I am endlessly fascinated by tulips. So far, so unoriginal. Even supermarket bouquets can yield extraordinary beauty, especially if left a little longer than most florists would deem appropriate. And our local florist often has really unusual, dramatic blooms – parrot tulips, “double” tulips that burst out like peonies…

Usually, I photograph them indoors, the dark green of our furthest kitchen wall giving a perfect “studio” backdrop, but sometimes I like to take them outside in the sunshine.

I have too many cameras. So far, so unoriginal. Each of course has its own details of control, preparation, etc. So on this occasion I was using my lovely (£95) Leica R3, with the 60mm macro lens wide open, beautiful late-January midday sunshine that was still perfectly directional, and only after I’d taken all the shots I wanted realised that the shutter speed dial was set, not to A(utomatic) as I’d imagined, but… 1/125. And the indicated shutter speed in the viewfinder had continually been 1/1000 (the R3’s maximum) or even beyond.

So I braced myself for burnt-out disappointment as I sent the roll off to Filmdev. I had four or five frames left on the reel after I’d realised, I tried to recreate some of the shots I’d thought most promising with the “correct” exposure…

Imagine my astonishment when I got the film scans back, and the “ruined” shots were actually the best on the reel!

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Each of these five shots was overexposed by at least 3 stops. Not only have the highlights absolutely not blown out, but this “modest” film has taken on a sort of glow and intensity that I had thought only achievable with either slide film or something like Cinestill 50D. Grain, present on those frames which I’d “correctly” exposed, is almost imperceptible here. Those final four or five frames with which I’d hoped I’d salvaged the project are decent but uninteresting compared to the shots I’ve selected here.

I can’t imagine I’ll ever set the film speed dial to 200 again when I use this film in the future. I never had the chance to shoot Kodak Ektar 25, but maybe this will be its replacement for me? I can certainly live with the inconvenience of slow film speed if it gives colours and light like this.

I know many photographers have exploited the effect that overexposing Fuji Pro400H gives, and while the results from doing that are often beautiful, to me they always look overexposed. The shots I got from my “consumer” grade film look, in my opinion, as though they were actually shot correctly!

Hope you enjoy them.

~ Charles

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About the author

Charles Mutter

I'm Charles Mutter, a professional musician and amateur photographer.

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