What I Learned During my NYC trip shooting the Canon F-1

Hello friends,

I promised I would write more and last time I shared with you my first impressions of the Canon F-1. A lot more happened after the first roll and the first mishap with the rewind button.

The NYC trip was meant to be photo and food centric and to start it off on the right foot, my first visit was B&H. There I picked up filters and step rings for the F-1, including a variable neutral density (ND) filter. This was an item that I have been looking to get for awhile now. Most people would never use a ND filter, let alone a variable one so let me share with you why I would.


Pushing Boundaries

Since I’ve started to shoot black and white film, I’ve found myself leaning towards higher contrast results. I’ve also had to live with the max ISO of 400 from Ilford HP5 and Kodak T-Max. ISO 400 is definitely versatile and I’ve enjoyed the experience, but I wanted to push that boundary – literally. Pushing film is a new frontier where you sacrifice fine grain and good midtones for low-light shooting and higher contrast. I am all aboard.

I first started to push Ilford HP5 to ISO 1600 on the Nikon FM2n. The max shutter speed of 1/4000th made the shooting bearable outdoors in the sun – limiting my ability to use larger apertures. With older cameras like the F-1, the max shutter speed is 1/2000th and that meant F11 max for bright scenes. The variable ND filter breaks that barrier. The two polarizing lenses of the filter given me infinite adjustments and I can shoot F1.4 in bright daylight. I must admit that sometimes the viewfinder gets so dark that I really doubted the lightmeter. It is entirely possible that light is leaking to the meter from the eyepiece and I am underexposing. Only time and development of my film will tell.

Until I start to shoot so much film that I can switch rolls multiple times a day, the beauty of the ND filter is that I just remove the filter in the late afternoon/evening and I am good to go.


Shooting in low light

Here you can see my typical evening setup with ISO 1600 – the aperture is either F1.4 or F2, with shutter speed at 1/60th and sometimes as low as 1/15th.

I am a sucker for night photos that take advantage of interesting light sources. Lamps, headlights, or candles, everything gives off a unique glow and the contrast is very appealing to me. In truth, some of my favorite photos were taken at night or in the dark. Case in point:

Rather than seeing the world as things/colours on a white canvas (which is what we grew up visualizing), black and white film allows me to paint light onto a black void. Here, less is more.


To be continued…

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