When John Canlas takes pictures with Portra 400 squeezed to 3200 (read: N -3), it looks more than good. That’s because Canlas is a good photographer, but that’s also because there is enough light around where he lives and where he uses to take pictures. And because he makes sure that the apertures are opened up wide enough.
When I shot with Portra 400 cranked up to 3200 in a dark cinema on Saturday, February 6, it was partly about stubbornness, false decisions and curiosity. I know what to expect in a big, dark hall with just a little tungsten light for the presenter of a lecture, shooting from the balcony, round about 200 feet away from the stage, with an aperture of f/5.6 and a focal length of 200mm to 300mm. I know I should be using the 70-210/2.8 instead and not the 70-300 at f/5.6 and I know that the digital Nikon Df has a tremendous sensor which is just begging to excel in situations like this. I wasn’t able to pick up the right gear, bedazzled, dazed and confused in excitement – but then again, I like excitement.
To keep it short: It was a waste of a fine roll of film, but being in a curious mood I was asking for it and loaded the F5 with some Portra 400 and the F100 with Neopan 400. And I am going to confess the reason why: I was anticipating the moment when standing in front of Steven Shore, I wanted to show that I am shooting on film. I wasn’t aware of this, but now I realize this was my motivation and of course this was complete nonsense.
When seeing Shore like this, I cannot help but I’m also seeing his self portrait (New York 1976) as well at the same time.
First of all, Stephen Shore is no apostle of shooting analog. He is one of the most influential photographers there is, and he photographed gorgeously with large format cameras, but he also realized that digital cameras have caught up with resolution. With his students, he does not bother to talk about digital and analog. They just start in the first years with analog because the students would understand better what it means to adjust several things physically and not just by pushing a slider in Photoshop. Secondly, he wouldn’t care. Shore is a master, he looks at the picture, the light, the composition perhaps, but he would just not talk about some limitations in it except there are any specifically for some particular reason, say hang them on a wall or because of some color shifting or distortion or such criteria. And he has no problems to show snapshots taken with his phone on Instagram.
So I was going to his lecture with some unfitting gear. It was no big deal. At least, I had my shots on film. But I should have gone for some telephoto lens with a much wider aperture and I didn’t save some film in the F100 with the 85/1.8 attached for some close ups of a man whose work is important to me and who made a particular amicable impression in Berlin. I was happy to get a personal dedication into my copy of the catalogue. If you want to explore his work, start with “Uncommon Places”.
Outside, I had no problems whatsoever with the gear, so this is the Berlin Photography Crowd, cueing in front of a big, sold out cinema called the ‘Delphi’ to go to the lecture.
If you are into the art of photography a bit, you should take your time and listen to this.
P.S.: Grateful cheers to Jacks, without her I would have missed the lecture because it was sold out. She spotted two visitors who each had one ticket to sell. I wasn’t able to get tickets beforehand, our group exhibition kept me busy. She also excelled with the real diary shot with her nice Pentax ME Super, when Shore signed his book for me.
Pollux on 52rolls:
- Launch Status Check: Pollux [Intro]
- #1.0 Neopan 400 & Rodinal
- #1.1 Silvermax
- #1.2 The White Stripes
- #2.0 Fade To Grey
- #2.1 Pushing Silvermax
- #2.2 Know Your Gear
- #2.3 What Took You So Long?
- #2.4 Diary Shots
- #2.5 Compact 28 + Ultramax
- #2.6 On 400H
- #3.0 Hard Boiled
- #4.0 Film Noir
- #5.0/5.1/5.2 Remain In Light
- #5.3 My Personal Holga
- #5.4 The Exhibition Cam
- #5.5/5.6 Portra and 400H
- #5.7 A Peculiar Roll (1993)
- #5.8/5.9 Great Photographer, Wasted Film
- #6.0 Diary Shots, 135mm on the F4
- #6.1-#6.3 Purchasing New Material, Celebrating
- #7.0-#7.2 Concert
- #8.0 Helicopter
- #9.0 Tres Cosas
- #10.0 One Shot per Roll
- #11.0/11.1: Parklife (Nikon F2)
- #12.0/12.1: Silvermax, F2 (24mm) + F5 (17mm + 210 mm)
- #13: Diary with a Point & Shoot
- #14: Medium Format: The Rangefinder of ’51
- #15: Memories of Friendship
- #16: [Pollux]: Epilogue