Portra, M6, 28mm


Photo made in Dunken, New Mexico, March 8, 2018

During the final stages of A PLAIN VIEW being bound in San Antonio, Armand from Denton Camera Exchange and I headed for Los Angeles by road, my preferred method of travel statestside 

Felt good hitting the road again  

Hadn’t used the Leica M6 much over the past year or so. Felt like the time to dust it off

The last road trip to and from Los Angeles, I had the Mamiya C330. My absolute favorite TLR camera. It’s a bit more cumbersome, though 

Was nice to have the M6 for this trip; more exposures on a roll, no handheld light meter

Just the M6, the first film camera I ever bought, back in 2002, and a handful of rolls of Portra 400, which I overexposed a stop (process normal) 

We left Denton in the afternoon of March 7, headed to Fort Worth on 35W, connected with Highway 20 southwest 

Made my first exposures in Blue Mound, TX

Took a little upswing off Highway 20 to Mineral Wells, TX 

Had heard quite a bit about that little place and the old hotel that can be seen from the distance as you make your way toward town

As I’ve mentioned before about Texas, so many of its small towns are uniquely cinematic to most places I’ve roamed and photographed  

Indescribable. The quiet, the emptiness; this is what always grabs me the most. Even when there’s human presence, the pace of it all feels different than other places

When we rolled up to Mineral Wells, as always happens when you discover ‘one of those places,’ I knew it was great. And pictures flash in your head; movie references, memories, and feelings 

Somehow, especially when I’m using color films, it’s always a cinematic sense; movie-related  

Moods are so incredibly key in determining what to document  

These places, and the colors, the sky, the shapes and placement of things. The weather, when it’s crisp; the air, thin and cool, and that sharp Winter/Spring Southwest lighting 

Nothing like it  

For years, and most of the time, I’m using black-and-white films 

My favorite color film, for 35mm, is Fujicolor C200 

I like Portra but hadn’t used any fresh stock, or in 35mm, in a number of years 

For A PLAIN VIEW, I exposed quite a few expired 4x5 sheets of it, and I liked the outcome, but no fresh 35mm Portra in a long time 

Until this trip  

I’d loved Portra 400nc years back when they were still making it  

Wasn’t sure about the now ‘standard’ Portra I was using on the trip

But I love it. ESPECIALLY as it rendered through the 1974 28mm Elmarit lens I borrowed from Armand (28mm and 35mm focal lengths are my preference) 

Never quite understand the need to use the best, most expensive glass 

I suppose it comes down to what look and feel you’re after 

But for me, I prefer imperfections, lower contrast, something a bit faded, pleasant, temperate  

Especially with what I document and how much these things seem to demand something a bit more ‘even,’ particularly when using color films

But even when using black-and-white films, I prefer to overexpose and at times pull the films

I like more open and flatter photos; faded colors and grayer blacks  

Henry Wessel does this with his black-and-white films. I enjoy his photos 

The old 28mm, non-aspherical lens I was using, coupled with the overexposed Portra 400, proved to be a nice way to go  

I’ll be revisiting this combo again  

Armand I spent another couple days on the road, exposing film in New Mexico, Arizona, and, lastly, the California desert, before rolling into Los Angeles 

I exposed 5 rolls of film heading west

There will always be more roaming. Or one can only hope it never ceases

For me, there’s nothing like it ... 



Jason Lee1 Comment