Fomapan 400 @ 200: A Drive Through The Snowy Country

I live on the outskirts of the city. Most of my photography is in the city, around the suburbs where I work, and occasionally downtown. There’s so many interesting nooks and crannies within a city that are begging to be seen from a new angle and perspective. Old cities have a lot to offer for a photographer. However, when living on the outskirts, it can be difficult to find the time to make the drive back into town to shoot.

Canada is blessed with miles and miles of wilderness and farmland. While it’s easy to always want to go into the city and shoot urban landscapes, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the vast rural landscape that surrounds it. Living in the country gives me the perfect opportunity to do just that.

The rural areas around Edmonton are beautiful. It’s an endless stretch of curious acreage neighborhoods and farms. The landscape can greatly vary from one range road to the next, leaving you constantly wondering which way to turn. You never know what you’re going to find down the next road.

I’ve been experimenting with Fomapan 400 to figure out the best way to shoot it and develop it in Cinestill DF96 monobath.

When shooting at box-speed and developing normal, the negatives turn out very thin. I then tried shooting at box-speed and pushing in the developing. With Cinestill Df96, this means increasing the temperature from the standard 80°F. I raised the temperature to 85°F which gave me improved density in my negatives. You can read all this in my review on Fomapan 400 here. However, I feel I can still get better results with this film. So I tried shooting it at 200 ISO.

Shooting Fomapan 400 at 200 made me realize 200 is a great speed when shooting outdoors (which I usually do). When shooting at 400, I find it difficult to use an aperture faster than f8. The light really has to drop off in order to open up the aperture more, unless you intentionally over expose your film. 200 proved to be the perfect speed for the conditions.

200 ISO however, doesn’t seem to be the ideal speed for the film. Not for me anyway. The negatives where still very thin, seemed extremely susceptible to watermarks and very grainy. The watermarks could very well be due to the water in my area as I just use the tap water at my sink. Fomapan seems to be the most prone to having watermarks over HP5 or Tri-x. Even after using a squeegee to make sure the film is quite dry, I still get terrible watermarks on my film. I suppose a proper washing agent wouldn’t help with this issue. I’ve also heard of people using distilled water for their developing, but I think I’ll stick to the tap water for now.

It’s also possible I messed up the the film when loading onto the reel. Some of the images have weird lines where the film could have been slightly too close or stuck together. This seems unlikely, but there’s a lot of room for error when self developing your film.

This attempt of over exposure and developing normally didn’t give the results I was looking for. But if I’m honest with myself, I LOVE the results. The resulting texture gives the images so much mood and feeling. No doubt, had the photos turned out as intended, they would still be nice and I’m sure I would like them. Though maybe not as much as I like these. This is something that keeps me in love with the process of shooting film. There are mishaps that can quite literally destroy an entire roll. There are also mishaps that result in an image that has so much depth and intrigue. I feel that these photos wouldn’t be the same had they turned out perfectly with beautiful fine grain and sharpness.

The drive through the country was a great experience. The snow was absolutely chucking it down, and gave the scenery such drama. This wasn’t exactly the kind of weather I prefer to see in early April, but I can’t deny that I was thoroughly enjoying it. Most likely being (and hopefully) the last heavy snow fall we have this year, I’m glad I caught it. There was hardly anyone on the roads, making me feel like I had the place to myself. It’s experiences like this that will make it hard for me to ever move into the city, regardless of the inconveniences.

With the situations in the city being what they are at the moment, it’s relaxing for the mind to get out into the countryside. There’s no need to worry about being 6′ from someone when there’s no one around. In the days ahead, I’ll definitely be taking more drives through the country, so you may be seeing much more of it on the site.

Some of these images are showing signs of light leaks. You can see obvious signs around the border of certain images where the sprocket holes are. I used my old trusty Minolta X-700 that has been pretty reliable. However, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen signs of light leaks from this camera. Perhaps it’s time to replace the seals.

So I continue my journey in trying to figure out the sweet spot of this film with my current developing process. No doubt I’ll receive much better results with a different developer. Though I can’t say I’ve been overly disappointed as of yet. This dark gritty look isn’t for a lot of people, but I can’t help but love it. The strange watermarks and other imperfections on the images, to me, add depth and mystery to them.

With my next (and sadly last) 2 rolls, I’ll be shooting them at 400 and turn up the developer to 90°F. Hopefully this will give similar, if not better, results as when I developed at 85°F. Again, see my article on my “First Impressions” of Fomapan400. For now, here’s a few more pictures from this roll, and from this beautiful drive through the snowy country.

Hope you enjoyed this article! Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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