EXPERIMENTIA VELVIA

Continuing my current pre-occupation with all things film, I thought I'd share this recent experience with some Fuji Velvia 100F.

For those who don't know, Velvia is a colour reversal slide film which when developed becomes a positive transparency, as opposed to an inverted negative. It is known for its fine grain and saturated colours. Sadly, it has now been discontinued but I found a few expired rolls on Ebay some time ago. I bought them and put them away in a drawer.. for like, years. Oops, now even more expired. I think it's now somewhere around ten years out of date, but I don't have the boxes so not sure precisely. 

Well, I finally got round to shooting a roll in my old Nikon. Now, there is a rule of thumb which says you should overexpose by one stop for every ten years past it's use by date a given film might be. Ok, no problem. Only thing is, being quite a slow film to start with - 100 iso/asa, this did result in some rather slow shutter speeds under lower light conditions, meaning an increased risk of camera shake and blurry photos. I think you can see this in some of the frames but overall I'm quite pleased with how things turned out.

Being my first and only experience (so far) with this film, I was interested to see what all the fuss was about in relation to colour saturation. I knew the results I would get might be compromised in some way because of it's age, and I think that is the case. There are a couple of frames which show it nicely, but a lot of the rest seem a little flat to me. Not unpleasant, far from it, just not perhaps as saturated as things might've been.

Over all I'm happy that the film is useable. I have three more rolls of it in the fridge. All I need to do is decide where and when to use it... :)

See what you think.

OH YEAH.. FILM!

Well, it's a funny old world..

I shoot digital and I love it. No two ways. The technology available to us today is fantastic, and it just keeps on getting better. It's astonishing, and my only gripe is: I wish that camera manufacturers would actually slow down. An updated model every five or six years would be about right.  As it is, it's pretty much yearly and it's nuts.

Of course, I am of an age whereby any early explorations and experiences with photography for me necessarily took place using film, a long time before the advent of digital. When I was a kid I was lucky enough to have a dear family friend living in our attic, developing and printing Cibachromes and other colour processes. I can still remember the sheer magic of being invited into the darkroom and watching gorgeous rich colour images being brought to life through a soup of noxious chemicals. I myself dabbled with black and white printing whenever I got the opportunity to use someones darkroom, but many years passed before I truly embraced the photographic medium. By then digital had well and truly arrived, and for a long time now it has been my day to day bread and butter...

Then one day I was reading an article extolling the virtues of the Olympus XA (pictured above.. see the digital goodness of that shot? mmmm... oops sorry I digress). A tiny, compact rangefinder camera originally released in 1979. '..oooh I remember those!' It is essentially an aperture priority camera. You choose the aperture and the camera works out the shutter speed. Focus is achieved by way of a split screen rangefinder patch in the viewfinder, and the f/2.8 Zuiko lens was apparently renowned for its sharpness and contrast. I got hooked. 'Hmm, how would it be to play with film again..?' So I went straight onto Ebay and snagged one for cheap. Coupled with a few rolls of film I managed to find for a pound a pop, yes one pound! I had a tiny inexpensive film based set up, light enough for a jacket pocket. There are the associated costs of developing, but again, I found a lab where I can get a roll done for three quid. My good friend (Dave Watts top geezer) has graciously offered me the use of his scanner... Let the fun commence.. :-)

I have only put one roll through it so far but here are my findings:

I LOVE IT.

After years of shooting digital, the experience of being constrained by a roll of film is strangely refreshing. Because there is no way of seeing what you're getting, you are forced to slow down. Waaaaay down. You want to make each frame count so it really makes you look, think and question whether or not to press the shutter.

The quality. This is where, for me, it gets interesting. Having become so used to the nature of a digital file, I had begun to overlook how utterly gorgeous an image shot on film can be. There is a richness of tone and a level of dynamic range which I had almost forgotten existed. Add to that the grain which film emulsion necessarily yields, and you have a very specific look which gives a much more organic feel than a digital file. And this is all from a little compact camera loaded with very cheap 35mm film. Imagine what you can get out of a medium format set up... Drool.

And, the magic. It's just, well.. like magic. I feel a bit like a kid again. It's hard to put into words, but knowing what's going on inside that little black box when you press the shutter and make an exposure brings me joy. It's chemical man. It's analog. It's old school. And it changes things. In a good way.

So, this is just a start. I foresee a lot more film passing through my workflow. Fortunately I already have an old Nikon SLR for more versatile 35mm work, and a Bronica SQ-A for medium format. Hurrah!

For now, see what you think of these initial frames. Click for large.

Cheers

B


OLYMPUS XA, ON AGFA VISTA 200