A happy accident – overexposing Portra 160

Recently I put a roll of Portra 160 through my Canon FTb, a camera which I hadn’t used for a while, as I’ve been shooting mostly medium format. I’ve sold most of my Canon FD lenses so the only one I have left is a 50mm f1.8. The FTb hasn’t been put up for sale because it has a dent in the pentaprism and the meter doesn’t work, so it wouldn’t fetch much on eBay.

The film roll lasted through a trip to Allenbanks, to Durham Botanical Gardens, and to Alnwick Castle, accompanied by a Sekonic Twinmate exposure meter.

The “accident” became obvious once I’d developed the film, as the negatives were very dense, indicating overexposure. Once they were scanned, I could see that they all had very narrow depth of focus, and yet I had been shooting, most often, at f11. I went to check that the lens was stopping down correctly, and indeed it was stuck at f1.8.

I transferred the lens to a Canon FX body, fired the shutter a few times, and the lens returned to normal. But the question was, could I produce some useable images from these overexposed negatives?

 

Detail of a wooden statue at Durham Botanical Gardens

Detail of a wooden statue at Durham Botanical Gardens

I think the answer was yes, but of course the viewer can decide for themselves. Portra is legendary for it’s ability to withstand over-exposure (and under-exposure, to a lesser degree).

2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 025

This one was probably the most overexposed – five stops over

 

2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 002

I really like the backgrounds produced by shooting at f1.8. I know that others rave about wide-aperture shooting, but as I mainly shoot landscapes rather than portraits, I’ve not done much of that till now. In fact I used to own three different Canon 50mm f1.4 lenses but never used them deliberately at full aperture.

2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 007 2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 020 2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 024

2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 028

Artwork in Durham Botanical Gardens

The camera used for this session

2015-8- Canon FTb, Portra 160, Fuji Hunt C41 chems, 026

After this happy accident, I’m going to try to include more wide-aperture images. I’ll probably do this with the 110mm f2.8 lens on my Mamiya RZ67 – f2.8 on medium format produces about the same depth of field as f1.4 on 35mm, and I’ll have the advantage of the bigger negative size.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “A happy accident – overexposing Portra 160

  1. Chris Rusbridge October 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Kevin, did you have to work hard at the scan or PP stage to get the images you show here? They look very good indeed.

    • kevinallan October 25, 2015 at 6:05 pm Reply

      Chris, they were edited in Lightroom just using global shadow and highlight adjustments – nothing fancy.

  2. Joe shoots resurrected cameras October 25, 2015 at 2:15 pm Reply

    Yup, color negative is probably the most forgiving film for overexposure, it just loves it.

  3. urbanhafner October 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm Reply

    Nicely done! I’m a fan of shooting wide open so obviously I like them.

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