It was December 24, 2022. Our plan, by way of yearly tradition, was to travel north and visit family for the holidays. Nature’s plan, though, was to make the Michigan roads as undriveable as possible through a weather assault of wind, snow, cold and ice. …
As photographers, we obviously would like to photography when the light is optimum. The golden hour, the blue hour, sunsets, sunrises—these are all times of day when the light can turn gorgeous and can result in exquisite images. But, what do you do when the …
When it comes to photography, especially film photography, I keep my equipment as consistent and simple as possible. The less one has to think about while taking pictures, the better. Kodak Portra 400 35mm (the 120 is great too, I just don’t use as much of it) is my trusted film of choice. It’s popular and it’s popular for good reasons: it’s beautiful and that 400 speed is ideal.
Since so much of my photography is about being receptive to ever-changing scenes in the viewfinder, I deem it crucial to make sure all else remains unwavering.
For a time—ever since the release of the film, I’d say—I could count on ordering Kodak Portra 400 35mm film and it would arrive and all—photographic or otherwise—would be fine.
Until it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, the day arrived when not only was my trusted film supplier out of stock, but, they were out of stock for months. Everyone was. So while searching for my beloved Portra, it became quickly clear that everyone was out of the film. The Portra that was available was being priced at criminal amounts of money. I love film photography but that love will cease at the prices that were being charged.
While we’re on this topic—it’s my fault, I know—I’ll say that even though film photography is near and oh-so-dear to me, I love digital also. Due to the darkest film era I can ever remember, I reached for my digital camera a lot more than I usually would and it was wonderful. I’d prefer film, but I’ll use digital too. No problem.
Finally, after weekly internet searching for 35mm film, it happened: film was for sale in my town. The film for sale wasn’t Portra, but was instead Fujifilm 200.
Kodak—all kinds of films, not just Portra—has been my go-to for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard good things about Fujifilm too though. Because of the lack of any 35mm film for so long, I was more than willing to give it a try. A local drug store had a 3-pack for sale for around $25 bucks (ISO 200, 36 exposures per roll) and I was more than happy to buy it.
A film speed of ISO 200 is a little slower than I’d like, but with film actually being available and for a reasonable price, it didn’t matter what I liked.
During the autumn of 2022, I found myself doing some photo walkabouts in Michigan and Colorado. Admittedly, using a new-to-me film was not magnificent for morale. Knowing what a film stock looks like really helps when you’re on the front end of things, photographing.
I trusted the process though.
After mailing my film away to my trusted lab, I was sightly unsettled and I knew I’d feel that way until my finished scans were in my possession.
My scans were completed and downloaded and upon viewing them I was elated. Whew, what a relief. My relief turned to giddy surprise when I noticed that the film was outstanding. Of course, in photography, it’s the person not the equipment that truly makes a photo. But, film is an important aspect of things and a really-shit film does have a tendency to result in really-shit photos.
In film photography, there are so many variables on the path to final results. After the film choice, there is of course exposure settings, lab development processes (i.e. chemicals and chemical quality, temperature, etc.) and scan settings.
Ultimately though, the Fujifilm 200 was fantastic and I’d buy it again without hesitation. My normal workflow includes some light adjustments in Lightroom. However, outside of that, I was really pleased with the colors, sharpness and grain of the film. I can’t remember the last time I purchased photographic film from a drugstore, but I’d do it again for sure, especially if it was this film.
I’m still going back to Kodak Portra whenever possible. But, should a Portra shortage or extreme markup on Portra prices take place, I’m heading over to Fujifilm 200 and loving it.
Photography is a personal creative journey. On our journey we should select a tool that will help us along the way. When it comes to cameras, the options can easily become overwhelming. Megapixels, pixel size, lenses, weatherproofing, DxO scores, and on and on are discussed. …
It can be the most difficult surrounding to photograph. Out of nowhere, you may find yourself stopped in the tracks of creativity before you even know what hit you. Or, it may hit you right away. You may walk, or drive, for hours looking for …
Few things are as enjoyable as loading some film into a camera and exploring a small, unfamiliar town. It’s the basis for how I came upon the name ‘Village Voyager’, after all. The, often, slow and methodical approach to composition and the new elements of a village not-yet-explored is an almost meditative process. It’s definitely fulfilling.
Last summer, film photography and exploration was exactly what I was embarking upon one morning in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Subdued light was streaming through the bedroom where we were staying and it was so lovely that I couldn’t stay in bed, even though my eyes said that sleep was what I needed.
There wouldn’t be a lot of time for me to photograph based on the schedule of the day, but I don’t think there would ever, or will ever, be enough time to photograph.
Days prior, we’d traveled through a small town called Lake Linden. It was picturesque, small and quaint and had all the characteristics of a Normal Rockwell painting.
So it would be that on a free morning I would travel to Lake Linden to “see what I could see,” as I like to say.
As soon as I started driving through Lake Linden, there were construction workers and orange road barrels everywhere. They were repaving the main street. The unsightly visual elements and my sleepy brain weren’t ideal for making pictures, but this can often be the case. One of the great hurdles of photography is overcoming these challenges to make pictures. For me, at least, if I had to wait for perfect conditions to take pictures, I’d hardly photograph at all.
So, despite the conditions at hand, I decided to park and travel Lake Linden by foot, since this is the best way to explore a place. An open parking space between a couple of pickup trucks presented itself so I situated my vehicle there, felt the warmth of low, summer sun though my driver’s side window, and turned the car off. With camera and light meter in hand, I exited my car.
Photography isn’t completely about visual elements, I feel. To me, it’s a multi-sensory event. A place can have a feel and you may feel a certain way also, and all these variables can, and should, play into how you make images. In fact, the feeling you have is maybe the most important factor in making images.
So, as soon as I exited my vehicle, I could hear the clanging of silverware and the clattering of dishes. I parked across the street from a restaurant. The distinct smell of bacon wafted through the air and besides the restaurant, along with the road repaving, this place was quiet and peaceful.
It’s easy to overthink a photograph so I made every effort to not do that. I walked to a street corner and saw what I felt was a pleasing scene. It included the town, the restaurant, the main street and some buildings in the distance. Sometimes, it’s nice to make a simple photograph without putting too much thought into it, just intuition.
Once that photograph was made, I turned around and saw some writing on a building. As often is the case, I thought, only for a brief moment, about whether or not I should make an image of the building. And, as often is the case, I made the image since I never like to regret not taking a picture, even though this does happen from time to time.
After that, I walked a short distance and was content with the images I made. My time in Lake Linden was up and even though it wasn’t a lot of time, it was time.
Time spent photographing, or creating anything at all, is time well spent. If you don’t have much time to do it, try to be appreciative of the time you do have and take full advantage of it. It’s always worth it.
To drive into Houghton, Michigan—a small college (Michigan Technological University) town in Michigan’s upper peninsula (U.P.)—is to be welcomed by a tidy, small-business-filled-main-street downtown. It had been years since I’d been there. It didn’t look like a lot had changed, but that’s a good thing. …
Most Important Though: Use What You’re Comfortable With Readers, my journey through photographic gear started many, many years ago. Gear can be the absolute kryptonite of creativity so what I’m offering here is a simple observation from my point of view. Take what you can …
If it sounds borderline insane to appreciate the benefits of photography in cold and snowy conditions, I understand. Making quality images is hard enough when the weather is perfect.
Once the temperature descends to freezing and below, operating a camera can present challenges: batteries run out of juice quickly; film can become brittle if the temperature is cold enough; camera equipment, when working, wants to slow down or stop; and, even with all of that, enough well-placed clothing must be used to avoid frostbite.
Ansel Adams Said it Best
It was Ansel Adams who said, “Bad weather makes for good photography.” It took me a while to come around but believe me, I’ve come around.
Northern Michigan has its share of cold, snow and ice. There have been times when I said to myself,” Enough is enough, it’s time to head for warmer climates.”
Then one day, I was making images in the snow and realized that winter offers photographic aesthetics that aren’t available everywhere, or throughout the year. It was when I embraced all that winter has to offer that I began to not only appreciate, but crave, winter photography.
My Secrets to the Benefits of Winter Photography
We’re supposed to receive six inches of snow this weekend and I can’t wait. Here’s the thing: snow is an absolute gift for making pictures. Between snow and the environment, the natural colors usually turn to white and grey or brown, or both. So, what snow does is it makes whatever color is there to pop.
Even the most muted colors and tones can burst forth from the whiteness of snow.
Another benefit of snow is that it offers clean backgrounds. During any other time of year, at least in Michigan, the background usually consists of trees or nature, so all the colors and textures make it difficult to isolate the subject matter. With a pristine white background though and some creative composition, subjects can be presented and captured cleanly and effectively.
Finally, winter can add crazy amounts of mood to your images. If an image is taken in warm weather, it can look beautiful. An image made in snow and ice though just looks tough. Whatever the subject is in a winter photo as endured. If it’s a barn, it’s endured. If it’s a person or people, they’re enduring. Winter adds character.
Freezing temperatures is not for the weak and when you can see your breath while your exposed skin are turning red, you realize that these are the conditions that weed out the less hardy.
This leads me to another important benefit of winter photography: you aren’t competing with as many people. Everyone loves to photograph trees filled with green, lush leaves, or sun-filled landscapes of grass. In winter though, not a lot of people want to deal with it so they stay inside or travel elsewhere. This means that you have your snowy, freezing world to yourself without competition.
Snow and cold can make whatever place you’re in appear to be another planet. Make sure to wear proper winter clothes though, for planet winter. Once you embrace and accept the benefits of photographing in the cold, you’ll be open to a world full of visual possibilities.
Mesick, Mich The temperature was hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit in northern Michigan; that’s not a bad temperature because it wasn’t windy, you see. So the question becomes: Where should I travel to for pictures? Most photographers would make their way to Lake Michigan, possibly …