Slide film, colour positive, E6, it goes by a few names and is distinct from colour negative (or print film) in that the image, once developed, is basically ready for viewing. These films tend to have brilliant vibrant colours and good contrast. Looking at the slide film images on the film, especially larger formats, is something quite magical and is one of the main reasons I like to make images with it.
Slide film does have some downsides. They have very low exposure latitude (about 5 stops, compared with 12 to 15 for negative film) meaning they’re not forgiving of errors in exposure, and shooting in high contrast scenes you easily loose your highlights and shadows as washed out whites and deep blacks. They also tend to be exxy (upwards $20-25 per roll) and development is more expensive too.
In this post I’ll be looking at a roll of Fujifilm Provia 100f that I shot on my RB67 back around May through July 2021. Lockdowns and restrictions meant this roll was in my camera for quite some time, and I can only date about seven of the ten shots.
Into the meat of it, or me talking about how I’m not happy with any of these photos.
This is actually an image I’m kind of happy with! I used a 3-stop graduated neutral density filter to keep the sky and the highlights on the trees within the range of the film, and to even them up with the reflections. In retrospect I should have used the wider 65mm to have more negative space between the tree tops and the edges of the frame. I can’t recall my thinking at the time, but there may have been things creeping in at the edged of the frame.
There are a bunch of reasons I don’t like this image, mostly that the intended subject gets lost in the noise of three branches in the background. I remember shooting this, and the light was much better when I was setting up my tripod, and I waited a long time for the right cloud to float over the sun to shade the tall gums behind the green ones, but alas it didn’t happen.
I love the colours, but I missed focus here. I didn’t have enough light. I remember crawling awkwardly into a bush to set up my camera for this one and had to use the mirror up mode and a 1 second shutter speed, in a vain attempt at getting more depth of field. It might still look okay in a small print, though!
I take a lot of photos of this place, I love the colours and the timeless feel of it with the California bungalow and 60s car. The sky in this particular one is blown out, always a challenge with this location. I might have better luck at sunrise, or just before. Along with the blown out sky, there is a plant stem right in the middle of the car, I have to hope they park a little further next time. It does show how much detail the lens and such a fine grained film can pull out of a scene though.
Frames 5 and 6
I took a safety shot here because I was keen to have this one in the bag and wanted to reduce the chances of losing it to scratches on the film, light leaks, or something else going wrong.
I can’t remember exactly when I took these photos, such is the blur of lockdowns. I do remember looking across from the TV at the soft light falling on the dried out flowers in the window and jumped at the opportunity to use a couple more frames from the Provia in one of my RB film backs. Looking back I probably should have thrown up my giant white backdrop behind me to reflect a little more light on the flowers and lift the shadows a touch. Maybe also shooting straight on to the table so that it was level in the background. Having said all that; with few touch ups to remove cat hairs from the flowers and a square crop, I think this will look great up on the wall.
Below is a zoomed in crop of the image. It shows just how blisteringly sharp the Mamiya lenses and this film stock are, eking out every little detail on those petals. This is a low res scan, but I think I’ll still push a 25 cm by 25 cm print out of it given how clean and sharp the image is.
Frame 7 and 8
This is another safety shot of sorts. The light got a little better as I was about to pack down and I took another image.
I took some time off work after lockdowns eased in late July, and went out, by train, to the Dandenong Ranges for a long walk in the bush with my cameras.
this sucks this photo is missing a well defined subject and the ground is way too messy for my liking. This was the first composition of the day and I was still getting into the grove. The rest of the photos on the roll are about as good, however I picked up my game and the shots I got on a roll of Ektar 100 a little later in the walk are much better. The light here is nice and even, no hot spots of sky. To improve this, I’d have a person in frame on the right balancing the closest tree in the frame, filling that space, and hiding some of, and distracting from, the ground clutter.
Again, this doesn’t really have a good subject, and the burnt out whites in the sky are unfortunate. I can’t actually remember what my thought process was for this, so it can’t have been particularly inspiring at the time.
I really like all the green and I got the exposure right. The framing, not so much. I think I could have moved forward, beyond the tussock on the left, and shot in a portrait orientation. I’d be able to avoid the patch of less interesting grass on the right and replace it with tree trunks. I’d also aim for a faster shutter speed to avoid the motion blur from the slight breeze that plagued me all day.
Overall, not a bad roll I’d say. I learned some things and got a couple of frames that I’ll print. What I didn’t mention up above is that to get a look I liked more I had to warm up the photos a bit, in future I might shoot with a warming filter on in neutral cloudy light. Or I might try out Ektachrome E100 and see if that’s a bit warmer out of the box. I don’t have any left in the fridge, but I’ll definitely pick up some more and shoot with it again. Maybe head-to-head with E100, I do have two backs for my RB.
What will mostly keep me coming back to slide film though is be the feeling I get looking through the roll I just got back seeing the images almost come to life.