Finding Film part 8: Getting to know my Lady Gray 400
Before I start this entry in the series, just a small disclaimer: Lomography UK very kindly sent me some film to try out for the #FindingFilm series – thanks guys, I really appreciate that. Some of it was colour, which I am not entirely sure what to do with, as it is majorly out of my comfort zone…but one of the packs they sent was some Lomography Lady Gray, which is a 400 speed black and white film. Whilst Lomography sent me the films, I am still going to be my usual honest self when reviewing, and am not required to be biased in any way.
[EMULSIVE: that was a very sneaky plan to get you to shoot some medium format colour film, Tom. Let’s talk…]
Right, that out of the way, let’s get cracking.
I had never originally considered Lomography film when I started the project. Whilst Lady Gray 400 is widely available (it can be found in my local supermarket as well as my local chemist – both large UK retailer chains), I had read online that it was a repackaged version of another film I had Czeched out before, as Lomography do not make their own film.
As far as I am aware, Lomography do not acknowledge this, so I was going purely on Internet hearsay.
Upon opening the film box, I felt a feeling of dread, seeing the same paper wrapping around the Lomography film, as the other said film, from one of my earlier articles.
My suspicion was confirmed when I saw the backing paper, with the START wording being far away from the arrow itself. I’m not going to lie to you, I had a very strong feeling of dread. I vowed at the end of the earlier article to give that brand another chance, and by pure coincidence, it was about to happen much earlier than planned. I had to work myself up to this, and quickly, as the light was great.
Here’s what’s covered in this article:
So there I was, out in the middle of my favourite local forest with my Yashica 124G, I had already shot some rolls of Fuji NEOPAN Acros 100 for the #NEOPANTASTIC event on Twitter (the article to follow this one), and I had the Lomography Lady Gray 400 in my bag. I was about to head home and realised that the lighting was perfect for a trip to the abandoned scrapyard which sits inside the forest.
You see, there was a well-known local scrap merchant who built his house in his scrapyard in the forest. The place was off the grid, and the surrounding land was littered with old cars, trucks, bathtubs, and many more eclectic items. All of the scrap was dotted amongst the trees, and even now, with most of it cleared, I still wonder how he kept on top of it all.
Rumour has it there are three bars of gold buried somewhere on the site, although I can’t say I believe it. Anyway, the man who ran the scrapyard died, and no-one took over the business. The site has laid dormant for decades, with nature slowly reclaiming what was previously there.
Buildings have long since crumbled and anything of value has been taken, and what is left is the empty shells of a once thriving business. It is quite an eery place to visit, even on a bright sunny day, but always provides some interesting subjects for photographing.
So back to the shoot, it was a nice sunny day, I was in a place I knew well, and felt it would make a good subject for an article. What could go wrong? Well, having shot a couple of rolls of NEOPAN Across 100, I forgot to change my light meter, and shot the Lady Grey (400 ASA) over exposed by two stops. Ooops.
Now I have pushed film before, having successfully pushed FP4 PLUS for part four in May, but had yet to pull film, until now.
The shoot went well, even though it was at the wrong speed. I did get the fright of my life when a deer started running away from behind an old car, having spotted me coming. It must have been 15-20 metres away, but the sound and sight of something moving, when I thought I was alone in the abandoned scrapyard certainly got the heart racing.
Shoot over, I headed back to the darkroom. Having done a fair bit of Internet research about pulling film (also known as contraction development), there was nothing to be found about pulling Lomography film. That being said, there was advice on pulling the other brand, so I went with that. I developed the film using Rodinal, 1+50 at 19c for 8.5 minutes, with 3 inversions every minute. Had I shot the film at 400 ASA, the recommendation was 1+50 for 11 minutes, so this seemed about right.
When I discarded the water it was the most intense shade of turquoise I had ever seen from a film. Whether Lomography added something to the film or not I am not sure, but it did make a very nice colour.
For those still interested, I used Fotospeed SB50 as my stop bath, and Fotospeed FX30 for the fixer. Unlike last time with the other brand, the Lomography film curled very little one dry, and scanning was a breeze.
As always the only changes made to any of the images are cropping for taste, straightening / alignment, and removing any major dust added whilst scanning.
Here are the results. To view larger versions of the images, just click or tap to open a lightbox.
I was happy with the tonality of the images straight off the bat. I was a little worried about how the exposure turned out, not because I was pulling film, but because the exposures were 1/2 – 1/15 of a second, due to the lack of light in the forest.
Fortunately, the highlights were not blown and the images held together well.
Even at a 100% crop, with no adjustments, the image has a good level of contrast, and holds a good level of detail.
I am pleased that this was not just a one-off either, and the same can be said for other shots on the roll.
There are only 3 shots on the roll that I have not shared, as they were simply duplicates, where I was bracketing due to a lack of light. What you have seen here is the roll in its entirety, a first for the #FindingFilm series.
My favourite image (and the one that still haunts my dreams), has to be this one:
So was I pleased with the roll? Very. All of the shots had good contrast, the tones were consistent, and the film didn’t curl as much as I thought it would, knowing what it really was under the branding. Lady Gray 400 was a solid performer, and as a film photographer, you can’t really ask for more than that.
TLDR; there’s clearly much more to Lomography than toy cameras and hipsters. Yes, the film might be rebranded from something else, but the results were very solid, and consistent, which is more than can be said of some of the other films I have tried so far.
I am not sure if Lomography have changed or enhanced said other film to improve it, but I was very pleased with my results. So much so, I wonder if I was perhaps too quick to judge said other brand.
This film may have been free, but would I buy Lomography film again in the future? Yes I would, simply because it is everywhere. They have a very recognisable brand, and this has clearly helped get it out there onto shelves in a world that sells nothing more than HP5 PLUS or the occasional roll of FP4 PLUS.
I could totally see myself in a situation where I had ran out of film whilst out on a shoot, and would rush to the nearest chain supermarket/drugstore, to find some Lomography film on the shelf……and do you know what? I’d totally be OK with that based on the performance of this photoshoot.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget that you can find the other parts of this series right here.
~ Tom Rayfield
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