Working with New (To Me) Black and White Films

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An Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest, Lorraine Healy is a long-time fan of plastic cameras and is the author of "Tricks With A Plastic Wonder", a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com. In these two articles, Healy shares her images and thoughts about some newly available b&w film stocks.

Ferrania P30 (left) and Kosmo 100 (right), both shot with the Pentax K 1000.

The resurgence in the popularity of analogue photography has led to some lovely people resurrecting old film stocks (whether by buying all of the remaining stock and rebranding, by retooling old formulas or whatever other means) and launching them on the ever-growing world market as new films. They are mostly b&w stocks (with the exception of the new Kodak Ektachrome 100) and are being offered in 35 mm format first, although we are starting to see some very welcome medium format offerings. I am calling these “new to me” film stocks because, whether they are brand-new creations or rebranding of some long-gone stock, I had never shot them before and was curious about them.

This first part will look at two 35 mm b&w stocks: the Ferrania P30 and the Kosmo Mono 100. Ferrania’s film is a panchromatic 80 ISO b&w film made by the new owners of the Ferrania factory in Italy, while the Kosmo Mono film is the result of a collaboration between the Foma people in the Czech Republic and London-based photographer Stephen Dowling, who is a New Zealand native. There are tons of information online about both stocks’ specs, especially for those of you who develop your own film. In my unscientific experiments, I tried staying consistent with my choice of camera — the Pentax K 1000. I also tried using a yellow filter and no filter for some shots just to see the difference, as well as taking both indoor and outdoor shots.

FERRANIA P30 ORTHOCHROMATIC, 35 mm

Ferrania P30 at box speed, Pentax K1000. Museo de los Inmigrantes, Buenos Aires.

I was gifted a couple of Ferrania rolls this past Christmas’ Secret Santa exchange organized by EMULSIVE.org, and knew right away that I wanted to save them for something special. I took them with me to Buenos Aires last April and did a little bit of shooting outside (landscapes) but mostly I was interested in doing interior shots. I had been wanting to see the Immigrants’ Museum (housed in the former Immigration halls of yesteryear) for a long time, so I jumped at the opportunity to visit. Even before I saw the place, I decided I was going to shoot one Ferrania roll in the museum. My EI was 80 ISO, exactly at box speed, and I used a combination of small tripods and hard steady surfaces to make sure the images were not going to be blurry.

Ferrania P30 at box speed, Pentax K1000. Museo de los Inmigrantes, Buenos Aires.

What I had previsualized was exactly what I found at the Museum: I was looking for stark blacks and whites, strong lines, a sense of austerity and unadornment. I did not expect the large windows but I tried to use them not just for compositional purposes but also to see what dynamic range I could get out of the film. I was very pleasantly surprised by the next two shots. The shadows are a tad dark (my fault) but I am certain that a half hour of dodging and burning would get me nice prints. What impressed me was how well the film retained the highlights while at the same time allowing the outside scene to come through.

Ferrania P30 at box speed, Pentax K1000. Museo de los Inmigrantes, Buenos Aires.

I did a few outside shots as well. The following two photos, very traditional landscape scenes from the Province of Buenos Aires (gauchos, the Pampas…) were both shot with a yellow filter and lowering the ISO to compensate for it.

Ferrania P30 at 50 ISO + yellow filter, Pentax K1000. Gowland, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.

My last unscientific test with this film was shooting the exact same scene with and without the yellow filter, this time without compensation of any kind. The filtered shot is clearly too dark, while the unfiltered shot looks fine.

Ferrania P30 at box speed, Pentax K1000. Museo de Bellas Artes, Tigre, Buenos Aires.

Ferrania Italy has been having some issues getting out some of the new stocks they promised and I have heard some grumbles in social media from people who were unhappy to not to see their Kickstarter rewards materialize (from contributions that had supported the future manufacturing of these new stocks). I have to say that I am immensely impressed with Ferrania P30, the look of it, its fine grain, how well it scans, etc. I will be buying more of it as it becomes available and I would kill to have this stock be available in medium format.

KOSMO MONO 100, 35 mm

We have LomoAmigo and Kosmo Foto blogger Stephen Dowling to thank for the Kosmo Mono 100, in all its gorgeously packaged glory. Stephen’s plan seems to be the creation of a significant line of photographic products and I can hardly wait for whatever he puts out next — whether reworked or retweaked existing emulsions or brand new ones. Hopefully in medium format too, please!

The yellow filter/no filter comparison shot:

Kosmo Mono 100, Pentax K 1000, at box speed in both cases, yellow filter (and +1 EV to compensate for the filter), no filter and no compensation on the right. Finley, WA.

I shot this beautiful film this past March in Eastern Washington State, where the light is way, way brighter than on my side of the state. I shot almost all landscapes, as you will see, except the one interior shot at the Double RR Café (the diner in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, for those of you who remember). This one:

Kosmo Mono 100 at EI 100, Pentax K 1000, inside the Double RR Café, North Bend, WA.

Everything else was shot at box speed with yellow filter, +1 EV to compensate for it, no tripod. The only exception was the shot of the old elevator with the storm behind it. The light was so very strange (which accounts for the weird, sunny blown-out parts at the top of the image) that I managed to unscrew the yellow filter and shoot one frame before getting back in the waiting car as the skies opened! A real deluge followed.

Kosmo Mono 100, Pentax K 1000, yellow filter (and +1 EV to compensate for the filter), near Yakima, WA., the old Lucky Dollar building.

I loved everything about this film, particularly when shot in bright sunny conditions with the yellow filter, as in the filter/no filter shot above. All the images could stand a bit more detail in the shadows, but I think it is there. A bit of dodging and burning or just opening up the shadows in Lightroom would do it because I can see the detail when I look at the negatives through the lightbox.

Kosmo Mono 100, Pentax K 1000, yellow filter (and +1 EV to compensate for the filter), Sunnyside, WA.Stampeders Lane in Finley, WA, Finley, WA., Kennewick, WA.

When new or new-to-us film stocks become available, the whole film community benefits. Give these emerging film-makers your support and try their films out!


This article was submitted by avid photographer and Community Member lorrainehealy. Stay tuned for part two!

2018-12-09 #people #places #travel #landscape #buenos-aires #argentina #ferrania #b-w #35-mm #interiors #wa #pentax-k-1000 #b-w-filters #kosmofilm #eastern-washington-state

4 Comments

  1. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    @lorrainehealy Excellent article!! Try some Adox CMS 20 II.

  2. saor
    saor ·

    Great article and excellent shots, very inspiring! Keep it up!

  3. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @herbert-4 thanks so much! I have never tried the Adox, I’ll get some asap!

  4. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @saor thanks so much!

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