5 frames with...

5 Frames with Fuji Velvia 50 and an Olympus OM-1 – By Ben Kepka

June 19, 2019

I have a love/hate relationship with slide film. The colours are second to none and the contrast is uniquely crisp. However, the costs associated with shooting slide film seem to be increasing day to day and finding a lab that can develop it is as rare as hen’s teeth. But, to get the results I was looking for in this project, it was necessary.

Long exposure photography is a technique that often practised with digital cameras but is rarely done with film. As the results are not displayed on the back of the camera (and film is expensive) I guess people just don’t want to take the risk.

The camera I was using was the Olympus OM-1. It is a fairly inexpensive consumer grade camera with a basic metering system. The inbuilt range of shutter speeds isn’t amazing, but it will handle exposure length’s up to 1 second. However, with a shutter release cable and a light meter app you have the ability to keep the shutter open indefinitely.

The film I chose was Fuji Velvia 50. Its grain is almost invisible, but you need a lot of light to shoot it handheld. As with all slide film, there’s a lot less dynamic range (than colour negative) so you need to be on point with your exposures or you can very quickly lose all the details in the highlights (or shadows).

With a roll of film, a tripod and my camera I headed to a local park here in London where I knew trains would pass regularly. This would allow me plenty of time to set up and prepare for the oncoming trains. Further, as I was pretty new to this, if I made a mistake, there would be another train coming past in the next 10-15 minutes. It was a patience game.

As if it wasn’t already complicated enough, there was one last datapoint to add to the calculation, reciprocity. Reciprocity is a phenomenon in film photography where in which the film becomes less sensitive the longer it is exposed to light.

This has no discernible effect at short shutter speeds. The shutter speed readings from the meter are more or less accurate. However, once you get to shutter speeds of 2 seconds, you need to add a further half a second to achieve correct exposure. At 8 seconds you need to add 2 seconds, and, at 32 seconds you need to double the exposure time.

Each film is different in terms of how the sensitivity degrades over the exposure time. So, make sure to do a little googling before heading out to have an idea of how many seconds you’ll need to add.

I began with exact calculations with stopwatches, but in the end, I got as close as possible roughly, then just clicked the shutter and counted in my head. Hey, film photography is art, right?

So what follows are my favourite 5 frames from the roll. Not all of them were long exposures, and I found that the medium length shutter speeds actually yielded better results. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or if you have any questions and I am happy to help you out.

ben kepka

This roll of Fuji Velvia was shot as part of a review of 12 of the best 35mm film stocks available today. I ordered over £250 of film and slowly worked my way through each one shooting and selecting a gallery for each. It was a long but ultimately rewarding project, check it out if you think that may interest you.

Thanks for reading,

Ben Kepka
Cultured Kiwi

@benkepka (Instagram)

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  • Reply
    June 19, 2019 at 10:05 am

    all of the 5 are beautifully exposed

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 19, 2019 at 10:11 am

      Thank you very much. I guess it took 31 tries to get those 5 right 🙂

  • Reply
    John Bennett
    June 19, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Nice photos!

    One thing, though: The Olympus OM-1n wasn’t a consumer-grade camera. It was designed for professionals, as well as experienced amateurs. The late Jane Bown, among others, used the OM-1 to great effect.

    The OM-10 was Olympus’ consumer-grade camera.

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 19, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks! I will make sure to have a look 🙂

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    June 19, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Your train images are marvelous. I’ve seen many (and shot a few myself) like this at night, but in full daylight you’ve captured an effect that is completely different, and unusual to say the least. Fine work!

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 19, 2019 at 2:53 pm

      Wow, thanks for the kind words. Yes, it’s amazing what you can do at ASA50 after the sun has gone down.

  • Reply
    christian thompson
    June 19, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Try processing velvia through c41.
    I probably did 20 000 rolls of 120 velvia like that back in the day.🤩👍

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 19, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      Great idea. I would love to see what the outcome of that is. My only fear (given the cost of slide film) is that it may end up destroying all those precious high contrast colours.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    How is E6 processing scarce? Every lab processes E6.

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 20, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Not here in London. There are only a few select labs that process E6. I have to send it away or head right across the other side of town. None of my local labs process E6 only C-41. Maybe I need to move where you live!

    • Reply
      Ashley Carr
      June 23, 2019 at 8:50 am

      Not in the UK they don’t and they haven’t for a few years now.

  • Reply
    John Murch
    June 20, 2019 at 2:14 am

    Pretty gutsy to shoot long exposures on slide film, I give you credit. I’ve thought about doing the same. By the way, I sometimes shoot trains on 120 film, it’s a lot of fun…:)

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 20, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Haha thanks. It’s hit and miss, but as long as you have a decent meter in your camera there’s nothing to worry about really! Give it a go 🙂

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    Ben – if you are anywhere near Brick Lane, a fairly new lab called Analogue Films Ltd at 58 Hanbury Street have just started E6 processing – no idea what they cost or how good they are, but might be worth a try with a non-critical roll. Fantastic colours in the five pictures you have posted! I love the impact of the blurred trains!

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      June 25, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks for the heads up Harry. I go past that way, usually go to Eye Culture for my C-41! I’ll check them out.

  • Reply
    John Casteel
    June 21, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Nice photos, but the OM 1 was not a consumer grade camera.

  • Reply
    James Northcote
    June 21, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    I love these a lot – makes me want to experiment with long exposure more.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Your scans reproduce the color of Velvia very badly.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      June 24, 2019 at 11:44 pm

      Perhaps you can provide links to examples that you feel better represent velvia’s colour?

  • Reply
    Tejima Gajiro
    November 2, 2019 at 6:10 am

    Hey Ben, the shots are great!
    But what really amazes me is the quality of scans. Can you share the scan process for this slide film?

    • Reply
      Ben Kepka
      November 6, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      Hey, thanks for taking the time to drop a comment! The scans were done with an Epson Perfection V370 scanner. I have a bunch of input settings in there that help automate the clean it up. However, the main problem (as you can imagine) is the dust, etc on the slides. You need to make sure you use a rocket blower and a film brush to get all the dust of the slides/film first. Anything you can’t get manually, you’ll have to remove in Photoshop afterward. From here you can do any basic edit you like if you wish, I tend to try to minimise as much as possible in post as if you want to do that, you’re better off just shooting digital! If you have any other questions feel free to send me an email or get in touch on my site.

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