One of the many limiting aspects of shooting film is that film rolls can only sit on the shelf (or in the fridge if you’re of that persuasion—I’m not; too much work), and unless you want to be experimental with the look you’re trying to achieve or specifically going for the expired film look which can be stunning if metered correctly, you’d have to shoot and promptly develop your rolls before their expiration date. Most professional films have a longer shelf life and tolerates temperature fluctuations well, for example the Kodak Portra line, but not Cinestill 800T, a few rolls of which I had on hand. This film stock is especially finicky. I don’t know why this is so, but I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that it is a repackaged motion picture film (which is not intended for still photography), specifically the Kodak Vision 3 500T with its Remjet layer removed; a lot of variables are introduced in the Remjet removal and its subsequent repackaging which disturbs the base film integrity. (Don’t quote me on that.)
What this longwinded introduction is meant to lead to is the fact that I had a limited window in which to work and use the rolls of Cinestill I have left (they were to expire first week of July, and the days are getting longer now that we’re headed for summer), so I collaborated with Martha, one of my friends in town, for a late night portrait shoot.
One of the challenges of shooting at night is that at certain areas where there are not enough light I find focusing incredibly difficult. i am blind as a bat, so despite the bright viewfinder of my Nikon FM3A it is still a chore to determine whether or not my subject is in focus. That and the fact that I rate Cinestill at its intended rating of ASA 500. What I learned the hard (and expensive) way is that I am not a fan of how this roll renders when pushed or shot at ASA 800: it’s too grainy, the colors shift in an unflattering way, and overall sharpness suffers. I see plenty of photographers who specifically go for that look, but I do not particularly find it pleasing to my eye. I digress. Shooting at a lower ASA also requires shooting wide open (for this session I shot exclusively between f/1.2 – f/2.8), and slower (if my memory serves me correctly the shutter speed did not once go above 1/30); shooting in such a condition not only introduces camera shake but also missed focus. Nevertheless, I am the kind of photographer who sacrifices tack sharp images over well-exposed ones.
What I like most about Cinestill 800T is that every image seem like a still taken from a film in the 70s and 80s. As for the halation (the red orb that shows up in bright sources of light, a result of the Remjet removal) in some of the images I remain ambivalent. They are not particularly attractive or hideous to me; some exposures are nice because of it, and others are ruined by it. A handful of photographers who shoot this film exploit this effect to stunning results, but most don’t not.
I shot the entire roll in this session, and I am pleased with at least 2/3 of the exposures I got, which is a good ratio when it comes to shooting film. There’s quite a bit of work done in post for these images, but it was a job happily executed.