My son’s school schedules fall parent-teacher conferences in early November, and they give the students the nearest Friday off from school. Last year we used that day for a train trip to Chicago, and we thought it was so much fun that we did it again this year. Rather than take Amtrak from Champaign, which would put us in the Loop far away from the museums, we drove to the south suburbs and took the Metra Electric commuter train, which stops at all the major Lakefront attractions.
We wanted to see the Museum of Science and Industry this time, and I decided to take Portra for the outside and my X100 for the inside. Portra was a great choice, as this shot against the sun holds a little pale blue in the sky while sporting stylish lens flare:
The colors in the other direction aren’t bad either:
The X100 did what I wanted it to do inside the museum; I chose not to post any of those shots, as they’re of interest to the family album only. When we came out it was cloudy, and again Portra came through with the museum’s bicycle rack:
And best of all, or so my kids think, I got a shot I like of a Metra Electric train:
I’m not going to sell off my digital bodies and go film-only, but I’m enjoying the way the constraints of film concentrate my mind. If I have few exposures and no preview, I really have to make every shot count.
I have written before about photographing Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. John’s Catholic Chapel. The student organization that sponsors these Masses has appreciated my work, and had me back again earlier this month for All Souls’ Day.
In my previous post I wrote something about not being satisfied with the way I had captured the decisive liturgical moment. By now I know the lighting in the church well enough to set exposure and forget it, and as I prepared I was thinking less about gear and more about finding the crucial (no pun intended) moments. I’m much more satisfied with this pair of images, particularly the second one, than I have been with most of the others I’ve taken. The more familiar you are with both your gear and your subject, the less you are distracted by technical details from making expressive images.
While I was still shooting my way through a roll of Ektar 100, I decided it had been too long since I had strolled around the northernmost part of campus, unofficially called the “Beckman Quad” because of the Beckman Institute on its northern edge. The walk gave me a chance to see how Ektar handled contrasty midday light.
Here is the upper façade of the new Electrical Engineering building, which I think looks much better from the inner (quad) side than from the street. The architect evidently wanted commonality in difference by cladding the building in red-orange metal or plastic, instead of the customary red or orange brick.
The colors are punchy and dramatic but not inaccurate, and the shadows are pleasantly neutral.
I first experienced the University of Illinois through a tour of the Beckman Institute when I was a sophomore in high school. Because of that tour, the use of advanced technology to investigate complex problems on the frontiers of knowledge dominates all my other perceptions of the University, and I have a particular affection for the Beckman building.
Shortly after the Siebel Center was dedicated, a pair of large sculptures were set up on either side of the walkway to its north. This one, called the “House of Imagination,” makes me think of a computer-age Stonehenge.
The one quibble that can be made against this image is a heavy blue cast in the shadows. Now, most shadows under clear skies are blue; after all, they’re being lit by diffuse blue light from the sky. Still, the blue shift here is a bit excessive, and I probably should have added a little extra exposure.
Here’s a pure reaction shot. I lay down on the ground inside the ring of three pillars, and as I brought my camera to my eye I saw the cloud tuck itself neatly in position. I made about five other frames, attempting to grab different configurations of cloud and sculpture, but none of them were as good.
Just as I was with Portra 400, I’m hooked after one roll of Ektar 100. The colors are beautiful, the grain is ridiculously fine, and it’s a lot of fun to shoot. I’ll probably stick with Portra as my all-purpose film, but the next time I want to shoot some landscapes or sunsets on film, I think I’ll reach for the Ektar.
With my Portra finished, it was time to try Ektar 100. Google and the Flickr groups for its users suggested that Ektar is much more finicky and should be metered like slide film, that it has love-it-or-hate-it-color, and that its strong reds make it less desirable for people, particularly Zone VI people.
Well, I like saturated color sometimes, my F100’s meter appears to be working just fine, and I don’t mind using my lens on inanimate subjects. Let’s go.
First up was my neighbor’s front yard. One might get the impression that he doesn’t like Illinois winters, and one would be right: he’s originally from New Mexico.
Good color, punchy but not cartoonish, and lovely tones on an overcast day.
Yellow/blue is one of my favorite color combinations, and I couldn’t resist this leaf on the hood of my car. Maybe I could have placed focus better, but again I have no complaints about the film: colors are great, grain is great, tones are great.
I was down to my last couple of frames when I went to get some coffee at the little café in the CS building. I took this one none too soon; about 5 seconds later, a barista had to grab one of the cups on the left and so destroyed this little bit of whimsical skewness.
The light here is a bizarre mix of incandescent and LEDs that tend towards daylight, with some daylight fill from a curtain window behind and left. Ektar appears to have taken the mix of color temperatures in stride, and certainly the lab that scanned my film did a good job correcting color.
So far so good. What else can Ektar do? Stay tuned.