The fisherman were already there that morning. They had arrived long before sunrise with their reels and lines and pole holders made from cut off pieces of PVC pipe. Of course, there were the crabbers, too, who began to roll down to the surf just after I did, wearing their faded chest waders and carrying their big wire nets and white buckets. All of them wondering about the man in the blue Crocs, carrying the big camera who obviously was not a local.
This was my last morning on the Pacific Coast at Pomponio. The surf at Pomponio is just a small pull off along the famous Highway #1 in California sandwiched between the more popular Half Moon Bay on the way to Big Sur. I had shot here over the last couple of months with a wide range of destructive photographic instruments including the estimable Nikon F3, my big box 4×5 and now, on this cold and windy pacific morning, with my Bronica GS-1 and Zenzanon PG 100mm f/3.5 lens.
The GS-1 is a large camera as far as medium format SLRs go. Not as boxy as a Mamiya but much bigger than a Hasselblad 500 series , especially with the Automatic Exposure (AE) viewfinder latched onto the body. Though not as “Instagramable” as the waist-level finder, the AE viewfinder combines the splendid luxury of shooting with a metered prism wrapped with the warm and familiar comfort of a standard 35mm SLR (or DSLR). At the risk of coming off as an elitist…I also chose to hoof in the camera with it’s wonderfully useful speed-grip attached.
The day was made for film. Gray skies with even light that seemed to stretch across the clock. My bag carried both medium format ILFORD PAN F PLUS and Kodak Ektar 100. I had been shooting the Nikon F3 with Tri-X 400 the week before and now it seemed time for a bit of color. Dampened color, but color nonetheless.
So instead of going for black and white again, I loaded up the Kodak and proceeded.
Now, why Ektar?
I assure you that I have nothing against Portra in either it’s 160 or 400 or even 800 flavors. It’s just that I’ve always gravitated towards Ektar as far as my C-41 films go. With its saturated color tones and easy going nature, it’s just afforded itself as a long faithful friend of mine.
It’s an unfortunate anachronism that most of the sites along Highway #1 are shot at a large scope. That is, very much of the popular work you find from this area focuses on the wide appeal of the scene. The bridge at Big Sur. Grand, sweeping vistas of the coast with the road snaking through the hills of Ice Plants. These photos all have merit but, in my humble opinion, the true glory of Pomponio, and indeed most of this section of coast, can only be truly drank in at the places where the waves meet the sand.
This was my approach to the day; to photograph the small and seldom noticed pieces of this well known stretch of coast.
If you’re considering shooting a color film stock, no matter the format, I strongly suggest you have a lash with Kodak Ektar 100. It’s a beautifully fine film with excellent grain (especially above 35mm) that produces a unique color saturation that begs for greens and blues. It’s often overlooked, at least in my experience, in favor of it’s less vibrant cousin.
Just as a suggestion, if you are to be scanning your negatives, expose at box speed or perhaps a stop over as this film tends to recover highlights well in my experience.
All images were processed at box speed using Arista C-41 processing kit and then lovingly scanned with my trusty Epson V700 scanner.
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