Broad Prairie

Broad Prairie

I guess I’d better admit it: I like color. Bold color. Punchy color. I also like the music of the French composer Olivier Messiaen, which uses instrumental color to define its structure, not merely as decoration. Vulgar? Probably. Kitschy? You could accuse me of that, I guess. I don’t know that I really care, though, when a blue sky streaked with cirrus clouds shows up over a cornfield at the end of the harvest.

Retro

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:

Untitled

The colors in the other direction aren’t bad either:

Tower and Transport

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:

Pennyfarthings

And best of all, or so my kids think, I got a shot I like of a Metra Electric train:

Electric

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.

Ektar 100 – Whimsical Things

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.

Vacation Spot

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.

Autumn Blues

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.

Askew

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.

Portra 400 – Things

The conventional wisdom has it that Portra, like other color negative films with neutral characteristics, shouldn’t be used for nature. I try not to be a slave to conventional wisdom, and in fact, Portra is great with natural subjects, including fall color:

Trigon

Infiltration

For comparison I went back to the second tree with Ektar; we’ll see that shot in a couple of posts. I don’t see a problem with the color in either of these frames, and if I want more saturation, well, both Portra and Ektar were designed to scan easily as part of a hybrid film/digital workflow. Lightroom makes it dead easy to tweak color.

My two attempts at street photography had lovely tones but were horrible photographs; I mention them only because, had I used my brain, Portra would not have stood in my way. 🙂 Architecture in progress looks good too, as Green Street’s urban canyon gets longer:

Upward

So does some Crab Rangoon from a farewell luncheon for a co-worker:

Crabby Opening

After one roll I’m hooked. Portra 400 is fast, has fine grain, great color, great skin tones, good sharpness (any unsharpness is my fault and not the film’s), and responds well when rated a little bit slower than the box says. It’s a great all-purpose color film whose only drawback is that it’s more expensive than some of the alternatives. I look forward to shooting more of it as time and money permit.