Alvin’s Film Follies (Part II – Ilford Delta Film and The INSANE Road Trip)

The I80 in Wyoming after a Storm

The I-80 in Wyoming after a Storm

After coming away fresh from Jon’s Ilford PanF 50 challenge, I was itching to find a really nice go-to, everyday, black and white film.  Don’t get me wrong – PanF is a great film, but I thought that it needed special handling just because of its lower ISO.  Because of this, I wanted my film to have more of an ability handle a “run and gun” shot since I commute to and from work. What can I try out next?  Enter Ilford’s Delta 100 film.

I loaded this new film into “Nikki” (my nickname for the Nikon F90x) and as with Jon’s challenge, I used my trusty AF 50/1.8 D lens.  My only benchmark for comparisons right now is the PanF, until I get more film.

As luck would have it, most of the Delta 100 was used during my cross-country “Canonball” trip with my brother in May.  Did I just say Canonball?  What’s that?  For those old enough to remember watching the “Canonball Run” and “Canonball Run II” movies from 1981 and 1984 (Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, and Jackie Chan – YOU GUYS ROCK!) you read that correct! My brother and I were so (insert whatever censored curse word you want here, and some…) crazy enough to do a road trip similar to the Canonball movies.  Our blitz would take us from Toronto, Canada to Napa, California (and to San Francisco), then all the way back in less than 1 week!  We didn’t break any speed limits or do anything illegal, but we did have a lot of fun!  I’ll save the details of this trip, perhaps, for another post.

Anyways, back to the photography (sprinkled with a little bit about my trip) – the Ilford PanF 50 roll was still being developed while I was travelling.  So I did not know how the shots of the PanF came out – this was a blind taste test of the Delta!

This trek brought my brother and I screaming down (within the legal speed limit) the often smooth , fast in various sections (and, slow, under construction in others) concrete, flat-top, and often boring (did I mention flat-top? LONG stretches of it?) slab known as the U.S. Interstate 80.  We performed rotating 8 hour shifts at the wheel, sleeping when not driving. With no overnight stay or extended stopovers along the route until we reached Sacramento, I had very few chances to fire away any photos.

Photo of the Lincoln Monument along the U.S. Interstate 80

Stopped over at the Lincoln Monument along the U.S. Interstate 80.  Overcast and twilight conditions.

As you can see, I was still shaking the rust off – my first shot in this post was clearly underexposed (thanks Matrix metering!) but with what exposure I obtained on the film, I found the most dramatic clouds I had captured in a while.  I was making some proverbial “chimp” sounds (say it with me: “ooh, ohh, ahh!”) while playing with the jpeg scan’s curves during my post-processing.  I found this roll of Delta was very forgiving!  I also have to thank the folks at Downtown Camera‘s lab – an awesome job pulling everything possible off my film into the jpeg scan!

Humvee at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming

Humvee at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming.

Service Station at Pine Bluffs WY

Service Stations at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming

Making a stopover at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, in order to eat, I managed to get two shots off.  I had very little hope of seeing any sort of blue skies with puffy or wispy clouds.  I was starting to second guess my choice of film – ISO 100 is not great for handheld shots with a very overcast sky, but I tried to make the best of it when I pulled the camera out. Also, I pulled out my Nikon D300 digital SLR to take photos I really didn’t want to miss.

Back to the drive. I managed to wake up before we crossed the California border, with my brother still completing the last hour of his shift at the wheel.  The shot below was taken under an overcast sky, while we were hurtling on the tarmac at around 65-70 miles an hour, through the windshield of our car. The windshield was washed clean of any bug and bird splatter because of all the rain my brother had driven through an hour earlier.  As you might tell from the shot, he really wasn’t stopping for anything (this was because we both badly needed a washroom!)

I-80 at the Nevada-California Border

I-80 at the Nevada-California Border.  Photo taken while the car was in motion, through the windshield

We did make it to San Francisco!

Photo of the Golden Gate Bridge

Photo of the Golden Gate Bridge

Photo of Alvin at the Golden Gate Bridge

Photo of Alvin at the Golden Gate Bridge (credit: my brother)

The photos are provided above to attest to my brother and I making it to the Pacific, but sorry folks, I couldn’t take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge using the film – we woke up so late that we were time constrained.  Add to the fact that I was sneezing too much (I was already picking up a cold) to be able to take any decent photo.  Regardless, I did manage to get a photo after I had gotten more rest in the car and we were already well on our way home.

Recovering the sky - Photo of Donner Lake

Recovering some clouds in the sky – Photo of Donner Lake

Unadjusted photo of Donner Lake

Unadjusted photo of Donner Lake

Our route home was pretty much the same story – Jet down the U.S. I-80 as quickly as possible on 8 hour rotating shifts at the wheel, stopping only for washroom breaks, fuel and meals.  With so few chances to shoot, and my cold getting worse, I was conserving what little energy I had left for the drive home.

At the end of the trip, I had a few shots left and I didn’t want this film to go to waste.  What a better subject than my brother’s dog, Goji?  After getting the scans back from Downtown Camera, I played with the curves a bit since the original scan was a little blown out.  This was my favourite shot of Goji.

Goji - My brother's dog.

Goji – My brother’s dog.

After using up the roll and finally seeing the results, I have to say that Ilford’s Delta 100 film is quite unbelievable (not to mention the DC photo lab!) What I liked is that the jpeg scans are almost as forgiving as a digital raw taken from my D200 or D300!  I really wish that I had taken more photos with this film during this trip.  The film is very flexible and might just be able to put up with my tendancies to take a rushed “snapshot.” Will this be my everyday film?  I’m not sure yet – Ilford has so much more film to play with, and that has whet my appetite to try more film and simply shoot more, as you will soon discover.

…The very last shot in my roll. Taken while walking to DC.

Photo of Old Toronto City Hall

The south face of the Old Toronto City Hall clock tower, seen from Bay and King Streets. (resized, otherwise, unedited scan from negative)

As for the experience of this trip – I’d do this again all over again in a heartbeat, albeit at a more relaxed pace sprinkling an overnight stop or two and passing by more major cities (taking the I-70 instead). I’m sure my brother would whole-heartedly agree with me on those points.  Although my brother and I are best of friends, in the short, but rushed, time together we learned how much we’ve both grown, changed, and matured. It improved what we found out was an already excellent relationship.

Would I do something like this with my son? After what happened to my brother and me, most definitely!  I would recommend having a long father-son only trip to any father out there!  Fathers should have their son(s) take part in the planning too – learn what you both want to see and do – then just plain “play” and have fun together.  And while I’m on this note, let me close this entry by wishing a happy Father’s Day weekend to those fathers out there!

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