I Shot a Roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 on Pentax 6×7 by Thomas Domise

Feb 11, 2020
6 min read

I will spent the winter near the small city of Nyons in the Drôme Provençale in France.
I would like to walk in the streets, talk to people and take their portraits. This would be a first for me!

– Thomas Domise –

What a fantastic opportunity I had thanks to On Film Only! I came to know that project fairly late but as soon as I read about it, I knew what I wanted to try.

I am a big lover of Kodak’s films and Tri-X 400 is my go to for black and white as Portra 400 is my go to for colours. So, since it wasn’t really to test the film, I had to do something special for me.

When I presented the project to Vincent of shooting strangers in the small town of Nyons in the south of France, he granted me a roll of Kodak of Tri-X to do it. This is very different to what I usually shoot, and shooting stranger is really scary for me. I usually just love to shoot people who simply want to be in front of the camera!

Anyway, I tried several times to wander in the streets of Nyons and ask people but, I was simply too afraid to do it.

Then I received the roll from On Film Only, I had to do it, I didn’t want to chicken out so I had to do it… Every Thursday there is a market in Nyons, I chose the first “sunny” one but still very cold. I loaded my Pentax 6×7 with that roll of Tri-X, grabbed my lightmeter and just went to shoot 10 strangers!

On my arrival to Nyons, we were walking towards the market with my wife and my mother in law (who came with me to do their shopping while I was shooting 🙂 ) and I saw this beautiful lady with her black coat and black hat and wonderful pearls earring. I knew I had to ask her, the project had to start now, with her… I took all my courage and walked straight to her and went:

“Hello, I gave myself an assignment where I want to take portraits of people I don’t know in the streets, would you be ok if I take your portrait?” She looked at me surprised and flattered and then just said with a big smile: “Yes, why not if it makes you happy!”

So, I took my first portrait:

Oh my god! I was so happy and excited by this first encounter!

And then I kept walking to spot people I wanted to shoot, some were busy so, I patiently had to wait for them to be available like this hat seller:

But it was definitely worth it! We had some good talk and people were generally happy to be photographed. Some were even more grateful to see someone ask for once like this records seller who sincerely thanked me for asking him permission to photograph him. He was really shy and turned his head just when I took the first shot. Yes, the Pentax 6×7 is not the quickest camera and it was critical to get the focus right, so I took a second one 🙂

I also meet another nice man who gave me useful advice on what I should do or add when I want to take portraits of people in the streets. He told me I should ask for people details and then send them the photos, it’s definitely what I will do next time but on this day with the stress I just wanted to take photos of people and then runaway very quick to send the roll to Carmencita lab 😉

So, I kept walking, I had a roll of film to finish, and I met this very joyful lady who was selling eggs and one of her customer:

Walking the streets with a Pentax 6×7 is certainly a nice way to make wonderful portraits and meet incredible people. Even if we were on a very small market in the South of France, I was very glad to be able to speak English or I wouldn’t have the next one:

When I started to do my little speech, he let me finish and told me in English “Sorry, I didn’t get a word”. Haha, nevermind, I did it again in English and he gave me that beautiful smile!

I am very familiar with shooting people with the Pentax 6×7 and I am totally in love with the rendition of the 105mm 2.4 . It calmed down my Gear Acquisition Syndrome for good!

But shooting strangers was totally new and I am now really glad I did it. I used the same setting for everyone for the focus. Set the minimum focus distance on the lens and then went as close as required to the people to get their eyes sharp. It also gave a consistant framing between portraits which was precisely what I wanted.

It was a bright day and the Kodak Tri-X 400 didn’t fail to impress me again. No wonder why that’s my go to film! Wide open (2.4) and a maximum speed of 1/1000 could be insufficient to cope with the 400 ISO but I didn’t compromise and overexposed by 1 or 2 stop in some cases and they all came out beautiful thanks to the incredible versatility of this film and the fantastic work of Carmencita lab.

When I left the city, I had one more frame to shoot and though I could use it to frame the action… Here is the beautiful town of Nyons and its famous roman bridge.

One of the many reasons I love to shoot film is for the number of keepers… With the Pentax 6×7, you have 10 shots. On this roll, I kept 8! One rejected is when the record seller just moved when I clicked and the other one was because I knocked my speed knob and put it in between speeds which gave me a totally black over exposed frame when I was shooting the “Egg lady”.

Thanks again very much to On Film Only, Kodak and Carmencita lab for giving me this opportunity to start something new! I will definitely go back in the streets to shoot more people 😉

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