Travelling Italy with Ilford
January 16, 2018
My latest contribution to the offical Ilford Photo online magazine is LIVE.
You can read it here or below!
A medium for the moment . . .
I always travel with my 35mm SLR and a stack of Ilford HP5 and Ilford FP4 film. I definitely prefer the look and process of shooting film when traveling and photographing on the street. I find my small SLR with it’s 50mm lens is small and inconspicuous enough to capture intimate street portraits. Shooting everything on the same 50mm lens and film medium gives my work a consistent look and feel. I have always found shooting film slows down my process, it forces me to think more, wait, observe, find a better angle, connect with people before I photograph. I have a limited amount of shots and I always find my best work is shot on film for all of these reasons.
Old world charm . . .
I travel to Europe often for work and to see my family in Estonia. My last trip in 2016 took me to Italy to some amazing cities. So much of Italy’s charm and essence can be beautifully captured on black and white film. From the people endlessly roaming the streets, to the locals about their day, the vistas, the history and of course the stunning architecture. Italy has an old world charm that cries out for a medium which can capture its rawness, history and beauty.
Venice is an extraordinarily vibrant and beautiful city. I spent hours and hours wandering and getting lost in this maze of a city. It is refreshing to be in a city with no modern signage and limited billboards. It’s like going back in time.
Like most popular tourist destinations, Venice can somewhat be ruined by the immense amount of people visiting. Even in the off season it’s packed. However, if you want to experience this beautiful city without too many selfie sticks in your face and people pushing and shoving, you’ve got to be clever. Get out and about early, get lost in the back alleys and streets – there’s no one around, be patient, if you see a shot you want but there’s too many people around, just wait and you’ll get it and if you are stuck in the middle of the hysteria – embrace it and use people in your images.
Bellagio on Lake Como has beautiful gardens, awe inspiring views of the Swiss Alps, great restaurants and the most photogenic lane ways and streets. There was this beautiful fog in the air that hung over the lake and mountains, which softened the light wonderfully. I always prefer interesting and unusual weather over clear sunny skies, it always makes for better images and dynamic light.
With my trusty SLR in tow and a roll of Ilford HP5, I was ready for the beauty and grittiness of this town to present itself. I walked up and down steep cobblestone streets and through Piazzas with light streaming into alleys and lighting up stone buildings. The best thing about wandering around the streets of Siena is meeting the locals. Shop owners, artists and crowds of local people hanging out in the squares, telling stories and playing music. This place has so much vibe and energy. It’s moments like this I’m glad I shoot film, people are much more comfortable being photographed on a non-instant medium with a small manual camera. It’s much less intimidating and always a conversation starter.
Entering central Florence, walking through the cobbled streets, looking up at all of the magnificent architecture, I’m taken back in time. As I’m walking I’m wondering what it would have been like wandering these streets in the late 14th Century. Florence is a great city to just wander and photograph. From the busy centre streets, to the hills on the outskirts of town, to the small piazza’s filled with locals – it is a photographers dream.
I have definitely favoured Ilford HP5 on this trip, it gives me the ability to shoot in all kinds of light without having to change films. If I need a very shallow depth of field in bright sun, I simply add a neutral density filter. I love the grain and tone of HP5, It has molded my style and translated my vision.