5 Frames… Of my quarantine in Vietnam with ORWO N74 plus on a Nikon F3HP (35mm format / EI 800 / Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI-S) – by Sasi Somu

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I flew into Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, late in the night to be unceremoniously whisked off to spend the next 15 days in quarantine in a 3×4 meter hotel room. I was there on a work assignment that was going to last a few months hence I brought along my trusty workhorse; Nikon F3HP with Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens, and 3 rolls of film.

One can only do so much in quarantine, apart from doing my regular work online; I watched TV, read books, meditated, exercised and did some serious contemplation. But all that could only use up so much time while there was so much more left to fill up.


That’s when I hit upon the idea to document the quarantine process. Of course, I was the main/only subject. The idea was to capture the isolation and loneliness on film. Whether I managed to do that; you be the judge.

I placed the camera on the table, window sill, bed etc, to get the shots. Had to get an exposure reading and guesstimate the distance for focus before setting the self-timer and jumping into the shot.

Of the 3 film choices, the most suitable one was the ORWO N74, which I exposed at EI 800, so as to get decent exposure with the light from the solitary window in the room. It has been 35 years since I had shot ORWO. It used to be the only B&W film available in India when I was dabbling in photography during my teenage years. Those days I used to take it to the photo lab in the street corner to get it processed and printed.

I have mixed feelings about the images, I am surprised by the grain, though happy with the contrast and a little disappointed with the slight muddiness in some images. The film was processed and scanned by LLAB, a commercial lab in Ho Chi Minh City, which provides excellent service. However, I have no idea of the developer used and/or the process. I did ask for push processing of 1-stop.

Overall, it was an interesting exercise for me as I was using my Nikon F3 in ways that I have not used it before and also helped me to re-acquaint myself with my old friend the ORWO film, which surprisingly is still being produced! With which I will be doing more experimenting in the future.

The other two film choices were; HP5 PLUS & FP4 PLUS.


~ Sasi

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