Shades of Gray: Part III

| posted on January 15, 2013

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

The five photos pictured below were shot on Agfa Scala transparency film, a past favorite among professionals, now long dead. Overly maligned for having an inherent black within its grain pattern, Scala had incredible mid-tone performance, and just got contrast-ier the more you push-processed it. It was an ideal mono-tonal film for surf photography because it was relatively fast, provided ever-so-slight edging and detail to white water, and had just enough grain to soften a portrait. Through grit and the illusion of depth, Scala offered a visual realism that, in my opinion, is still unmatched by digital capture.

Because of its inability to produce pure whites, Scala never fit the exact parameters laid down by the traditional ten-zone sensitometric system. As such, Scala was a rebellious little con artist that, if guided by a knowledgeable photographer, could achieve visual fidelity through other means. By older standards, Scala cheated the system by using its own luminance-achieving methods. But since suspending viewer belief and seamlessly transporting one to the scene at hand are the ultimate goals, Scala was a success nonetheless.

Unidentified, Off The Wall. Photo: Gilley

Carlos Burle, Mavericks. Photo: Gilley

Unidentified, Santa Barbara. Photo: Gilley

Keith Malloy, Tahiti. Photo: Gilley

Pete Mendia, Taiwan. Photo: Gilley

  • john jacob

    bringing back the grey tones! film lives!

  • Moke Nation

    Scalia–Deader than a box of twinkies.

    We love you Gilley, but it’s time to move on. Close the door on your old love affairs and flings, because in this case, there is no going back. Scalia now joins Kodachrome 64 and all those other beautiful films that have had painful deaths…..

    Here’s to Tri-X pushed two stops!

  • Ranga

    @Moke Nation, just let Gilley live.

  • G

    I know nothing about film and yet truly enjoyed reading this. I can see how this film had a personality and a quality that one could miss. It is better to have loved…
    Thanks for sharing. And I knew nothing about film.

  • Todd Glaser

    I went to Brooks photography school and we were taught how to shoot digital photos. I wish we would been tought by you Rob.

    Everything I have learned in school has not been used in my work in the surf industry. But I did learn that composition is everything.