I (Shawn) had the privilege of visiting family and friends back in Seattle a couple months ago and organised to take some portraits of my friend Don completely on film. I brought my Pentax 6x7 with the 55mm 3.5, 90mm 2.8 and 200mm f4 lenses, my new Nikon F2 (which I’ve now sold) with a 28mm 2.8 and 50mm 1.8 lenses as well as a Gossen Luna Pro SBC light meter. We met up at Snoqualmie Falls at sunrise but unfortunately Seattle lived up to its reputation and filled the sky with clouds. No surprise there. No rain was a plus though. I was forced to shoot wide open pretty much all morning but I quite liked how the photos turned out to be somewhat cold and gloomy despite the softness and noticeable lack of focus in some shots.
Shooting on film is definitely not new to me but only just recently I’ve been learning the intricacies and how to expose with different light meters, film stocks and speeds. It’s been a journey thats for sure. On my previous trip back to Seattle during Christmas I shot nine rolls of 120 which was my first time testing out the Pentax 6x7. A couple hundred dollars later, they were all out of focus and underexposed. As heartbreaking as that can be, I learned a lot. 1) Maybe shoot one single test roll instead of nine. 2) Expose for the shadows - film is much more forgiving in the highlights than digital. 3) Know your camera system - apparently the Pentax 6x7 should have a properly calibrated focus screen which is why I came back with 90 back focused photos…finally fixed that. 4) The Zone System and a spot meter is probably my best bet for precise exposures - finally got one.
Anyway, back to the photoshoot with Don. I shot three rolls of 120 - a mix of Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji 400H which I still can’t tell the difference between. Probably because I scan myself and suck still… & one roll of 35mm - Kodak Portra 400. For me the 35mm shots turned out better despite the fact that it’s a smaller negative with less resolution blah blah blah. I took the photos faster with the Nikon F2 and therefore captured moments that were more real and authentic than the medium format shots. I was too much of a perfectionist with the Pentax 6x7 and that meant Don was waiting far too long for me to take the photo which is just uncomfortable for everyone. I’ll get better. I hope. It’s better for landscapes I reckon. With that said, I am still happy with how some medium format shots turned out.
I tried not to take too many typical hipster waterfall compositions and poses but it still kinda happened. I do like the look still, however I wish I had captured Don in a more rough and gritty sort of way. I am constantly looking for ways to stray from my predictable approach of framing subjects but it’s really hard. A good way to do this is learning from other photographers and taking risks that don’t seem like something I would normally do. I think that’s the only way I’ll grow. So next time I will be a bit more risky.
I scanned these myself at home which is a whole different beast to tackle. Lot’s to learn in that department. I'm sure some of you will notice the inconsistencies in colours etc. If not, I have fooled you well. I am obviously still working out the kinks. I hope you enjoy the photos nonetheless. From one film-newb to another, remember that mistakes are good. You wouldn’t get better without them.