good color 35mm landscape film?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by ryan_fryar, Feb 28, 2001.

  1. Hi all, thanks in advance to all with experience who are willing to
    teach. I am a painter in graduate school in Minneapolis. In my
    undergrad days, I was at Eastern Oregon University, and I took a
    number of B&W landscape photos in that area. Now, I find that I want
    to make some paintings of Oregon landscapes (the weather is too cold
    to do that from life here for at least two more months, and besides
    that -it‘s just too flat here for me to want to!). I will be
    traveling around Oregon from mid to end of May. Thus, I have the
    chance to do reference sketches (if the weather permits) and
    reference photos for paintings that I can do back here in the mid-
    west when I return.

    I was lucky with the B&W photos before- I was able to sell a number
    of the prints. But I know very little about color film. I need to
    have color photos to look at when I am painting for reference, and I
    would like to be able use a film that shows good color and is not
    horribly expensive (I’ll be shooting 20-30 rolls). Also, if the film
    can still be blown up to at least mid sized (~8x12 inches?) it would
    be optimal, in case I get some photos that may themselves be sellable.

    I have a 35mm Nikon FE2 (a bare bones, mostly manual SLR), with an
    assortment of telephoto lenses etc. and a sturdy tripod (Bogen 3021
    with 3047 head).

    So, my questions are these:

    1. What specifically are some good, reasonably priced 35mm color
    print films for fairly wide angle landscape photography? That is, in
    late May in Oregon (generally overcast, often raining, but still
    pretty green). A slow ISO is mostly fine for my type of photos, but
    I would love specific ISO recommendations. I know that slides are
    often better, but print film will work best for me.

    2. Where are the cheapest places to buy? I assume B&H Photo?

    3. Any advice from those who have shot this kind of photography,
    and/or in this kind of weather and place? Am I missing something due
    to my color photo ignorance? Don’t worry about the rain, I was
    raised in Oregon and I am used to being cold and wet.

    I looked for answers to in archives and in the Q & A places, but I
    couldn’t find quite what I am looking for. Again, thanks for the
    tips in advance,

    -Ryan Fryar
  2. Film is pretty subjective and many people have different opinions. The majority of nature photographers gravitate to three color transparency films - here they are in my order of prference:

    Fuji Provia 100F - an ISO 100 film that has the lowest grain of all films currently on the market. Even pushed to ISO 200 it competes well with most other 100 speed films. Color saturation is good but not overdone like my #2 and #3 film.
    Fuji Velvia - an ISO 50 film that many actually shoot as 40. This is a supersaturated film and can at times give color more saturation than is realistic. It is also very fine grained. People look horrible with this film as their skin tends to look very red. The Film can be pushed to 100 but tends to get pretty contrasty
    Kodak Extachrome 100VS - VS stands for very saurated. Definitely a grainier film than those above but saturates colors very well which can be useful on overcast days.

    I've done a lot of shooting in Orgon but am not an expert on the area. Places I have enjoyed are Silver Falls State Park which has about 10 pretty impressive waterfalls. Mount Hood from the Lost lake area is very good. There is always the Columbia Gorge, and the Oregon Coast.
  3. For a print film thats cheap I'd use Kodak Gold 100, available anywhere, or cheaper at Walmart. Colors are good and it's easily processed. It's hard to screw up the printing of this film. I've seen numerous photographic competition categories won using the film.

    Since your painting and using the picture for reference, I don't know if slide film would be better. I'm not sure of it sitting for a long time in front of a hot (cheap manual) slide projector.
  4. {{The majority of nature photographers gravitate to three color transparency films}}

    Do they wear the same brand of socks also? Nevermind....don't answer that.

    Generic Gold 100 is probably the best all around grocery store print film for non digital prints. Cheap, reasonably neutral, strong color saturation with decent detail retention and easy for most labs to print. Grain is a bit coarse though. If your lab does digital or Fuji Frontier printing Kodak Royal 100 rather than Gold is the better choice.

    For pro films via B&H, Fuji NPC 160 (I'd shoot it at EI 100) wins by default for a solid, neutral, murky-sky landscape film now that Ultra-50, Fuji Legacy Reala, and Kodak PRN have been retired.
  5. Ryan--My wife is a watercolor painter and takes many reference photos, plus she "borrows" some of mine. Coincidentally, we live in Oregon, but I think my film recommendation would be much the same anywhere.

    For painting reference purposes, you want prints, not slides. For the purpose you suggest and given your budget concerns, I would definitely stick with a consumer grade print film. It is readily available at many stores, including drugstores, photos stores and discount stores. It has a wide exposure latitude so you can concentrate on getting the composition you want and know that you will get a useable print as long as your exposure is reasonably close. Also, you can get the film processed in a few hours virtually anywhere, so you can get your photos developed every day or so as you're travelling around.

    For your purposes, I suggest Kodak Royal Gold 100. It is more saturated and a little finer grained than Gold 100 (also a little more expensive).

    Late May should be a very nice time of year. There has been relatively little snow this year, so you should be able to access even some of the higher areas. Often in May, there are still numerous rain showers and thunderstorm cells moving through the area, so I would look for interesting clouds and rainbows. If you have an overcast day, take photos of wildflowers.

    In the Portland area, for machine processing C-41 print film relatively cheaply and reliably, I use Wolf Camera. Make sure you get a membership card, plus the on-line coupon, both of which give you substantial discounts. For professional quality processing, I recommend Wy East Color Lab.
  6. {{It is more saturated and a little finer grained than Gold 100 }}

    While Kodak has confused consumers with their marketing, it's fair to say that the Royal and Gold line are two distinct film families with different technologies. Gold is much older technology and pays for this with a coarse grain structure that is bettered by many professional 400 speed films. The Royal films make much better use of T-grain technology and hence Royal 100 is among, if not the sharpest 100 speed film out there.

    Grain aside, the main difference between RG-100 and Gold 100 is color saturation, and I beg to differ, but Gold 100 is significantly *more* saturated than Royal/Ektar. Kodak however has a lot of people convinced that because Royal comes in a splashier box it has more color saturation than Gold, which is simply not the case.

    The Royal films have much more shadow contrast and characteristically lighter dyes, which tends to give the impression of more color than is actually there. Shot side by side, Gold 100 prints have much denser and realistic saturation. Fuji corp has tried the same stunt with Superia-Reala, which actually has a lot less saturation than Legacy Reala, but marketing convinces people other-wise and saves some CIO somewhere enough production money to keep his stock dividends in place.

    Kodak had a more "Gold-like" saturated version of Royal 100 called PRN that was an out-standing film, but killed it off in favor of dull Portra VC.

    The above Crayon picture I posted was taken with Fuji NPC, which is somewhere between Royal and Gold in terms of color saturation. Personally I'd shoot both films to see which one you like the best because they are very different.
  7. I would have to recomend two Fujis: 100ISO Reala (color negative) and Provia 100F (slide). Excellent color rendition wihout too much of anything. If you're going into known low light situations, Fuji Superia 400 is a good all around film.
  8. I also like Gold 100 a lot. I don't think you'll find the grain obtrusive at 8x12. Buy it at Wal-mart or K-Mart.

    Regarding Gold 100 vs. Royal Gold: Gold 100 is really cheap anywhere, while Royal Gold is actually more expensive than many pro films, which are much nicer. With that in mind, you might want to check out that NPC. OTOH, a non-pro lab is more likely to do a good job printing the Gold 100 (or Royal).

    B&H does seem to have really good prices. Lately I've been buying film at a local Calumet store. They have the best prices around here, but that's walk-in. Their mail-order prices may be different, and I don't know about their shipping charges.
  9. Since you mentioned that you would prefer print film, I'll agree with Scott Eaton that Kodak has killed off some of the best they ever made. I never used PRN, but Royal 25 was my standard film for years. Both are gone now. Also, the Gold / Royal Gold comparison is dead on.

    The only print film that I really like now is Kodak Supra 400. I hate using 400 speed film for landscapes, but I like it better than the alternatives like Royal 100 and Portra 160VC. Also, it is saturated, sharp, and very fine grained. It isn't perfect, as reds seem to block up a little, but it is a very good film that is worth a try. Of course, you should probably get at least one roll of every film you might be interested in and try it for yourself. If you order from B&H this won't be as expensive as it sounds, but processing it is another matter.

    Also, if you decide to try slide film, Kodak E100SW (Ektachrome 100 Saturated Warm) is wonderful. While I'm sure E100VS has its fans, SW looks better to me, and it doesn't seem to block up yellows the way VS does. Plain E100S and the consumer version, EliteChrome 100 are pretty good too. I haven't gotten around to trying most of the Fuji slide films yet, so I won't comment on them.
  10. Ryan

    You stated "(generally overcast, often raining, but still pretty green)", these are my favorite conditions for Velvia. Try a couple rolls.
  11. Something else to consider. If you shoot slide film, you can project the image on a wall or screen at the size you are painting. Some friends of mine paint in this way. They find it easier to keep an accurate scale.

    Cheap slide projectors can be found in thrift stores and such for as little as $20, or even a cheap new one for under $100.

    In that case, you can use Velvia. Great at bringing out colors in overcast conditions.
  12. Just to complicate things I vote for the inexpensive projector
    route but use Astia/Sensia or Provia 100F. I prefer Astia as it
    offers a more natural saturation than Provia.
  13. "...VS stands for very saurated (sic)" E. J. Peiker
    The folk at Kodak aren’t too smart, but they’re smarter than that. VS stands for Vivid Saturation.
    "I would have to recomend (sic) two Fujis (sic): 100ISO Reala (color negative)..." Jack Floyd
    As far as I know, Reala doesn’t even exist in 35mm format, which is what an FE2 uses.
    "...while Royal Gold is actually more expensive than many pro films, which are much nicer." Matt O’Toole
    Define "nicer" with regard to film emulsions. Plenty of people think Velvia is "nice", but I don’t, so nice should be explained if you insist on using it.
    Also, someone needs to give Photonet a tutorial about saturation. The word "saturated" is being used indiscriminately for both absolute saturation and as a loose meaning of contrast. Astia can reach very nearly the same levels of saturation as Velvia, but it only does so if the scene is actually saturated. Velvia gives fake saturation to non-saturated subjects, and I can’t imagine a worse film for painting from (presumably you can paint whatever colour you like, so you should be concerned with good tonality and plenty of detail at all contrast levels, not wacky colour rendition).
  14. Reala *does* come in 35mm... I use it regularly.
  15. I get great results with Fuji's REALA print film. It produces exceptional prints with saturated, yet natural colors. It has very fine grain. And it is and always has been available in the 35mm format!
  16. As my integrity is at stake here (!), and I wasn’t really sure myself, I had to go and find out this thing about Reala...
    And I repeat that Reala is not available in 135 format. The complete name of the film is Fujicolor Reala, and it is only available in 120 (Medium Format). However, I did remember about a film called Fujicolor Superia Reala, which may be what is causing the confusion -- it didn’t dawn on me that Jack Floyd was talking about this because I have it in my mind that it is a Superia film. I have shot a bit of it, and was impressed with the sharpness and fine grain, but very disappointed with it’s poor skin tone rendition (green as pea soup compared to Reala, which I haven’t used but seen *loads* of stuff done by others), horrific rendition of blues and purples (this is not an exaggeration), and low saturation (compared to tons of films, including Reala in 120), and virtually non-existent benefits for shooting in mixed lighting (with all those extra layers you’d think there’d be a difference). Given the hype, I’d expected more. Superia Reala is not a bad film, I suppose, but it’s consumer grade stuff, and it shows.
  17. Hi all: I shoot color and BW negative film exclusivley to print. I have been making 16"x20" color and BW darkroom prints for 42 years, and recently 13"x19" digital prints. I have been fortunate to be able to sell my work as "fine art", always in the large sizes stated above, framed and matted in 20"x24". The reason I am telling you about print size is because I use plain old consumer 35mm Gold 200 (yes 200). The reason is simple: I almost always use a polarizer, which reduces light by about a stop and a half or so, and I dislike using a tripod. The extra stop of film speed allows a typical bright day exposure with polarizer of about 1/60 to 1/90 second at f11,or so, which I can hand hold with wide angle lenses, (sometimes I use a monopod),and provides reasonable depth of field for landscapes/seacsapes which is what I do. I have found very little difference in grain between 100 and 200 Gold, in 16x20 prints, viewed at a normal distance. I buy the film at a place here in NJ called BJ's Warehouse, and it comes bundled usually 4 or 5 rolls at a very, very low price (possibly imported/gray market???).
    Dave G. in NJ
  18. Something else to consider. If you shoot slide film, you can project the image on a wall or screen at the size you are painting. Some friends of mine paint in this way. They find it easier to keep an accurate scale.
    In that case, you can use Velvia. Great at bringing out colors in overcast conditions.

    If you project, you can't paint, because the light required to accurately work with colour is different in both cases. There are painters who project the image onto the canvas and trace the elements onto it with a pencil before beginning to paint, but they generally need a print made from the slide as well, in order to render the colours accurately. You need good light to paint and bad light to project.
    Personally I think the idea of projecting onto canvas kind of defeats the purpose of painting, which is to bring your own perception to the thing you paint (and that includes composition and perspective). Richard Estes, the noted photorealist, was sometimes accused of projecting images to get the extraordinary accuracy he achieved, a charge he hotly denied. I believe the practise is anathema to most artists.
    Just a personal view, of course. If your friends are happy working that way, good for them. Don't quite see how they can do it, though.
    Ryan, I paint, and I photograph, and I generally use Kodak Gold 100 for elements I'm intending to do paintings from. I should add, though, that my paintings are usually of urban settings, involving figures in landscapes, a la Hopper, Smart, Tansey and the somewhat more disturbed Fischl (although obviously I'm not in their league). I can't say I sweat the choice of film much anyway, since I find I usually invent lots of elements for the work, and fiddle with the light. IMHO what is attractive in a photograph is not often what is interesting in a painting, unless photorealism is what appeals.
  19. I just called and asked (they're a married couple).

    It's not an issue with them because they use BOTH kinds of light! The room they paint in gets great natural light through the window that until about 3pm doesn't reach the far wall where the projected image is.

    LoL. I never thought about the differences in light! I just saw this projected image (often my work) on the wall like 10 feet away from where they paint. They project it large so that the apparent size is the same as the canvas they are working on (unless John's doing micro paintings which are like 1-3" across in which case the projection is much larger).

    Another option is one of those internal projection units that are like a projection television, only much smaller.

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