Last November, on our first trip with film in eight years (#filmroadtrip: Road Test – Anguilla), we learned a lot of lessons. One of my missions on this trip was to correct at least some of the mistakes I made. So on this #FilmRoadTrip: Road Test – Barbuda & Antigua, I tweaked a few things, shot more film, and was pretty pleased with the results. As always, though, there is still room for improvement.
The Film Kit
Traveling with a lot of gear is not easy. I wanted to shoot both medium format and 35mm, along with my digital, but I wanted to watch the weight. I knew that on our flight to Barbuda, a small prop plane, they would be weighing everything (including us!) so I had to be mindful of the load. Here is the film gear I packed:
Mamiya 645 Pro TL
Mamiya 80mm f/1.9
Mamiya 45mm f/2.8
Mamiya Extension Tube 3-S
Canon EOS 1v, plus these lenses, which are also used on my digital camera:
Circular Polarizers for all lenses
I did not bring my light meter. I planned to rely on the built-in meters, having used them in the past and found them to be predictable.
This year, I brought only two film stocks, Fuji 400H and Kodak Portra 400. They were my favorites in Anguilla, and I saw no reason to bring others. I brought more than I needed and ended up shooting 5 rolls of 35mm and 13 rolls of 120. I did not utilized lead-lined bags and did not ask for a hand check given that I was using 400 speed film. All shots were processed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab, and tweaked by me in Lightroom.
The Road Test
This trip was to two separate islands. First was four nights on Barbuda, which we reached by three flights, the third being a small prop plane. Then we flew back to Antigua and took a boat to Jumby Bay Island. I expected lots of sunshine and lots of reflective sand and water, so circular polarizers were the rule, rather than the exception. I was limiting film shots to daylight, up to sunset. I didn’t want to pack more gear, and prefer digital for shots of the night sky.
The Results: The Good
1. Lots more keepers!
Woo hoo! Probably my biggest accomplishment is wasting less film. When you shoot film you are VERY aware of the cost of each shot, keeping in mind the cost of the film itself, plus the cost of processing and scanning. My biggest criticism of my shots are related not to the use of film but to poor composition or execution, meaning I would have screwed up the shot even if I was shooting digital.
2. I remembered the circular polarizer.
With all the excitement of shooting film in Anguilla, I forgot some of the basics, including the need for filters, particularly the circular polarizer when confronted with all that glare. This trip, I had a circular polarizer in all the filter sizes for my lenses. This made the biggest difference between my shots on that trip versus this trip.
3. I cut down on the number of repeat shots.
One of my problems shooting in Anguilla was a lack of self-confidence. I was so afraid of not getting a shot that I burned a lot of film shooting the same scene. This time I was very aware of how many times I shot the same subject or angle. If I repeated this time, it was because I knew I pooched the focus or because the lighting changed and I wanted to capture it.
4. My manual focusing improved.
Although I messed up from time to time, my manual focusing improved considerably on this trip. I still need to remember to account for the super shallow depth of field when using the extension tubes, but overall, my ability to focus manually improved.
The Results: The Bad
1. Several shots were VERY underexposed.
I remember while walking back from lunch that I noticed the aperture on my Mamiya 80mm f/1.9 was all the way up at f/22. Always check your settings. It’s easy to slide the dial on a manual focus lens and pooch a bunch of shots.
2. Great shots on the wide angle lens. Too bad you forgot to pull the lens hood back.
Now I have a lot of very nice oval shots. I always put the lens hood on to avoid dinging my lens – – just have to remember to fold it back on the wide angle lens. Oh well, you’ll see those on Instagram once I crop them down to squares.
3. One of my legs must be shorter than the other, or I don’t compensate for the slope when shooting along the beach.
My medium format shots were better owing to the crosshairs which are visible through the viewfinder. I need to watch this on the 35mm.
4. A few shots were ruined due to light leaks.
It was my own fault. I forgot I had a roll of film in the camera before I packed it and I opened it up, exposing a few frames. Make sure your cameras are empty before you travel.
5. Manual focusing is really tough when you are using an extension tube.
That depth of field is wafer thin with the 3-S extension tube on the Mamiya 80mm f/1.9. Close that aperture down!
But remember, not all mistakes are that bad.
I kind of like this shot. I focused on Antigua in the distance and overexposed the shot. A mistake, but still kind of cool.
For more of our images from Barbuda and Antigua, read our posts here:
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