My F100 almost ate this roll of film; it would not rewind and I had to pop open the back in a dark room under cover and pull the film out, and it suffered creasing and damage anyway. It’s a pity, because I don’t know when I’ll have time to go back and recreate this image of University Laboratory High School’s dedication stone.

Bikes and Bus

Bikes and Bus

My dad gave me his old Rolleiflex T several years ago, and since then I’ve run a few rolls of film through it. I really like the visual quality of medium-format film, which is much smoother than 35mm, while the Rollei is far easier to handle than, say, a 4×5 large-format camera. This image is from May or June 2015; I’m not sure which because I don’t log shots when I take them as well as I ought. Bad photographer. 🙂


Taking graduation pictures with the Alma Mater statue has become an institution on the Urbana campus, and on the Saturday before the official ceremonies dozens of students and their parents lined up to give it a shot. I was also there with my F100 and a roll of Portra 400.

Class of 2015

I don’t remember it being customary to take graduation pictures with large groups of one’s friends when I was in school. Things seem to have changed, as this was one of several large groups that posed while I was there.

Selfie Stick

I can’t decide if the selfie stick is a clever and useful accessory, or the greatest blight on photography since…well, pick your favorite blight. This young man and his parents seem to have found it helpful, although I see some hesitation in their faces. A second exposure may be in order.

Hot Wires

On the street side of the new Electrical and Computer Engineering building, there is a second themed sculpture:


This piece, entitled “Diss-Connections,” elicited a tart comment from a fellow photographer: “Oh, someone is having fun with the residents of that particular asylum.” Between the slightly insulting name, and the fact that wire nuts are more the province of electricians than electrical engineers, there is much in what he says. The sculpture was good for a chuckle the first time I saw it, anyway.

Electrical Pursuits

The new Electrical and Computer Engineering building, to which I gave the Ektar 100 treatment, also exhibits some specially-commissioned public art, to which I gave the Portra treatment.


“Amplifiers,” at the main entrance, is a pair of metal pillars with undulating sides, with voids in the center that are enclosed by windows of dichroic glass. The pillars are not identical; according to the sculptor, they represent the famous engineer John Bardeen, a co-inventor of the transistor, and his student and inventor of the visible LED, Nick Holonyak, Jr.

Dichroic Flame

No single image can give a full idea of the sculpture because of the dichroic glass; the colors change with one’s viewing angle. When looking through both windows enclosing one void, different colors impose themselves in different patterns as one’s view shifts even slightly.

According to available descriptions, LEDs have been incorporated into the sculpture, which are presumably visible only at night. I’ll have to go back when the light is lower to see what I can see.

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:



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:


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.

Portra 400 – People

I chose Portra 400 for the first roll through my new-to-me F100. I wanted to start with something that has a bit of latitude, and I had read good reports about rating it at 320, or even 200, for more density in the shadows.

Since the literature claims “spectacular skin tones,” I thought I’d test that first off, with my son John in window light:

Johnny Lisa

Those look like pretty darn good skin tones to me, as well as lovely rendering of light and shadow from that window. I should have had John turn his head more towards his right, but he didn’t want to stand still very long. Portra also did a great job with Joey in a relatively dark vehicle interior:

Chorus Boy

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the patience to save a few frames for flash portraits; that’s something I’m going to have to try with the next roll, using my digital body to proof. (Just like peeling a Polaroid, except entirely different.)

Of course, Portra isn’t only good for pictures of people, but that’s a topic for our next post.

Silver Lining

I have long wanted to own a Nikon film body that would let me control my G (no aperture ring) lenses. The F6, lovely though it would be, is far too expensive for my budget, so I settled on a used F100. A example in good condition at the right price came along in time for my birthday.

New Toy

Shooting 35mm film is quite refreshing: no fancy software, no image preview, 36 exposures (at most) until you have to reload. Digital gives great control, but it can seduce the photographer into wasting time with irrelevant fiddling. Even in a digital workflow, film (especially color film) is almost fire-and-forget: you concentrate in the moment and the chemistry does the rest. Although some photographers object, I don’t have a problem with doing digital B&W conversions from color scans, especially because I don’t own the color filters I’d want for B&W film.

I’ve put five rolls through my F100 so far:

  • 1 Kodak Portra 400
  • 1 Kodak Ektar 100
  • 3 Fuji Superia X-tra 400

I bought the Portra and Ektar with my new camera, and processed them through North Coast in California. The Superia was an impulse buy for casual situations, and I’ve been processing it through the local Walgreens, just to see what kind of a job they do. There is great variability between individual locations. One local store has a Fuji Frontier minilab, and gave me low-res scans that cropped away about 10% of the frame:

Unguentum in Capite

Another has a Noritsu and gave me 6 MP scans of the whole frame:


Both of these images were rated at 200 and developed normally. The second also used my 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, which covers the 35mm frame with a pleasant little vignette in the corners. Superia has tons of latitude and looks better to my eye with overexposure, but I wouldn’t use it for work I care about.

The two Kodak films, on the other hand, are spectacular, and I’ll be devoting a separate post to each one.