The classic combo for street photography is a 50mm or a 35mm lens with a black and white film behind it. Most of us grow our repertoire with that aesthetic built by many masters of photography and, as expected, we tend to mimic that look. But what if you don’t consider yourself a street photographer and decide to use a tungsten-balanced cinema film to do this with no correction filter instead? That is my story for today.
Not very often do I have the chance to go to downtown Porto Alegre, capital of the southernmost state of Brazil, on a business day just to exercise my photographic skills. In the late spring of 2021, I had this opportunity and thought about how I could enjoy it the most. I had bought a new and mint 35mm f/2.8 FD Canon lens and was itching to use it. Focal length already decided, now was time to choose which film stock I should bring to my street photoshoot.
Cinema stocks have been my favorite kind of film to shoot these days not just for their price — prices are outrageously high lately, and we all gonna agree on that — but also because their look pleases me very much. Something about the high dynamic range and unique color rendering hooked me in those films. Besides that, tungsten-balanced films are mostly used by photographers to shoot night scenes, massively for gas station pics, as you may be aware of. Why not use it during daytime for a change? Thereby, Kodak VISION3 200T (5213) ended up in my Canon AT-1 that day.
“What an obnoxious stock for street photography”, you may wonder. Well, not that much. At least not for me. I find myself very happy with the results. Starting with the 35mm focal length, which was new for me, but made me feel very comfortable and nimble for crowded and narrow street shots. It is the kind of lens that doesn’t get in your way for any framing and is impressively versatile. Of course, 35mm forces you to get closer to your subjects and, and if you are going to photograph people, you will be in a situation that may result in interactions, some of them unpleasant.
As for the tungsten film, it gave the images the exact amount of drama that a black and white stock would get but without giving up the colour element in the composition. And I was looking for that not only for its cool tones, which were softened in the scanning process by the lab, but I have imposed this look with a low key photometry. I measured for the highlights knowing that the Kodak VISION3 would hold enough information on the shadows even if very underexposed. That is the main advantage of a cinema film: it is made for post production, thus it’s extremely high dynamic range.
I can’t wait to take this film to shoot street again. The results fit right into my expectations and I felt very comfortable with it while shooting and, afterwards, post-processing the pics. All I can say is: after this experience, I don’t think the nifty fifty will go back to my camera anytime soon and my pocket is relieved, because I kinda just wanna shoot cinema films from now on.
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