Winter Landscapes on Kodak Portra

When reading about Kodak Portra film, its description will usually tell you about the great skin tones, natural colors and contrast, and fine grain. Before the currently Portra available films, there was VC (‘vibrant color’) and NC (‘natural color’) subtypes, which have been replaced by a new version in 2011.

Apart from portrait photography, Kodak’s Portra film also sees major use in landscape and travel photography due to the unique and natural reproduction and saturation of colours. However, how does Kodak Portra behave in predominantly white snowy landscapes?

Last January, I spent a day at the Swiss mountain village of Leukerbad. After taking the cable car up to the ‘house mountain’ Gemmi and its amazing panorama, I used a roll of Kodak Portra 160 to put the things I saw on film. I thought I lost the roll however, and only got to see the results after finding it 5 months later at the back of a shelf. I was amazed by the results and behaviour of the film, which displayed the alps in very distinctive tonality. The images were largely untouched, only with slightest brightness correction. Also, sitting exposed at room temperature at the back of a shelf, the colours still seemed very vivid.

Portra in Snow – Leukerbad

Portra in Snow-1

While the usual Portra images are known to be warm, the snow got reproduced with rather cool shades of blue. Take into account that most photo labs will perform color adjustments and apply presets. I still consider these observations relevant.
Shadows and mountain rock, depending on development, either in a slight red when underdeveloped, or slight green tone. The photographs, taken using a Leica M6, Summicron 35mm and Elmarit-M 90mm lenses, seem brilliantly sharp. The colour grain is prominent especially in darker skies, but not distractingly so. The noise that appears in homogenic colours (such as the sky) in these digital scans due to automatic sharpening is not too rough, and can easily be corrected in post-processing.

I am very impressed with the results delivered by the film. If you’re looking for a more neutral reproduction of snowy landscapes however, you might want to try a different type of film or perform some saturation adjustment in the darkroom or post-processing of scanned images. Or just ask your photo lab to skip any possible automated colour adjustments. I really like the images as they came, though.

Portra in Snow-6

Portra in Snow-5

Portra in Snow – Hotel Wildstrubel

Portra in Snow – Cable car

It is really interesting to see how the tonality of an image changes depending on the amount of exposure that reaches the negative. The Leica M6 features an exposure meter, which is a fantastic tool, but it still requires some individual exposure value correction depending on the character you’re aiming for in a photograph.

Portra in Snow – Hut

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Portra in Snow-7

There’s nothing as majestic as a mountain range up close. It is when us humans feel the smallest, and most insignificant.

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Portra in Snow – Hut

As if the grand mountainous landscapes and seas of white weren’t enough, I was lucky enough to have a very rare encounter with a bearded vulture, which, at first in far distance, suddenly cast its shadow over our heads with its 2.5m+ wingspan. I would have bet my money against the shot turning out properly focused and exposed (all done manually), but it proved that once again, as a photographer, you need a bit of luck by your side.

Portra in Snow - Vultures in distance

Portra in Snow – Bearded vulture

Developed and scanned at AG Photo Lab in Birmingham, UK. Many thanks to them once again for an amazing job, and also to all of you for reading.

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