5 Frames… In freezing Manhattan on Kodak T-MAX 400 (EI 100 / 120 format / Arax 60) – by B Kowal

Written by and published on .

On a frigid Sunday in Manhattan, I wanted to try out TMY, Kodak T-MAX 400. The film choice was based upon my constant use of black and white filters, which lower the film speed. With an ISO 400 film, 1-stop brings me to 200, and 2-stops (an orange filter) lowers it to 100. At 100 one is barely able to shoot street scenes handheld. In addition, these Tmax films will NOT put a lot of grain on an open sky. The problem, by contrast, with Tri-X, is that a sky becomes unbearably grainy. For my purposes, I wanted the filtered sky, the reflections off the glass buildings and the deep shadows to be free of grain. TMY filled those requirements.

The camera is a version of the Kiev 60, a heavy, butt-ugly and entirely reliable camera. Especially in cold weather. And the lens is the Arsat wide-angle, Mir 26B, f/3.5 45mm. On this particular day, everything worked. I love shooting in Winter as the Winter Sun gives tiny globules of light, instead of a broad swath as in Summer.

I metered with a Gossens Digisix, taking readings from the shadows. Turning around with my back to the Sun and looking for the darkest shadow I could find. Then I reduced the EV by 1 ½ stops to get the proper exposure for a Yellow/Green filter. All photos were shot at f/11 to give the sharpest image across all edges of the frame.

You can drive yourself crazy reading about lens tests with these Pentacon Six Mount cameras, the Carl Zeiss Jena, the Arsat, and how the Mamiya or Pentax are superior. At f/11 they are all fine.

Processed in Xtol 1:1 following the crazy Kodak instructions to agitate vigorously every 30 seconds.

~ B Kowal

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3 thoughts on “5 Frames… In freezing Manhattan on Kodak T-MAX 400 (EI 100 / 120 format / Arax 60) – by B Kowal”

  1. Nice stuff. You got the look of a cold day in a city with that beautiful clear light and knife edge shadows. More people should use filters (properly!) w/b&w film. I always use a medium yellow filter for daylight photography. It cuts through haze and adds a bit of contrast punch to a scene (like a pinch of red pepper flakes in homemade pasta sauce.)
    My guidelines for metering shadows (with a Luna Pro) is to meter the shadow that you want to hold detail, then meter a detailed highlight. If they’re within 5 stops, I take the photo w/out compensation. Over 5 stops, I slant the exposure slightly toward the shadows and compensate in the darkroom. Less than 5 stops, I base the exposure on the highlights, and use to darker areas as a compositional element. This system has worked for my style of photography coming up on 50 years.


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