What follows is my 2019 in film photography, a 365 photography project that was absolutely not a 365 project. In this article, I share the results from 115 of the sheets/rolls of film I shot in 2019. It boils down to over one hundred photographs taken by yours truly, all wrapped up in a couple of thousand words which may or may not make sense.
There are a few reasons I’m doing this:
Time and lack thereof to post my photography: I write and publish a lot of content here on EMULSIVE – ~400 articles last year – and one of the casualties of this growth has been a lack of time to get my own photography out there.
Retro-what? As some of you might know, I exhaustively document my photographic archive: film, camera, lens, EI, development notes, etc., but aside from a few quick looks back here and there, I’ve not really sat down to review, interpret or digest my own work in this manner before. I’ll tell you upfront that putting this article together has been an incredibly rewarding experience and I highly recommend you carve out a few hours to do the same yourself.
Sharing is caring: I talk a lot about knowledge sharing and transfer in our community and well, this seems to fit the bill pretty well.
Here’s how the article breaks down:
Table of contents
- 1 2018 was not a good year
- 2 My year in pictures
- 3 2019’s large format film
- 4 Stats, stats, stats
- 5 Taking lessons from 2019 into 2020 and beyond
2018 was not a good year
I came into 2019 after a photographically “bad” 2018. I lost my mojo more than once and the process of taking photographs seemed void of personal meaning or progress. Much of this was due to general malaise and an almost 100% record of photographic plans falling through at the last minute throughout the year.
Generally speaking, I’m the kind of person who, if I see a particular approach not working (or not working as well as expected), will change it and come at my objective from a different angle. Repeat ad infinitum. Considering that making photographic plans was such a failure for me in 2018, for 2019, I resolved to do something different: NOTHING
Well, not literally nothing, per se – I’d obviously still be out there with a camera as usual – it was more the idea that I would go with the flow and just shoot instead of setting expectations or goals and iterating my approach to try and achieve them.
THAT was my 365 project and you know what? It worked.
If you’re reading this and don’t know what a 365 photography project is, don’t worry about it. They typically revolve around the theme of shooting a photograph every single day for a year.
Most of those In the film community are general (just shoot). Others might stick to a particular film stock or camera, specific subjects or other goals/restrictions.
It wasn’t always easy to stick to the idea of going with the flow given the amazing photography being posted on social media and my desire to try my hand at it. Still, I kept my head clear for the most part and shot what came into my viewfinder.
In total, I shot ~145 rolls of 120 and 35mm format film in 2019, along with around 40 sheets of 4×5. Of the 120 and 35mm film, I’m able to share photographs from 110 of them. Film, it seems, does not slow me down.
I’ve broken this article down into three sections: a set of photo galleries by month, some stats and final thoughts/takeaways. Each gallery has a single frame from every 120 or 35mm roll of film I shot in 2019. As my motivation for large format photography is a little different to that with smaller formats (methodical and planned vs opportunistic), I’ve dropped a sampling of my 4×5 photography under the monthly galleries.
My year in pictures
You can click/tap on the gallery images below to view them full-screen. With a gallery open, just move left or right to cycle through the images.
January 2019: 16 rolls
It was a great start to the year. I shot 16 rolls in January, with a 25/75 even split between medium format and 35mm film respectively. January also saw my first steps into wide-format 35mm photography due to a new-to-me Fuji GW690III rangefinder, which I call the TEXPan (Texas Leica + XPan, get it). Anyway, along with some further developments throughout the year, it helped take me on a little journey that’s still not quite finished.
The 16 rolls in included the following film stocks:
- Kodak VISION3 500T (5219)
- Lomography Berlin 400
- Kodak Portra 160
- Lomography Color Negative 400
- ILFORD Pan 100
- ILFORD FP4 PLUS
- ILFORD HP5 PLUS
- Santa RAE 1000
- Fujifilm FUJICOLOR Superia X-TRA 400
- Kodak Portra 160NC (non-perf)
- Fujifilm NEOPAN 400.
My favourite image of the month? It’s a tie. First, is the first frame in the gallery (the mural of the Japanese chap). Second would be frame 10, which looks into someone’s home from the street. The object hanging in space is an incense holder, which was lit perfectly by the ray of light you see reflected on the window to the left of the frame.
February 2019: 4 rolls
Things got busy on the day job front in February but I was able to get out a couple of times to shoot. Three of the four rolls represented below were shot on the same outing. I was still trying to shoot 35mm film but of the three rolls I started, none got finished.
I was mostly going through the motions this month and although there are some great BW IR frames to share later this year, the AEROCHROME shot, Pads, was my favourite.
March 2019: 13 rolls
March saw me messing around with diopter filters for close-up photography (the final frame below), split diopters for freaky “infinite depth of field” experiments (not pictured) and a dive into photography with anamorphic lenses.
Stepping into the world of anamorphic photography has been a rabbit hole of both fun and frustration. Small calibration issues – like not mounting the lens perfectly – can lead to incredibly strange effects but as frustrating as they were, I learned more about making motion pictures this month than at any other point in my life.
I hope to write a bit more about my journey and use of anamorphic lenses in 2020. If I drag my heels, please give me a kick up the backside.
12 of the 13 rolls I shot were different stocks, with black and white negative film dominating. Those 12 were:
- Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS
- Fujifilm NEOPAN 400
- Lomography Color Negative 800
- Fujifilm Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400, Lomography Color Negative 100
- Ultrafine Xtreme 400
- Bergger BRF-400
- Bergger Pancro 400
- Kosmo Foto Mono 100
- Kodak Eastman Double-X (5222)
- Kodak Pro Image 100
- Fujifilm FUJICOLOR Pro 400H.
I had so much fun shooting this month that it’s hard to pick just one (or even three frames) as my favourites. Those that stand out? Certainly, the frame of the Buddhist monk holding a standing bell and small striker, any of the panoramic frames and bloodied butcher gloves.
You’ll probably notice focus issues with some of the wide-format frames above, especially with the 120 format shot 6th from the bottom. Focusing with anamorphics is hard if you don’t know what you’re doing (I didn’t).
Using anamorphic lenses requires a “double-focus” for most setups. In use, that translates to focusing once on the “taking lens” mounted to your camera and then fine-tuning focus on the anamorphic lens, which is mounted to the taking lens. It takes some trial and error when you’re starting from scratch, as I was. There are single focus options, which I won’t get into here. Needless to say, I don’t have one yet.
The bottom line for me is that all this tinkering and tweaking was worth it in the end and getting a 1:3 aspect ratio on 35mm film (1:2 on 120) was totally worth the hours spent in frustration.
April 2019: 0 rolls
Zero, zip, nada, zilch. April was a complete bust but I’m ok with that. I had three cameras loaded with film and finished none of them. On the bright side, I managed to get quite a bit of developing, scanning and archiving done.
May 2019: 18 rolls
May was fantastic, I messed around with close focus, geometric composition and some (to me), non-traditional framing for the 6×6 square format. I shot three rolls of AEROCHROME and tried my hand at the Zenit Horizon S3 Pro aka the Horizon Perfekt.
The film stocks I shot this month were CatLABS X FILM 80, ILFORD HP5 PLUS, ILFORD HP5 PLUS, Kodak EKTACHROME E100VS, Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS, ILFORD HP5 PLUS, Kodak AEROCHROME III Infrared Film (1443), Kodak EKTACHROME E100VS, JCH Streetpan 400, ILFORD Delta 400 Professional, ILFORD SFX 200, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 800 and Kodak Ektar 100.
Again, it’s a tough call to pick my favourite of the month. both AEROCHROME shots for different reasons, the bike leaning on the wall, about to be consumed by hard shadow and the man holding a cigarette all do it for me, but don’t hold me to that, my choices change every time I look at them all.
June 2019: 4 rolls
After May’s heady photography, I came back to Earth with a bit of a bump. I wanted to focus on nailing my anamorphic setup, which went pretty well, I think.
The four rolls were Kodak Ektar 100, CatLABS X FILM 80, Kodak EKTACHROME E100VS and Kodak T-MAX 100. and the mossy wall frame on CatLABS’ new X Film rocks my little world. The entire roll was full of some fantastically contrasty and detailed images.
July 2019: 8 rolls
Back to opportunistic photography in July, with some experiments in low-light. In fact, the fourth frame of the girl asleep on her fathers shoulder is probably my favourite image of the month.
I also took some time out to shoot the latest version of Lomography’s Lomochrome Purple against their version 1 and 2. I know I’ve still yet to publish the results. I’ll get there, promise.
Film stocks I shot this month were Lomography Purple XR 100-400 v1, v2 and 2019’s v3, ILFORD XP2 Super, Kodak Hawkeye Traffic Surveillance Black and White Film 2485, Silberra Color 100, Lomography Potsdam Kino 100 and Shanghai GP3 100.
August 2019: 11 rolls
More close-up photography this month. It was also in August that I crowned my Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 AF-D my favourite lens of the year. To say that it had been glued to my cameras by this point is an understatement (as my takeaway thoughts below demonstrate).
This month’s rolls were Lomography Color Negative 800, Fujifilm FUJICOLOR C200, Kodak Portra 400, Lomography Color Negative 800, Lomography Purple XR 100-400 v3, JCH Streetpan 400, Fujifilm NEOPAN 400, ILFORD Delta 100 Professional and Shanghai GP3 100!
frames 2 and three (girl smoking on JCH Streetpan 400 and the child eagerly awaiting ice cream are hands down my favourites of the month. The look of anticipation on the child’s face reminds me of how I’d (im)patiently do the same thing when I was around his age…well, perhaps now as well.
September 2019: 13 rolls
More messing around with the 85mm Nikkor this month, and looking back I was definitely playing with high contrast light more this month than any other time during the year.
My low-light photography from previous months was partly to blame for this and developed even further the following month. If you notice two nearly-identical shots in the gallery below, they’re from my Ricoh GR1s vs R1s which I published in October last year.
This month’s film stocks were Ultrafine Xtreme 100, ILFORD SFX 200, Kodak EKTACHROME 160T (5077), Fujifilm FUJICOLOR C200, Fujifilm FUJICOLOR C200, Fujifilm FUJICOLOR C200, Kodak Ektar 100, Fujifilm FUJICOLOR 100, Silberra U400, Lomography Color Negative 400, Lomography Color Negative 400, Kodak EKTACHROME E100G, Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS and Kodak T-MAX 100.
Favourite frames: the cat, the lightbulb and the two gents squatting in the street. tht last frame is a weird one as it was my first time to a) witness something happenning on such a busy thoroughfare and b) neither man knew the other. They came from separate directions, squatted and when the light went green, went their separate ways. BIZZARE.
The cat is a neighbourhood friend I’ve been slowly getting to know. She still doesn’t quite trust anyone aside from her owner/slave but we’re getting there. I love the timid/sheepish look on her face.
October 2019: 4 rolls
I continued playing around with my Horizon S3 Pro (my immense failure follows below). I also decided to try out some more low light photography, this time, focusing more on “street” with a deep purple filter and pushed Kodak Ektar and Portra 160 (shot at EI 1250 and pushed 4 stops in development).
The results were not as crazy-grainy as I expected and I love the colours: love them. I expect more of this over the coming months, especially now that I’ve acquired a more suitable lens (Nikon VR for the win!)
This month’s films were ILFORD Delta 400 Professional, Kodak Por