In the beginning, there were trains. Model trains, then train watching, or railfanning, and then it led to a photography rabbit hole. Desire to get better, more impactful train photos fueled my passion for photography in general. A few years later, and I find myself shooting exclusively on film and mostly nature and landscape.
Just recently, I decided to head out and try some train photography again. I decided to use Svema Fn64 film, bought from Film Photography Project store. Figured that Zenit-E with Helios 44-2 was a fine choice of camera for this return to train photography.
Canadian Pacific Railway is our noisy neighbour and Lambton Yard is only a few hundred meters away from my home. Sounds of trains rolling by and railcar switching are as much part of the soundtrack as birds or car noises. While waiting for the afternoon yard crew to bring back a cut of cars, I started noticing some details of the scene. Cars and couplers in mid afternoon light.
Train photography to me always meant high resolution colour images, either slide film or crisp digital images. But, the very industrial character of railroads and grittiness of urban railroad neighbourhood seemed more in tune with grain and contrast only a black and white film can deliver. So, on this afternoon in early May, my decision was to go with Svema Fn64.
Taking Zenit-E and Helios-44 lens was just a stroke of whimsy. Why not, I thought, this combo offers a unique look, for sure. Zenit with its limited shutter speed range (1/30-1/500) and Helios-44’s legendary character look. Besides, this robust and industrial-like kit seemed like a perfect tool to capture gritty subject such as railroading.
Fn64 is an interesting film, grainy yet smooth, contrasty yet rich in tones. I “discovered” this film through FPP’s sampler pack a few birthdays ago, and just liked how it looked both scanned and printed. This film, now made in Ukraine by Astrum (still, I think), is my choice when a bright but moody scene is called for. The frames above are a few attempts from the day I returned to train photography. The roll featured here was processed in Kodak D-76, 1:1 dilution, for 12 minutes with intermittent agitation (10seconds every minute) at 20 degrees Celsius / 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
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