Anastasiya Shevela. (2015)

According to the tags in the original post, this image was made with a sheet of 4×5 Kodak Ektachrome.

Long story short: Ektachrome ‘replaced’ Kodachrome. (The scare quotes are to respect the opinion that Kodachrome was without equal and irreplaceable.)

It’s a fine grain color positive (or slide) film. It was discontinued in 2013.

There’s no way of knowing when the sheet resulting in this photograph was exposed. It could’ve been in 2013, while the film was still ‘fresh’. If it was exposed this year–which would be my guess–it’s held up reasonably well. (There’s a blue shift due to the boat and a yellow shift in the skintone but both facets only contribute to a stronger image.)

I used a few rolls of Ektachrome before it was scrapped. I’ve never really cared for Kodak film stock–the T-Max grain structure irritates me and Tri-X has never been as smooth as the high end Ilford stocks to my eye. And I’ve had several interactions with Kodak as a company that have left a very bad taste in my mouth. But Ektachrome was solid. It never had the dazzling skin tone of Fuji’s Astia. (Now sadly also discontinued–but I do still have a small stockpile in my freezer.)

If you’ve never shot slide film you aren’t going to appreciate the nuance in this photograph. Unlike negative film–which has a sometimes a nearly five stop exposure range wherein you’ll get a ‘usable’ photo–slide film is unforgiving in the extreme.  Without perfectly even lighting, Fuji’s Provia 100 in medium format gives about ¾ of stop range; 35mm is ¼ a stop if you’re super lucky.

So, if it’s that much fussier to shoot slides as opposed to negs, why bother? Well, on the one hand, I’m a photographer who strongly dislikes the lemming-like obsession so many fashion/editorial/’fine art’ folks have with Kodak Portra. If you’re using a flash and/or have controlled lighting, you can do some interesting stuff with it. But it’s texture tends to be plastic-like and the colors skew a little too pastel for my taste. (I suspect so many people use it because it tends to provide a ‘flattering’ skin tone by default.)

The truth is: I only ever shot one negative stock which rendered what I would refer to as acceptable color fidelity–Afga’s Optima II. (I’m convinced it was better able to render grey scale in the shadow areas.) Alas, it was discontinued soon after I stumbled onto it.

The first time I shot slide film was the first time I was really even halfway on board with regard to color fidelity. So I continue to shoot it.

And I think what I’ve come to realize is slide film just renders color in a fashion closer to the way my eye sees color. For example, in the above image, it’s difficult to tell if the blue is bleeding out from the boat into the pebbles or if the pebbles were just close enough in color as to provide that illusion. A well exposed slide leaves that ambiguity. Just pop in down on a light table and you’ll see it one way or the other depending upon how you look at it.

With a negative, that distinction would be something that one would develop in printing. (And it would take a long time of futzing back and forth and printing a bunch of images that didn’t work.)

That’s why slide film appeals to me: if you shoot it and it looks like crap, there’s no fixing it. It’s not strictly WYSIWYG but it’s so close it may as well be. I appreciate it’s unforgiving nature. It forces me to think and then think again before I click the shutter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s