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Contax 645AF

Every picture I take is a wish not a capture of reality.

Let me share two pictures with you as an example.

This is my father. The first picture was taken with the digital Canon 5D and the cheap 50mm/f1.8 and yes… I’m going to say it… straight out of the camera!

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Okay… it’s a pretty nice picture, the day was kind of cloudy, the camera did a good job, maybe a bit on the underexposed side. My fault but I was not aiming for an artistic capture, just a casual snap.

This is the second picture.

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My father holding a baby rabbit. It was taken with the Contax 645AF. It was a sunny day and we were in the shade. The camera did a great job and, again, I was not aiming for an artistic picture, just another casual snap.

When I look at both I feel the Contax one more appealing as a “photograph”. The digital one only has sentimental value, the second one has both sentimental and photographic value. Why?

I can imagine having the Contax picture hanging on a wall and the digital one kept in a family album. Why?

When it comes to photography both were made carelessly, both were made for that family album however, one looks so much more special.

Is it the lens? The “famous” bokeh? Is is the light? Does my father look better? Is it a better angle? Is it the rabbit?

Is it the simple fact that being in black and white adds an extra layer of seriousness?

Even my father likes the Contax one better. Why?

Well, reality is boring and the black and white image is the further from reality and that’s why I like it better as a photograph.

Let me give you another example. This is my son.

The first shot was taken with the (sweet) Ricoh GrD3. The second one was taken with the Zeiss Ikon Nettar.

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Again. Which picture do I like the best?

As photographs they should have the same visual value but they don’t, why?

Why do I keep on liking the ones further from reality?

Why do I feel that my pictures do look better in black and white? One is as good or as bad as the other.

The truth is, my pictures do look better in black and white and that’s why I don’t use digital cameras to capture these personal moments or other kind of personal images I make.

Reality is too… raw. Too real, too accurate. I don’t like it. I aim to capture it in many ways but only as the raw material to work on.

Every picture I take is a wish not a capture of reality.

At the end of the day, when developing and scanning (or printing the negatives) my black and white pictures are a pretty good hiding place for my lack of inspiration and talent but, at the same time, it is my black and white photography that comes closer to the visual approach I like when it comes to image making.

As usual, please forgive my limited English.

One of the things that drives me crazy to the point of wanting to sell it all and getting a digital camera is… color.

Getting back the results from the labs is always a moment of anxiety and many, many times (not to say most of the times) a true disappointment.

I’ve lost count of the times I got home, sat down, scanned the film and spent hours and hours fixing a bad lab work but sometimes there’s just nothing to do. The shot is ruined forever, like this one.

On this particular situation it’s not just about the color, I’m pretty sure I could save it if it was, but the frame is “thin”, there’s not enough “information” to work with.

Fuji Pro 400H

Fuji Pro 400H

 

Frustration!
Imagine getting back 12 beautiful thin, faint blue(ish)/Green(ish) frames. Pun intended.

Yes I know, I could do it myself but I don’t want that extra work even getting a Jobo. I don’t shoot enough color film to justify the time and the money, however I would love to get a good job done when I must send out film to develop.

Okay… that being said… color film is a wonderful medium to work with. If the shooting and the developing is done properly it’s great to see how different films behave.

Fuji is cold, Kodak is warm.
It’s almost like a mantra. A true mantra.

Fuji Pro 400H

Fuji Pro 400H

 

Kodak Portra 400 VC

Kodak Portra 400 NC

 

 

Fuji Pro 400H

Fuji Pro 400H

 

Kodak Portra 400 NC

Kodak Portra 400 NC

 

How about an extreme situation?
A dark room, dim artificial light and I only had a roll of Kodak E100G.
The meter was reading 1/30 for f4 and I shot at 1/60.

I didn’t had much faith in the final result so I asked the lab to cross-process it. Who knows, maybe some strange color… thing would happen on the good side.

Here’s the result.

Kodak E100G, cross process, artificial light.

Kodak E100G, cross process, artificial light.

 

Now look at the same film (also cross processed) under good natural light.

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Kodak E100G, cross process, natural light

And here is the final sample. The same film, Kodak E100G, standard development, under natural light.

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As a final conclusion
1 – Many labs suck.
2 – Color film is great.
3 – Fuji is cold, Kodak is warm.
4 – Cross processing Kodak E100G makes the images colder (the greens stand out) and it adds saturation.

For those who are, like me, in their 40’s, you might remember the song by The Psychedelic Furs, Pretty in Pink. The song was released in 1981 and five years later Howard Deutch directed a movie also called Pretty in Pink staring Molly Ringwald.

Well, I don’t get many chances to take shots of a beautiful girl wearing a pink wig but I think it is something we all should do at least once in our lives!

These were all taken indoors and I was not getting enough light so I pushed the film to 800 ISO but sent it to develop at box speed (400 ISO).

Pushing C-41 film one or two stops above but developing it at box speed does increase the contrast and color saturation however the skin tones do suffer a bit from it. They easily become too orange(ish).

PS: Maria wore that wig proudly! Hat’s off to you miss and thank you.

Gear:
Contax 645 AF
Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2
Kodak Portra VC 400

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This was my first and only photo session with Maria and it was a very interesting one. Why?
Well, I only had an Ilford PanF+ and a Delta 3200! Talking about extremes!

I knew that some of the images would come out silky smooth and some harsh as sand.

When I was looking at the results I felt that, it was not me who toke the portraits, it was not me who had taken something from someone, very much the opposite, something was given to me. The opportunity of capturing such beautiful moments.

Thank you Maria.

Gear:
Contax 645AF
Zeiss 80mm/f2 lens

Recipe:
Ilford PanF+
Ilfosol 3
1+14
5 min

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Gear:
Contax 645AF
Zeiss 80mm/f2 lens

Recipe:
Ilford Delta 3200@400
Ilfosol 3
1+14
11 min

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Gear:
Contax 645AF
Zeiss Distagon 45mm f/2.8Fuji Pro 400H

These are prep shots for a CD cover.
The idea was to capture and work on the hand written sentence on the wall name: “Uma falaciosa noção de intimidade”, more or less something like “A fallacious feeling of intimacy”.

Let me start by sharing one of the ideas for the CD cover.
The thin white lines are fold marks and the CD itself would be located on the opposite side of the central part. The left part would fold first and the right part would fold on top.

This was done in Photoshop but the scans have no adjustment.
Notice the slightly yellow/magenta cast on the images.
My scanner always does that to the Fuji 400H.

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The next image is the same one but using the “Auto Color” adjustment in Photoshop.
Notice that Photoshop wipes a fair amount of yellow and magenta and it adds cyan. This makes everything a bit colder and “greenish”.

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I was looking for a warm tone but the original scans were in fact a bit too magenta for my taste and the “Auto Color” ones a bit too greenish so… I duplicated the original layer, applied the Auto Color on the top layer and then played with the opacity. From this moment on I can work on brightness, contrast, saturation and individual groups of colors.

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When I send something out for professional printing such as an offset printer I always like to apply the “all mighty” High Pass filter. I find that it gives a certain edge to images which I like. On the other hand it also compensates for the lack of quality of my little home scanner.

This is how I do it:
1 – Duplicate the original layer

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2 – Apply the High Pass filter
(Photoshop main menu > Filter > Other > High Pass)
For this 75 MB image I’ve set the filter intensity for 2 pixels radius.

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3 – Apply the Vivid Light mode to that layer.

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4 – Set the oppacity of the layer at about 75, 80%

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Trust me, you will see a huge difference!
Take a look at these details.
The first one is without the High Pass.

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And here are some more shots.
Please excuse me for the confusing post.

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One of the things I like the most about lenses is the way they render what’s in focus and what’s out of focus. I’m not talking about bokeh and I’m not talking about sharpness. I’m talking about the way they behave from their maximum aperture to f5.6.

I can’t deny, I like short depth of field and I almost never use a lens above f8 so it is interesting to go through a bunch of lenses to see the differences between them.

A “softer” lens can render a scene in a way I prefer over the sharpest of lenses.
A slow lens opening at f3.5 can have more character than a lens that opens at f0.95.

I do believe that some lenses have charm, a very special signature… do I dare to say… soul?
In the most naive way I do dare to say that some lenses have soul.

It’s not about quality, certainly not about the price, it’s just about the way they do what they do.

So… here are some samples from various lenses and cameras.

Zeiss 60mm CT for the Hasselblad

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Zeiss 150mm CT for the Hasselblad

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Zeiss 80mm CT for the Hasselblad

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Zeiss 120mm Makro Planar for the Hasselblad

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Zeiss 80mm for the Rollei 6006

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Zeiss 150mm for the Rollei 6006

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Zeiss 80mm for the Contax 645

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Zeiss 45mm for the Contax 645

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Mamiya 80mm for the Mamiya 645 Pro TL

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Mamiya 80mm for the Mamiya 645 AFD

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Zenzanon 80mm for the Zenza Bronica SQ AM

f 5.6 - 250 f 5.6 - 500 (2)

 

Mamiya 80mm for the Mamiya 7ii

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Summicron 50mm/f2.8 on a Zeiss ZM

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Summicron C40mm for the Leica CL

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Zeiss G35mm on a Contax 62

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Zeiss G45mm on a Contax G2

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Nikon 28Ti

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Ricoh GR1s

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Konica Hexar AF

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Lisbon is not a big city but when it comes to develop C-41 120mm film, I can think about 4 or 5 places where I can get the job done. Some of those places take about a week, some take about two weeks and some take about an hour.

A few months ago I was asked to shoot the “making of” of a session for a magazine. That means I was only there to capture some behind the scenes moments.

I did the job, left the film in a “pro” lab and two days later the film was ready and this is what I got. Two shots I could use after a long cleaning work in Photoshop. I gave up on the rest. Things like this pisses me of.

After this all my color films travel 600km into the hands of a friend and excellent professional. Some of you might think that 600km is not that far but we are talking about Portugal which is 850km long!

My friend Raúl delivers immaculate negatives well developed and well taken care of, without a spec of dust or stains of any kind.  He is an example of someone who takes real pride about what he does. I admire and trust him for that.

Take a look at his place in the beautiful city of Oporto.

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Fairly decent clean negative

The other decent clean negative

The other decent clean negative

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