5 frames with...

(First) 5 Frames With Kodak Tri-x 400 – By Jake Yorath

November 17, 2019

I’ve always loved photography, but going semi-professional – shooting motor racing – strangled that, and I stopped photographing anything for a very long time. A decade or so later, and 2018 saw me get ‘the bug’ again. Skip forward another year and a bit, and I’ve fallen, again, and expensively, for film.

I learned on film, a tough apprenticeship trying to shoot racing cars with an Olympus OM-1 – manual everything, of course – but when I got reasonable digital equipment, the OM-1 ended up on a shelf, and there it sat, via a box under a bed, for more than 10 years. Until August.

I’d wanted to try medium format, and when my dad loaned me his effectively ornamental Bronica ETRS – a story for another time – it was like taking a long breath of fresh air that I didn’t know I needed. You can’t lug an ETRS around day-to-day, but you can rather more easily carry the famously dinky OM-1. I picked it up, shook it, checked it over, accidentally buggered the film inside – who knows what was on there, a mystery never to be solved – and then started taking photos.

I think this OM-1 has at some point been party to a deal with the devil, offering it extra durability. It is dirty, the light seals are best described as ‘shaky’, and it has lost a little paint of the years, but the first few rolls, on varying stock, showed a lot of promise. Having googled, youtubed and instagrammed the world of 35mm films, I decided I simply had to try Tri-x.

I snapped away three films, sent them off for development – “Once a week, on Tuesdays,” I was told, on a cursed Thursday – and waited. When my email lit up with the developers’ message, I tensed. Every film photographer knows that nervous moment: “Have I ruined it?”; “Am I a genius?”; “Shit, is the camera actually OK? I haven’t developed a roll on it for a decade.” I could have cried when I unzipped the scans; 37, 38 and 39 near-perfect exposures, contrast so good I could taste it, and that beautiful grain that only film can really give you. Backlit portraiture on a sunny day; mates in an ‘atmospherically lit’ – read ‘bloody dark’ – pub; street scenes on grey days and super contrasty sunny afternoons; Kodak Tri-x 400 had handled it all.

There’s something about old markets that just feels right, especially on black and white film. One of my favourite places to photograph.

I enjoy contrast, both in composition and light. This is Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The ease, and familiarity, of the OM-1 meant that grabbing this as I rushed down the steps to the train wasn’t too difficult. Tri-x’s gorgeous contrast did the rest.

Dark skin in a darkly lit pub? Tri-x and Zuiko will handle that.

Got lucky when a runner ran through this light patch in Bath city centre.

The photos here are a testament to the durability and quality of Olympus’ standout SLR – thank you, Yoshihisa Maitani – and the wonderful Zuiko primes, particularly the 35mm F2.8, 50mm F1.8 and 85mm F2 I used for these films. They are also a testament to Kodak, which really does make outstanding black and white film. I am in love with Tri-x 400 and if you haven’t tried it before, consider this an evangelical message. Try-x.

You can follow my film photography at @yorathonfilm. Marvel as I throw caution to the wind and spend far too much money on far too much film.

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    steve phillips
    November 17, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Five superb shots. Waiting for my own first roll of Tri-X to come back – anything one tenth as good as these and I will be happy.

    • Reply
      Jake Yorath
      November 22, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks very much! I definitely leaned on the quality and latitude of the film stock.

  • Reply
    Julian Higgs
    November 17, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Nice to see another OM1 oit of the cupboard and being used again. They really are lovely to use in my opinion. The market shot has fantastic depth, contrast and detail. Great composition. I could almost be there looking at it.

    • Reply
      Jake Yorath
      November 22, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks. The OM1 is a sensational bit of kit. It’s like a T-34 with its beatupability.

  • Reply
    Reinhold Graf
    November 17, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Good story and pretty cool images 😉
    Now you have made me wanting to get my OM1 from the shelf, insert a film and go taking pictures.

  • Reply
    Alan Withington
    November 17, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Wow! That first shot of the market is sheer brilliance.. got it all! All the best Alan

  • Reply
    Peter
    November 17, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Great shots!

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    November 17, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Hey Jake,
    I enjoyed your write up; haven’t heard or seen the word ‘dinky’ in many a year.
    The OM line is an underappreciated camera system. You really use the OM-1 to it’s full advantage. My favorite shot is the Bath snap; love the light & dark and how the lens & film work. Nicely done.
    But, here’s a question: I’ve read many postings where the author states they send the film out to be processed. I can understand color C-41, but why not develop your own B&W film? If you process & then scan, the tools needed are minimal and can be stored in a small space. You invest a bit of cash up front, but you gain total control of how your film looks and you can adjust developing as you see fit.
    I’ve got a fully functional darkroom in my basement (going on almost 45 years) but, if you don’t want to make B&W prints, then you don’t need the dedicated space. Since I don’t know you, for all I know you’re in the process of carving out a space for a darkroom. Don’t take this as a critical comment or question your commitment to film photography, I’m just curious.
    – Dan [flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574]

    • Reply
      Jake Yorath
      November 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm

      I am planning to eventually develop my own, but I’ve just not got the equipment yet. By the new year I hope to be doing it myself; I’ve already bought a scanner!

  • Reply
    Ken
    November 17, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    I really like these photos. Glad you resuscitated your Olympus film shooting!

  • Reply
    Robert
    November 17, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    The market photo is immaculate. Love it! Great article, thank you.

  • Reply
    Mike Hinkleman
    November 17, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Welcome home

  • Reply
    Jimmy Hickford
    November 17, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    Cracking shots, Jake!

  • Reply
    Huss
    November 18, 2019 at 2:42 am

    Love these shots Jake. Welcome back to film!

  • Reply
    Bob Cunningham
    November 18, 2019 at 5:05 am

    The market shot is the best advert for Tri-X 400 anyone could ask for. Great set of photos.

    • Reply
      Jake Yorath
      November 22, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Thanks very much! I think the enormous body of Tri-X work over the decades is the best advert, but I’ll take the compliment as best I can.

  • Reply
    Marcos Ursula
    November 18, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Yep, this is good photography, not the crap we see a lot on youtube, people shooting trees and grass just because it’s film.

  • Reply
    Marc
    November 18, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Great Story, and especially nice pictures! Being started with a Pentax MX and SMC 50mm F1.7 prime Lens, back into the 80s.
    There is some magic into Tri-X 400 since many decades, the way this Film does render shapes, textures, tonality…one of my all time fave Films, together with T-Max 100, and XP2 Super, FP4 Ilford. I do like digital, but i must admit, Film does capture more emotion, -spirit, from the whole process, the way you create an photograph.

    Best,
    Marc

  • Reply
    Kevin
    November 19, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Recently I watched movie on Netflix called ‘Earthquake Bird’. The main actor uses the same camera. And it makes me want to get one!

  • Reply
    Patrick Cook
    November 22, 2019 at 2:59 pm

    Your first shot is absolutely outstanding.

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