/frame a shot. Maybe I’ll find some time to do more landscape-type photography.

Take a look through the photos and let me know what you think!

-Sam