Thoughts on Shooting Film

Shooting Fashion In The Dark With Kodak Ektar – Guest Post by Aukje

My third year of shooting film, but still trying to figure it all out – Part 17

(Read Part 16 here)

I have been a fan of Kodak Ektar for some time, specifically for shooting in low-light conditions such as a forest. It wasn’t love at first sight though. My first experiences with Ektar were in Greece, where I found I had a slight preference for Portra 400 over Ektar, as I didn’t like the saturation of colours that Ektar gives. In the summer in Greece where the light is harsh and the colours are bright Ektar can push it right over the top, at least to my taste. But in The Netherlands, where the light is cooler and softer Ektar works really well for me, specially in the winter. Ironic isn’t it, that I prefer the iso 400 film in the brighter light, and the iso 100 one in low light.

Anyway, as I don’t shoot it in very bright light, I hadn’t shot Ektar at all over the summer. At some point you just want to have a go at it again, and that happened this week. I had visited an exhibition in the Kunsthal, Rotterdam (a museum for modern art), but during my first visit I didn’t have much time. I had shot a few frames of Portra 400, but I thought that Ektar might work rather well too. There were a few challenges though, the exhibition rooms were very dark, a tripod wasn’t allowed, and my fastest lens doesn’t go beyond f1.4. So I decided to shoot Ektar at EI 400, and pushed the film two stops during processing.

The exhibition shows an overview of the work of Viktor and Rolf, a famous fashion-designer duo from The Netherlands. Not only were the rooms dark, a significant part of their collection is in black, or dark fabric as well. I was hoping to capture some of the textures, but still let the dark colours be dark. I am rather pleased how this worked out, specifically in the next shot. I love the combination of the wooly texture with the bright sequins.

For metering I used the Lumu light meter app on my iPhone (without the Lumu meter hardware). I shot everything wide open at f1.4, with exposure times varying between 1/15 s and 1/60 s. With the 50mm lens (I used a Leica Summilux), this was just about doable. I had to discard only a few frames due to motion blur, but overall I am happy enough with the sharpness. Some of the photos could have benefitted from a slightly larger depth of field, but I draw a line at 1/15 sec for handheld photography.

Here’s a question, can shooting someone else’s art be art itself? I felt a bit uneasy about sharing photo’s of an exhibition as a photography project, because most of the appeal in the photo’s is the result of someone else’s hard work. I would credit a painter and not the photographer for a photo of a painting. But shooting architecture, which could be considered an art too, is a perfectly acceptable photography art in itself. I mean how often do people credit the architect with photo’s of buildings, or even know which architect built it?

But at least I can be clear about my intentions, this little project was never meant to be a product shoot, but an exercise for me in shooting in a completely different environment. And actually, I am quite happy with the results. I must say that I had expected a bit more teal in the photos, as this is what I usually like in low-light Ektar shots. Probably the subject matter has something to do with this. And pushing a film two stops can have an effect on colour too I’m sure. Still I am happy with the results, I think some of the fabric’s textures come across really well, and I like the atmosphere of the dark images.

As you can see, photographing the work of Viktor and Rolf wasn’t so much about shooting fashion for me, as it was about shooting different textures. But without using macro photography, which is what comes to my mind first when thinking about details like this. I shoot a Leica M2 with an old lens, meaning closest focus was at 1 meter. To be able to capture some of the details on 35mm film in such a dark environment was a technical challenge for me, with a bit of fashion fun too. After all, I am still a girl ;-).

Thanks for reading, and Hamish thanks for having me! I appreciate any feedback, or tips on how to improve my photography.

All film was developed by me in Digibase (at 4.14 sec with fresh solution) and scanned on my Reflecta RPS 10M. If you are interested you can find more of my photos, both digital and film, on my website:  I also post film photos regularly on instagram.

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  • Avatar
    Laurie Branch
    September 16, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    I’ve never had much luck with Ektar unless shooting on a nice bright day. Your pictures are lovely and have given me a new interest in trying it in a different environment again. Thank you for sharing! Really like these!

    • Avatar
      September 16, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks Laurie! It’s nice to try something different sometimes, this was new for me too.

  • Avatar
    Stu =
    September 17, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Aukje, gorgeous shots and crisp writing from you as usual. Thanks

    • Avatar
      September 17, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks Stuart, you’re very kind!

  • Avatar
    September 18, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    Aukje, I use the sniper method when shooting in low light. I take a breath,but don’t hold it. With my two hands on the camera and my elbows out away from my body I then begin to slowly exhale. In the middle of exhaling I take the shot. If you put your arms against your body and hold your breath your heartbeat is enough to cause movement. Liked the shots but doll image gives a slight unsettling feeling( too much misuse in cinema). I liked it anyway. Thanks for the nice read.

    • Avatar
      September 18, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Hi William, thanks for the tip. I try, when I remember, to take a shot after exhaling, but this seems a more relaxed moment. I personally love dolls, probably because I loved them before I ever saw them in movies 😉 .

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