Monday, January 17, 2011

Fuji Velvia 50 and Nikon F90x

I put my first roll of film through my Nikon F90x last weekend in Westport - a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 slide film. Since the film has to be sent away to be processed, I didn't get it back until today.

And I have to say I'm disappointed. Not in the camera or film itself - but in me. Pretty much all of the images came back grossly under exposed, and I knew they would be.

I shot most of the film at the Westport A&P Show, at the wood chopping events. I love watching woodchopping anyway, and enjoy photographing it even more. As you can see from the image on the left, it was a very bright day (look at the blown-out whites on the chopper's trousers), so I should have compensated for this in the camera by adding at least one stop of exposure value. Especially when using slide film. But I was lazy - probably from shooting too much print film and digital, and didn't add any exposure, assuming the camera would take care of it (but knowing that it wouldn't)!

What you see here is the result of a lot of Photoshop work to get a barely passable image - and one that is always going to exhibit more 'noise' than should have been necessary with a properly exposed slide.

You can see that here with a 100% crop of the above image. There's far too much noise there in the shadows, but even in the sky, it's more pronounced than it should be. It's a real shame, because by simply adding 1 to 1.5 stops more exposure, the image above could have been my starting point, rather than my 'only just adequate' end result.

It does clean up a little more when put through a 'de-noise' filter like Noise Ninja, but I can't stress enough that this step could have been avoided with more careful exposure. Oh well, lesson learnt the hard way (again) I suppose.

And in a very real sense, that's what I still like about shooting film. You actually do learn from your mistakes, because you pay for them - in both monetary terms and in terms of it taking time to get your images back. You invest so much time and money into your images that you want (need) them to turn out well. And when you do make a mistake (and you will), it hurts much more than just reaching for the 'delete' button when shooting digital.

When you shoot with film (especially slide film) you need to think about exposure more. You can't just shoot and hope.

So while I am annoyed with myself for making the mistake in the first place, I'm also glad that it happened (kind of). It's stressed to me the importance of watching the light, thinking about my photography, and not becoming a lazy photographer. Walking around the A&P Show that day I knew the sun was very bright. I knew the meter in the camera would be under-exposing, and I knew I should be doing something about it. I was just plain lazy. And I paid the ultimate price with poorly exposed images.

I'm happy with the shot on the right - my favourite salvageable shot from the whole roll. But I'm not happy with how much time and Photoshop know-how it's taken for me to get it to this stage. Especially when I knew better.

Finishing on a slightly more positive note - here is a much better exposure on the same roll, from a few that I shot earlier. Of course the day was slightly overcast, so the meter has had no problem exposing properly -  but hey, I'll take it anyway. At least the whole roll wasn't a write-off.

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