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Kodak Portra 400

In the last year I have shot a number of rolls of Portra 400 35mm film.  I only really like this film when taking pictures of people.  Portra 400 in my experience does a very good job of white skin, but any landscape and my results have been just OK.  This compares with Velvia 50 which I find magical, and Kodak Ektar 100 which I get very good results from.  All of the landscapes I spent a lot of time enhancing them.

Sunset Cliffs in San Diego using portra 400.
Sunset Cliffs in San Diego using portra 400.

The above picture is of Sunset Cliffs in San Diego.  I had to do a lot of computer work with iPhoto and Aperture to get it this good.

Shot with Olympus OM2n using 50mm 1.8 lens
Shot with Olympus OM2n using 50mm 1.8 lens

The above picture to me was the surprise gem of the roll as the statue in the foreground is fairly sharp and the background has a great bokeh combined with film grain.  I really like the background which to me seems like an impressionist style painting look.

Combo of people and landscape.  I improved the water colors but put more red into the faces than I like.
Combo of people and landscape. I improved the water colors but put more red into the faces than I like.

Here is an OK picture with people and landscape.  The faces went reddish when I post processed them to improve the landscape.  I know I could have spent more time and adjusted just the faces back to better tones, but that is just more work than I wanted to put into it.  Most of the time when taking Velvia the shots come good right out of the camera.

If I was going to a family gathering or one of my grand children’s birth day parties Porta 400 would be the film to grab.  It seems to nail face tones every time.  But for landscapes Velvia would be my choice.

Two Big Advantages Of Film Over Digital Photography

The first huge advantage of film over digital is that you can use Velvia 50 with film cameras.  This film has been praised by many many others, but I just want to add a bit more.  Gosh this stuff makes beautiful rich opulent pictures.  I just love the colors it makes.

The red camellia colors on my retina screen are gorgeous.
The red camellia colors on my retina screen are gorgeous.
That chair is silk.  Velvia makes it richer than in real life.  And it is rich looking in real life.
That chair is silk. Velvia makes it richer than in real life. And it is rich looking in real life.
I love the colors of this faded rose.  On my screen the are very rich.
I love the colors of this faded rose. On my screen the are very rich.

A second big advantage of film is that you can get lots of great cameras who’s lenses are capable of great looking bokeh.  These pictures were all taken with an Olympus OM2n with a f1.8 50mm lens.  To my eye these pictures show great bokeh.  You can buy a very good example of this camera today for $100-150.

In addition to the rich red color on the rose, look at that bokeh.
In addition to the rich red color on the rose, look at that bokeh.

This next picture is just to pay respect to the wonderful effects you sometimes get with film.  I took this picture last summer and forgot it was in the camera.  This is at the top of a mountain in WA State and the fog effect is dreamy.  It is perfect to my eye.

If you don’t have a film camera now would be a good time to buy one.  I have noticed prices going up a bit on some cameras and skyrocketing on others.  Many of the good rangefinder and medium format cameras have gone way up in price.  What used to be $30 Yashica 124s are now $250 dollars.  And some of the old Olympus rangefinder cameras are now several hundred dollars.

And if you have a film camera and have not been using Velvia, do so.  Don’t let slide film’s supposed exposure fussiness dissuade you.  My old Olympus almost always nails the exposure.  So will your camera.

fog scene

The Second Most Important Feature Of Digital Photography

If seeing the results of your camera shot immediately is the most important advantage of digital over film photography, then seeing the image in live view to make adjustments in difficult lighting is the second most important.  What I mean is that you can see what you are going to get before you capture it.  This is very valuable in many instances.  For instance, when the sky is dimming and dusk approaches it is very helpful to use live view.

Desert scene at dusk
Desert scene at dusk

To get this shot I turned on live view on my DSLR and moved the camera around to get the lighting I liked.  When I saw what I wanted took the picture.  This is much much harder using film.  Normally what you do is bracket around and hope that you get some usable-great shots.  Most of the time you will, but digital works a lot better.

Cell phones offer great live views to get sunset or sunrise pictures.  But DSLR camera’s normally give a better result.  If you are shopping for a new camera make sure it has a good back screen or an electronic viewfinder.  I personally prefer an optical viewfinder combined with a good back screen, but I can understand that an EVF has it’s advantages too.  I know of at least one camera that can switch the viewfinder from optical to electronic.  That would be ideal depending on how well it works.

The Balloon Festival At Albuquerque Should Be On Everyone’s Bucket List

First off, the only good way to see this event is by using an RV.  The main balloon event is the mass ascension and that happens starting just after dawn.  This is very early to get up if you are staying in a hotel.  The second event is the glow which happens close to dusk.  Again, better to be a short shuttle bus away to your rig than try to fight the traffic to get back to your hotel.

Morning mass ascension
Morning mass ascension

I also recommend you stay at the on site park grounds in your RV.  You can book a tour through people like Escapees, FMCA, Adventure RV tours, or just make reservations.  If you do not like generator noise book into the areas with power to them.  The other big advantage to staying on site is you can take the free shuttle bus.  There is very heavy traffic getting to the events and the shuttle bus means you don’g have to fight the traffic.

This balloon is huge.  About 80-100 ft high.
This balloon is huge. About 80-100 ft high.

You want to book for the entire festival as some days the balloon show does not take place.  Winds are too high, it rains, and so on.  For us the mass ascension the first days we the best.  The last day they did not even have it as the winds were too high.

Somehow these guys always stuck together.
Somehow these guys always stuck together.

I do recommend you go to the balloon museum.  It is really well put together and very interesting.

So put this event on your bucket list and go.  Book early.