Kodak Portra 400 & Yashica 635 TLR

Early morning winter sun, Murano, Italy. Yashica 635 TLR & Kodak Portra 400.

I visited Venice back in February 2017, and took along my Yashica 635 TLR as my only camera. I shot 8 rolls of Ilford HP5, but I also took a roll of Kodak Portra 400, and on a sunny day decided to give it a try. This was the very first roll of colour film I have shot in medium format.

The winter sun was bright, but low, casting dark shadows amongst areas of brightly lit buildings and scenery, which made it challenging to shoot.

Rather than stick to the main island of Venice, I visited some of the smaller islands, starting with Murano, famous for it’s blown glass and brightly coloured houses. It is a quieter and quainter version of Venice.

The above shot was taken along one of the canals looking towards the lagoon. The Portra has captured both the highlights and the shaded areas well. I think the 400 speed was the right choice for this mix of light and shadow.

Door to door delivery, Burano, Italy. Yashica 635 TLR & Kodak 400.

It sounds obvious that Venice and all it’s islands need all the same services as any other city, town or village, but it is not until you see the everyday things like deliveries to small shops in action, that you realise this. I loved watching all the adaptations that had to be made to achieve the normal things you take for granted in a land based town or city.

Once again in the above photo the Portra has captured the pastel colours of the buildings well, with plenty of detail in the shaded area, and a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the surface of the water.

Getting the bus, Murano, Italy. Yashica 635 TLR & Kodak Portra 400.

Even something as mundane as getting the bus was more interesting here. The Vaporetto ‘river bus’ service ws one of the most frequent and most conveniant bus services I have ever used.

yashica 635 tlr kodak portra 400 murano italy street canal river houses boats 120 medium format film bell tower leaning Leaning bell tower, Murano, Italy. Yashica 635 TLR & Kodak Portra 400.

With the above photo, it was not the light that was challenging, but framing the shot. I deliberately restricted myself to a TLR to avoid things like lens choices, so I could concentrate on the actual photos, however in Murano and the other islands, you cannot keep moving backwards across the street to ‘zoom out’ else you fall in the canal. For this shot I had my heels over the edge of the canal, a little unerving. The Portra has not saturated the colors, they appear as they looked. I am not an expert on colour film, but perhaps something like Ektar would have enriched the colour too much.

Winters sun, Torcello, Italy. Yashica 635 TLR & Kodak Portra 400.

The final two photos are from Torcello. If Venice is a bustling city, Torcello is a small hamlet with a handful of buildings, a large cathedral, some amazing restaurants and lots of farmland. If you visit Venice, the smaller islands are well worth the trip on the Vaporetto.

These two shots were taken on an open sided stone arch bridge, one shot in either direction along the canal. This is about as developed as Torcello gets. The Portra has captured the winter colours very well. Apart from dust removal, I do not play with my photos, I like the film to capture the scene as it looked, and I think Portra does this very well. I have several rolls left and look forward to shooting those this summer when the sun returns.

yashica 635 tlr kodak portra 400 torcello italy street canal river houses boats 120 medium format film Winters day, Torcello, Italy. Yashica 635 TLR & Kodak 400 Portra.

To sum up, I like Portra 400. The photos look as they would had you been there. The grain is nice and low, helped by the medium format, even when blown up larger.

The Portra has worked well the the Yashica 635, the lens staying sharp and the small lens hood preventing any lens flare. I love the simplicity of the 635, it makes shooting far more enjoyable having less choices to make, which more than makes up for the lack of a zoom facility for wide angle shots.

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