Film photographers rejoice! With film stocks continuously going the way of the dodo, Kodak has recently made photo headlines worldwide with their latest photography offering.
Last week my Instagram-scrolling thumbs were halted in their tracks when I came across the announcement that Kodak was coming out with a new medium format film: Kodak Gold 200 for medium format.
As if a new film isn’t reason enough to put down what you’re doing and go make photographs, the new film will be priced at about 25% of the Kodak Portra film prices.
Without using this exciting film, yet, it’s impossible for me to praise it. However, if this film is anything like the 35mm version, we’re all in for a real treat.
A friend who had stopped using film and had made the transition to digital, had given me some of his freezer-kept, and expired, film rolls. In that bag of film was one roll of 24-exposure Kodak Gold 200.
Being a Kodak Portra film photographer, I was excited to try out something new.
Once a weekend approached with some events I was interested in photographing—a small-town festival and a car show—I knew I’d throw in a roll of Kodak Gold 200 and see how it performed.
Photo Note: Keep in mind, so much of photography is about things OTHER than film type, lens type, camera, camera strap, camera-whatever, etc. Equipment won’t magically make a less-than-desirable image more desirable.
One roll of Kodak Gold 200 and a Weekend
Henri Cartier-Bresson and Stephen Shore are monumental influences and sources of inspiration for me. So, when I embarked upon some weekend events for photography, I was sort of channeling those photographers, while trying to make images unique to my own vision.
Kodak Gold 200 in camera, I walked across the street to my first image-making destination: an annual car show. The light wasn’t my favorite. In fact, it was my least favorite light: high sun and minimal, if any, clouds. That’s ok though, as photographers, we do the best with the light we’re given. Pro tip: One way to maximize your photography, despite poor light, is to make sure you use the bad light you do have, as well as possible. In this instance, I tried to gravitate toward color and also to make sure the high sun was behind me at a slight angle. This creates some nice depth sometimes.
One big benefit of Kodak Gold 200 is the 200 film speed. Sometimes, an ISO/ASA of below 200 can be too low, and an ISO/ASA above 200 can be a little high. That’s where the 200 film speed hits the sweet spot. A film speed that’s 200 and above is fantastic. This is the case specially for street photography, where a fast shutter speed can be not only convenient, but crucial.
At the car show, I made every effort to capture some people in my images and include a nice amount of color. Outside of that, I also strive to make sure the composition is as pleasing as can be. These variables are what I actually attempt to maximize in almost every photo I take; this scenario was no different.
A couple of classic-car details caught my eye. Then, I worked a scene that involved a red siren light on top of a car. If you’re nervous about street photography, this image encapsulates one technique that you can use.
To others, it looks like I’m photographing the siren light. In actuality, I’m waiting for people to enter the scene so I can capture a candid, un-posed image while definitely including the siren light. The people are farther away, but if you’re nervous about photographing people at all, this is one way to become comfortable.
On to the Festival
The next day, I traveled to a small-town festival. The light was diffused from the clouds and this is some of my favorite light. Also, the event was in a small town so access was magnificent. So much of photography is about access so if you’re yearning to travel to make great images, realize that some of the best photographic opportunities are in your community.
Again, I was simply photographing people, scenes and simple slices of life. There was a horse pull and carnival rides, to name a few of the visual elements at the festival. Along with those scenes, I also tried to capture sights that caught my eye on the periphery. One of the most important skills as a street photographer is to be observant.
At this point, I of course had no idea how my film was performing. The only aspect of the Gold 200 I knew of was that it was a great film speed for a wide variety of conditions which is very important in film photography.
Sending the Film Away and Getting it Back
Finally, when the film roll was used and each frame had been captured, the exciting process of sending film away and waiting for it’s return had begun. Every time I send my film away, I use The Darkroom lab. Their prices are very reasonable, you can download your film scans once they’re processed (I usually have my scans available to download about one week after shipping the film away) and the quality is top shelf.
Once the scans of my Kodak Gold 200 film had been downloaded, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The quality far exceeded my expectations. High contrast and punchy colors are what I thought would be the characteristics of this film. Instead, the tones were beautiful and colors were true across the board.
So, why is Kodak Gold 200 one of the best films? It’s because the colors are true, the grain is minimal, the sharpness is fantastic, ISO/ASA 200 is a perfect film speed—not too slow and not too fast— for most conditions and the price is cheaper than Portra.
So, hopefully Kodak Gold 200 in medium format will retain all the characteristics of it’s 35mm relative. I’m suspecting it will, and therefore we’re all in for some photographic fun in our lives.