Riga - in black and white

This follows on from this post, when I recently had another trip to Riga. I decided to shoot the entire trip on film, something I had never done before as I am still getting used to film photography. I was really happy with how the colour rolls turned out, and if anything, I’m even happier with the black and white photos. I simply love the tones you can achieve with film.

These were taken using Ilford HP5 and Kodak Tri-X (pushed to 1600).

Riga - in colour

I've been to Riga many times before, and it's a place I always enjoy walking around, especially the historical centre. For this trip, I was there on business for four days. Luckily I was able to stay right on the edge of the main central area, so every morning and evening I had the opportunity to explore the narrow streets.

This was the first trip where I shot almost entirely on film. I had only ever finished two rolls of film prior to this trip, so I'm still very much in the learning stage! Despite this, I'm really happy with the photos, and I'm glad I took the risk and captured my experiences on film.

The weather was absolutely perfect, I couldn't have been more lucky! I literally did not see a cloud for the first few days. Perfect conditions for making the most of the fantastic colours of Portra 400. On my last day, the weather turned. The perfect blue skies replaced with a thick blanket of fog. Again, this was perfect timing as I had ran out of Portra film the night before and had just loaded Kodak Tri-X. The foggy streets were perfect for black and white photos. I'll post these separately. 

All of the following colour photos were shot on Portra 400, with an Olympus OM-4 Ti and 50mm f/1.4 lens. 

Enjoy :)

My first rolls of 35mm

So the obvious question in a world of digital photography - why would you want to get into shooting film? I've read quite a few blogs of other people diving into the world of film photography, with varying reasons. Some have just discovered their father's old camera hiding away, covered in dust, and fancied trying it out. For others, that's how they started in photography and are keen to keep it going.

For me, there were many reasons. Although I didn't find any of my relatives old camera lying about, I do have some vague memories of playing with their cameras when I was young (I use the word 'playing', as when I you're about 5-6 years old, it felt more like it at the time!), so it's always been something I'd wanted to try, I guess I kept putting it off. Being born in '87, it's fair to say that I've very much grown up in the digital era. 

The main reason I wanted to start was simply to help improve my photography as a whole. Even before reading much about film photography, it goes without saying that it's a much slower process from start to finish. I've noticed on some occasions that I may have some 'bad habits' with digital photography, and like many, probably take advantage of how easy it is. From racking off dozens of images of a single scene, only to pick the best one later in Lightroom, only to find that none of them captured the moment as I wanted, to rushing the entire editing process in general in a hurry to get everything online. 

Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400

The big decision I had next was....which camera?! Being completely new to film, I had very little knowledge on how the cameras differed, and what would be good as a beginner. It's made harder by the fact that it would have to be second hand, and my first 'new' film camera could have well been manufactured over 20 years ago! But essentially, film cameras are just fancy light boxes, which is why they don't age, and can perform just as well today as they did when they were first built. That made the choice harder, as why would one be worth a lot more than another? (apart from some being rather rare and collectors items). After many many hours of reading, I eventually settled on an Olympus, specifically the OM-4 Ti. The OM series had a very good reputation back in the day, and the OM-4 was the last of the 'pro' range of 35mm SLRs Olympus made. I was advised to go for a 'Ti' if I could, as this fixed a number of electrical gremlins over the standard OM-4. 

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400

I'm not the biggest fan of eBay, but there are so many cameras available there, that it's almost a no brainer, unless you're lucky enough to find a high street camera shop with a good selection of film cameras (easier said than done!). I found a really nice OM-4 Ti on eBay that came with the 'best' 50mm 1.4 lenses you could get. (apparently Olympus made many versions of the 500 1.4, and ones with a serial number over 1,100,000 are widely considered to be the one to get). The camera itself feels great to handle, and I instantly fell in love with the mechanical nature of everything. As I've used Fuji's mirrorless cameras for years, it was so satisfying to go back to the SLR ways, with a conventional viewfinder as apossed to the EVF that I've been so accustomed to.

Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400

Shooting on film is a completely different experience. I'd spend a lot more time thinking about the photo, rather than taking a series of photos with my digital camera, reviewing them, and then fiddling with the settings and/or often then recomposing. With film, you have to slow down and really think about things before pressing the shutter. We take it for granted how quick and easy it is to see the actual photograph within seconds of taking it with digital. With film, you really have to think. Especially when a small part of you is acutely aware that every time you press that shutter, it costs money.

On the subject of money, let it be said.....film photography is not cheap! I was amazed at how much some rolls can cost. 36 exposures for over £10 in some cases. 36 pence might not sound like a lot, but lets say there's one scene you really like and take a dozen images.... On digital, 12 images is nothing. On film, not only is that a third of your roll gone, but that scene cost you over £4! .....and we haven't even started on developing/scanning costs yet!

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Luckily there's a reputable shop in town that offers developing and scanning. They charge around £16 to develop a roll of 35mm (36 exp) and scan the images to disc. That works out at around 70 pence per photo, including the average price of a roll of film. 

The first roll I shot was Kodak's Colour Plus 200. A relatively cheap roll of film,  3 rolls (36 exp) coming in at just over £10. I didn't fancy using one of the 'nicer' rolls, just in case I made a complete mess of loading it, or something else went wrong and everything was lost. After finishing that roll, my confidence was higher and I loaded the legendary Portra 400. This has to be one of the most popular film stocks around, and when looking at many images from some amazing photographers, it's easy to see why. 

Kodak Colour Plus 200

Kodak Colour Plus 200

The OM-4 has a built in light meter, and for most 'easy' scenes I went with that. For more complex lighting situations (strong sunlight, back lighting etc) I tried to expose for the shadows, but this is still something I need to get the hang of, and learn how film behaves. Film is very forgiving when overexposed, and in many cases, you can shoot +4 stops (and higher) without any issues, as long as you expose for the shadows. Shooting scenes with strong lighting and shadows is still a challenge, but I'm learning to use the Olympus's fantastic spot metering tool. Simply select an area, click the spot button, and it will meter for that. Nothing revolutionary there I know, but with the OM-4, you can select multiple spot metering points. So theoretically, you could select a spot in the shadows, the camera will set the shutter speed appropriately, then select another area you want to expose for, and the camera will average those two spots, select another, and that will be in the average shutter speed too.....and so on.

There's still a lot to learn, but these are my first photographs ever on film.....
 

Portra 400

Colour Plus 200