A Tale of Two Photos

Posted on May 19, 2011


I’ve had a little bit of time on my hands lately, and I’ve been using it to clear out some of my creative projects:

  • Test film speed
  • Test film speed correctly
  • See if 800 ASA color film can be developed as B&W
  • Print on glass and back with gold leaf
  • Write novel short story
  • Scan 120 negatives
  • Make and shoot pinholes
  • Scan 35mm negatives and positives
  • Shoot for portfolios
  • Get totally sidetracked on other assorted quests (like a blog)

One of the things I’ve done lately is to shoot different films. Not long ago I switched up from Kodak TMAX 100 to TMAX 400 because they actually reformatted the 400 to have nearly the same grain. This lets me shoot water shots, as I’m wont to do, and get my shadow detail without all that annoying white from the moving water.

Water shot

A shot I would kill to have on ASA 400

I just recently discovered that they make this in 3200 ASA for 35mm. Not only is this really handy in case you have to take pictures inside a bank vault, the blacks are stunning and the grain seems as tight at 100. I need to play more with this (there’s another blog in that failed experiment). I wish it came in 120!

Along this quest, I ran into Ilford SFX 200, “extended red.” It’s not quite infrared, but it’s close and if you shoot it with infrared filtration can get some of what they call the “wood” effect.  I shot a roll of this, of which only one image came out. This is partially because I never shot it before, and partially because IR filters are completely opaque – all metering is pretty much a guess until you build up some empirical data (and trust me, when I get it, I will publish it).  Here’s an example from a kind of a cool gallery using SFX for pinhole and Holga photography:

A wood effect example

A wood effect example

The image I took does not really exhibit the wood effect, perhaps coniferous trees are not as influenced by it. But, it did really add some nice qualities to the shot.

Marymere Falls, Infrared

And here is the same shot in TMAX 400. Well, not quite the same shot. I took this shot first and switched film backs, forgetting to put the SFX into Portrait mode. Also, this image is quite a bit “lighter” as I was able to accurately meter it and put the shadows in Zone IV. But it is taken from the same place with the same lens.

I  posted these on Facebook and did a poll. People seemed to like the SFX better. I vacillate.  As I said, it’s really not an apples-to-apples comparison. I can definitely print the TMAX version down to the darkness of the other. I think the TMAX did a much better job of stopping the water. The SFX image has a little more mystery to it, but I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the IR aspects, or just the exposure. The one IR aspect that I do see is that the falls have these bright green “angel wings” that you can see in this random color photo of it:

Mossy angel wings

In the IR version, these come out lighter. Maybe just a touch of Wood effect comes into play here. What I really should’ve done (and which I’m going to do soon) is take the photo with a green filter. Filters pass light of like colors so a green filter will lighten the green. I think the evergreen trees have a lot of black and red in them (whenever I shoot mountain scenes with a red filter for the clouds the trees turn out completely black and blocked) and will not change much.

In the darkroom I will handle this by bleaching the print locally and washing the silver off of it to locally change the contrast. But I think, ultimately, the only real thing to do is to go back to the Peninsula, hike my gear in, take a roll bracketing the shots with the yellow and green filters, and then also with the IR film so that I can get a better comparison.  In my experience, anything worth photographing is worth photographing twice.

Putting the two side-by-side shows I have something to learn about keeping the camera still while I switch film backs!

Two shots of Marymere Falls

SFX 200 (IR) on the left, TMAX 400 on the right

Frankly, I’m slightly astounded by the difference in composition. You can see an entire tree in the image on the right that is not even visible on the left! The curve of the tree, the width of the falls, everything is completely changed. I’d blame it on the lens, but it’s the same lens.  Huh, that’s not at all what I was looking for when I put these side-by-side. These two shots were taken seconds apart from the same camera loaded on a tripod. All I did was switch out the film backs, and I have witnesses. You would not thing from this distance no amount of moving a camera, without moving its tripod, could have effects this drastic.

Going back. Definitely going back.

Posted in: Photography, Style