I have a habit of picking up rolls of film that I’d like to try, without necessarily having a purpose in mind. Even once I’ve filled my airtight plastic tub, I buy more rolls faster than I can shoot them. I do the same with books: buy the ones that interest me when I see them (in case I don’t see them again), then spend the next 3 months flicking at my phone whilst they pile up. I’m trying to be better; at some point I will shoot only HP5 and FP4, or so I tell myself. In the meantime I have a tub of film to get through.
This brings me to my one roll of Delta 3200. I had never shot with such fast film before and so I wanted to try, though first I needed a purpose. I had missed my opportunity for a grand ’Empty Streets’ COVID project, but had made an observation at various hawker centers (public food courts, integral to life here in Singapore). Through various stages of lockdown and social distancing, a web of plastic netting had spread across the tables and crept up the seats—the form of it kind of reminded me of the spiky coronavirus particles. I decided to shoot these normally busy places at night, hoping that the dark backdrops and grain from the 3200 film would lend a certain mood to the subject.
I selected my Nikon FE for the job. This is my ‘easy’ film camera: I’m comfortable with SLRs, like to shoot aperture-priority, and have a decent range of 70‘s AI lenses with great character (I also have one pre-AI lens, a 50mm f1.4, and the character on that thing wide open is something else).
I shot this set with the 50mm f1.8 and the 20mm f4; I love that both these lenses are almost pancake-tiny and have excellent close focusing ability (0.45m and 0.3m, respectively). I must admit, my personal preference wide is 24mm but having read about the size and quality of the 20, I opted to suck it up and challenge myself a little. This kit gave me all the flexibility I would need: Standard, wide, close-in. Maybe a little bokeh too. Also, it all slipped easily into a small sling bag.
Although most hawker centres across the country had succumbed to the orange plastic crawl, I chose to shoot at Newton Food Centre. Arranged in a perfect circle, open to the weather and surrounded with beautiful trees, it is photogenic as far as food courts go. The patterns of the paving complement the layers of prohibitive webbing, and… Ok it is also near my place and they have a local craft ale stall. Total no-brainer.
I had envisioned a range of images from full scenes, to abstracted shapes and textures. Overall I’m fairly pleased though feel like I could have gone a bit closer for some shots. I could (and should) have gone harder on the abstract.
Despite having developed the film in DDX (in an attempt to calm the results a little), I was ready for some big grain from the Delta 3200 though still felt surprised at just how much I got. I wonder what the benefit of shooting this is over pushing something like HP5 to 3200… Anyone have experience of this? Or maybe I’ve just overlooked something here—either way I’d be grateful to hear about it.
Thanks for reading.