Venice on Velvia

Taking a break from scanning endless black and white negatives I decided to scan some colour images for a change and Venice seemed like a nice bright place to start.

These are from a trip to Venice I took about 10 years ago. I took my Canon A1 loaded with black and white negative film and my Canon T90 loaded with Fuji Velvia slide film. It was quite a bit to carry about, but that was the price you paid back then for wanting to mix it up.

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Fuji Velvia 50 is a very special film as it has a certain colour saturation and punch that was unmatched by anything else. Obviously now we have saturation and vibrance sliders in Lightroom to play with, but Velvia just got it right every time (assuming you nailed the exposure). I have some medium format landscapes shot on Velvia that scanning just can’t do justice to.

Combine Velvia, bright sunlight and a polarising filter and you can get the sky a deep rich dark blue which contrasts brilliantly with the bright stone architecture.

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Shooting colour slide film is a unique experience compared to any other form of film or digital photography as you are essentially creating the finished product in the camera. Slide film has notoriously little exposure latitude so while you get nice rich results there are often blocked up shadows and blown out highlights present.

Each shot is then processed and framed in a fixed mount for viewing on a lightbox or projector, so no chance to crop the image or apply any kind of adjustment during a printing process as the result is a transparency for viewing directly. So you have to get it right. The added cost of processing and mounting over the black and white negative film I was used to meant I tended to be more cautious in what I shot to avoid too much disappointment when the end result came through the post.

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I find Venice a very interesting place that invites exploration and discovery of it’s architecture and spaces. I shot a lot of both colour and black and white images but tended to pick different subjects depending on which I was using. My colour shots have more people and general scenes where as in monochrome I shot purely architecture and abstract forms.

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These images are now 10 years old, and while they have a certain dated ‘film’ look to them they are testament to the permanence of film as a photographic medium. When I shot these film photography was photography. I had no plan for the images beyond binning the bad ones and looking at the good ones on a light box through a loupe.

Yet here I am a decade later having dug them out, dusted them off, scanned them in as 8mp images, post-processed them digitally to improve the exposure, colour balance and sharpness, and posted them on the internet for anyone to find and for me to write about.

I certainly won’t be doing that with any of my early digital images in a few years time. I don’t think I even have any images anymore from before I got my DSLR and started archiving them.

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