location shoot

Portraits on film - Night shoot with Cinestill 800T and Lomography 800 Colour

Sharing details of another portrait shoot, this is part of a major ongoing series I’ll be working on as a I rebuild my portfolio - it gives me an opportunity to share some insights on the cameras/films I’m using, the story behind the shoot itself as well as a place to share those photos which might not make it into my main portfolio.

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Having made the switch to full time film only and also recently adopting the very wonderful Pentax 67 as my main camera I have been keen as mustard to rebuild my portfolio, to explore the creative possibilities (and challenges) that shooting with film offers and basically have a shed load of fun along the way :) To that end I have been seeking out opportunities to collaborate with some of the very creative souls I am fortunate enough to know - hence this series of blogs! :)

This shoot was for my mate Paul who is a Music Producer under the pseudonym ‘Gamma Prime’ he’s been working on some new material and wanted a set of publicity images to help promote the new work.

The idea was to shoot at night and make use of available artificial lighting to add some creativity to the portraits, this assignment called for some special film stocks - Cinestill 800T and Lomography 800 and I also used a roll of Kodak Portra 400 too. I’ll give you a bit of an overview of these film stocks along the way and some thoughts on their particular qualities in use. I hadn’t used either the Cinestill of Lomo films before so I was excited to try them out - Cinestill is an expensive option and Lomo is more of a budget offering so we’ll see how they stacked up against each other.

First thing to consider when shooting in low light/night time is to take account of sunset! Golden hour light is there for the taking either side of the actual sunset so before I broke out the Cinestill and Lomo films I used a roll of Kodak Portra 400 to snag some of that golden hour light.

Kodak Portra 400

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Shooting with the Pentax 67 you only get 10 frames per roll of film so you really have to make each frame count! As the light fell I loaded the roll of Lomography 800 and since we were still in golden hour I used the first few frames here. At this point it’s worth stating that in a stand up contest Portra 400 vs Lomo 800 there’s really not a huge amount in it, they’re both great films although I think Portra has the edge - crisp grain structure as you’d expect from portra and shadows hold up well with lots of detail. That being said the Lomo film is no slouch and it has a very definite character and feel all it’s own.

Lomography 800

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We drove into town for the night shots and took a walk through the University Campus to take advantage of the artificial lighting and interesting architectural features. These first couple of frames are still on Lomo 800 and I really like how they came out - a very definite grain charachter which I like very much, shadows don’t hang on to too much detail but in this artificial lighting I think it adds to the effect.

Lomography 800

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The images below are all shot on Cinestill 800T - this film stock is repackaged motion picture film, the stuff they use to make Hollywood movies! I was very excited to try it out and it did not dissapoint! the letter ‘T’ in it’s name designates that it’s a Tungsten balanced film so it was designed to be shot under artificial lighting - as you can see the tonality and detail are really great here.

Cinestill 800T

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Note my iphone acting as a fill light here! Focussing was getting a little difficult as it got darker so this helped - I’m thinking of getting a little LED light to help in future

Note my iphone acting as a fill light here! Focussing was getting a little difficult as it got darker so this helped - I’m thinking of getting a little LED light to help in future

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Cinestill 800T has been processed to remove the Anti Halation layer which in some conditions gives lighting a strange glow, it also appears quite prone to light leaks as you can see on the left side of the above image - although in this case I kind of like the effect!

This shoot was planned as a portrait shoot for a friend to create some promotional images for his work as a Music Prodcuer - you can check out Paul’s music HERE :)

I hadn’t planned to compare and contrast these film stocks but the differences between the final images and the way I shot them presented the opportunity to reflect on the different charachters of each stock, overall I like all of these films and very happy with how they came out - here’s my thoughts on each in turn:

Portra 400 - what is there to say about this film which hasn’t been said already? It’s a classic for a reason and is one of my firm faves - clean grain, great details and rich colours. I’m tempted to explore how flexible this film stock is maybe pushing it to 800 and beyond in lower light to see how it coped. Portra is my go to film, a quality product capable of wonderful results.

Lomo 800 - this was a bit of a wildcard choice and it’s a very solid performer, espeically when you consider the price for a pack of three rolls of 120 is about £18. I shot it in good light and in low light in both situations it doesn’t hold up shadow detail as well as the other two stocks but this shouldn’t put you off, the grain structure is more prominent than either Kodak or Cinestill but this is also not bad news - it gives the film a look all it’s own which is good.

Cinestill 800T - this film blows me away - I love the colours, contrast and tones but more importantly for these shots it’s how the film handles shadows with details holding up really clearly even in very low light, it’s expensive stuff that’s for sure but it’s definitely worth a shot in the right conditions. It’s proneness to light leaking could be annoying if you have ‘THE’ killer shot and some random leaks could spoil your hard work - on the other hand it could just add something to the image!

It’s worth stating at this point that I was really pleased with how the Pentax 67 worked on this shoot, I was able to achieve useable images down to 1/30 of a second in low light which pleases me very much! The 105mm 2.4 lens continues to impress me with it’s ability to create 3D like images with pristime sharpness and beautiful bokeh too.

I have some more creative portrait shoots lining up over the next few months so I’ll be continuing the portraits shot on film series and looking forward to exploring more wonderful film stocks!

Portrait shoot with Arya Ravenswood

I recently had the pleasure of working with my friend Arya Ravenswood who is a practicsing Occult Magician & Witch. Arya wanted to create a fresh set of images to use on her website and Social Media (the occult is a very 21st Century operation ya know) and I was thrilled to be asked to help Arya realise her creative vision!

A huge thank you to Arya for the opportunity to collaborate on these images, check out Arya’s website HERE and also a Periscope TV channel HERE Arya has a real gift - go visit her website and find out for yourselves!

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Since I am in the process of rebuilding my portfolio it was a great opportunity to put my new Pentax 67 through it’s paces on this shoot. To mix things up a bit I also used my Nikon F2 as a second shooter, filmwise on both 35mm and 120 formats this was an all Kodak Portra 400 affair mainly to give a consistent look and feel to the images so that they can hang together as a set and also because I bloody love the stuff!

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Working with Arya was amazing, she created two really strong (and of course very Witchy/Occult inspired) looks for us to shoot, we chose two locations (one for each look) and got to it - here’s the first look shot in a local graveyard.

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We didn’t scout the locations beforehand so it was very much a case of paying attention to our surroundings and allowing ourselves to be drawn towards particular details and working with them; having explored one graveyard we moved on to a second just across the valley. As i reflect on these images now I am reminded of the beautiful surroundings, the palpable stillness, the lush green of the grass and moss covered graves contrasting with Arya’s monochrome outfit, the Occult and Christian symbolism, life and death - as above so below….

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Our second look for the day was an opportunity tor Arya to channel her inner Stevie Nicks with a more bohemian, naturalistic look replete with lace, jewelry, bangles, occult symbols and also incorporating the tools of Arya’s trade - a bronze knife, a crystal ball, a chalice and cauldron. We chose some local woods for this look emphasising the natural elements and giving us a new setting to explore this side of Arya’s persona.

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This second set of images is certainly more expressive than the first and the wooded location was the perfect backdrop - walking through the trees we came upon a rocky outcrop which provided the setting for our shoot being set back from the main path and out of view of inquisitive dog walkers and their dogs! (I’ve never seen people skidaddle so quickly upon hearing that we’re doing a ‘Witchy’ shoot)! ;)

The combination of the Pentax 67 and Nikon F2 worked great for me - the Pentax is capable of some uniquely stunning images with a very distinctive, almost 3D look which I love, the F2 is no slouch either and some of my favourite images from the whole shoot came from the 35mm camera, I think this will be my default combination of cameras for the foreseeable future.

There were so many images to choose from on this shoot! It was great to work with Arya to create these images and full credit goes to her for styling the shoot, she did an amazing job on the day too and as a result we made some powerful images together, I think this is some of my best portrait work to date (if i do say so myself) I wish Arya every success in her Macgickal endeavours!

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Street Portraiture on 35mm film with the Nikon FE2 & F2

 
Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Lots and lots and lots to update you with since the last blog post which was all the way back in December!! I’ve been mega busy with lots of different projects and got loads to tell you all about, so since it’s almost a quarter of the way through already let’s finally get the 2019 blogging season off to a start shall we!

Remember last time I was saying things like “I’m going to focus more on creating photos” and “I won’t be doing as many gear reviews” and “gear just gets in the way” well I still think that’s true but owing to my contrary nature I’d like to introduce you to my latest gear acquistion… the Nikon F2!! Rather than just a boring old review thought this time I’ll be sharing some images i shot with this amazing camera on a recent portrait shoot as well, but first let me take you for a walk around the F2

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Ever since selling my Nikon F3 last year I have had a Nikon F Series shaped hole in my heart/camera collection (check out this link for the reason why I sold the F3) back in mid December I decided (after not very much deliberation) to buy myself an F2, cos ya know..I worked really hard last year and it’s nice to treat yourself every now and again and it was the run up to Christmas and… well, you get the idea…

I found this beauty on Evilbay for the ridiculous price of £70 and so a deal was done, the caveat being that the camera was from Japan so taking a bit of a punt on condition and shipping times, but as with my previous experience of international purchases the shipping is mega quick, it’s really only on arrival into the custody of Her Mahesty’s rip off merchants here in good old blighty that things slow down, after an almost literal ice age in UK customs my camera was finally released to me and there was much merry making and feasting by all….. sort of… two things became clear fairly quickly 1: it was in very good condition and functionally worked perfectly 2: there were traces of dreaded fungus in the viewfinder and in the mirrorbox which didn’t bode well and therefore i was going to have to shell out some more cash (and wait even longer) before getting to grips with the F2 - it’s all sorted now though, fresh from a good clean and service I even managed to negotiate a part refund from the ebay seller which paid towards the cleaning :)

There’s oodles of info out there on the interwebs about the F2 so there’s not much point in me re-hashing it all, suffice it to say that between 1971 and 1980 if you wanted a professional level Nikon SLR then this was it!! Instead of reeling off a list of it’s features and functions I’m going to share with you a series of images I shot with both the F2 and my trusty Nikon FE2 on a portrait shoot recently, I’ll share my experience of shooting with it too of course and no doubt indulge in some techno-babble along the way as is my want…

Oh yes and interesting/geeky factoid alert! The serial number on my F2 is 7865098 and thanks to the wonders of the internet and some Nikon nerds who collate all this info I was able to date manufature of my particular camera to between May & August 1977 - so this camera is only a few months older than me! :)

Ok so that’s enough camera geekery for one blog, what’s the damn thing like to shoot I hear you cry… well… it’s amazing! build quality is second to none, it just feels very well balanced despite being quite a large camera, the viewfinder is HUGE and bright and lovely which makes manual focussing a doddle, alongside the ever brilliant FE2 I now have my perfect 35mm dynamic duo!

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

These images were taken on a portrait shoot with Model Rebecca back in Feb when we had a mini heat wave - I was so glad we made the most of the sunshine! The FE2 was loaded with a roll of Portra 160 and with the F2 I shot a roll of Fuji Acros 100 and a roll of Portra 400 - I enjoyed using this combination of film and cameras so much and was very happy with the results that I decided right there and then that I’m going to shoot film from now on for portraiture.

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the film stocks used on this shoot - I’ve had a couple of rolls of Fuji Acros 100 on ice in the freezer for a few years now and since buying it Fuji have discontinued production :( having only shot one roll of it before I figured I’d give it a whirl and I love the results, developed in HC110 it has a clean and balanced finished with lovely contrast.

Colour film duties were fulfilled by Kodak Portra one roll each of 160 and 400 flavours - I think i overexposed the 400 speed a couple of stops to 200 and shot 160 at box speed - having developed these myself I had some issues getting the right colour balance when scanning at home and for some frames it took me a little while to get the colours to look and feel ‘right’

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

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So there we have it - I was so pleased with how both cameras performed and I continue to be impressed at the quality of the Nikon lenses, the images here were shot on the Nikkor 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 24mm 2.8 and the Series E 100mm 2.8 - super sharp shooters the lot of them! If you’ve not tried an old Nikon camera and lens I would urge you to do so - there’s a reason why these were the manufacturer of choice for professionals back in the day.

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

I developed the colour film at home too - the first time in a long time that I’ve done that, I was really pleased with how they came out and I’ve got a write up of the process and kit that I used on the way, I promise it won’t be another 3 months before I write another blog, in the meantime happy shooting!