My second year of shooting film Part 13
A friend of mine is a guitarist in a band, and when they play I enjoy photographing their performance. So far I have been covering that with my digital camera, as it feels safer and more flexible. But I was up for some experiment with my M2 after shooting mainly landscapes, so I wanted to try photographing them on film. I decided to use Kodak Tri-X, since I had that lying in my fridge anyway. I considered buying HP5+ as I had read that you can push that pretty well, but then I remembered that Anton Corbijn (famous Dutch photographer who has shot a lot of pop and rock bands) shoots Tri-X, and if it’s good enough for Anton Corbijn it should be good enough for my friends band….
I spent quite some time deliberating over how far to push it, was two stops going to be enough or should I go for three? On the internet I found some great examples of pushing two stops, but three seemed to be more risky, as the results could become quite grainy. I decided to do a light measurement in the venue where the band was going to play and base my decision on that. However, that turned out to be not so obvious, since the lights were changing all the time. I decided to go for three stops, basing my exposure on iso 3200, and allow myself a bit more room with respect to motion blur. That is helpful as I find it can be quite a challenge to stand still when a band plays great music. I even noticed a moment when I tried to keep my camera stable when jumping up and down during a particularly catching song. But alas, those are the challenges of concert photography 😉 . I ended up using an aperture of 2.0 and a shutter speed around 1/250 second (on average).
Apart from the difficulty of using film, there is another challenge using the M2. Like I mentioned before, the lights were changing a lot during the performance: the shutter speeds of the photos I took with the M240 (digital camera with automatic exposure) range from 1/45 to 1/4000 seconds. However the M2 doesn’t have automatic exposure or even a light meter, and there is definitely no time to measure with an external meter for every shot. So I decided to try my luck, and use 1/250 as my base, but change it to 1/1000 if the lights looked very bright to me. And leave it up to the latitude of the film to take care of the rest of the fluctuations. It turns out that you can get away with a lot with Tri-X…
I had to wait quite some time for the results. As I usually do I sent my film to AG-photo lab for development, and so far it has taken about one week for the film to arrive at my house after receiving their dispatch notification. This time it took a horrifying four weeks! I had almost given up on seeing them ever again. But luckily I did, and I was very happy with the results. Although there is some variation in how dark and light the photos are, there is none that is too bright or too dark to be of use. That doesn’t mean all photos were good, but that was mainly due to lack of sharpness (should stop jumping while taking photos!) and bad framing, and for that I blame the moving musicians ;-). I scanned the photos myself and had no problem getting good files from the negatives. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of extra grain, and most images have good contrast, which I like for these type of photos. So I am quite happy with this experiment, and I will definitely explore the options of pushing further!
About the scanning: this is the first roll I didn’t get the lab to scan. A month ago I decided to buy a scanner myself after receiving some disappointing scans from the lab (not AG, I tried a different one). I have been thinking about getting a scanner, but I dreaded the amount of time involved and was afraid that even with a lot of my own time I would not be able to get quality results. But after a few disappointments from the lab I found myself not knowledgeable enough to have a good discussion with the lab. I realised that in order to get results I liked I would need to tell the lab what I want, but I didn’t know what it was. Should I ask for warmer colours in the highlights, cooler tones, more contrast, or less? So in the end I decided to buy a scanner to learn about the effect the scanning process has on the end result. I have practiced with some rolls from my previous lab order, allowing me to compare my own scans with the lab scans, but this was the first roll for which I would completely depend on my own scanning. Again, I am not disappointed. The files from this pushed film did not give me any extra trouble with respect to the scanning, and I am happy with the extra bit of control I get. I am working on a workflow for scanning colour, I might do a post about that in the future.
That leaves me with showing a few more photos from the concert:
The film was developed by AG photo lab and scanned by me on an Epson V800.
If you are interested you can find more of my photos, both digital and film, on my website: whataukjesees.com. I am doing a 366 project on film, which I record daily on tumblr, and I post film photos regularly on instagram.
Thanks a lot for reading, and Hamish, thanks for having me!