Tried and Tested Thursday: Kent Coast in Colour – Olympus XA2 with Kodak Portra 160

For today’s Tried and Tested Thursday, I will be talking about shooting Kodak Portra 160 on an Olympus XA2.

From last week’s post and as slightly promised, I wanted to discuss trying out the Kodak Portra 160 on my camera. Not usually a film I would rave on about, however the outcome was a huge improvement from the Holga shots.

Far away in Folkestone: The famous harbour. Can you spot a floating pink house?

As per usual, shooting with a low speed during a bright day gels well hand in hand, in particular on a lovely summer’s day in June. It was quite nice in Whitstable on my trip there, although the weather was a little gloomy when I went to Folkestone two weeks later.

The camera used was an Olympus XA2; another lightweight and simple to use camera, which is so easy to carry around. No fussing with various settings, just set the ISO/speed and select a mode, either landscape, portrait or close up. The majority of the seaside shots were in landscape mode, since both framing and composition was an important factor in my photography.

The outcome after processing and home scanning was better than the Holga shots. Yes the Holga snaps from last week were in black and white, but they were a bit of a disappointment on how they came out due to the mysterious white grain on every single frame.

The Portra 160 hardly showed any grain, just brilliant colour coverage – not too saturated or vivid, perfect for what I had in mind. My idea and vision was to create British seaside style postcard shots, almost a similar homage to John Hinde’s work. Some shots did have the postcard-esque feel from both Whitstable and Folkestone.

To add more about the colour from the film, the Portra was also washed out in some shots plus the quality wasn’t always consistent. There are ways of making further alterations with the negatives on editing software such as Photoshop, which I chose not to. All scans come as they are from the scanner, no editing apart from adding the faint watermark of my name via Photoshop. I like to keep things the way they are in my film photographic work.

I’m much happier with the outcome from the Portra shots, I do believe they have further potential as darkroom prints rather than them being just scans. It will be challenging to get the colour and contrast right through the colour enlarger, but it would be great to practice in the darkroom again after a long time.

I don’t think any improvements are needed, I think I am satisfied overall with almost every single shot. Making changes would be impossible at this point.

Take care and stay safe

Tried and Tested Thursday: Greenwich Picture Perfect Time – Olympus Trip 35 with Kodak Portra 160

For today’s Tried and Tested Thursday, I will be talking about shooting Kodak Portra 160 on the Olympus Trip 35.

In my previous post, I discussed shooting with the Olympus Trip for the first time. Although the results were out of focus, I was proud of myself considering this was a ‘test run’ and hoping the outcome would be better in the second round.

It started out perfectly, focus is sharper than last time

A week later, I took the camera with me to Greenwich in London, famous for Greenwich Mean Time, Cutty Sark, Royal Naval Colleges and the Royal Observatory. The film used was Kodak Portra 160, which I set to its box speed on the camera, plus placed the aperture between f8 and f11 as it was quite a nice bright day.

I walked some of my way through the park, passing through there towards the hill where the Observatory is located.

I have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the Portra 160. It’s a film great for portraits (as often recommended), especially with skin tones and landscape shots, however it doesn’t seem to ‘stand out’ or ‘pop’ for me much. I have to admit the colour balance is soft and subtle with a tinge of orange tints whenever scanning or printing. I don’t buy that particular film often, probably a couple rolls or a pack a year.

During my day out, I took mainly landscapes and skyline shots from the hill. The focusing got slightly better, it did improve since the last time as well as the aperture settings. There were a few overexposed patches, but it was alright nevertheless once scanned. The Portra colours were softer, not too harsh although some look a little washed out, particularly with the greens and blues from the skyline shots.

Out of the film tests on the Trip 35, Portra 160 is the winner. I would likely shoot with it on the camera again, possibly for portrait photography or street shots on nice days during the summer months.

I would also concentrate on both focusing and aperture, improve on it a little more and put it into practice until I get the hang of it. Hopefully I will be able to work my way around the Trip 35 very soon!!

Take care and stay safe

Film Friday: Kodak Portra 160 in 120

For today’s Film Friday I selected Kodak Portra 160 in 120, which expired in August 2019.

I bought this film from eBay last year, while it was still in date and hasn’t been opened or used since purchase. I used Portra 160 before a few times over the years, most recently of last September on my Holga.

I have plans on using the film for mainly portraits and head shots on the Yashica 635, as there are options with camera functions such as changing the aperture or shutter speed. In comparison, the Holga doesn’t have that as it is quite limited with settings.

There has been some trial and error with using this film, when I started shooting with it a couple years back for the street styles during London Fashion Week. I shot Portra on the Holga, however the camera was set on bulb or ‘B’ mode hence why the results came out blurry and shaky after processing. Also I taped my Holga to prevent light leaks, something I do most of the time. They weren’t exactly the best shots overall, but I was still testing the Holga despite having it for a couple years around this point.

I decided to give Portra 160 another go on the Holga when I went to Portugal last September. Lesson learnt here is not to use the film for evening shots; I went around the streets early evening hoping to capture the sunset, however after processing I was met with almost blank negatives which were impossible to scan. Thankfully there was some success with the film later on my trip.

Would I use it again? Yes, only if the light is good and possibly risk it by leaving the Holga untaped.

My focus is to use the film on various manual medium format cameras, mainly portraits of people once this lockdown eases. The Portra 160 has been recommended in the film community for portrait photography due its low ISO, fine detail, contrast and tones.

I’m also considering using this film for other genres, such as nature or street photography in the near future.

Take care and stay safe