365 shades of grey

In Film, Inspiration

When I decided to do my second film 365, I knew that I wanted to set myself some new challenges. Having decided it would be black and white again, I thought I would experiment with different kinds of black and white film over the course of the year. My previous 365 was shot entirely on Kodak Tri-X; it’s easy to get hold of and simple to process at home. One of my other decisions was that I would not be doing my own processing and scanning this time around, so I felt free to try other kinds of film. The problem is that England is generally so grey that you can’t rely on there being much light, so Tri-X rated at ISO 400 is a good all-round choice. As a result, I ended up sticking with Tri-X for most of the year, apart from a few dalliances during the very summery and the very wintry months.

The first film I tried out, in the spring, was Fujifilm Neopan 400CN. My fellow Viewfinder and dear friend Staci recommended it as one of her favourite films. And oh, I can see why! This is an unusual film because it’s processed using the C-41 process for colour negatives. The idea is that it lets people shoot black and white, but then still have their film processed by a standard minilab, instead of having to go to a specialist capable of handling black and white chemistry. Anyway, I love the way the resulting images look; it’s ISO 400 like Tri-X, and has lots of lovely contrast and inky blacks, but there isn’t too much grain.

We finally managed to find some sun in the summer — by leaving the country and visiting Turkey and Sicily. This was an opportunity to try out Kodak TMAX 100. I rated it at box speed and set off adventuring with my Leica. Silky greys and a barely-there grain made me swoon. I thought about moving to live by the Mediterranean, as I always do. Then I could shoot with this wonderful film all day, every day!


Towards the end of the year the days get shorter and we spend more time indoors, so I decided to try Ilford Delta 3200, a super-fast film. Much as I love black and white film, I don’t like there being too much grain. It’s probably because scanning all those rolls of film for my first 365, and zooming in to remove all the dust marks, made my eyes bleed! A friend told me that rating this film at ISO 1600 rather than 3200 would reduce the graininess a bit. It was great being able to shoot in much darker situations than I could using Tri-X. And when we went to sunny Fuerteventura for a couple of days I was glad I hadn’t rated it at 3200 because the Leica only goes down to 1/1000th of a second and f/16. Anyway, I expected grain, and there was grain. But at least I wasn’t removing the dust marks myself this time!


So, what did I learn? I had a really interesting time shooting different kinds of film. I do love trying new things, and if I want a particular look in future I now know how my choice of film will affect the final result. Looking at my pictures at the end of the year, I think the TMAX 100 was my favourite film. But that may have been because it was in my camera during our summer holidays!

kirstin

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