Velvia Misadventures

Sligachan Bridge – Hasselblad

That exposure is important is a self-evident truth that doesn’t need expanding upon here. Imagine my disappointment then when two precious rolls of Velvia 50 came back from the lab with muddy shadows, muted colours and on one roll evidence of winding on problems with the film holder.

That was 2015 – and so disappointed was I that I threw the two sleeves in a drawer to lay undiscovered … until today.

The offending film back is history needless to say. After first checking that it could not economically be repaired I placed it on a shelf until many months later when I felt ruthless enough to get rid of it. I did however decide to scan a few of the images today and reflect upon the disappointment publicly for the first time – luckily I only have one reader!

The picture of Sligachan Bridge at the top of the page was one out of a tiny number of images from 24 negatives that did not disappoint and I clearly got the exposure just right by luck or judgement. To be fair it was a tough day for metering such an uncompromising material as slide film as it was generally dismal, grey and prone to raining. The very occasional ray of light filtered briefly through but on the whole it was naff – I vividly remember struggling to adjust the camera settings with one hand whilst holding an umbrella with the other.

Sligachan FAIL!

To try to deal with the differences in tonal range between sky and foreground I decided to use my Lee filters. I also chose to fit the holder with the attached polariser figuring this would help me control the glare from the water. I made so many mistakes you’d think I was a complete rookie. The reflection of the filter holder can be seen in the image above around the edge and a bright circular area in the middle shows it is the filter holder and polarising filter we are seeing. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m wanting to record my learning this image wouldn’t see the inside of my hard drive let alone public gaze.

Hasselblad in the rain on Skye in 2015

But, it was not all doom and gloom, especially as I am able to sit here today and reflect upon the myriad small things that went wrong, the Sod’s Law of a defective film back and of course a couple of pleasing images. In hindsight it was a crap day weather-wise and I should’ve stuck to the Nikon DSLR in my other bag!

Photoshop has rescued this one to some degree but not totally

The image below was a direct result of the faulty film back. It was a newly purchased second back and I was using it for the first time. I had one roll of the 120 Velvia 50 in this back and the other in the original film back I’d been using ever since I’d purchased the Hasselblad. Whereas most of the other frames on that roll have a small degree of overlap this is a complete double-exposure. But its not all bad news as it was in fact this frame that alerted me to the exposure errors I’d been making all morning as, unlike the other frames which are generally too dark, this had a reasonable exposure level despite being exposed twice. I’d forgotten the old film adage “expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights” it seems.

An interesting, if unintended, double-exposure

I couldn’t do much about the faulty film back, that was pure bad luck and I stopped using it the minute I realised it was slipping. Sadly, as I only have 120 roll film developed when I have half a dozen or so exposed rolls, I’d put three or four more rolls through the back before I found out it was defective.

So, there we have it. My dirty washing publicly aired as it were. I hope the lessons I learnt will be useful for others:

  • This is film – expose for the shadows,
  • Shield filters to prevent glare or reflections especially when they stand proud of the lens,
  • Check the filter holder is large enough not to encroach into edge of frame,
  • When using a Lee 105mm polarising filter in the standard holder ensure it isn’t reflecting off the front element of the lens (the front element of the lens I was using is fairly deeply recessed in the lens barrel),
  • Meter once, meter twice and meter once again,
  • Check “new” gear before entrusting lots of film to it,
  • Expose for the shadows – this is film!