Kodak Gold meets Sligo & Leitrim

A month or two ago, myself and my wife, Mairead, decided to hit the road and spend a long weekend visiting the wonderful scenery around her childhood hometown of Sligo. It’s a beautiful part of Ireland, that has a lot to offer by way of photogenic sights, and many things to see & do … and so why not bring a few rolls of 35mm along for the trip too !

So much to see !

The happy problem of staying at lovely Milk Harbour for the long weekend is that there’s so many things in close proximity … almost too much choice ! Fantastic ðŸĪĐ

  • Benbulben & Ben Wiskin – the iconic ‘Table Mountain’ of Ireland, while Ben Wiskin looks like a shark fin !
  • Gleniff Horsehoe – a wall of mountain, with a circular one-way road, which has become an instagram mecca !
  • Eagles’ Rock – another iconic sight: a pinnacle of rock towering above the landscape
  • Mullaghmore Strand – a beautiful beach with massive surfing waves nearby, but also providing great sights north & south of the famous Classiebawn Castle
  • Coney Island – nice views across the bay, with the Slieve League Cliffs of Donegal in the far distance (the highest sea cliffs in Europe)
  • Glencar Waterfall – a great little tourist spot for the view & lunch, but more importantly its road back to Sligo city offers the best views of Ben Bulben (in my opinion !)

The photography equipment choice was really simple: a couple of rolls of Kodak Gold 200, a 70-210mm telephoto lens and my trusty 28-80mm walk-about zoom lens 🎞ðŸ“ļ

Into the heart of the mountains

It’s so strange to acknowledge the fact that even though I’m an Irishman, having travelled all about Ireland hiking – I’ve never actually seen Gleniff Horeshoe nor Eagle’s Rock with my own eyes until this mini road-trip !

Mandatory Selfie …

The weather forecast was predicted to be sunny Friday, wet Saturday and scattered rain on Sunday … welcome to the Atlantic coast ! So it was of no surprise that when we tried to make a quick visit to Gleniff Horsehoe on Saturday, it was a complete wash-out 🌧🌧 In fact it started raining so badly, that we quite literally couldn’t see 10 meters in front of us !!

It was a case of keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping the weather forecast app on my phone was correct … and wow, it was ! The sun came out briefly on Sunday morning and my roll of Kodak film loved it ðŸŒĶ

Benbulben … epic !

The Wild Atlantic Way

Of course being in Sligo & Leitrim puts you directly on the path of ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’ – an amazing 2,500km coastal route along Ireland. It has everything from gentle seascapes, to roaring waves, to nestled waterfalls … of course, with a roll of film I found I had to pay close attention to the light, as it was tricky at times ðŸŽŊ

The above 3 photos proved to be the most challenging of the weekend:

  • The cloudy & hazy causeway to Coney Island was a lot brighter than it looked, and required intentional overexposure
  • The simple low-tide image of the moored boat was really tricky, as it was a lot darker than you’d think – I had to underexpose this by a stop
  • Finally the orange cloudy sunset had so much contradictory shine on the ocean, so I had to underexpose it 1.5 stops

Wrap-up …

I have to say one it was a fantastic weekend, with so much to see, do and photograph ! If you haven’t been to Sligo & Leitrim yet then please put it on your to-do list for 2023 as it’s a gem of a location, and it loves 35mm film 🎞ðŸ’Ŋ

Until next time, keep shooting film ! Paul

Instagram :: #irishanalogadventures

Vero: http://www.vero.co/pleith

Eagle’s Rock as the sun pops through the thick cloud …

Negative Experience

After shooting a couple of rolls and really getting into the swing of film photography, there was one thing that was begining to become a problem … what to do with all my negatives

However I quickly discovered after a little bit of surfing, that you can buy negative strip pages, which are designed to sit in a standard ring-binder. These pages are usually made of a light, semi-transparent paper, and contain 6-7 horizontal panels to store cut negative strips.

Tips for using these

After a little bit of trial-and-error, I found that it was best to have the strips containing 5-7 frames, for ease of inserting the negatives. In addition the golden rule was to let gravity assist the negatives sliding into the panels.

Labelling your negatives

When labelling, I found the following was important to note for each roll of film I stored in the pages (no rocket-science here, just common sense 😇):

  • The date the roll was developed (simply because a roll can sit in a camera for a few weeks)
  • What film & film speed it is
  • What camera the roll was used in
  • Highlights of what images were taken on the roll and/or location

Crystal ball …

What’s important to consider here is that sometime in the future you might require these negatives again … these are the highest quality originals of your images … your analogue RAW files. I say this because I’m guilty of not having a single negative from my days of using film 20 years ago ðŸ˜Ū

While my photography skills have certainly advanced since then, there are definitely images for which having a higher resolution copy now would be wonderful.

Looking to the future, maybe somebody will manufacture an amazing, do-it-all, 24mp negative scanner that’s inexpensive and produces 14-bit RAW files straight to a micro-SD card (not some of the cheap ‘n nasty jpeg scanners you get on Wish and AliExpress)

Update: there ARE some great scanners that produce high-res jpeg & tiff files (e.g. Pacific Image Prime Film XAs super edition, and the Plustek OpticFilm 8100, etc.)

Alternatively, who knows, I might even decide to invest in my own DIY digital negative scanning set-up, with a macro lens & smart lighting, and put my Sony & Nikon full-frames to an alternative line of work 😉

Until my next post, get archiving your negatives ! Paul

ðŸ’ŧ Instagram: @irishanalogadventures

Road Trip – Cobh Co. Cork

One of the first real trips I did on film was with a newly acquired pro-level Nikon F100 and some rolls of Kodak ColorPlus. My Nikomat FT2 metering was proving to be unrealiable, and as I was using my Nikon D750 digital camera, I had a perfect situation of being able to get the best of both worlds …

This was a blessing in disguise, as it wasn’t until after the trip that I realised that Kodak ColorPlus is NOT the film to be using if you want half-decent, serious, photo images. Thumbs down for being naive on my part, thinking all film was the same ðŸĪŠ

St. Colman’s Cathedral (Nikon F100 & Kodak ColorPlus)

It’s worth noting that the location of the most iconic photograph of Cobh – St. Colman’s Cathedral and the row of brightly coloured houses, is not entirely obvious. I was noticing tourists walking around with their cameras looking very confused (and dissapointed) … This is because the photo requires some climbing of a high street wall on Spy Hill Road, scrambling along it, and grabbing your shot of houses on Lower Middleton Street, with the Cathedral behind them, while hoping you don’t fall ! 😉

I have to give credit to the matrix metering of the Nikon F100, as it was a tricky image and it handled it with ease 🙂 Lower Middleton Street itself is beautiful, and I enjoyed using my 80-200mm f4 lens to grab a close-up image.

That said, for all the bluster about the infallibility of matrix/evaluative metering over center-weighted metering, I did notice that exposure of bright sea-front images and dark shadow side-streets, were not 100% on-point … lesson learnt for later photo outings, continue to use exposure compensation.

As I say, while my lens were sharp (50mm f1.4, 80-200mm f4, and 18-35mm f4.5) the Kodak ColorPlus film left something to be desired … the images were softer than I expected and over-saturated.

To be fair, I chose ColorPlus because I was still finding my way with colour film, didn’t want to waste money on more expensive film if I didn’t really have enough experience under the belt. However, this was the last time I ever used ColorPlus, as not all film is created equal ⚖

Retro cameras don’t have to equate to vintage photos …

Aside from the learnings gained about film choice and metering, another big chunk of experience gained was that of camera choice : hauling around a Nikon F100 laden with 4 x AA batteries and heavy 70’s / 80’s lenses is not very practical after 2-3 hours of sightseeing … this was also the last time I would be using the F100 ðŸ˜Ū🊝

Hard to believe one road-trip to Co. Cork would offer so many lessons, it was excellent, and put me in good stead for the months of film rolls to come 👍

Until my next blog post, keep snapping 📷 Paul

Getting ‘Centered’ Metering

After hitting a number of surprising bloopers with the first few rolls of film, it became very clear to me that getting to grips with center-weighted metering was going to be crucial to a satisfying & fulfilling film experience.

Even though it’s 2021, cameras still want everything to be exposed to medium grey … however, some of these older 35mm film cameras, just aren’t smart enough to allow for a bias on what’s being focused on, or whether there’s a bright sky above the horizon, etc.

So I want to delve deeper into center-weighted metering, the lessons I learned and a couple of hard-won, tips & tricks.

Choices : 1) meter as-is or 2) meter-and-recompose

The first thing I noticed was that I had a workflow / ergonomics decision to make when it came to getting accurate metering when out-and-about.

I was beginning to get myself very confused, a chicken-or-egg situation if you will: do I a) point my camera to something somewhere in the frame that approximates neutral grey and lock it in, or b) frame the image and figure out the exposure compensation as it stands.

I found that the answer somewhat depends on your camera, it’s features and how you use it, and here’s two situations I bumped into:

  • Manual Mode – with my Nikon FT2, which offered manual mode only, it was easiest to point the center of the frame to something neutral, and adjust my aperature / shutter speed appropriately to zero the needle, and recompose
  • Aperture Priority – my with Nikon FE2 & F80/N80, which offered aperature priority mode & an expsoure compensation dial, it was easiest to frame my shot, and then use my recently acquired knowledge of relative colour brightness to a set the exposure compensation

The secret ingredient : relative colour brightness

Despite figuring when & where to take my center-weighted meter reading, I was still making mistakes … for my last 15 years of photography, I NEVER fully appreciated how colour translates to exposure compensation … !

What do I mean by that exactly … ? Have a look at the following colours, I just passed a spot meter sensor over each of these squares, recording the recommended shutter speed for my ISO and aperture combination:

Real-world relative colour-brightness

It’s quite remarkable … dark shadows are -1.5 stops darker, new green grass is +0.5 stops brighter, blue skies are +1 stop brighter, and bright white can be up to +2 stops brighter, etc.

I’ve only ever read this explained in terms of shades of grey … never colours !!

In fact, if it wasn’t for me revisiting 35mm film photography, this seemingly ‘fundamental’ information would have continued to allude me … and I would have carried on being hopelessly dependant on matrix/evaluative metering … which is still easily fooled, even in 2021 … and forever ‘chimping’ and checking my histogram ðŸ˜Ķ 

So here’s a helpful relative colour brightness table I created over the last year, with helpful examples:

Colour RefHelpful ExamplesWhat To Do
1. Sunsets
2. Bodies of water (lakes, rivers, etc.)
3. Dark moody skies
4. Deep forest trees
5. Brown & purple heath (Wicklow mountains)
5. Deep blue of the high sky
7. Shadows (e.g. dark side of buildings & under bridges)
8. Dark objects
Set your exposure to be 0.5 to 1 stop darker.

With film you don’t really want anything more than -1, as film loves light …
Coloured skin (portrait)Set your exposure to be 0.33 to 0.5 stop darker
1. Grass & new leaves
2. Light concrete & footpaths
3. The colour red & dark orange
4. Medium-blue middle sky
This is ‘normal‘ exposure – you’re good to go 👍
Caucasian skin (portrait)Set your exposure to be 0.33 to 0.5 stop brighter
1. Fluffy clouds
2. Light-blue skies (close to the sun’s position)
3. Light coloured flowers
4. Gold & silver
Set your exposure to be 0.5 to 1 stop brighter
Frost / snow and white objectsSet your exposure to be 1 to 1.5 stop brighter
Center-weighted exposure guide

When I framed my photos, I began a new habit, to scan what was predominantly in the center of my frame, and confidently override the exposure which my camera ‘thought’ was correct !

Examples from the field

I want to show a few examples of how this worked for real:

A) Down by the lake

In this situation, the lake is taking up a considerable portion of the center frame, so I set my camera to be half a stop darker.

Lake water … darker than it looks

B) Blazing sunset

This is a scenario, that I kept struggling with time and again, until I finally realised that it was actually easy … I was looking at dark red, dark orange, dark purple … so set my camera to 1 stop darker.

Sunset silhouette

C) Beautiful sunny day

Now that I was appreciating colour as it related to medium grey, those bright blue and/or fluffy cloud landscapes became simple … set my camera to half a stop brighter

Bright sunny skies & sand

D) Mountain landscape

In this case, I was automatically realising the dry brown heather of the Wicklow Mountains was fooling my camera  … so set my camera to half a stop darker

Dark mountain vegetation

I hope that sharing these learnings help, as I truly believe that once I became confident in overriding the simple middle-grey approach of my film cameras, I was getting more ‘keepers’ in my photo collection.

Until my next blog post, Paul !

ðŸ’ŧ Instagram: @irishanalogadventures