Being Unprepared for the Mekhong Delta

mekong3

Currently two friends from home (Dublin) are traveling throughout Vietnam. Their journey is ending here in Saigon and so we planned to do some of the more touristy things while they were here.

To say our trip to the Mekong Delta taught me a few harsh lessons about getting back into film is a bit of an understatement to say the least.

I’ve visited the Mekong previously three or four times and so I knew what to expect. Because of this I also knew what images I wanted to capture while we were there.

The strongest image that stood out to me was the one you see above, of the My Thuan Bridge which spans the river.

I also had some shots in mind of things like the giant Budda statues we would see at the pagoda stop on the way and some images of local villages.

Giant Budda, poorly focused. Mekong Delta, 2015
Giant Budda, poorly focused. Mekong Delta, 2015

Underprepared

For some reason (maybe as it’s been so long since I shot film) I felt that three rolls would be enough. I very quickly found out I was wrong when I ran out of film just over half way through the day. It was incredibly frustrating and so when I dropped those rolls off that night to be developed and was asked how many more rolls I wanted for the Cu Chi trip, my response was ‘How many have you got?’

I bought seven.

New Camera

I no longer have any doubt in my mind that my Phenix, in a word, sucks.

It doesn’t focus correctly and I am now also convinced the meter is not working correctly. The batteries are new so it’s a problem with the meter itself. Throughout the day I found myself relying on the meter too much (another reason I plan to buy a meterless camera, to remove that crutch and force myself to really improve my light judging skills) and so around a third of the images were way over exposed.

Mekong Delta, November 2015
Mekong Delta, November 2015

Pushing HP5

Pushing Tri-X to 1600 is something I really like, for it’s contrast and extra grain. I am starting to look towards pushing to only 800 after shooting with Ilford HP5 on the Delta. The amount of grain in the HP5 compared to Tri-X I found to be a little much, even for me.

Mekong Delta, November 2015
Mekong Delta, November 2015

Scanning

Half of the images were scanned and saved as JPEG and half were saved as TIFF. Having them saved as TIFF costs an extra $.50 and the difference, to me at least, was huge in terms of the quality of the scan. Going forward I’ll be having everything scanned to TIFF and once I start scanning myself I’ll be happy to give up the extra memory and time to get that step up in quality.

Mekong Delta, November 2015
Mekong Delta, November 2015

Now the day wasn’t a total wash. I did come away with around five images I am happy enough with but I now am even more excited to upgrade my camera and start developing my own film and finding what works for me.

Lessons learned.

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