Shooting: A Smokey Evening With Kodak Gold 200

If you live in the northwestern part of North America, you’re likely very familiar with a certain invasive element every summer; smoke.

Seems like every year, our beautiful clear summers here in western Canada suffer a spell of the sad aftermath of forest fires in the region. The smoke from these fires travel long distances and can hang around for quite a while. Thankfully, this year in wasn’t as bad as others for smoke in Alberta, and it didn’t hang around as long either. But it certainly gives a strange feeling to the atmosphere.

I was driving around doing errands that day – not really thinking about taking pictures. I’ve really slowed down this year in taking photos and find I enjoy shooting more when I’m on vacation or traveling somewhere. However, this day was such a strange day and I had some free time in the evening – so the urge came strongly to take pictures of this bizarre climate.

The Film

I happened to have my Minolta X700 in the car with me (still try to keep a camera on me, even when I don’t expect to shoot much) but I only had a few frames left on my roll of Tri-X that was currently loaded. As luck would have it though, I happened to find a roll of Kodak Gold that I had left in my car from a previous road trip a week before.

Now, this was a week in mid July where it got pretty warm here in Alberta. This roll was thrown into the center console of my car at some point along the road trip and was forgotten. So for about 2 weeks, it had been thoroughly cooked while parked out in the sun. Figuring it’d be fun to see what would happen, I fired off the last few frames of Tri-X, tossed the Gold into the X700 and headed out to the range roads.

Kodak gold 200, Canon AE1

I’ve said plenty of times in past articles of how much I love Kodak Gold, but I would just like to say – I love Kodak Gold.

No matter what the situation has been, every time I develop a roll of Gold, I’m always pleased. It never ceases to impress me with the quality of photo I get with the cheapest consumer film out there – and now, I’m even more impressed. Even after being cooked in plus 30°C weather in a glovebox, it still held up great and hardly showed any signs of heat, even in less than desirable conditions for lighting.

I had expected the fog to have turned out all pink and magenta as usually happens when a roll is subject to extreme temperatures, but the images all had totally normal colors and I hardly had to do any color correcting. I’ve heard the consumer films are generally more resilient to various conditions compared to the professional films, and I suppose this proves it.

I get why people prefer to use films like Portra and Ektar – I’ve talked already is previous post. But there’s something about Gold that just continues to work for me. Every time, it gives me what I want and I love it.

The Shoot

As I drove the range roads, I increasingly enjoyed the time shooting again down the backroads around my house. With such a climate, the landscape felt very different and had a unique look. It seemed as though it were a morning fog after a nightly rain, yet everything was dry and warm.

Fog is hard weather to catch, but smoke hangs around for a few days and gives you plenty of opportunity to get off your rear and take some pictures.

Range roads in Alberta will never get old. Even when you’re not shooting, it’s always a treat to just cruise down dirt roads – exploring the beautiful, endless farm lands and homesteads. Add smoke from hectares of forest fires, and it’s a whole new experience – slightly eerie, but calming.

As always, when shooting slower speed films, it becomes a bit harder to shoot when evening sets in. 200 ISO isn’t too bad for dusk, but with the air greatly filtering the sunlight, it got dark much faster.

Conclusion

This was the only evening I managed to get some photos of the smoke this year, but as with every summer, I expected there to be more next year. It’s a bit of a somber subject, as it’s a reminder of destruction in other areas and the people who are out in danger by some of these forest fires.

I’ve been so fortunate the fires have never come close to me and I hope they never will, but I can’t help but be intrigued by the landscape photos the smoke provides. If the smoke returns next year, I hope to work with it more.

Let me know in the comments what you think and if you’ve ever experienced smoke from the fires! Thanks for reading!

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