5 frames with...

5 Frames With Kodak Gold 200 / My Analog Photography Process – By Leo Lukens

March 31, 2020

As someone who grew up in the era of the digital camera, I never thought of film photography as anything other than old and inferior. At twenty one years old, the only experience I had with film photography was from using disposable Fuji cameras on family trips to the Oregon Coast and Portland. It wasn’t until I bought my first DSLR in October, a Nikon D3200, that I was slowly exposed to the reality of film through the internet. I began to notice that the photos I was aesthetically drawn to were not, in fact, shot digitally. They were almost all shot on analog cameras.

So, after learning the basics of photography, the exposure triangle, composition, etc., I began to look for a cheap film camera. After some google research and talking to a few friends that shot film, I had a pretty good sense of what I was looking for. I found a man on Facebook Marketplace selling a Minolta SRT-101 with a Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 for twenty five dollars. I’d heard of the SRT-101, and I reached out. A day later, I came home with a mint condition Minolta with good light seals and a working, accurate, light meter. From that moment forward, I knew that film was for me. The vintage look of the camera alone felt like reason enough for me to wear it around town. 

As a matter of principle, I do not edit my film photographs. In the age of Photoshop and Lightroom I found it too easy to prioritize the editing process over the process of capturing a moment on a camera in the first place. If a photo doesn’t come out quite right, oh well, I’d just edit it until I found something I liked. In my opinion, this process defeats the purpose of shooting film. Film draws me into the moment and helps me appreciate my photographs as they are, regardless of motion blur or accidental overexposure. The results are a part of the process and a part of what makes film unique.

The Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens provides a sharp image and nicely blurred background at fast apertures.

This is not to say that my opinion is the only valid one on this subject. As Hamish points out in his article, “My Colour Film Photography Workflow, Or: A Rant About How Software Isn’t The Enemy!”, the digital editing of film photographs can provide improved image quality, color, and contrast, to name only a few aspects. There is nothing wrong with his viewpoint or workflow, and there’s nothing wrong with editing film photos for improved results. I actually quite like the argument he makes.

If I was writing an article on my digital photography process and using my Nikon d600, my opinion of editing photographs would be quite different compared to my film process. I suppose, I am simply saying that I value different aspects of photography in film and digital, and for film, I like to leave the photos as they are once I receive them from The Darkroom

 

The dimly-lit interior of the vintage store provided an excellent backdrop for the brilliant neon signs.

The photos I am drawn to are stylistically oriented towards street photography. The contrast of immersing oneself in a chaotic, quick-paced environment, like a city street, yet being able to capture candid, intimate moments seemed like the ultimate challenge for a photographer. Especially a photographer who doesn’t have the ability to review their photos on the spot and decide if they’re happy with what they’ve captured. Film photography requires confidence and an appreciation for more than just sharp images, it requires you to observe your surroundings and appreciate what is going on around you. 

In the interest of sticking with the theme of entry-level film photography, I chose to share 5 frames of Kodak Gold 200 from my first few rolls of film. While I am aware that more expensive, sharper films exist, I did not want to spend money on Portra or Cinestill at a point in my life where, as a college student, I was short on money and trying to get the most bang for my buck.

After consulting the internet once again, I found three rolls of Kodak Gold for the same price as one roll of Cinestill 800T. The decision was easy. Plus, I really do like the warm tones of Gold 200. I like the way the film saturates colors and how images have a rich depth of color. They bring out the ‘happy’ aesthetic in photos, and I now understand where the film’s name originated. 

The interior of a classic spot in Bend, Oregon, Taco Salsa. The interior is a photographer’s paradise.

Although I do not live in a big city and the streets where I shoot are far from the hustle and bustle of New York or Hong Kong, I try to bring the aspects of intimacy and composition that I saw in street photography into my own photography. Whether I’m shooting film while walking along the Metolius River, eating al-pastor tacos at my local late night hangout, Taco Salsa, or digging through used clothes and records at my local vintage shop, Iron Horse, there’s something about Kodak Gold 200 which brings out the fun in every photo, regardless of its consumer-grade status. 

A bit of overexposure in grass, but the details in the trees remain sharp.

All of these photos were taken in Central Oregon, processed and scanned by TheDarkroom.com

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Nathalie Porter
    March 31, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Just wanted to compliment your choice of a camera, Minoltas in general tend to be a bit overlooked for some reason (at least they’re usually affordable because of it!) but they’re fantastic and SRTs are among the best ones. Plus you pretty much can’t go wrong with Rokkor lenses.

  • Reply
    Rock
    March 31, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Nice variation of photos, Leo, thank you for sharing. Certainly they show off the virtues of Kodak Gold. I have a half used roll in a camera right now but just can’t seem to get around to finishing it off. Being in lockdown right now, would love to see photos from the world. Have never been to Oregon if you thought about writing a longer post of that part of America……!? Cheers, Rock in United Kingdom

  • Reply
    Ilya
    March 31, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Nice photos and thank you for sharing!
    In my own experience of experimenting with film photography over the past several years I too find that film photos can be beautiful and have a unique attraction to them. And the difference between the consumer grade and the more expensive films is usually fairly subtle. When you’ve mentioned that you prefer not to edit the film photos much, it made me think of that often forgotten step of color correction that happens after scanning the negatives.
    What can really make a difference between beautiful film photos and the everyday ones, is the scanning, not so much the film type. Many of the photos I find I really like, I had taken using basic Fuji Superia film, which is probably in the same group as Kodak Gold. But sometimes the scans come out great and sometimes they don’t. Even with a good scanner like the Nikon Coolscan.
    Most of the inspiration-type photos I find online usually come from people who either send their film to a professional scanning lab; or from people who have spent a great deal of time and effort on learning how to scan and color correct their negatives at home.
    Getting the correct white balance in a scanned negative is not a trivial matter. Usually the white balance needs to be tweaked individually for the highlights, mids and shadows. And that’s what professionals working in labs do really well. That’s an absolutely essential step of image processing that needs to happen to convert an orange-mess of a negative to a beautiful photo. I’ve found through my own experience that trying to do this myself is fairly hard.

  • Reply
    Matthias
    March 31, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Hi Leo,

    thank you for sharing your ideas of shooting film and your photos. I really like your first picture.
    I also had good results with consumer grade Kodak (and Fuji) film, even with expired one.
    And congrats for your choice of camera, the SRT-101 is just fun to use. I also have one but it needs some fixing (mirror hangs at slow speeds, self timer and cable release broken), so I mostly shoot Minolta XD-7 or X-700. Which batteries do you use for the light meter of the SRT-101 ?
    Try some more Minolta lenses, they are really nice and still affordable, p.e. 3.5/28mm (usually super cheap but good), 2.8/28mm (decent), 2.8/35mm (very sharp beast), all 50mm, 1.7/55mm (bokeh machine), 1.7/85mm and 2/85mm (o.k. these are expensive, but spectacular), 2.8/135mm (cheap and great), 4/200mm (super sharp) and I really like my MD Zoom 3.5-4.5/35-105mm, which is very versatile, really decent and dirt cheap.

    • Reply
      Leo Lukens
      March 31, 2020 at 9:53 pm

      Thank you for the advice, Matthias. I am definitely on the hunt for a wide-angle Minolta lens as well. For light meter batteries, I use the Rayovac 675 hearing aid batteries, which work quite well.

  • Reply
    Stephanie Batcos
    March 31, 2020 at 11:03 pm

    Beautiful photos

  • Reply
    Kate Johnson
    March 31, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    Love the camera and the photos……..SRT-series cameras, especially the 101 and 202 are the best.

  • Reply
    Alex Wittwer
    April 1, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Hi Leo

    Just wanted to point out that unless you shoot slide film, your photographs were edited and corrected by either the lab or prebuilt software. Color negatives, by their nature, must be inverted to create an image and remove the orange mask, which means editing. Your choice of lab, if they do the scanning for you, can yield way different results. Blue Moon will give me back way different results than Walgreens or TheDarkroom.com, and all of those will be different from my home scans in terms of contrastz color, and sharpness. Saying that you don’t edit your film photos is a continuation of a myth that doesn’t seem to want to die.

    I’m any case, I’m glad you’re enjoying film photography. Kodak Gold is one of my favorite films, especially the expired stuff.

    Take care

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2020 at 10:59 am

      This is what I talk about in my post. But to each their own

  • Reply
    Zubida
    April 17, 2020 at 5:25 am

    You did really good job with KODAK GOLD 200. Beautiful photos indeed! I have around a hundred moves of Kodak Gold 100 away. Gold 200 is acceptable, yet I’ve recently been shooting more Fuji Superia 200 in light of the fact that it’s simpler for me to examine. Don’t have the foggiest idea why. My 400 speed film of decision is likewise Fuji’s nevertheless the Kodak Gold I have shot has been acceptable as well.

  • Reply
    Karen
    September 13, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Excellent pictures, and an inspiring post! I just bought a box of Kodak Ultramax 400 film from my local drugstore and am looking forward to shooting with it. I also just shot a roll of Kodak Gold 200 in my Minolta Maxxum 5 and am eagerly waiting for my scans from The Darkroom as well. And I do get how you feel about not editing the photos in Lightroom, although I am guilty of doing that with one of my recent rolls. But some rolls you just love as-is and want to share – I get that feeling too!

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