When Todd and I work a promotional shoot for a band, we typically take turns shooting while the other keeps an eye on the overall composition and makes sure we get everything we can out of the band and the setup. Occasionally, one of us will leave to prep the next look while the other continues to shoot with the band - a “leap frog” technique that works very well when the situation demands working on-the-fly. Todd’s sunset gig with Brit-rockers Deluka provided the perfect opportunity for this style of tag team shooting.
These ambient light-only portraits were taken in roughly 5 minutes in between more complicated lighting setups.
Thanks, Mad Props & Three Rounds of PBR
Huge thanks to Kris, Robbie, Stevie for being such great subjects. Special thanks to Ellie for putting up with my wisecracks and smiling a little.
On Shooting Film
If you’re wondering why these images look different, it’s because they were taken with the Contax 645 medium format system and Fuji Pro 800z film. The reason you’ve never heard me mention either of those is because this was the first time I’d ever used a film camera that wasn’t my Lomo LC-A+.
Wait…Isn’t shooting a band with a camera system you’ve never used before a bad idea?
Actually, it’s a horrible idea. But luckily for me, this shoot was entirely Todd’s responsibility and I was free to experiment and even downright fail without jeopardizing the job. Luckier still, it turns out that shooting film isn’t nearly as difficult as it’s made out to be and a photos taken at sunset look pretty damn good regardless of your tools.
If there’s one immediate benefit/difference between shooting film and shooting digital, it’s that with film, the entire creative process slows down to account for the fact that, you’re forced to do a lot of the work you might leave up the computer in your digital camera. Since there’s no RAW and no white balance, proper exposure and quality of light take on a much greater importance and, since you can’t change the ISO on the fly, you’ve got to deal with the permutations of aperture and shutter speed given to you by your film. Even for photographers who pride themselves on knowing how to nail everything at the point of capture, there’s simply more you have to get right with film.
As mentioned above, I shot with Fuji Pro 800z, which I chose for it’s low contrast, pleasing grain and tendency towards a pastel pallet when overexposed.
Impressions of the Contax 645
Compared to a modern digital camera like the Nikon D3, there’s a lot to dislike about the Contax 645; it’s slow, it’s heavy, it eats 10 dollar 2CR5 batteries like Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs, and it’s got an autofocus system that is so slow and so inaccurate you’d think the engineers at Contax would have tossed it out simply to solve the aforementioned problems with weight and battery consumption – then again I am talking about a company that stopped making cameras in 2005 due to “difficulties in catching up with the recent rapid market changes.”
What there is to love about the Contax 645 is entirely thanks to the Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm which is the fastest standard lens made for any 645 system – at f/2.0 it’s a full stop brighter than those made for mamiya or hasselblad and it’s tack sharp wide open. Although my experience is extremely limited, I’d say that the Planar 80mm f/2.0 is almost nice enough to justify buying a used camera body solely to shoot with it at f/2.0.