Blog

Here you'll find news and the occasional discussion from Rifqi's Photo.

Being in the moment

I enjoy spending time on a photo, choosing the location, time of day and setting up my lights. I love my big, heavy Hasselblad; listening to the mirror slap as I press the shutter always gives me satisfaction. However, there are plenty of times when you just want to focus on being in the moment and experience what's happening around you instead focusing through your camera.

That's the main reason I started looking around for a small 35mm film camera. I won't get into the whole debate of film vs digital, I just happen to enjoy shooting with analog cameras and the results I get simply makes me feel more than when I shoot digital. Eventually I settled on a Rollei 35T. In part because it's really tiny and in part because it just looks kind of cute and funky.

If you, like me, come from a generation which grew up looking at snapshots from old photo albums but never used anything other than digital yourself, then I can really recommend giving film a try. There's something to be said about not being able to see the results immediately. Sometimes it can go months before you actually get to see that first frame you shot on a roll. By that time you might have completely forgotten about it and it will truly be a memory frozen in time.

You won't stress over the results, because there's nothing you can do about it once you've pressed that shutter release. Instead you can take your frame, forget about it and simply stay in the moment.

Another reason I enjoy film is the imperfections of it. Perhaps that seems weird but I find it liberating in a society where everyone is always looking for perfection. As much as I enjoy editing my photos to get the look I'm after, it can sometimes feel too clinical with digital. With simple snapshots on film you can let go of that and as a result the photos have a more organic feel to them.

So, go out, get yourself a small film camera and start shooting without worrying about the results. It is what it is, and what it is is fun.

Kodak Ektar 100 in Indonesia

A serious girl, shot with a Hasselblad 500 c/m on Kodak Ektar 100.

Our family is half Indonesian; we live in Sweden and I'm Swedish, but my wife is from Indonesia, so our two girls are half of each. As you might imagine, my wife often gets homesick from being so far away from her (rather big) family. Especially since family has a different value over there than it does here in the dark Nordic countries. Children often live with their parents until they get married and sometimes longer than that. If I had to put up with my parents for that long I would probably develop some slight homicidal tendencies.

What I'm trying to get at in a rather roundabout way is that when we get a chance to travel to Indonesia, half way around the world, it's a big deal and usually an emotional reunion full of hugs and tears. It's not cheap either. So in light of all of this we try to make the whole thing worthwhile, which this year meant that we stayed there for eight weeks.

At this point you might ask yourself: what does a pale nerd with a slight aversion to sunlight do for eight weeks in a country with people who's language he doesn't understand? I'm glad you asked, since the answer is pretty much the whole point of this story - it just took me a while to get there. My goal for these holidays of our's is to treat them as much as photography trips as I can. Even though I usually don't shoot as much as I would have wished, I do tend to come home with several really nice additions to my portfolio. This time around it was also my first time trying out some Kodak Ektar 100, a film I've been meaning to try ever since I started shooting analog.

The older of my wife's two younger sisters.

Up until this point I had only used two films: Kodak Portra 400 and Kodak T-Max 100. Well, I did shoot some Kodak Portra 160 as well, but that's almost the same thing as 400. Anyways, from what I read about the film it likes lots of light, so what better place to try it than near the equator? With that in mind I was really looking forward to the results and what I got back from the lab has me wanting to shoot more with it.

I can confirm the light-loving characteristics of the film by the way, it definitely thrives when you throw lots of light at it. My preferred time of day to shoot is either early or late, whenever the sun hasn't gotten too high or it's on the way down, but I think this film will look great at high noon and scorching sunlight as well. From the photo at the top you can also see that it seems to handle artificial light just fine, though I'll have to do more testing. In fact, on the roll I'm shooting right now I have some studio sessions with the film. It will be interesting to see how they turn out and if it's something that's suitable to use it for.

Even a princess needs a sweet ride.

I love my Portra 400 and that might still be my film of choice for studio portraits, but for some situations it lacks a certain pop. Ektar 100 provides that extra pop that I've felt was sometimes missing, especially for photos like the one above here. I can easily see this becoming my favourite film for documenting my daughters' childhood. It's definitely an outdoorsy film though, both because of the slow speed and the need for lots of light to get the best results. I wouldn't even consider to use it for available light shots indoors.

One thing that's often said about Ektar is that it's not suitable for portraits. From what I've seen so far I have to disagree with that statement. The jury is still out on studio portraits but I think the results you see here help my case with regards to on location portraits. The thing I see mentioned the most as a negative is the red skin tones but I don't find it that extreme at all. You could just as well argue that the skin tones of Portra are too yellow. Yes, the film certainly picks up red a lot more than Portra, but it's just a different look; not better, not worse, just different. I for one like the tones a lot.

My wife, struggling not to squint from the bright, overcast sky.

As with all film you will of course get different results from shot to shot, it's just in the unpredictable nature of film. I don't have my own scanner yet, so I use a lab to both develop and scan for me. On the same roll, with two shots taken back to back (same location and subject), with almost identical settings on the camera, I can still get hugely varying results in terms of tone and contrast. Just look at the two shots below.

Now, these were taken some time ago and I can't remember what, if anything, differed in my settings between these shots. However, I'm sure there wasn't a huge difference and yet you can clearly see how much the results has changed. I don't know how much of this is because of the film and how much is because of the scan from the lab. It will be interesting in the future when I get my own scanner to see if the results will be more consistent or not. In order to better track my results I've also recently gotten a notebook to write down all my settings etc. for all my shots. Hopefully that will help me figure out what I need to do to get the best and most consistent results. The notebook in question is something called the Analogbook, if anyone is interested in checking it out.

Bubbles always has a way to fascinate.

At this point I think I've said all I wanted to say about my first experience with Kodak Ektar 100 and I hope I've given you a taste of what the film is like and perhaps inspired you to try it yourself. For my own purposes I know I've found myself a keeper and a new way to express myself with my photos; and isn't that what photography is, a visual expression? Be it with digital or different types of film, it's a way for us to express what we see and feel. At least that's my goal, and it's a goal I'm constantly working towards.

Sisters

What happens if I poke it here?

A bit less than two months ago my second daughter, Eira, was born. Not only was it a big change with a new addition to the family, it was also the start of a long-term project that will span over several years - perhaps it will never really finish.

The plan is simply to document the bond between two sisters as they grow up together. This is something completely different from what I normally shoot. Some of it will probably be posed but the intention is that most of it will be in a candid and documentary style. Since this is new territory for me I know that I haven't reached the standard I want yet but I figure that I've got a long time to learn.

This project will be shot exclusively on analog media. The reason for that is that I find that my analog photos have a soul and nostalgia to them that my digital work just doesn't. They're not better but they are different, and that difference manifests in a way that just lends itself perfectly to photos of this nature. It's not about the details, fancy lights or mind bending compositions; it's about emotion, childhood and the bond between sisters.

Updates for this project will be sporadic and in time, as I improve, I might trim a few of the less good shots from the collection. In the end I hope the whole project will be good enough to fulfill my vision for it.

You can find the first few photos under 'Analog' and 'Sisters' in the left-hand menu.

A new direction

Taken with a Hasselblad 500 C/M, 80mm at f2.8, Kodak Portra 160.

It's been around four years since the photography bug sank its teeth into me in a serious way, and it's not showing any signs of letting go. Today I'm at a stage where I'm mostly happy with the work I'm producing; I feel like I've found my style and figured out what it is that I want to shoot. Note that I'm saying "mostly happy". I don't think I'll ever be completely happy, which is probably a good thing since it will force me to keep improving.

Lately I've begun exploring a new direction with my photography: I've entered the realm of analog cameras.

I started out with a worn Mamiya C330, which I managed to get fairly cheap, just to dip my toes and see if this was something that would really interest me. I've never shot a single frame of film before, so this was a completely new experience for me. What immediately caught my fancy about the whole process was the much slower and more deliberate way of shooting. You really have to stop and think before you press the shutter. There's also a randomness and unpredictability that can be both exciting and frustrating.

One of the true classics, the Hasselblad 500 C/M.

After realizing that I wanted to shoot more with film I started looking around for a camera in better condition that would fulfill all my needs. During my search I kind of fell in love with one of the true classics, the Hasselblad 500 C/M. It's a gorgeous camera that's very simple to operate and it's backed up by a very complete system that will let you customize it to suit pretty much any situation.

I only looked at medium format cameras since I figured that if I'm going to go through all the work of shooting with film, I want to get results that I wouldn't be able to get with my digital kit. Medium format does that for me with a look that's instantly recognizable as something different than anything you can shoot with digitally in my budget range.

At the time of writing I've only put one roll of film through my new camera but I'm very excited to shoot more with it.

So far I've had a lab do all the developing and scanning for me. I plan to eventually scan myself, both to get more control and to cut down long term costs. I have no interest in developing the film myself though, so I'll let the lab handle that bit in the future as well

Taken with a Mamiya C330, 80mm at f2.8, Kodak Portra 160.

Not only does the larger negatives of medium format give me a different look, the film itself also adds a lot of soul and a certain something, call it magic, if you will. There's something very organic and appealing about the colours and tonality, the way the image transitions between shadows and highlights and the inherent imperfections of the medium.

In no way does my new-found love for film mean that I will be abandoning digital photography. The two will coexist and be used for different things. To start with I think that a majority of my private snapshots will be taken with an analog camera from now on. In contrast, the more serious work will still be done with digital. The two will obviously cross paths as well and I'll simply have to see where this new direction takes me.

Though I haven't shot many rolls of film yet, you can find some of my favourites in the 'Analog' gallery. I have hopes that it will be updated fairly frequently with more and better photos during the coming year.

To those of you who are curious about trying to shoot film yourselves, all I can say is do it, don't think about, just do it. Even if it turns out it's not for you, I don't think you'll regret the experience.

New portfolio site launching

Today I'm very pleased to be able to announce the launch of rifqisphoto.com. This is the site I've always dreamed of for my photography and I couldn't be happier with it. I hope you'll share my enthusiasm and agree with me when I say that my photos have never looked better than they do here.

At the moment I don't intend for this site to replace my old blog at rifqisphoto.wordpress.com. This is meant to be a place for my portfolio, a place for my best work to shine without distractions. Some posts might run on both sites but the regular photo discussions will still be found on the old blog. However, I can't speak for what will happen in the future.

I would love to hear your feedback; is there anything you feel is missing, anything that should be moved/removed, is the layout clear and aesthetically pleasing? Give me your honest opinion and I will consider it. I want to make this the best portfolio it can be.