Dark Future: A shoot on Kodak Portra at 1600


It’s almost November 2019 and that can mean only one thing: we are now living at the time that the original blade runner movie was set!! While there’s certainly no denying that at times it can feel like we’re already living in a dystopian Dark Future, as with all things the reality is often less stylistically pleasing than our celluloid fantasies would suggest – to rectify this, my latest shoot was a Dark Future/Neon Noir/Blade Runner inspired look with the very awesome Charlie Hex 


This shoot presented me with a number of new creative challenges – first and foremost amongst these was lighting. Having scouted out a suitable location (and a huge shout out at this point goes to The Arcade Club in Leeds for hosting us) I also wanted to have some control over the lighting too, but given that we were shooting in a public space and the fact that I also have two cameras to lug around I needed something fairly compact – enter the LED light pad! I then used a couple of sheets of cellophane to create my own lighting gels and voila! 

Ignore the F90X in this pic - I changed my mind at the last minute and went for the F2 instead :)

Ignore the F90X in this pic - I changed my mind at the last minute and went for the F2 instead :)

In the run up to this shoot I rewatched the original Bladerunner movie which has been a firm favourite of mine for as long as I can remember, I also re-watched the sequel Bladerunner 2049 (a film which I went to the cinema to watch when it came out and honestly thought it was a bit rubbish) what was interesting was to re-watch both movies but specifically to pay attention to the lighting and how it is used to enhance the narrative of the story – as it turned out I actually really enjoyed 2049 the second time around and one thing I took from the film as a major inspiration was the amazing colour palettes – in particular the strong use of orange lighting, obviously the creative lighting budget for both of these films far exceeds any resources I was able to throw at this project (my orange lighting gel is just two pieces of cellophane, one yellow and one red laid over each other) but as you can see here with a little thought and a cheap LED light, creative possibilities abound!


 A Dark Future inspired look has been on my wish list for a long time and I was delighted when Charlie got in touch after a casting I posted on FB. The images speak for themselves of course but it’s still worth stating that Charlie absolutely smashed it on this shoot!! I shared a few mood boards with Charlie and she came back with the makeup and outfit looks you can see in these images, this combined with her being super confident in front of camera really helped to realise the vision, a proper creative collaboration! Big thanks too to Charlie’s boyfriend Jony who did a sterling job as human light stand by holding the LED light for me :)


 During the shoot itself we were in the midst of a very busy Arcade location, mixed and changing lighting and I didn’t have chance to visit the space ahead of the shoot (something I had planned on doing) armed with my trusty light meter, Pentax 67 and Nikon F2 I felt confident I could handle things but as always with film you don’t know until you get the films developed how things really turned out.

Looks like my P67 still has a bit of an issue with the frame spacing with this accidental double exposure - fortunately in this case, I flipping love it!

Looks like my P67 still has a bit of an issue with the frame spacing with this accidental double exposure - fortunately in this case, I flipping love it!

 I was also using a brand new (to me) lens the amazing Nikkor H C 85mm 1.8 and wow has this lens blown me away!! It’s perfect for lowlight shooting – most of these images were shot around f2 or f2.8 and for the Pentax 67 I was mostly wide open at f2.4

The Nikon F2 and the amazing Nikkor H C 85mm 1.8

The Nikon F2 and the amazing Nikkor H C 85mm 1.8

As it’s turned out I think most of my fave shots are with the F2 and the 85mm lens, given the low light and relatively slow shutter speeds (all around 1/60) I am very pleased with how they came out.

Now let’s talk about film stocks -  I used Kodak Portra 400 for both 35mm and 120 formats and again, wow! I am blown away at how awesome it looks! I rated the film at 1600 and asked the lovely people at Exposure Film Lab who do all my colour developing to develop the film at 1600 (push it two stops) the results speak for themselves – colour balance is spot on and to my eye they just look RIGHT!


This is the beginning of a wider Dark Future project I’ll be exploring on future shoots mainly cos I’m a Sci Fi geek and have always loved that Neon Noir vibe ranging from Bladerunner to Akira and beyond - I Can’t wait to add some more retro futurist looks to my portfolio and to explore some more creative lighting techniques!


High Fashion in the High Peaks - Portrait Shoot with Chanel Joan Elkayam

Welcome to the latest in my series of creative collaborations which have the express purpose of helping me to grow my photography portfolio as well as grow connections, grow confidence and grow creatively - basically it’s all about growth!


On my travels through this universe I have had the pleasure of meeting some really cool, talented and interesting people - on very special occasions I sometimes have the opportunity to work with them and for that I am supremely grateful! My latest (and perhaps greatest) collaboration so far has been with the very wonderfully talented Chanel Joan Elkayam!


The background to this shoot is that I met Chanel a few years ago when I was 2nd shooting for my friend Ruth, ever since then it has been wonderful to see how Chanel has grown into her amazing success as an Industry recognised Fashion Designer, Chanel is the youngest person to have showcased at all 4 of the major fashion shows London, Paris, New York and Milan and she achieved all of this by the age of 18 - basically she’s the real deal! As you can tell I am full of admiration for Chanel’s achievements and I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her next! you can see more of her work HERE.

For this shoot we wanted to showcase some of Chanel’s fashion designs in a natural setting, we chose Dovestones as our location in part because it’s really local for us both and also because it’s amazingly beautiful too! The weather even behaved itself and gave us lots of lovely sunlight to play with too.


I relied on my now favourite combination of the Pentax 67 as primary camera and Nikon F2 as a second body - this set up gives me tip top quality lenses in both medium format and 35mm and I just really like working with them both. Filmwise it was again an all Kodak affair with Portra 400 loaded in the P67 and a couple of rolls of Portra 800 and a cheeky roll of Kodak Pro image 100 for the F2.


It was so much fun working with Chanel on this shoot, and also a huge thank you to Chanel’s mum too who joined us - it was really lovely to meet her and a big thank you for taking the behind the scenes photos you can see at the start of this blog too! :)

We managed to shoot 4 different looks over the course of a few hours on a sunny afternoon at Dovestones, I really feel like these are some of my best images to date and of course a major part of this is down to Chanel and her amazing designs as well as her talent in front of the lens too, Chanel was lots of fun to work with and made my job easy!

Enough talk!! Here’s some of my fave shots…


So there we go! We got so many great shots together!! I really enjoyed this shoot and loved working with Chanel and her amazing designs. On the technical side of things once again Portra 400 has proven itself to be utterly dependable in mixed lighting situations and every time it renders beautiful tones, contrast and colours - for this shoot I rated it all at 400. Also once again Kodak Pro Image is proving to be another wonderful addition to the line up and some of my fave 35mm shots were from this film :)

The Pentax 67 continues to astound me with the image quality it’s capable of and it’s just so flipping enjoyable to shoot with - here’s to many more creative collaborations to come!

Kodak Pro image 100 & Portra 160 review - Portrait shoot out

Now that I have FINALLY settled on some camera kit that I’ll be keeping around for the long term I can focus my energies on exploring different film stocks - not that I wasn’t doing that anyway but I was finding flitting from one camera to the next a bit of a distraction, for the record the cameras which have won my heart are the Nikon F2 and Pentax 67 - today’s blog features a portrait shoot on the F2 shooting with a shiny new portrait lens and using two different film stocks Kodak Pro Image 100 (a new film to me) and Kodak Portra 160 (a film I have used a few times before)

Whilst the main focus of the conversation will be on looking at the two film stocks first up I’ll take a moment to show you the kit I used on this shoot, I’ll then take you through the shoot itself.


I have just bought the very wonderful Nikkor 105mm 2.5 a lens which has a HUGE reputation as an amazing portrait lens, when i bought it the focus ring was quite stiff so I sent it off for repair to a chap called Miles Whitehead who did a great job of fixing it and it now has silky smooth focus action - I would highly recomment Miles if you have some camera kit in need of some TLC check his site out HERE. In fact as I write this I am reminded that Miles also serviced my F2 when I bought it so double thanks!! :)

I was originally going to include a few thoughts on the 105mm lens in todays blog but I loved using it so much that I think I’ll reserve that for a dedicated blog all of it’s own - suffice it to say that it’s reputation is very well earned, an amazing piece of glass!

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

I think most people will be familiar with Kodak Portra 160 which is a mainstay of Kodak’s professional line up, but what’s this Pro Image 100 all about? I’ve been shooting a lot of Portra 400 and 160 recently and whilst I love both film stocks I am always interested in trying new things and the results I’d seen from Pro Image appealed to me - the other great thing about Pro Image is the price! I got this for £25.95 for 5 rolls!

This film stock has only recently come to the UK/European market - despite being around since the mid 90’s, the stock was only sold in warmer climates, big thanks to the good folks at Nik & Trick for being instrumental in making the case to Kodak for getting this film available in Europe :)

Ok so I have a lovely film camera - check, a great portrait lens - check, a shiny new colour film - check, a beautiful location to shoot in….check! What’s next? I need someone to photograph! Fortunately I’m part of a great facebook group for photographers and models to network and arrange shoots - Danni is someone I met through this group and we’ve shot together before when i was testing out my Pentax 645, you can see those images HERE.

Also worth mentioning at this point that i had my films processed and scanned by the good folks at Exposure Film Lab who I must thank again for their brilliant work, I use them for all my colour films these days because I just love the results I get from them - check them out HERE

The vibe for this shoot was a really natural summer look to make the most of the bright sunshine, we had a beautiful location filled with light, flowers, tall grass and trees - let’s GO!

First up i loaded Kodak Pro Image 100…


Ok then at this stage in the proceedings the word at the forefront in my mind is wow! Danni is a very talented Model which makes my job much easier and the Pro Image film is just lovely :) Let’s move on to the Portra 160 which I loaded up next and we’ll do a bit of a comparsion at the end, here’s the Portra shots…


The entire shoot lasted about an hour (if that) we went for a stroll through some lovely scenery and together we created some properly beautiful portraits full of light and life! Danni is a great model she did a brilliant job on this shoot, she puts lots of character into her work and is just a natural in front of camera, this really shines through the images - we’ve worked together before which I think always helps so we’re relaxed and comfortable working together and meant we were able to just get right into it and enjoy the shoot. I’m over the moon with the photos we created together - thank you Danni :) Check out her portfolio HERE.

In summary then both film stocks are clearly capable of wonderfully sharp, textured images with great skin tones, colour balance, contrast and detail - I therefore love them both! They each have their own look so whilst they’re comparable I think there are some differences to take into consideration. This was never intended as a ‘one film versus the other’ contest in which we have a winner and a loser but rather an opportunity to look at how these two film stocks worked under the same conditions - to that end I simply invite you to make your own mind up which you like best - or maybe like me, you like them both?!

Here’s a few of my thoughts on each stock:

Pro Image 100 - it has a wonderful grain structure, punchy contrast and I love how it handles the greens and yellows, shadows perhaps not holding as much detail as portra, it has a classic film ‘look’

Portra 160 - minimal grain as you’d expect from portra, slightly muted colour palette although in these images it produced stronger contrast than I’d expected, Portra definitely holds on to more shadow detail and also perhaps slightly sharper.

What does all this show us then? Well they’re very close actually, much closer than I’d have thought! One aspect which does create an opportunity for comparison is the price with a five pack of Portra 160 retailing at around £35.99 and a five pack of Pro Image around £25.95 then clearly if budget is the deal breaker then Pro Image is your winner, if you absolutely must squeeze every bit of detail out of the shot then perhaps Portra is the one to choose - ultimately we’re all winners here as we in the UK now have access to the lovely Pro Image and I’ve got 4 more rolls sat waiting to go! I can’t wait to shoot it again.