I love street photography, though I don’t consider myself a great photographer neither a master but I really enjoy shooting film. My work as an interiors and boudoir photographer is of course 100% digital and does not leave me much time for my personal projects and I almost forgot the pleasure I feel each time I can grab my film camera and take a walk in the streets of my city, Milan.

There’s another reason that has taken me away from shooting film in the last two years: the new European law concerning privacy. We can’t publish or share any image where people are involved; if we do we could be legally pursued and this is a serious deterrent to our art. this is the reason why I can show only a few photographs of the 36 roll I shot.

However, a back in late February 2020, I took a look at some photographs of the great Chinese master Ho Fan and I found an enormous font of inspiration. The way he mastered light and shadow reminded me of another great artist of the past: the Italian painter Caravaggio.

High contrast images where shadows occupy most of the scenes, that’s what I was trying to accomplish but I’m aware how difficult it is to reach a decent level of skill in this art. I thought needed a different film than my usual ILFORD HP5 PLUS or Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS; the right choice has been Kodak Tri-X 400.

I decided to shoot at night in order to avoid the presence of people and I pushed the film to EI 1600 just to have more speed. I woke up at 05:00 am, grabbed my Canon A1 (which I bought back in 1986), and went out for a walk.

Shooting at night with Tri-X is not easy, even at EI 1600. I was working with shutter speeds of 1/15th and 1/30th of a second. However, I felt lucky because I enjoyed the entire film photography process: loading the roll into the camera, shooting without a monitor showing me immediate result, slowing down and taking my time to think about the composition and the right exposure to use. Manual focusing is another critical factor because at night you may take some great shots and discover later that the image is a little bit out of focus or blurred; to me, this adds personality to the photographs.

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I finished shooting my first roll of Tri-X 400 in just one night and I decided not to develop the film by myself because I didn’t want to run the risk of messing up the whole thing. I gave it to a professional developer. He explained to me that since I pushed it to 1600 the process would take a longer time.

When he delivered me the negative I scanned them with my DSLR and put it in Lightroom. I was shocked by the amazing quality of Kodak Tri-X. It’s a punchy film, I love the grain, the tonality and the mood it gives to the photographs; It’s like listening to music on vinyl record rather than on a CD. This is something I really missed in digital photography!

I must say I made some mistakes during my shoot; my camera seems to have a tendency to overexpose this film at EI 1600. Next time I’ll use Kodak Tri-X I will have to adjust my exposure dial at least by one stop. I’m not really satisfied with my results but I consider them a first try with this beautiful film. Over the weeks which followed these first steps, I wlaos decided to test Fujifilm Velvia 100 pushed EI 400, ACROS pushed to 400 quite a few more!

The pandemic and Italy’s measures to slow its spread have slowed down my progress somewhat but I have results and will share them with you soon. Thanks for reading!

~ Ricky

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Ricky Ballarin

''Photography has always been one of my passions and I decided to step into professional photography in 2014. Most of the time I work as a boudoir and architectural photography and sometimes as a product photographer if my clients ask for that kind of job....

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  1. When you push ISO 400 film to ISO1600, you gain contrast and grain, lose shadow detail and latitude, and make highlights more dense.
    Due to the loss of latitude, you may want to use an incident light meter instead of your camera’s reflected light meter.
    If you don’t have one, measure only the palm of your hand (take care not to cast a shadow on it and it doesn’t matter if the palm is out of focus when you measure it) and *open one f:stop* from this reading.
    If you turn your palm so it points halfway between your line of sight for the picture and the line from the light source, the reading will be still more precise (if the source is behind you) and should be within one third of a stop from an incident meter reading.

  2. No, your shots are not over exposed. I can tell because of the lack of shadow detail. If the highlights are too dense, then it was over developed. Ansel Adams laid this all out in his book, ‘The Negative’.

  3. Scanned your negatives with your DSLR? Any more info on how that works? I’ve been looking for a good solution to scan my negatives.