5 Frames… On my father’s last day at work on Kodak Portra 800 (EI 400 / 35mm format / Pentax Spotmatic II) – by Joni Schoonjans

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After 27 years of working at the airport, my father was recently informed that he would be let go. He started at the Belgian national carrier Sabena in 1992, continued to be employed when it went bankrupt in 2001 and survived two takeovers since then.

My father loved his work, loved being at the airport, and always went the extra mile for his job. To me, his identity was always heavily intertwined with this place that most people just want to pass through as quickly as possible, but he was returning to day after day.


So when I learned of this era in his life coming to an end, naturally I decided I absolutely needed to take some portraits of him in his natural habitat.

In my head, the only camera up to the task of capturing this melancholy and atmosphere of the airport tarmac at dusk was my trusty Pentax Spotmatic II. Also my first ever analog SLR. It came with a Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f/1.8, which I love so much that its K-mount version was the first lens I bought for my recently acquired Pentax LX.

My film of choice was Kodak Portra 800. I knew I wanted to shoot around sunset, as the kerosene pollution in the air brings out the best of colors at that time of day. For these conditions, 800-speed seemed safest to me, especially when overexposing one stop. There’s also a certain something to my eye that sets Portra 800 apart from its more popular 400-speed sibling. I’ve read somewhere that whereas Portra 400 is based on the Vision3 technology, Portra 800 still has its roots in Vision2 emulsion. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but the grain, color reproduction and the way it handles highlights is pure magic to me.

Developing was done by my local camera store that still turns on its C-41 processing machine twice a week. Scanning happened at home with a Plustek OpticFilm 7600i that I got when I was in college.

I’m pretty happy with the results and hope you guys enjoy the images!

~ Joni


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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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2 thoughts on “5 Frames… On my father’s last day at work on Kodak Portra 800 (EI 400 / 35mm format / Pentax Spotmatic II) – by Joni Schoonjans”

  1. This was a wonderful read, and the images are fantastic. My favourite is the second one in portrait orientation with your dad in front of the aeroplane. Almost has a medium-format look to it with the depth of field! Like Steve said in his comment, superb documentation and an amazing thing to do for both your dad and you. It’s also great to read of your appreciation for Pentax and that K55mm you mentioned, I’m totally with you there. I use Pentax cameras pretty much exclusively and the LX is my favourite overall, I’m really happy with the results I get out of Pentax glass as well. Hope you’re enjoying your LX as much as your Spotmatic. Cheers.

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  2. You created a superb documentation for your father of what he so loved doing. I especially love the light and colors in the one with him standing at the back of an engine. You’ve inspired me to try some Portra 800 in late day lighting using EI 400. Your scans are lovely, too.

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