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.
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.
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.
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.
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.