Ektar On The Street

These girls asked me to take their photograph when I told them the Hasselblad was a film camera. they had never had their photograph taken with film before.

These girls asked me to take their photograph when I told them the Hasselblad was a film camera. they had never had their photograph taken with film before.

While certainly not my first choice for film to be loaded into the Hasselblad while walking around looking for street shots, well, you use what you have. and once again, Kodak Ektar did not disappoint. I have used it in 35mm format, and in 120, well, it is a truly spectacular film. Crazy sharp, gorgeous colors, and it loves light. Ektar does not have the wide latitude of, say, Portra 400, or the natural looking colors of Portra 160. But it does have such a fine, fine grain, almost like slide film. Highly doubtful that Kodak will produce any new emulsions, and if anything, will keep discontinuing more. But their color offerings in medium format, while limited, are close to perfection. These were taken with the 80mm Zeiss.

The mailbox, a dying breed.

The mailbox, a dying breed.

I am amazed that I still see blog posts from people grumbling that Ektar is difficult to scan. I think it scans beautifully. I do not use any color correction, but many photographers and bloggers still do insist on Photoshopping their film shots to a pulp. You see more soft, dreamy colors online than ever. These films have color that pops, not pastels. If you can get great shots out of the camera, aside from cleaning up dust, and scanning artifacts, well, I see little need to do so.

Even the 80mm created amazing depth of field and gorgeous bokeh.

Even the 80mm is capable of amazing depth of field and gorgeous bokeh.

I think Ektar scans beautifully. And Personally, I see little need to pound pixels with Photoshop with Ektar. but your aesthetics may vary.

The Diner

I shot these in the morning, with the Canon AE-1, 28mm FD, and Kodak Ektar. It was about 9:30, and “the golden hour” was already fading away, to harsh bluish tones. Ektar proved to be the ideal film for the conditions. And the subject. The colors of the 5 & Diner, now closed, were perfect for the film as well. I’d love to come back to this site, and maybe photograph it with patrons, if it does indeed ever reopen.

Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? None- now closed.

Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? None- now closed.

Another opportunity here may be to go even wider, with a 24mm. But for these shots, 24mm worked out so nicely.

This shot reminds me of the Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores, CA. Stacks.

This shot reminds me of the Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores, CA. Stacks.

I love wide-angle shots that take advantage of shallow depth of field. The example below is quite illustrative of this.

Shot close to wide open.

Shot close to wide open.

The Five & Diner is much too nice of a new school diner concept to remain closed. Here’s hoping it comes back to life soon.

The doors remain closed for now.

The doors remain closed for now.

Ektar And People

“The best camera is the one you have with you.” -Chase Jarvis

I’d take that a step further, and say that the best film is what you have loaded in your camera. A few weeks back, I loaded up a roll of Ektar 100 into the Canon AE-1, and brought the 28mm, 50mm, and, the 135mm. The 135 ended up seeing the most use on this day, as I came across a 6K benefit road race to raise money for the Worcester Fire Fighters Association. The film was already loaded into the AE-1, with the goal of taking full advantage of the fine grain and colors of this gorgeous emulsion.

90150018

Shot at 1/30th of a second, and panning left to right.

In selecting shots for the blog, and to post up on the Flickr groups, it truly was hard to narrow down them down to a favorite, select group. These truly are my favorites. I know the above was taken at 1/30th/sec (Shutter Priority once again to the rescue), but I do believe this next one was taken at 1/60th, as evident by the reduction in motion blur.

Much less behind the runner is thrown out of focus here.

Much less behind the runner is thrown out of focus here.

Finally, at the finish line, I decided to match the lens length with a more appropriate 1/125th/sec. It also made for some great results, as after the finish line, no one really seemed to have the strength on a hot summer morning to run any further.

Time to cool down.

Time to cool down.

Ektar really is not that bad for skin tones, if you maybe reduce your saturation slightly after scanning. Also, if you give it some light, a good amount of it, when you shoot, it really does tend to look much better than underexposing. But, a lot of this is really subjective. Of course, I would have had Portra 160 if I had a choice. but, the best film really IS the one you have with you.

Revisiting Kodak Ektar- The 35mm Flavor

The name Ektar is an acronym for Eastman Kodak TessAR. -Wikipedia

Kodak Ektar is a beautiful color negative film. As Kodak claims it to be the finest grained color negative film, I wanted to take another roll of it for a spin, this time in 35mm. My latest results with Portra 160 have been quite disappointing, with a lot of blown out skies and overexposure. The blown out sky phenomenon, a few years into film photography, is somewhat puzzling to me still. Is it metering? Is if filtration (or lack thereof)? Is it the emulsion? As I have had some success with Ektar, the punchy colors and almost watercolor painting-like look of the film continues to keep drawing me back to it.

An almost ideal color negative film for sunsets.

An almost ideal color negative film for sunsets. Worcester, Massachusetts.

These shots were taken with the Nikon F2S, 28mm AiS Nikkor, and 135mm f/2.8 Ai Nikkor. A sidenote- the “rabbit ears” of the 135 were not engaging with the coupling pin of the F2. They somehow were bent, or damaged, by the previous owner. A kind reader on the outstanding photo.net forum was generous to send me a replacement set, along with new screws. An easy 5 minute swap, and the lens couples perfectly to the F2’s DP-2 Photomic light meter head.

Nikon F2S, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Ai. With the right light. Ektar's sharpness can be truly spectacular.

Nikon F2S, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Ai. With the right light. Ektar's sharpness can be truly spectacular. The red bias is noticeable here.

An untechnical capsule review: the film seems to heavily emphasis reds. The colors are so saturated, you almost have to pull the saturation down, a lot, in Photoshop. Yes, it is sharp, but not overly so. It scans beautifully. It is what was once thought of as a medium speed film, but with more and more color negative emulsions being discontinued by the day, it is one of the slower ones. it does not have the wide latitude of, say, Portra 400. In my experience, it is less prone to overexposure than, say, Portra 160. In my experience with that film, your exposure has to be pretty much dead on, or highlights will blow like the 4th of July.

Fly Fishing- Mirror Lake, Devens, Massachusetts

Fly Fishing- Mirror Lake, Devens, Massachusetts

While I have had some success with skin tones in the larger 120 medium format version, in 35mm, it will produce typically some very ruddy complexions. Like any photography, your mileage may vary. The above shot had the subject in the shadows, back turned. Not a problem here. For portraiture, there are much better choices, such as the above mentioned Portra 400.

In conclusion, Ektar is indeed a lot of fun to shoot. I would not leave it loaded up in my 35’s all the time. But a case of it in 120 is going to get a lot of work in the Hasselblad this summer.

The Hasselblad 500 C/M – The Camera That Still Inspires Awe

My Hasselblad 500 C/M, On Location, As Taken With The iPhone 4 (I Know....)

My Hasselblad 500 C/M, On Location, As Taken With The iPhone 4 (I Know....)

Ever since the Apollo program, I have lusted after Hasselblads. Yes, they went to the Moon. Swedish design and build, whipped up through the genius of the late Victor Hasselblad. The incredible, sharp, but dreamy, 6×6 cm image they produce has incredible sex appeal. The camera itself, looking like no other, yet highly functional, and beautiful in their simplicity (except for loading for the 1st time). The mystique of owning one of the finest photographic instruments on the planet. Someday, I had to have one. And of course, the killer optics of the German Carl Zeiss glass.

That day became reality last summer, at Photographica, the twice a year show held by The Photographic Historical Society of New England. The condition was right. the price was right. The extras, including the reverse corrected landscape prism, Polaroid back, and strap, were part of the kit, as was the A (automatic) 12 magazine of the newer design. The Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 lens, with its renowned corner to corner sharpness, and near distortion free perspective, is true industrial design brilliance.

A Favorite Hasselblad Shot- TMax 100, Noore State Park, Paxton, MA 6/12/11

One Of My Personal Favorite Hasselblad Shots- TMax 100, Moore State Park, Paxton, MA 6/12/11

Drawbacks? Pet peeves? The fastest 1/500th sec. shutter speed drives me crazy. Mainly because I do like to photograph on occasion midday, and well, this is New England. Sunlight is bad, and harsh. But I don’t want to be limited to “the golden hours”. This is a leaf shutter system, with the shutter in the lens itself. Older Hasselblads, like the 1600, and 1000, had comparative flimsy focal plane shutters located in the camera body itself. they were notorious for failing. This system is extremely reliable, but again, 1/500th is the fastest you can use.  Another? Accessories are not cheap. Nor is periodic maintenance/ CLA (clean, lube, and adjust). This is an all mechanical camera. It will likely run forever. But like a car, it needs to come in for “oil changes”. I think a lot of folks truly do take advantage of people with accessory and maintenance prices, mainly because of the Hasselblad aura. The cameras were expensive, so let’s make everything else expensive. It is what it is. Maybe similar to a Mercedes owner who pays $100 or more for a simple oil change.

The pluses? One could go on and on. The insanely sharp, but dreamy looking images. Even wide open, they look incredible. The square 6×6 negative, not subject to photographic cliches such as “the rule of thirds”. You can crop if you want to, but not sure anyone would want to! The system concept, also adopted by Nikon in 1959 with the “F”, two years after Hasselblad introduced the 500 C/M, is fantastic. My model was built in 1988. You can get countless parts, accessories, and add ons, for this camera, practically anywhere online, and even through Hasselblad itself. Their “V System” catalog is a must read for any Hasselblad owner. The camera makes for a great landscape camera, and when handheld properly, a one of a kind portrait camera. With the waist level finder (WLF), it is the ultimate children’s portrait camera (when they are fairly still, that is). If it is action you seek to capture, opt for a different camera, maybe a 35mm.  For more “posed” shots, the Hasselblad is truly special.

The camera takes 120 roll film. 12 shots/magazine. If you pick up a second A12 magazine, as I did soon after buying the camera, you can theoretically load one magazine up with, say, Ektar, the other one up with maybe TMax 100, and have one B&W supply, and one color. As they are both 100 speed films, you can use the same metering, and just swap backs mid roll. Don’t forget to insert the darkslide, as you can now take the magazine off, and protect the film from light exposure. While you’re at it, buy an extra darkslide. I keep a third one in the bag- guarantee someday one will be left behind somewhere. There are 220 film magazines available (24 shots/roll), which I have yet to try.

Leominster State Forest, Massachusetts, TMax 100, 6/19/10

Leominster State Forest, Massachusetts, TMax 100, 6/19/10

There are lots of great online resources that are very helpful to learn operation of this camera. I still have not become used to the “ground glass” focus system. There are distance calibrations on the barrel of the lens, in meters and feet, that can be helpful. A year after owning it, and I am still what I’d consider in the learning stages. It is simple, yet very complex. Simple to learn, challenging to master. Still a work in progress, for sure. Just wish I had more time to get out there and shoot. The career does get in the way- once you get your 1st shots with a Hasselblad, you are hooked.

Trivia- the Hasselblad makes a cameo appearance in Apollo 18, which I saw last weekend. The movie is suspenseful, visual eye candy. Check for it on board the lunar rover.

Prices on these systems are great right now. Especially compared to what they sold for brand new. There are indeed values to be had. I would strongly buying a camera that was, as was mine, recently CLA’d. It will pay off in the long run.

If you have always wanted a Hasselblad, take the plunge. No regrets. None.

Seeing Double

Starting out in film photography just a couple of years ago, there once was a time when “mistakes” such as this would drive me nuts- the dreaded double exposure. Now, I love when these things happen. Mistakes can make for some cool images. Playing with the controls of the F3HP in the field, here in Ayer, Massachusetts, yielded this fun shot, with Ektar 100. I shot this with one of the best zooms of its era, the Nikkor 28-50 f/3.5 Macro. Its color rendition and contrast are phenomenal. And it blows away the long-held myth that zooms of the early 80’s weren’t that good.

Ayer is a sleepy little town that I used to drive through coming home from college, and heading back to campus after weekends. It has a certain New England charm to it.

PS- that is a bird flying in the middle left part of the back exposure, over the brick building.

Double Exposure In Ektar, Ayer, Massachusetts

Double Exposure In Ektar, Ayer, Massachusetts

Slow Shutter, Handheld

Not too much to say about this one. I hate tripods, and try to handhold as much as possible. This was at a slow shutter speed, with my FE-2, and 50 f/1.8 Ai. And, Extar 100. I have no idea what the vertical “wipe” is to the left- maybe a double exposure, or the shutter doing something wacky. I seem to remember the wind priefly sticking before taking the shot. Anyways, this was at beautiful Moore State Park, Paxton, MA. Very pleased with it. Nice change of pace from B&W, too. What better way than with Kodak Ektar.

Ektar, Slow Shutter Speeds, H2O

Ektar, Slow Shutter Speeds, H2O

Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Ektar

Was visiting the campus at Worcester Polytechnic Institute last month. Located on Boynton Hill in Worcester, Massachusetts, it is a private polytech university, which despite beling located in the city, has very much a suburban feel. Despite being private, it is not gated, and the public can walk through the campus. Took my Nikon FE-2, 50mm f/1.8 Ai Nikkor, and Kodak Ektar 100. Despite being late afternoon, with the bluish color temperature, managed to take some nice shots. This is Boynton Hall-

Boynton Hall, WPI, Worcester, MA

Boynton Hall, WPI, Worcester, MA

And this is Alden Memorial, where performances are held, as well as computer music laboratories-

Alden Memorial, WPI

Alden Memorial, WPI

Colleges and universities are great places to explore and photograph. This campus is incredible in the fall, and may call for another photowalk this September.

Argus C-3 First Roll

Have had a blast playing with the Argus C-3 Standard. This camera, along with variations (the original, the Matchmatic, the “rare’ Golden Shield Matchmatic), was likely the most popular 35mm of its day. Yes, I do slam it as a piece of junk, as likely, they were. Certainly compared to their contemporaries, and more modern Japanese 35mm’s, and German rangefinders.  But there really is no better way to learn 35mm film photography than on a completely manual camera such as this one. And, with the sharp, contrasty Cintar 50mm f/3.5 lens, you can get some great shots. I wish a slower ASA/ISO film was available, as these have a top shutter speed of 1/300th sec. The shot below, from my 1st roll, was taken with Fujicolor 200 speed film. The same shot I took with the Nikon FE-2, and Kodak Ektar 100, yielded a slightly sharper image, and of course, even punchier colors. Pretty solid-

Vintage Pickup Truck, Elm Park, Worcester, MA, Taken With Argus C-3, Fujicolor 200

Vintage Pickup Truck, Elm Park, Worcester, MA, Taken With Argus C-3, Fujicolor 200

Argus is a strange, strange cult. You really feel like a mad scientist working one of these things, with the rangefinder gear, and boxy design. But it really is worth the effort.  You do need an external light meter. This scene was metered with the Gossen Luna Pro F.

The very active Argus Collectors Group (http://www.arguscg.org/) just recently held its 10th annual gathering in Eden, NC. The founder, noted collector Ron Norwood is just a wealth of knowledge on all things Argus, and I receive regular updates from the group. Excellent resource.

Ektar-The Real Deal

Fully how digital junkies are now writing, and buying software that mimics film emulsions. To which I always ask, why don’t you simply load up a film camera (assuming you know how to shoot film, something many digital photographers have no clue how to do), and just have fun? Certainly shooting Ektar 100 is incredible fum. The grain really is the finest, although I never really minded grain. The colors are incredible. Yes, I miss Kodachrome, but this stuff really is spectacular. These were taken with the Nikon FE-2, and the gorgeous Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 Ai, the one Joshua Cohen proclaimed ” (the lens) is one of the sharpest that Nikon has made and has a beautiful machined
aluminum feel that has been lost in the AF era….”

I met Philip, a homeless Vietnam War veteran, on the way back to the car. After helping him out, and chatting with him about corrupt police officers, and dishonest lawyers (gee, there’s a shocker), he agreed to let me take a few pictures of him while begging for money to eat. The man is very clearheaded, and was not on the bottle. And served his country well while in the Marine Corps. Another photographic myth shattered. When I first shot Ektar in medium format on the Hasselblad last year, I kept reading “don’t use Ektar for portraits, you won’t like the fleshtones”. Don’t believe any photographic zealots- these are the same people who tell you to only shoot RAW when shooting in digital, but don’t tell you why. The same people who tell you to observe the often times silly “rule of thirds”, without asking which format you are shooting in. For example, the rule falls apart totally when shooting in the Hasselblad’s magical 6×6 square format. Anyways, I love these shots. Rules were made to be broken.

If you look closely, you can see genuine dispair in this man’s face. One of many in this country who served his country, but is now lost and forgotten. we all have our stories, and we all have our dramas. Next time you meet a veteran, be sympathetic, remember the sacrafice that was made, and, try to help that person out. I will remember my chat with Philip, forever.