One of the first film photo essays I published on this site showed what I got from a roll of Ilford Pan 400 that I shot around Shanghai. If you’ve not seen it, you can go take a look here.
I said at the time that I found the budget Ilford film to be a bit too grainy for my tastes. It wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t in any rush to buy any more.
And then somehow I ended up with another roll of it, and I can’t quite remember how or why. The only thing I can think of is I needed the box to take the photo for the review I did of it.
Regardless, once I had it, there was no reason not to shoot it. So I loaded it into the cheap old Olympus Supertrip and repeated what I’d done at the very beginning of this hobby. Shot a roll of Ilford Pan 400 around Shanghai.
Shooting the Shanghai square dancers
If you ever take an evening walk in a Chinese city, it’s a good bet you’ll come across a bunch of locals doing some sort of square dancing. That is, dancing in squares or plazas or just on spacious street corners.
You get all types of routines being practised too. Some groups go traditional Chinese, while others prefer some sort of Latin ballroom stuff. I’m not knowledgeable enough to be any more specific than that.
This group I saw were doing something different still. Less of a dance and more of a walking-around-in-a-circle-doing-some-exercise.
I can’t imagine people doing similar where I come from without getting heckled by the local youth, which is something of a shame. Better to be up and exercising than wasting away in front of the television, in my opinion.
A quick note on the image quality itself, too. The light was fading fast but I wasn’t too bothered about getting the greatest set from this film, so I just shot anyway without thinking too much.
They’re not the sharpest or best composed I’ve ever done, but the ISO 400 rating meant I got something halfway presentable, so I have to be appreciative of the Ilford Pan for that.
Group activities in the park
Another good spot to find and photograph people doing stuff together, especially in the daytime, is the park. Depending on which park of course, but most of the big ones have something going on.
Fuxing Park in the Former French Concession is always lively, and that’s where these next three photographs were taken.
You’ve got some of that ballroom dancing we mentioned earlier, as well as the traditional Chinese pastimes tai chi and playing cards for money while smoking loads.
Again, the shots vary in sharpness, thanks to the shitty camera challenge-worthy Olympus Supertrip, and that’s again perfectly fine. The least-sharp shot here – the one of the dancers – is my favourite of the trio.
Back at the old street and Yuyuan
When you spent so long in one city, it becomes inevitable that you’ll return to the same place a few times to shoot. I like to vary things as much as possible, but it’s not always easy.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shot at the touristy Old Street and Yuyuan Gardens. A couple of shots from that first roll of Ilford Pan 400 photo essay are from there, as well as the first roll I shot in my Yashica Electro and even one on Fujifilm Instax.
While not ideal, going back to a shooting location over and over at least means you know what you’re going to get. I suppose it presents another challenge, which is always a good thing, in that you have to work to make your photographs different to before.
I think I got decent enough variety here. Construction workers, a spooky shopkeep, some sleeping dogs, and a bunch of folk sitting around doing not much in particular.
And all with yet more varying degrees of sharpness, thanks once again – I think – to the Olympus.
The final, miscellaneous street shots from this roll of Ilford Pan 400
It’s been nice to be able to present some mini-sets in this single roll of film, be they grouped by subject or location. And we’re still not done yet, although all that’s left to show are the random street-style stragglers I shot as well.
As I wasn’t too bothered about what I really got from this Ilford Pan 400, I remember walking around with one directive in mind. That was mainly to find good light, wait until someone – really anyone – entered it, and just shoot.
The most notable exception, and one of my favourite shots from the entire roll, is the wedding photography scene, which had a workable background in lieu of good light.
Most of the others aren’t without their faults, but as part a collection of images shot on a film I was really just shooting to use up in a camera that cost me £1.99, I think they’re worth sharing.
Wrapping up this roll of Ilford Pan 400
Another roll of film shot, another blog post written and published. In truth, it doesn’t matter what the film actually was, what camera was used, or if any of the photographs are among my best.
It’s all about keeping on creating. That’s something I’ve said numerous times on here but I hope the message sticks with you. Whatever type of photography it is you do, the important thing is that you do it.
Ilford Pan 400 is a film they make as a budget choice for some of the smaller markets. The last time I checked, it wasn’t available in the US, for example.
Or don’t. Shoot something else. Shoot digital. So long as you’re making something and enjoying it, I don’t care.
I went out with a cheap old point ‘n’ shoot and a film I’m not that big a fan of and had fun making a bunch of photographs that I think are, for the most part, not too bad.
Has it been too long since you did something similar? 🙂