5 Frames… Of birthday photos on ILFORD Delta 400 Professional (35mm Format / EI 400 / Canon A-1 + Canon FD 100mm f/2.8) – by Josh knowles

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“Happy birthday!!! I hope you’re doing well these (often strange) days. If you’re ever interested or up for some more photos let me know. I’ve got a new lens that could use some testing! Take care, all the best in the year ahead!”

“Thanks!!!!”

“And I have every weekend off and would absolutely LOVE to do more photos any time!!!”

With the pandemic subsiding somewhat here (at least temporarily) it started to seem a bit more normal to interact with other people and not maintain such isolation. Photos, at any rate, seemed pretty low risk. I shot Olivia’s graduation photos last spring (a few of which I submitted as a previous “5 Frames with ILFORD Delta 100”), and we decided to get together again and shoot a few more photos—her nineteenth birthday seeming as good of an occasion as any.

Featured here are some shots where I tested that new lens (a Canon FD 100mm f/2.8) paired with my workhorse Canon A-1 on ILFORD Delta 400 Professional. Testing a new lens I wanted to shoot something I had a bit more experience with and knew I could rely upon. Delta 400 fits that bill for me. I find it a good all-round emulsion for hand-held portraits: enough speed that shooting in overcast or shady conditions still works and yet not too much grain.


Canon A-1 + Canon FD 100mm f/2.8, Josh knowles

The Canon FD 100mm f/2.8 definitely cuts really thin focus slices. Wide-open I find it’s almost a bit too much, especially at close range. Careful focussing is a must. And I find I can’t really cheat on the shutter speeds — the commonly cited reciprocal rule to keep your lowest shutter speed approximately equivalent to the lens’ focal length and thus avoid camera shake/blur — is a real rule here and not just a suggestion.

There were at least a couple shots on the roll where the shutter went below 1/90 and camera shake was evident. However, when everything is aligned the results look great. I’m happy with the images from it, overall, but it will still need some more use to get really comfortable.

I went pretty much straight home and got to work in the dark (my go-to developer these days is ILFORD’s DD-X) and soon had some negatives hanging and then scanning. I found the images a bit lower contrast than my well-used FD 70-210mm f/4 typically gives. However, this was probably an advantage given Olivia’s choice of classic white t-shirt. I had to take some extra care to keep both shadow and highlight detail from getting lost and keep her skin tones pleasant. However, before long I had some previews to send off.

“Thanks so much Josh!!!! Any time you need to practice, I love shooting with you!”

To be continued…

~ Josh

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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.


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