Backpacking trip to the desert- which films to take?

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by elemental, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    As the title suggests, I am getting ready to take a trip to the Gila National Forest in a little over a month. I've never been to the Southwest before, so I'd really like to be able to capture it. I like carrying my 35mm Ricoh KR-5 Super II on trips like this because it's small, simple, and reliable (oh yeah, and it cost me $22). I am not sure, though, about what to carry for film.

    For black and white, I'm pretty sure I'll bring some of the Agfapan APX400 (Freestyle rebrand) that's in my freezer. It looks gorgeous and scans well when pulled, so I plan on metering it at 200. If I need to throw in a shot or two at 400, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I considered Tri-X, but I'd rather stick with something that I have and that works.

    For color, I am not so sure. I don't shoot much color negative 35mm (I've cross-processed in F76+ more that I've actually developed C41). I have used Superia 400 and was not impressed with the grain or colors (cheap film- surprise surprise). I have some Pro 160C in the freezer, but I am a little worried that this will leave me short on speed. Is 400H a big step down in grain or other performance? I would probably need to use my circular polarizer during the day as a neutral density (it will probably be on anyway for the polarizing), but it would let me shoot a lot earlier/later than the 160 (assuming box speed, which, as far as I know, is usually used for color negative film). That's the other issue- I think with the desert lighting I'm going to want to use my polarizer a lot, which would drop 160C down to an effective 40 ISO film. That would be pretty tough- I definitely won't be carrying a full-on tripod.

    Anyone have any recommendations?
     
  2. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you are really going with 35mm, take a tripod.

    Get a disposable one at wally-world for $30. They are light, inexpensive and work pretty well for such a light camera. And you don't have to worry too much about them. :)

    Plus, you'll feel really good about how smart you are for bringing one while taking those low light shots at dusk and dawn. ;)

    As to the film, I would stick with 100 (unless you want to shoot some positives) for everything except campfire shooting and then would go with 800 (noise ninja works on film scans too).
     
  3. Early

    Early TPF Noob!

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    I would have thought a tripod is a must, along with a slow film. In the old days, I would have opted for K64.
     
  4. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've used 400h and it's got smooth grain for a 400 speed film. Superia really is not comparable, but is ok for "cheap" film. My preferred 400 film is Kodak Portra 400VC though, which also has a nice smooth grain for 400 speed film.. I just like the colors better.

    Here's a shot of mine with 400vc for example
    R33 & R34 in Color on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    For the desert, i'd probably just take slower film and a tripod as others have already suggested, probably some Portra 160vc, or Fuji Reala, unless you think you're going to be handholding more. You might also consider slide film. It's a little more expensive than negative film, but you'll probably get the smoothest grain with it.
     
  5. Orrin

    Orrin No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I live in the high desert of Northern Nevada. My film choices are no different
    here than anywhere else I have been or lived.

    The only thing you may not need is the polarizer. A clear sky here is a rich blue
    and I have found that a polarizer will turn it to an un-natural deep blue that is
    nearly black. It might be usefull though on B&W for dramatic effects.
     
  6. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the advice. I won't be carrying a full tripod, but I will certainly be improvising various tripod-style setups (and carrying a pocket tripod). It's a trip with non photo-oriented group, so I probably won't have time to tear out the tripod, set it up, shoot, and pack it back up anyway. For a weeklong trip, space is also an issue, even with one of the aluminum folding tripods (I have two).

    I guess my Pro 160C would fit the bill, and I'll throw in a roll or two of my Velvia (50) stash just because. What better place to try slide film than the desert?

    I didn't think about the bluer skies- sounds like it could make for some very dramatic black and whites. I will definitely bring the polarizer and the red filter.


    Actually, come to think of it, it might be less hassle to bungee the tripod to the outside of my pack. A pound or two won't make much difference- we'll probably be carrying 50+ at the beginning of the week. I will mull it over. Improvising is nice too, and a rolled up ground pad can do wonders for getting a camera off the ground and stable (though I would not trust it for long exposures).

    How soon is reciprocity failure an issue for 160C? I know it have me trouble with some other color film recently at four seconds or so, and it really made a difference (I was metering with my K100D). I would hate to ruin shots over that.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2009

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