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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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Review of the Bellini Foto 1 Litre C41 development kit

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I realised recently that for someone who says that they don’t shoot much colour film, I shoot a LOT of colour film! In fact over the last 12 months I’ve been shooting colour film stocks more and more regularly - so much so that i finally decided that developing colour at home was a viable option. This was something that I’d done once before a couple a few years ago but I found the results less than impressive and the chemicals difficult to handle, short lived and therefore expensive.

So having cast about for a suitable kit to get back in the colour film developing game I landed upon the Bellini Foto C41 kit purchased from Nik & Trick Photo - you can find the kit HERE - I must stress at this point that I am not being paid (or to cut out the middle man, sent free film) to say nice things about the Bellini Foto kit, this is my genuine honest feedback on the kit (spoiler alert: I think it’s ace) these are just my thoughts and experiences using it. Likewise I’m not being paid to promote Nik & Trick Photo either (spolier alert: I think they’re ace too) they’re a great independent film retailer and champion of all things film, so I am a champion of all things them! ok now all that is out of the way - on with the blog!

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There’s quite a bit involved in todays blog in which I’ll focus on five things:

1: An overview of the Bellini Foto kit

2: The additional bits of equipment I used

3: My approach to developing

4: Scanning the negatives and the results

5: Conclusion

I think that people (myself included) can be a bit put off colour developing because it’s a bit more of an involved process which is true to a point, but really if you can develop black and white (HERE is a blog i prepared earlier on that subject) then really you can do colour - the key aspect which always gave me pause for thought with colour developing was the short shelf life of the chemicals themselves, with the previous kit I’d used lasting about a month which for my purposes is not long enough - happily there is a solution to this problem which I’ll explain later on, first let me show you what’s included in the kit.

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1: An overview of the Bellini Foto kit

The kit i used is the 1 Litre version and comes supplied with Concentrated Developer, Fixer and Stabiliser plus a ready to use bottle of Bleach, mixing the concetrates is very simple as you can see from the instructions pictured above that are included in the kit.

You get enough developer and fixer to make 1 litre working solutions and loads of stabiliser - enough to make 10 litres! more than enough - which is good because I promptly spilled half of my bottle of stabiliser on the kitchen floor! :(

The key thing with developing Colour even more so than Black and White is to ensure you keep water temperature at a constant 38 degrees, it’s critical in fact!

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It’s worth stating at this point that whilst none of these chemicals are any more dangerous than stuff you have under the kitchen sink, since you are working directly with the chemicals then gloves are essential, as is working in a well ventilated room - this goes for black & white and colour developing - safety first folks!

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2: The additional bits of equipment I used

Getting the Bellini kit is one thing but getting set up to develop colour film you’ll need a few extra items (I’m assuming here that you already have all the kit and caboodle required for black and white such as a developing tank,reels, changing bag, measuring jugs, thermometers etc ) I’ll list the colour developing specific items and provide some explanation of their use along the way:

Sousvide - yes I had no idea what this was until i started looking into colour film developing either!! its a tool used for heating up water for cookery (madness i know) i bought mine for £25 off amazon (other megaretailcorps are available) you can see it pictured on the left below, it’s the U-bend shaped thing which clips to the side of the container and heats the water up. I guess it’s not absolutley essential to have and you could control water temp with a kettle of boiling water I suppose but for me the sous vide just takes all the hassle out of this aspect of the process, you set the control to 38 and wait for the it to do it’s thing - it will then keep the water at that temperature as long as you require.

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Water Bath - Heating the water up in a water bath so that you can then heat your chemicals up to the required temp, as you can see from the pictures I used an old plastic box that we had knocking about in the shed, works perfectly!

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Wide neck bottles - you can see them pictured above, chemical storage bottles with nice wide tops for quick pouring, and plastic for ease of use, you could use empty pop bottles if you like but these were cheap enough and cost me £10 for a set of five.

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Glass storage jars - ok so these I bought to store the chemicals in when not being used, you can see them pictured above at the back of the photo. I got them from Nik & Trick along with a little vaccum pump and rubber stopper thingys (I think they’re supposed to be used for keeping wine fresh but clearly they serve a much better purpose here) fill the bottles with your working solutions of developer, fixer and Bleach - then using the vaccum pump and rubber stopper you pump all the remaining aire out the stopper seals the bottle et voila, your chemicals should now be good for approx 6 months or possibly even longer! definitely worth getting unless you shoot loads of film and can develop regularly so you won’t need to store stuff for long

Funnels - you’ll be pouring chemicals from bottle to bottle and then into developing tank and back into bottle - get yourself some funnels, label them so you keep things seperate

Theremometer - i have a glass photographers thermometer which is nice and accurate I used this to check on the temperature inside my developer bottle during heating

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3: My approach to developing
Step by step instructions are included in the kit and there are a number of different steps required in this process and the timings are quite short so you need to be on your toes and paying attention to whats going on, especially when trying out a new process - for me having something like the Massive Development App to guide me along my way during development is usually my preferred app but unfortunatley whilst in all other aspects the the Massive Development App is amazing, it is actually completely RUBBISH at creating custom development procedures, I mean it’s possible to do but it’s very clunky and not as good as it could be….fortunately for us there is another cheeky little phone app out there which can help, it’s called Develop! and it’s great!

It allows you to easily custom build a film developing process with timings and agitation cycles - you can then press ‘play’ and the app will give you a visual guide to keeping on track through the development procedure, lovely! I find this super helpful and takes some of the pressure off and not having to refer back to the print out instructions that come with the kit when you’re trying to keep an eye on everything else that is going on - highly recommend this app, oh and the best part? it’s free! (i think? I can’t remember now - if it did cost something then it wasn’t very much)

Following the instructions (via the help of the Develop! app) made this a very enjoyable process - setting everything up and getting your chemicals up to working temperature is the long part of the process, once everything is set then the whole process is over in less than 15 mins - you can see from the developing timings on the left above how long each stage takes and the agitation process required.

I messed up the stabiliser stage though - i poured the stabiliser away after use when it turns out it is re-useable for a few films before needing to be changing, this coupled with me spilling half of the concentrate as I was getting set up wasn;t brilliant either, fortunately Bellini supply LOADS of concentrate enought to make 10 litres worth so I think I’ve still got enough left for some more developing sessions with this kit

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4: Scanning the negatives and the results

The moment of truth! I was blown away by the results! clear and spotless negatives which allowed for lovely colours and tones when scanned - of course scanning colour film at home is an art form in and of itself sometimes, but after a little bit of jiggery pokery i was able to get the colour balance i was looking for (I won’t make an already long blog post even longer by discussing the vagaries of scanning - maybe in a later blog) suffice it to say that the negatives I had developed looked great and with minimal processing work i was able to achieve some really lovely finished photos which you can see below.

For more photos from this shoot take a look HERE I developed 3 rolls of 35mm in one go - two portra 400 and one portra 160, the beauty of the C41 process is you can develop different ISO films at the same time with the same process, really pleased with how they came out, of course scanning wise I would still use a professional development service for critical or professional images as the scans are just so much better but I think for personal projects these are just great.

5: Conclusion

Ok so well done for making it this far! my conclusion? I think that the Bellini Foto kit is amazing! i was very impressed with the quality of the negatives and final images, the process was relatively straight forward and I would feel much more confident in using this next time around. I like that given the right storage that the chemicals will last a while and that they are good for approx 12 rolls of film which makes this a great money saving on having films developed professionally - that being said I do need to spend some more time creating a consistent workflow for my scanning and colour balancing to get accurate colour rendition. On some of the photos they came out perfect straight away but others did require a bit of fettling in Lightroom - which is fine - scanning colour film will defintely be a topic for another day though and I am very pleased with the results I was able to achieve on my first run out with the Bellini Kit, I would definitely recommend it.