I was downtown Chicago last weekend and spent a day and a night shooting with my Leica M-A and Summilux 50 f/1.4.
My aim was to capture something of the city, especially the contrasts that one finds in most large cities. The heart of the downtown area is Michigan Avenue. North of the Chicago river is very upscale retail along this street. South of the river are the main parks (Millennium Park and Grant Park), the Art Institute, and the museum district. Most of time was spent in this area of the city.
I have a preference of films that I use regularly. For daytime street shooting I use either Kodak Tri-X or Ilford HP5+. I find the ISO 400 speed of these to be very adaptable to a wide range of lighting situations. In general I use a yellow filter and the Sunny 16 rule with B&W films and my Leica M-A, but I do carry a Sekonic light meter for checking the light if I feel unsure about it. I generally use these films at ISO 400, set the shutter speed to 1/500 s and adjust the aperture as needed.
Ilford HP5+ (click to enlarge images)
Nighttime is a very different story. If I want B&W, I’ll use Ilford Delta 3200 and push it 2 stops in processing (no filter used). I nearly always open the aperture all the way to f/1.4 on my Summilux 50 mm lens, and shoot at 1/60 s. With city street lighting this exposure seems to work quite well most of the time.
Ilford Delta 3200 (pushed 2 stops). Click to enlarge images.
I really liked my initial experience with CineStill 800T for night shooting in color. Again, I keep things simple by shooting at 1/60 s and f/1.4 and push 2 stops in processing. The halation effects that I mentioned previously work well for me with street shots and give an interesting and dramatic effect around lights. The film can be used with an 85B warming filter in daylight (with appropriate aperture and shutter speeds) and gives a very nice color palette, at least to my eye. The daylight shots look somehow like older 1960-70s photos, but I like this look.
CineStill 800T (pushed 2 stops). Click to enlarge images.
I have a couple of upcoming visits back to Chicago this summer and will be shooting there again.
A winter vacation in Maui, Hawaii, was a great opportunity to try out some different films. I packed two B&W films that I hadn’t used extensively before: Ilford Pan F Plus 50, and Ilford Delta 3200, as well as a number of color films that I’ll write about later. These films are at two extremes of usual film speed, and I wanted to see how they worked out. A word of caution to visitors to Maui: bring your own film! The only film you can buy there is sold in drug stores and is in very limited selection. All I could find in the Walgreen’s store near our hotel was Fujifilm Superia ISO 200 and 400 in 35 mm rolls. I called a store that claims to be a professional photo place on the island, but they carry no film at all. Plan ahead!
Let’s start with the Ilford 50. This is a slow speed (ISO 50), fine grain film that allows for high image quality. The weather in Maui was generally really good when we there with plenty of sunshine along the coastal regions, so I was hoping for some good things from this film. The camera and lens were a Leica M-A and Summilux 50 mm f/1.4 aspherical lens, and I used this film with a K2 (yellow) filter to optimize contrast. The M-A does not have a built-in light meter, so I metered with Sunny 16 in daylight, or with a Sekonic L-478D in shade, allowing one stop to compensate for the filter absorbance. Processing and scanning were done at Richard Photo Lab.
Ilford Pan F Plus 50
I really like this one. It gives great detail, very clean and crisp, with minimal, if any, grain at reasonable enlargement. If you click one of these images below, there is really no grain apparent even at the highest magnification, and I have not uploaded the highest resolution files. The tonal range is excellent, with good mid-tones. All in all, a really fantastic film.
(These were shot at about f/8-f/11 at 1/50 s. Click to enlarge images).
In shade, the results are also very acceptable to my eye. These were shot at f/1.4 or 2.0, allowing also for the bokeh of the lens to become apparent.
Ilford Delta 3200
At the other end of the speed range is Ilford Delta 3200. It’s a bit confusingly named because the ISO is not 3200, but more like 1,000. However, it can be used over a really wide range of ISO, some say up to 6400 with push processing. For this roll, I assumed an ISO of 1,000, and set the shutter speed to 1/1,000 (the fastest on the M-A) and used Sunny 16 again in daylight or the Sekonic in dim light. It was developed without any push/pull. When I was carrying this film through the airport, I asked for a hand inspection of it at the TSA checkpoint so as to avoid putting it through the X-ray machine, which may fog a film this fast. They allow for this if your film is rated ISO 800 or faster, as far as I know. Never put film in checked baggage; apparently the radiation is much stronger and it can fog even slower film.
Delta 3200 film has significant grain, but it’s not all that bad in the final image. In daylight, low contrast settings, the grain creates a kind of softness that can be quite atmospheric, although I think it’s an effect that is best if used sparingly
But this belle de nuit really comes alive as the sun goes down! It gives really rich blacks and reasonable mid-tones and highlights for such a fast film used in low light.
(Click to enlarge images).
These are two very different films and with their own distinctive looks. They represent the ends of the range of ISO of commonly used film (with many great films between these extremes). Both have their strong points and you pick the right film for your application, anticipated light conditions, and desired “look”.