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Whole Roll Project: Peter Westcoast – Mamiya 6V & Portra 160C

Our next Whole Roll Project is a roll of Portra 160C shot in a circa 1953 Mamiya 6V folder by Peter Westcoast.

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Peter Westcoast Portra 160C
(Frame 1 top right through to 12 bottom left)

Photographer: Peter Westcoast
Camera: Mamiya 6V
Film: Portra 160C
Scanned: As black & white on an Epson V700 with Silverfast SE using the “Selective Gray Correction” in “Factors” mode to virtually add a bit of a red filter effect to the images.

I’ve recently returned to shooting film after a long hiatus and am really enjoying the experience. Here is my latest roll - It’s my first medium format roll for years The camera is an old Mamiya 6 V folder, I think from about 1953. The camera had a shutter problem when it arrived; the slow speeds (1/25th/sec and below) were sticking. Although I don’t have a lot of experience with these things, I repaired it myself with excellent results, both in function and personal satisfaction.

My intention since going back to film has been to only shoot B&W. To achieve this however, I’ve lately been using colour C41 film. The rationale is that I can make adjustments similar to shooting B&W with a colour filter when I scan the colour negative as a B&W file. I’m still experimenting with this; perhaps it may be better to scan them in colour and use a channel mixer to convert them to B&W later.

I shot this roll on a weekend bike trip out to Warburton on the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail with my wife.

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I calibrated the rangefinder while I was repairing the shutter, but something went wrong during this trip making the rangefinder inaccurate, so I had to focus all of these shots by guessing the distance and dialling that in on the camera (this camera focuses by having the film plane move rather than the lens). Consequently, some of the shots are out of focus.

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Frame 1: I’m not sure how this double exposure happened. Due to inexperience, I loaded the film incorrectly and so missed the first shot or two. I forgot to wind on once, or perhaps I wound on too far or something? I don’t know how I managed to get this image and a blank frame 2

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Frame 3 – I called this frame “Lovers”. It’s our two best bikes in a beautiful place on a beautiful day.

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Frame 4 – I took this to show an example of what the trail is like.

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Frame 5 – My wife having a rest while I take a few pictures. In hindsight, and if I cared a bit more, I should have concentrated more on getting the horizon level and that sign perfectly vertical. I still like it though.

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Frame 6 – Our room in Warburton had a big bay window overlooking the river. It was very beautiful and offered nice light.

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Frame 7 – The curtains were broken and could only be opened halfway. Again, I should have put more effort into getting the lines squarer. My excuse is that it’s a new camera to me, and the finder is terrible, especially with glasses; I can’t even see the frame borders all at once.

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Frame 8 – My wife, looking like she’s having a great time. That’s because she was.

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Frame 9 – Cycling along the trail. My shutter speed was a bit slow and so there’s a bit of movement in this shot.

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Frame 10 – Tea in a rail carriage converted into a cafe. Because of the low light requiring a wide open aperture, and with the rangefinder out of action, I had to guess the focus. I didn’t get it right with this one.

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Frame 11 – I got this one right though.

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Frame 12 – This one, clearly, is wrong. I need to fix the focusing.

My motivation to start shooting film again is related to a problem I was/am having with technology and the connectedness it demands. It was motivated a lot by cycle touring, which is something I love doing, and something I love documenting, but I found that constantly having to worry about keeping devices charged, composing and reviewing photos, and sharing and responding using social media was distracting me from the essence of cycle touring, which is to disconnect and engage in the environment.

With this in mind, I approached my next cycle tour with a film camera and a pencil and paper. It was a great success, but it stirred in me a lust for all things mechanical, and since buying my first fixed lens rangefinder back in June (an Olympus 35RC) I’ve bought a swathe of other cameras to play with. A Rollei 35S, a Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII, aWidelux, and this Mamiya 6 Folder. I love the cameras as much as taking photos. Possibly more so. It’s the same with bikes; I love fixing bicycles, as much or more so than riding them.

Why scan colour film as Black & White?

The B&W vs Colour thing is an extension of this disconnectedness thing in a way. I wanted to distil the essence of what I was trying to capture in my photos. Generally, I’m not after one great shot. My approach is to document an adventure or event as a series, and I get great satisfaction when it’s all collated and presented. Removing the element of colour from my photography makes me concentrate more on shapes and light, and reduces the series of pictures to a representation of what the experience was like for me.

My first few rolls were shot using B&W film, but I found that the contrast, particularly in the sky, was washed out because I wasn’t using filters. So I started using colour film but approaching it as though I was shooting in B&W and scanning the images as B&W. I don’t scan them in colour and then convert them to B&W; I scan them in greyscale, using software to virtually add a colour filter effect, mostly expanding on the red channel and reducing the green/blue channel. There may be merit in scanning them in colour and converting them to B&W using a channel mixer, as this can give a similar effect to using a colour filter when shooting B&W, but I’m going to start trying to develop my own B&W film at home so am going to shoot B&W using colour filters. It’s all experimentation and the workflow will likely change over time.

Thanks very much Peter.

I found your comments regarding scanning colour film as black and white very interesting. It’s something I’ve experimented with somewhat myself, even to the point of shooting digital through a red filter to make the desaturation of the red channel produce a b&w image without the usual increase in noise that digital post processing can produce. The idea sounds logical to me but I’m not sure if the actual results backed up my gut feel. Portra 160 is a nice clean film, a good source for this sort of post image manipulation.

I’d be curious to find out if others have had a go at desaturating colour film or if you think the strategy is different from shooting b&w with filters.

You can read and see more of Pete’s stuff vis his blog LOCOMOTIVE (mainly about bikes with the occasional camera story), his bicycle touring diaries on crazyguyonabike are also a great read.

Thanks again Peter.

Also a thank you to everyone who has been in touch or submitted work to the Whole Roll Project, the feedback has been great with several great posts already in the pipeline. Next up will see our first polaroid pack. Please have a look at the project and take part.

Chris Zissiadis
urbanlight

2 thoughts on “Whole Roll Project: Peter Westcoast – Mamiya 6V & Portra 160C”

  1. Hi All. I’d forgot to specifically point out that the only editing I do in this process is in the scanning and nothing else. If you look at the second last picture you’ll see an unfortunate bit of fluff in the middle of my wife’s forehead. I should have cleaned the scanner/neg better! Anyway, this approach suits me, due both to laziness, and satisfaction with the images as they are.

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