national trust

Kodak Portra 400 and Fujifilm Pro 400H by Laura Daly

For the last few weeks I have been experimenting with colour film.  The first rolls I picked up were the muted, pastel options from Kodak and Fujifilm.  Both are 400 speed films, but I had read on various sites that they tend to look a little better (perhaps a bit more dreamy) when a stop over-exposed.  So, all the images you'll see were metered at 200 ISO.  I tried out the films during two main trips, Cambridge city and Wimpole Hall estate (a National Trust property to the west of the city), and luckily I had sunny, bright conditions!  It will be interesting to see how the films perform in more dull conditions. I processed the films myself at home using a Tetenal 1L C-41 kit.  The results have been fine, although I have had some problems with chemical spots and the occasional streak.  This is a bit weird, as I have had no such problems with my black and white development.  I know my technique and steps are OK, so maybe it's a curiosity specifically related to the C-41 chemistry...

The sharpness of both films is great, with minimal grain (much less compared to a 400 speed B&W film e.g. HP5+), but less contrast compared to other film stocks and formats.  The main difference between the films is the colour cast you get straight from the scanner.  The Portra is much, much warmer, much more yellow than the Fuji.  The colours are muted in both, but the Portra images seemed much more summery - perfect if you are going for that look.  Take a look at the images below and decide for yourself which film you prefer.  Let me know in the comments below.  [Again, I have only edited the images to remove dust and hairs from the jpegs, I have not corrected colour, contrast etc]

Kodak Portra 400

Fujifilm Pro 400H

Wandering in Wicken Fen by Laura Daly

Finding time to go out shooting is usually my problem.  With limited free time, sometimes that motivation to go out with the camera is missing.  But every time you do, you remember why, and this trip to Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire was one of those times to remind you not only how enjoyable making images can be, but also that we are so lucky in Britain to be surrounded by such varied landscapes. Wicken Fen is a National Trust property between Ely and Cambridge.  There's a good variety of things to shoot, with an old wind pump, wheat fields, waterways and Konik ponies.

Windmill-1506Wheat-1541Fenland skies-1555

The boardwalk around the marshy fens takes you around the old windpump.  A light breeze added a nice bit of motion to the wheat in the foreground of the shots I was taking of the pump.  Not being a full-time pro, it is a lot more difficult to get the (cliche?) sunset/sunrise shots, but luckily the April weather was being kind, providing some lovely clouds and rain storms on the horizon.  It was actually a blessing in disguise, as recently I've been trying to move away from the traditional thinking of landscape photography - the more you look on sites like 500px, the more the landscape shots begin to look the same!

Tree-1530Wind-1563

Looking to the skies also gave me some different looks.  The D750's much derided flippy screen is so useful when trying to get alternative perspectives...and without looking like a prat bending over in less than flattering positions!  Shooting at f/8 with the highly recommended Nikkor 16-35mm f/4, the images I was getting were brilliantly sharp with lovely contrast.

Solitary konik-1595Konik portrait-1607

The absolute highlight of our visit to Wicken Fen was seeing the wild herd of Konik ponies.  These were absolutely beautiful animals who seemed completely at ease in their environment.  In the case of the stallions in the herd, perhaps too comfortable...The horses were curious to the point of following you along the fence, which made them great subjects for some portraits.  Of course, coming here on a landscape shoot meant I did not have anything longer than 35mm, but they got so close that ended up being the perfect focal length.

Snout-1598

Wide angle lenses can actually be great for unusual portraits of animals.  The image above is not right - the focus is on the middle of the snout and not the eye, and there's a hand on the right.  But, actually, there's still something charming about that horse.  If only the focus point had been in the right place...