A while ago I was involved in a Twitter conversation about what scene from a movie you wish you could have shot yourself, or wish you could replicate. I chose the image used on the poster for the movie Drive where Ryan Gosling is leaning against the boot of a car (trunk if you’re not from the UK) on a dark street, holdall in hand and desperately trying to look as cool as James Dean. That particular style of image, shot at night with lots of colour and light in all the right places was what had drawn me to the film and that photo.
The main reason I first wanted to try out Cinestill is that I had that image in my head and since it’s derived from motion picture stock and has a high native ISO perhaps I could create something similar? Short answer I couldn’t but at least it got me into trying.
Now, this is not the first time anyone has written about Cinestill 800T on EMULSIVE and I thoroughly doubt it will be the last either but I wanted to add my opinion and experience with it. After attempting to shoot a few portraits and realising that Iam utterly awful at portraiture I went back to what I know best, street photography. I used my Yashica D TLR and all are shot at EI 800, the images taken during daylight had the added bonus of an 85b filter to counteract the natural tungsten balance of the film.
The daylight images are shot in some of the Victorian shopping arcades in Cardiff, I love the architecture of places like these, high glass ceilings, independent shops and cafe’s, interesting light fixtures and flooring. And the feeling I get from the film and the images I can create with it I think suits this kind of location perfectly. There’s a scene in the modern remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy where Mark Strong’s character is meeting a contact in Budapest outside a cafe in an arcade that always reminds of this particular place and in my head this location with this film stock takes me to that scene.
However, I think shooting in low light is really when Cinestill 800T comes into its own. The images here around Bologna with dark alleyways and side streets lowly lit with shop fronts, fluorescent signage and old fashioned streetlights gives the images a look as if they’re a still from some low budget 1970’s movie about finding yourself while travelling Europe and that was the look I was hoping to achieve. It’s very hard to explain but the way colour is rendered when there is very little light around just appeals so much to my eye. I’ve obviously heard some people complain (as I’m sure you have as well) about the glow you get around light sources due to the removal of the Remjet from the emulsion and that you should probably avoid shooting in situations with obvious artificial light sources, but for me this just adds to the whole low budget movie effect.
The only issue I have with the film is price, at between £10 and £12 (depending on where you purchase it from) it is certainly not the cheapest way to shoot only 12 frames and it’s not something I have been able to imagine me using for family snapshots. Would I recommend it? yes of course. But would I recommend it as an everyday film? No. Instead I have come to view it as more of a specialist emulsion that I use sparingly and only for particular situations where I want a very particular look for my images.
In short, I love this stuff, but using it sparingly gives it that extra sense of mystery of what I can achieve with it.
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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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