Lomochrome Purple XR 100-400 is an interesting film, with unclear origins, that shifts colours towards the purple spectrum, like a fantasy/dream. Greens become purple, blues aqua/green, and skin tones orangey, in a psychedelic way. Iso 100? 200? 400? Take your pick!
While there are many articles out there about the colour shifting properties of this film, and great examples of how it is used in landscape, portrait, even pinhole photography, there is almost no information about shooting this at night, reciprocity characteristics, or any tips.
With this paucity of information, we at pixels.grain felt compelled to explore the possibilities while shooting at night around Sydney. Yes, cinestill 800T is still the king of night photos, with the no-halation ‘glow’ of neon signs, and blade runner-esque cinematic look that has become almost cliched – who hasn’t seen some chinese signs/shell petrol stations shot on cinestill and thought ‘cool!’. But look up Lomography Purple, and there’s almost nothing!
Unfortunately, with no reciprocity information, guides, or tips, this trip could have been a total disaster. Not only were there many reasons this experiment should have failed, lomo purple is in low supply in Australia (we bought the last rolls available for March in the whole country!).
What we actually uncovered was a film with a unique look at night, less ‘Blade Runner’ and more ‘Ghost in the Shell’: purple/green tones tinge the highlights and muted grainy goodness covers the rest. It doesn’t have the punch of Cinestill, but it also doesn’t have the same cliched look, providing something totally and refreshingly different! Have we uncovered something hidden and magical about this film? Could we be starting the next ‘trend’in analog night photography? Read on to hear from each of us about our experiences:
While the Sydney Harbour Bridge is rightly iconic, my heart has always belonged to its neighbour – the lesser known and extremely beautiful Anzac Bridge. People living in the eastern suburbs of Sydney (generally considered fancy, as those are the waterfront and expensive suburbs) have sometimes been known to call those of use who live in the more western suburbs (diverse, creative and … not as close to the ocean) “squinties”, because as we drive east over the Anzac bridge in the morning we squint against the light of the rising sun, and when we drive home west in the evening we squint into the dusk. But I digress.
I was excited to be trying Lomo Purple for some gorgeous traffic trails over the Anzac bridge with the pixels.grain crew. We met later in the evening – well after blue hour – and the first thing that became apparent was that the light for photography was challenging, verging on terrible. This was a tough walk and I don’t recall any of us feeling positive about the images we had made, before they were developed. However, once we saw what we had…!
We decided to hit the Anzac bridge, since the opera house/harbour bridge was too cliched, and try something a bit different!
For one reason or another, I have not shot a lot of “special effects” films. The closest I have come is cross-processed slide film, Film Washi paper negatives, and perhaps Lomochrome Metropolis. The Lomochrome Purple craze had passed me by. Until now. Thank you to Alan for organising this film for the Pixels and Grain collective.
My natural curiosity tends towards seeing what a film will do at night and with longer exposures. The images of Purple at night that I could find looked like Manga comics of techno Tokyo which piqued my interest. I was excited that we decided to try for Sydney’s Anzac Bridge after dark.
I had shot purple before, on vacation in Hawaii, and at the beach, but apart from the characteristic ‘purple’ tones I hadn’t really experimented much with it.
For this nighttime Lomo challenge I was using a new lens (Mamiya Sekor 55mm f/4.5) on a new-ish camera (Mamiya C220) that I’d NEVER tested the bulb mode/cable release on before.
The Mamiya C220 and 55mm f/4.5 Mamiya Sekor. A totally under-rated system, still relatively affordable, and a killer 6X6 setup! [This image was shot on Leica M8, similarly underrated…but maybe we’ll write a separate article about all that!]
Having considered all the options I armed myself for the night with my Hasselblad 500C/M, the Distagon 40mm/f4 and Planar 80mm/f2.8.
I brought along the new-to-me Mamiya C330 with my 135mm / f4.5 lens. Like Alan, I had ALSO not tested the bulb function / cable release ever! I borrowed Alan’s 55mm Sekor for a few of the photos as well.
I pretty much shot at f/8-11, metering at around EI 100, then doubling the time for reciprocity (something I’d started doing for ektar – no reason in particular). These exposures ended up taking 30-40 seconds, and I didn’t really know if the lens/cable release would work.
The challenge was deciding how to shoot Purple. From what I could see pushing Purple past exposure index 400 ends in rather grainy results. My own experience with Lomography Metropolis at night was that the grain was tamed somewhat by giving the image two stops more exposure, and this was what I aimed for with the Purple as well.
The other issue with long exposures and picking an exposure index would be the colour result. Some folk’s experience seems to be that shooting at exposure index 100 provided deeper purples compared with exposure index 400, but for others there seemed to be the opposite result. I found myself confused as to what ISO would give what result. I was hoping for more purples, but I decided I wouldn’t get upset if there were more green casts. I would roll the dice and accept the consequences. As it turned out, I found that the scanning settings were in fact a greater influence on the colour outcome than any other factor.
I decided to shoot at exposure index 50, giving me an extra two stops of exposure for a nominal base exposure of EI200.
After reading around and also being confused as to the best ISO to select for that bright “purple” look, I decided to meter at EI 200. To cover reciprocity failure I decided to double times when metered <60 seconds and approximately triple times >60 seconds. The longer times ended up a bit rough, but that was basically my method.
I developed and scanned both my roll and Chris’. My C41 development was…pretty basic — purists look away — STAND develop at room temp for around 45-50 minutes dev, repeat for blix, then rinse… Epson V600 and neg lab pro did the rest, with variable results – I am NOT what you would call a meticulous photographer!
To be specific, once the film was exposed I developed 45 minutes in C41 at room temp, with one inversion/shake in the middle. Similar process for blix with additional ‘burps’, then rinse! The film comes out a murky green which is super weird. Negative lab pro did an admirable job of converting the lime green mess into actual images, which I’m sure I could never have done myself – that program is totally worth every cent!
Then i got to tweaking, mainly the colour calibration sliders, to get the necessary amounts of purple weirdness in every shot. It wasn’t easy and actually took a very long time. Also, somewhere in the process (either my ineptitude or the camera/film) I lost three frames and shot over the end of the film. Oh well, think less shoot more right!!??
Green mess turns into….
And the same for Chris’s photos:
Like Alan, I stand developed in C41 chemistry at room temperature at home, hoping the technique may compensate for any blown highlights from bad metering, but be aware it may result in other unwanted colour shifts and may increase the grain. In the end, C41 cold stand development seemed to have had no downsides for Purple.
The colour cast also proved to be highly sensitive to the scanner settings, or at least or my scanner settings. Adjustments to the levels before scanning made dramatic changes to the end result. No doubt some of my images could be rescanned for a more purple result.
Scanner settings 1
Scanner setting 2
Scanner setting 3
The car lights and eastern tower is my first and favourite shot of the night. I also like the view from the west, but the capture was challenging due to the safety barriers. The western side of the bridge is also guarded by statues of an Australian and a New Zealand soldier from the Gallipoli campaign era. I captured the New Zealand soldier.
My last image of the night was a return to the eastern side of the bridge( far left), right at the end of the pedestrian walkway with a view of the freeway above and the local road below. Overall it proved to be a more challenging shoot than I anticipated as the angles were limited from the walkway, and I ruined some promising images by bad metering.
The images at exposure index 50 were pleasing in quality. The grain was not intrusive. The signature Purple is certainly there in all the images, but tends to be more pronounced in the images with less light. The extra one to three stops of exposure, depending on what you thought your base exposure index was, seems about right for the conditions.
This first shot of car trails and the Anzac Bridge pylon totally blew me away. The colours, reds/purples look like an electric storm, and lens flare from the simple triplet lens with no hood give this an otherworldly feel that you’d only find in an anime series.
Here is the same view on the leica M8 for comparison.
See how the highlights are much better handled, which film does. I’m surprised at the red poking out there and the purple sunstars just ‘pop’!!!
We soon grew tired of this pylon, and walked the whole span of the bridge looking for compositions and dodging cyclists (bad mix with tripods!). Bill and I saw the same construction site from above and thought ‘that’s a good one!’ at the same time. Unfortunately it seemed hidden behind a security fence, protected by wharf/Australian border security guards.
BUT no! We were able to access this site. Yes there was a security guard (who told me to leave), AND trucks (almost died) but it was worth it for this composition!!! The eerie glow of the lights, orange/red barricades, and ghostly spectre of the Anzac bridge behind looked like something straight out of every dodgy abandoned car yard drug deal movie, plus it was purple!!!
I love the way the highlights glow, not with the harshness of Cinestill, but with a purple haze…. If we shot this in the rain, yes, it would be purple rain (you’re welcome!). It actually took a lot of taming of the highlights to bring down that glow, and a lot of playing around with the colour calibration sliders in Lightroom to get this right. But looking at this and Bill/Chris’ shots there is absolute MAGIC in these shots, something ethereal, dreamy and super unique, i think we found some purple love!!!!!
See below right, for a more heavily edited, less purple but more scratched up version.
Here’s the same image with slightly different compositions on the leica M8. Still super happy but the colours are super saturated (probably my dodgy editing) and the background is almost obliterated in darkness.
After being ushered along by security, I also found this composition to show how unwelcome we were. Again, a total ‘guess’ exposure, probably around 40 seconds, to bring up the danger sign. I love how the background which is much better lit, wasn’t blown out, and instead took on a purple tone.
Given all the challenges and uncertainty, I’m thrilled with how these have turned out. Some of the images below have been slightly tweaked in Lightroom to bring out the purple, tone down the green highlights, and adjust the exposure where needed. A few of the images straight from the scanner are also included for reference.
Both shot at EI 200, f/11, metered for 80 seconds and exposed for approximately 5 minutes. Left = out of scanner. Right = adjusted in lightroom
Above: EI 200, f/11, metered at 20 seconds, exposed for 40 seconds. Left: from scanner. Right: Lightroom adjusted.
Above: EI 200, f/5.6, metered 0.8 seconds, exposed for a slow count of 2. Left: from scanner. Right: lightroom adjusted.
Overall, I think these photos are a successful combination of random events – good light, experimental fun, random exposure guessing, and the forgiving nature of film and stand developing C41. But they work! And the fact that others’ photos look amazing shows it wasn’t a one off event!! I’m amazed at the tones, grain, and mood of these shots, and they are a perfect counterpoint to the over-done Cinestill look.
WIll I do this again? Yep, some time, when stocks are replenished. It’s still a rather expensive film and finicky to post process, but totally worth it!!! Also, I’m not 100% sure if it’s my slightly dodgy c41 stand dev/scanning/editing that created these awesome results or if a standard lab would reproduce them. But it was fun, and groundbreaking to try something new. Hopefully we’ve started a trend and associated massive influencer status (haha!!). Please support me and my growing family of cameras etc etc…
What do I think of Lomochrome Purple? For me it’s a film that shines at night. It transforms the ordinary into a colour fantasy. It will be a film for that special landscape occasion.
Shooting Lomochrome Purple at night turned out to be incredibly rewarding. It brought our photo collective together to have an adventure, and the film held up to rough metering and home development absolutely beautifully. There is plenty of latitude in the developed film to scan and tweak to whichever effect you are looking for. Even though it is expensive and will only ever be an “occasional” film for me, I am delighted and inspired by the results. Give it a try!
~ Pixels and Grain Photography Collective.
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