“Nice camera,” said a passing Montrealer as I looked up from the waist-level viewfinder of my Rolleicord Vb.
I’d just photographed their local depanneur (convenience store) in the Vieux-Rosemont neighbourhood of Montreal. I had sought out this depanneur specifically due to its big blue sign which jutted out of a residential building.
Fortunately for me, the sun and blue sky were out on this chilly day in early March. It was probably just about the fifth sunny day in Montreal this past Winter, so I felt especially lucky to be hunched over my camera on that street corner.
Naturally, I responded to the fast-walking Montrealer who had just complimented my efforts with an earnest, “Thank you.”
Loading Fuji Velvia 100 into my Rolleicord is always an occasion for me. It marks the combination of my favourite slide film stock with my favourite medium format camera.
This specific Rolleicord was gifted to me by my aunt, as it was supposedly sitting dormant in a closet for decades. Meanwhile, I was introduced to Velvia for the first time when Downtown Camera, my local lab in Toronto, was literally giving away free rolls of expired stock. Either way, I feel quite fortunate to have access to the exciting Velvia-Rolleicord combo (especially given Velvia 100’s discontinuation in the US). I also feel like I owe a shoutout to Boréalis Photo Lab, which developed and scanned these pictures.
As I set off to spend the Winter semester in Montreal, I packed two rolls of Velvia. It was the only colour film I had with me, as the rest was 35mm CineStill BwXX on my Konica C35MFD, akin to my New York trip in 2021. I was hoping to capture the older architecture and storefronts of Montreal’s neighbourhoods in colour. I often struggle to find antiquated scenes at home in Toronto, but Montreal had no shortage of places that fit my aesthetic.
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When shooting colour, the presence of a blue sky is always very important to me. Blue is always the first colour I seek, which is why Velvia is such a special film for me. None of the films that I’ve tried have rendered a more striking blue than Velvia. The closest rivals would be Kodak Ektar and CineStill’s new 400D. However, Ektar’s blues tend to lean towards teal in my experience, whereas I’ve only shot two rolls of 400D thus far. Velvia’s blues almost become purple, and seem to create a natural vignette for images in sunlight.
A notable outlier in this series is a shot of a produce market’s facade on Rue Masson (frame 1). It was the very last exposure I took on that roll. As I retreated to the bus stop, I couldn’t resist the warmth created by the sunshine on the glass. I had to wait a few moments as pedestrians made their way by me on the sidewalk. As usual, the Rolleicord got its fair share of glances as I set up and focused my frame before tripping the shutter when the way was clear.
I sincerely recommend people to shoot Velvia and shoot slide film where they can. Of course, the exposure latitude is not for the faint of heart. In a way, Velvia’s limits force me to stick to blue skies and sunny days, since I’d essentially be unable to shoot it in cloudier conditions.
Moving forward, I’d look to shoot Velvia in a studio setting under controlled lighting. This would be uncharted territory for me in every sense of the word. However, the Summer of 2023 should offer me a wealth of photo opportunities around Canada, and perhaps beyond.
Thanks for reading,
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