5 Frames… Of the 2020 Montreal International Women’s Day march on ILFORD HP5 PLUS (EI 800 / 35mm Format / Canon F-1 Montreal 1976 Olympics edition) – by Pablo A. Ortiz

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One of the main reasons I decided to start shooting film was time. I feel film photography embodies a must-needed break from the frantic times we’re living (at least pre-coronavirus-wise). Composing, light metering, focusing… plus developing, scanning. Photographic film is a test to your patience, and, in the end, a great boost to your creative process.

So, it’s extremely ironic that I chose these 5 frames, which were taken as a side project during a photojournalistic assignment. I’m a freelance press photographer in Montreal. While I haven’t stopped working during the pandemic, this assignment was one of the last before the city started enforcing confinement measures due to the spread of the virus.

I normally gear up two digital bodies, but this time I added a third, my Canon F-1 with the 50mm f/1.8 and a roll of ILFORD HP5 PLUS loaded. This camera is my favourite for many reasons. Not only is a tank, but it has all the features that I need without being cumbersome to operate. I also have a special attachment to it given that I was lucky enough to find one copy of the Montreal 1976 Olympics edition.

On that day my assignment was to cover one of the marches organized for the International Women’s Day. Rallies are always great to photograph; lots of interesting people, plus its community nature makes people relax more, and be more open to being photographed.

My biggest challenge was to prioritize the shots that I needed for the newspaper (and the ones that pay the bills), while taking the extra seconds to grab my 35mm body and capture a frame fast enough.

It was a sunny day with a clear sky, which let me set up shutter speed and aperture in advance, without worrying too much about adjusting them later. Composition and focus were the only factors that I needed to pay attention to.

I developed the roll at home (Rodinal, water as stop bath and Ilford Rapid Fixer), pushed at 800 and scanned it with my Epson V550 using VueScan. In post, I only played around with contrast to make the images pop a little bit more. The final frame of this series is a “spy” one. It’s from a closed store in my neighborhood once the pandemic was in full force.

Photojournalism is about telling a story happening in front of you; therefore, you always try to reduce your chances of missing a shot, and the most common solution is to cover the biggest range of focal lengths possible (I normally carry a 17-40mm and a 70-200mm lens). Film, in my case, let me do the opposite and it reinforces my love for prime lenses.

Instead of adapting your camera to the scene in front of you, film pushes you to adapt the scene to the camera and the focal length in your hands, and that process creates a whole different mindset and approach to photography.

~ Pablo

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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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