Since Kodak released their latest production of Ektachrome E100 in 120 medium format film I wanted to get my hands on a roll for a special occasion. The film is not inexpensive and I already know how deeply I adore the 35mm version, so naturally I wanted to be selective and get the most out of this.
That starts with understanding I would get fewer frames out of a 120 roll than I would the 35mm. Since regrettably having to sell my Mamiya RZ67, I was able to borrow my good buddy Tony Norkus' Pentax 645N with 75mm f/2.8 lens. That gave me 15 frames to work with, whereas my Mamiya would've given me only 10 (albeit in 6x7).
As life would have it, my wife's dad began going through some serious medical issues and faces end-stage care going forward. My wife and I have been together three years now and since her dad and step-mother live in Astoria, OR I have not yet had the chance to meet them in person.
We booked plane tickets through a friend at an incredible rate, but just as we did so all kinds of things started surfacing in the news about COVID-19, or Coronavirus. Before long it became clear that flying was no longer a safe option, but we agreed that this trip was too important not to make. We opted to drive across the country, Michigan to Oregon.
This was my first drive fully across country in my life and despite the core reasons for it, I was excited for the adventure and photographic opportunities. It turned out to be so much more than any of us anticipated. Every day new news broke and changed the way we live our lives in this country and on this planet as humans. Staying in hotels was nerve-wracking and strange. People wearing masks and gloves. Using hand sanitizer after touching anything. Avoiding fast-food restaurants where we could see they were still sitting diners, which told us they weren't taking safety seriously and so we weren't going to take them seriously.
Driving through Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Utah it was pretty fun to bounce around in the back seat and shoot the wide-open spaces through the Prius' windows. We were able to stop at plenty of basically vacant scenic outlooks and rest stops. All of that was on my Fujifilm X-T2.
I knew what I wanted to use that Ektachrome for, however.
Sometimes you know a situation is going to be an opportunity for something special. I had been thinking about how I wanted to photograph my father-in-law Barry and his wife Jane as soon as we decided we were going to book those plane tickets. I had already begun to plan for possibly renting a simple lighting rig, but when we were forced to drive instead I packed my own Einstein, octa, collapsible background, and C-stand into the trunk.
We eventually arrived, met, hugged, talked. I put together an end table for them. We had dinner.
The next morning we came back for breakfast and I set up for photos in the back room of their trailer in Astoria, OR, next to a bath tub and dresser. I shot digital and two film cameras. One was 35mm loaded with Tri-X 400, the other was Tony's Pentax loaded with the Ektachrome.
What you see below is every frame, good or bad, from that day. It includes a few landscapes because goddamn it, Oregon is beautiful.
I would only call one shot a true failure and that is because the trigger on my strobe didn't fire. I included it below and strangely, it wasn't completely a loss. Ektachrome is so light sensitive and my lab, Richard Photo Lab, probably did an incredible job of getting everything they could out of that dark frame of film. As you can see I was able to get something out of the jpeg, but I probably wouldn't use it, especially when compared with the successes.
One more note, I have more photos of Jane here than Barry because it was one of those magical moments in a session where as a portrait photographer you're able to connect energies with the subject and get something real out of each other. I took these shots of Jane at the end of her sitting when she felt most open and seen.
I look forward to posting a final selection of the entire session very soon.
Until then, enjoy these before and after shots. On the left are the scans exactly as they came back from Richard Photo Lab; on the right are my Photoshop edits.