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San Francisco 2021 • Golden Bear Trading Company

I didn't mention in my previous post that I loaded the roll of Ultramax 400 into my 'new' Olympus Pen FT half-frame camera. I love this camera because I can double the number of shots in one roll. During this trip I actually shot with my second Pen FT ...because I dropped and broke my first one. Such a paradox these fragile mechanical tanks are. I was devastated - still am. Tino and Bon chastise me for not having it wrapped around my neck knowing how clumsy I am. I bought another one online only to be reminded how perfectly awesome my first one was.


The first morning of every visit, Kara takes me to one of my favorite coffee shops in the Bay. Golding Bear Trading Company has a special place in my coffee-loving heart, and its name is an homage to our alma mater. I love this little cafe and the barista Sam. He makes an awesome cup of Turkish coffee and matcha lattes. Tino always comes out with a few bags of coffee beans he's excited to try as soon as we get home.

The weather was what I would expect on a fall SF early morning. Foggy. I rated Ultramax at box speed, trusted sunny 16, and my intuition to take a few test shots. This particular set of photos does actually remind me of a grainy Portra because of its warmer tones. One of my favorite things I found shooting Ultramax is how true to life the stock's colors are. The greens and reds always come out great, regardless of the weather and how badly I read the light.

It wasn't until I took a look at my indoor shots that I noticed the difference between professional and consumer-grade films. Basically why Ultramax can look like Portra, but with closer inspection doesn't compare. Portra is versatile, forgiving, a film with fine grain, but also expensive. Kodak Ultramax 400 was actually made for cheap cameras, so I knew that by nature the stock's low resolution would not handle being underexposed. The shot of the coffee bags (below) was my first example of that. I set my camera up to take the picture of Sam making our drinks at his coffee bar (bottom left). Then I did a 180 and shot the coffee bags on the shelves without adjusting anything on my camera. As a result, the shadows came out muddy, some detail is lost and there is an abundance of coarse grain.

A more experienced photographer would say I underexposed, while a frugal one would argue I shouldn't have wasted a shot. Honestly, I am neither and it doesn't bother me at all. I've noticed a trend on social media of artists editing and adding grain to digital and cellphone shots, so clearly, the grain essence of film is always appreciated ˙ᵕ˙

Right now a roll of Ultramax is going for about $7, while a roll of Portra 400 is $13. With Fuji, Kodak, and Lomography announcing another round of film price increases, this second set with Ultramax has convinced me to keep trying it out.



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