Week 28: Cinestill 800 takes on Frankfurt in the dead of the night

Armed with a few rolls of the wonderful Cinestill 800T (T for Tungsten balanced) film, I went out after hours in search of neon lights and empty spaces.

Cinestill film is the genius child of the Brothers Wright team, who have managed to re-package and modify Kodak film that is used for cinematography into a 35mm and 120mm version for photographers. This is accomplished by removing a layer from the film to make it suitable for standard still photography lab processing (aswell as some other technical modifications), leaving us with an ISO 800 Tungsten balanced film. Cinestill is available in both ISO 50 and 800 variations, although only the 800 variation is available in 120mm film format (which I used for this week's post).

The precise name of the layer removed from this film is the 'Remjet' layer, an anti-halation layer that, according to Cinestill, "acts as to protect from base scratches, static, and halation of highlights in exposure". So what does this all mean? What is "Halation"...?

Halation is the reflection of bright points of light off of the film base and pressure plate causing a "glow" in the strong highlights on some images. This is most evident when light sources are in focus in the photograph. Halation is a common characteristic of classic black and white photography and in some aerial photographic emulsions.

Why is all of this important? All the clearer when you see the photographs, and most notably bright sources of light, which end up becoming very dominant and bright red, although I quite like the effect if captured in moderation.

When to use Cinestill 800T

According to Cinestill, use when photographing:
   - tungsten/incandescent light
   - candle light
   - fluorescent light
   - mixed tungsten and fluorescent
   - mixed tungsten and limited daylight

Tungsten balanced is at the very other end of the white balance scale from normal "Daylight" film (which most film is balanced to) meaning it is most appropriate to the warm tungsten lighting eminating from neon signs and street lighting.

So, when better to test out this film than in the middle of the night with plenty of fluorescent light! I have also tried this film during the day (although it requires a filter to get the white balance right), and it produces incredible results.

But for this week's photographs - it's all about the night time! I was inspired by the work of Levi Wedel and his Invisible City project, so I ventured out between 03:30 and 05:30 in search of some interesting scenes with plenty of light and no people!

Breakfast is set and ready @ the new Sofitel hotel
Deserted gym. The fluorescent lights caught my attention. Slight light leak on the right of the image, this film is super sensitive to light leaks apparently.
Even the escalators go to sleep. Check out the red street light at the top, you can see the effect of the anti-halation layer being removed. Otherwise a very clear shot as it is IS0 800.
Probably my favourite shot of the roll. A very eerie loking scene next to the supermarket, I really like how well this film captures the available light in such a low light situation.
Close to sunrise over the Main river, look at the effect of the street lighting! Pretty cool, although it can be a bit overpowering and dominate the photo too much. Look how clear the reflection of the bridge on the water is - talk about flat water!
Also works well with greens - I really like how well this film captures neon / fluorescent lighting.
Very clear colours. I think the weird effect of street lighting occurs with longer exposures. All the bridge shots were shot with a longer exposure than this shot below.
Empty centre of town -  the shop lighting looks like its alive and glowing with the effect from this film - pretty cool!
A very empty Frankfurt - Hauptwache area..
One of my favourite viewing points of the Frankfurt skyline. I really like how clear the water reflection is, although the streetlights are a bit too overpowering here.
The old ECB building, where the € sign still stands. This was taken handheld without a tripod, very impressive clarity!
I thought the lighting was good here and decided for a low angle to play around with the focus point and depth of field. I would have prefered it if that car was not there but given it was 5am, the owner was nowhere to be seen!
That is the bridge the other Frankfurt skyline photo (above) was shot from. As with all the riverside photographs, the stillness of the water was incredible. I really like how well this film is able to capture the little light available and make it so clear. Again, crazy streetlighting going on!
Traffic light trails. This shot is actually cropped quite a lot from the original. I am impressed at how clear it is, as usually cropping reduces clarity and overall resolution. Shooting medium format film with the Hasselblad continues to amaze me.

Overall impressions

Cinestill is one of the best films I have used, period. Yes, the lack of anti-halation layer can be a bit strange, especially if you have a lot of street lighting in your image, but overall the film is really wonderful. I really look how well it captures the mood in scenes with lots of neon / fluorescent lighting. This film would be fantastic in a city like New York at night I would say. As I have used it during daylight before, it also produces wonderful colours for portraits. A great all round film with that special cinema look - you cannot go wrong, subject to knowing how to use it properly!

I cannot wait to try it in its 35mm format, and especially its ISO 50 version during a bright summer's day for portraits.

So there you have it, another week done and dusted! Week 29 sees some crazy high ISO 1600 colour film, and week 30 some experimental day and night black & white photography. And who said 'film' was dead?!

See you next time!