The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh. —Edward Weston
Imagine being in a former Soviet-bloc country, such as the Czech Republic, and your film not surviving the airport. Suddenly, and frustratingly, the success of a high-budget project depends on finding a replacement film with high enough quality to do the job. After asking around, you find a local photographer who hands you a roll of a locally-made film he promises is professional quality. At least, you think that’s what he’s saying; the interpreter was having problems with the vocabulary. You drop the film in the camera and pray, hard. To make matters more challenging, lighting conditions for the shoot are far from perfect and you keep having to adjust exposure by a stop or two. Warning the art director that you can’t guarantee results seems like a good idea.
Next, you bring the film home and hand it off at a lab to be processed. After a couple of hours, the phone rings and you get the strange message that the film has turned both the developer and the negatives a bright blue! After sharing some strong words with the lab manager, he agrees to go ahead and finish processing the first roll. You wait patiently for the results and when they arrive you are pleasantly surprised to discover some of the sharpest photographs you’ve seen. Even when the exposure had to be adjusted, the film compensated more than adequately. Much to everyone’s delight, the project has been saved. Surprise!
Fomapan is an interesting film that likes to surprise photographers with slightly different results on every roll. These are good results, mind you, but how the film is scanned and any variation in how long they’re left in developer, which will still turn bright blue, shift the tonal base even for black and white film. This makes the film quite fun from an artistic perspective and totally frustrating when one needs consistency. Recreating the look digitally is easy enough, and one has plenty of latitude. For today’s photo, we used the following black and white adjustment settings: reds- 31, yellows- 89, greens- 105, cyans- 77, blues- 46, magentas- 44. Where the fun, and surprise, comes in is applying various color filters on top of the black and white layer. We used an orange filter to bring out the model’s freckles, but blue and red filters can be very dramatic.
Fomapan does play a little dark on blues and reds, so one has to be careful with shadows and shading. For added effect, mix this setting with a Holga filter if you have one. Fomapan in a Holga is truly a work of art, but is better for landscapes than portraits. Fomapan is a black and white with a lot of tonal flexibility. Try it and share the surprise.