Shades of Gray: Part IV

| posted on January 23, 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-gaining methods. But since suspending viewer belief and seamlessly transporting one to the scene at hand are the ultimate goals, Scala was a success nonetheless.

In a way Scala looked at the traditional ten-zone system and said, “You know what, you old fart? I’m going to take your overly-anal ten-zone system and reduce it to five, Chachi.”

So if you like how these black and white photos look, please join me and raise your goblet to the memory of Agfa Scala, the rebel with a noble cause.

Waimea Bay, Oahu. Photo: Gilley

Trestles, Orange County. Photo: Gilley

Car View, Eastern Canada. Photo: Gilley

Mike Todd, Seychelles. Photo: Gilley

Cylinders, Orange County. Photo: Gilley

  • William Bay

    Goblet raised my friend. You’re a man after my own heart.

    I never did stray away from Tri-x and HC-110 when it came to film. Still shoot it today actually (here’s a Scorpion Bay trip ).

    I was impressed what I saw out of Fuji Acros in 35mm on a desert shoot last year. It scanned really well.
    Speaking of which, did Scala not scan well, the images with wide low value areas above have some serious banding issues.

    I do love the tones. Agfa did have some quality b+w products.

    btw, I found one of your photos on a facebook page called Imperial Beach Surfing Photos ( I think Serge started it).
    I was stoked to see you made it down to our little corner of the world.

  • John

    This recurring section is getting old. A lot of these would have looked better in color.

  • Rob Gilley

    Death before digital. Yes this recurring section is getting old.

  • eric

    epic photos gilley. emulsion based images aren’t dead.

  • Steve Wimer

    I loved the B&W shots of Ron Stoner, Steve Wilkings, and Jeff Divine. No one has taken color shots that compare with Stoner’s shots of Black’s and the Ranch.

  • James

    Film is an amazing and still 100% valid medium.
    Well shot and scanned medium format film sh*ts on your 5d markiii’s

  • James

    Great post Sir Gilley. Absolutely inspiring imagery, and intriguing text. Please, keep it up!

  • Jason Reimer

    Anyone know if you can still get it processed? I still have a roll in the fridge. I’ve only ever shot it one other time, but loved it. I wish I could get a few sheets of it in 8×10…