Shooting in the Streets With an ISO 50 Film [Ilford Pan F Plus 50]

iso 50 film street photo

Images shot on Ilford Pan F Plus 50 in the Lomo LC-A

Shooting fluid scenes with moving subjects in changeable lighting conditions – i.e. out in the streets – with an ISO 50 film is not recommended.

Don’t get me wrong with that wording. I’m not recommending that you don’t do it. I’m just saying it’s hardly ever recommended anywhere that you do.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t, and that you won’t get some decent results if you do. I gave it a go with some Ilford Pan F Plus 50 in beautiful Barcelona and a few of the shots didn’t turn out too bad.

Read on to see what you think, and get some tips, insights, rationalisation and perhaps even some recommendations for trying this yourself too.

A quick primer on shooting different ISO films out here

Before we go on, let’s just explain what we’re talking about here. It’s really just about understanding the exposure triangle, or how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together.

If you already know this, scroll on to the good stuff.

But in a nutshell, if you want sharp photographs, you need a fast enough shutter speed to ensure they don’t have either motion blur (of elements in the shot) or camera shake (from your hands or the mechanism).

The next image here is an example of the latter, from this very roll. We’ll have some motion blur later too. I promise.

A higher ISO film will give you more shutter speed at the same aperture than a lower ISO film, so people tend to prefer those for street photography and the like. An Ilford HP5 Plus 400 or a Kodak Tri-X 400 for monochrome, or a Kodak Ultramax 400 or a Portra 400 for colour perhaps.

With an ISO 50 film such as Ilford Pan F, you’re going to get about one eighth of the speed you’d get with an ISO 400 one in the same light and with the same aperture set.

In my experience, ISO 200 films like Kodak Gold or ColorPlus have always been fine for shooting out in the streets. ISO 100 ones like this Kentmere Pan have too, so long as you have enough light.

An ISO 50 film though? I think we’re right on the limit, no matter how good the light is. As you’ve just seen, not every shot worked here. Those that failed would have stood more of a chance with a higher ISO film, too.

But let’s move on to some that did come out okay.

From the two pools to the three chimneys

This walk with the Lomo LC-A loaded with the aforementioned Ilford Pan F 50 began up at the swimming and diving pools at Montjuïc. The ones built for and made famous by the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

I didn’t get any photographs there on this roll, because I wanted to shoot that place in colour and with a wider lens. I did that later, with some Kodak Ektachrome E100 in the Pentax MX with the 28mm f3.5, and will link to them once they’re published on here.

For this day, the plan was just to wander the streets a little with the basic LC-A and let the contrast of the late afternoon sun work its magic on a set of monochrome images.

I didn’t have a map; just a metaphorical compass. Barceloneta beach was the end destination, and I would just encounter whatever I encountered on the way there.

Looking down from Montjuïc though, I spotted the three chimneys you see in the above photograph and the one below. They looked interesting. Like a more industrial sibling of the great Sagrada Familia.

So that’s where I went first.

The following shots were taken on the descent to Les Tres Xemeneies, as the Three Chimneys are called in Catalan, and I think they show one thing is possible with an ISO 50 film at least.

That if everything in your shot is pretty static, you’ll be fine shooting it out in the streets.

Compose for buildings. Do some calm architecture work rather than busy people. Us the light and shadows. But more so the light.

You need there to be good light.

Struggling for speed at the Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies

I’d never heard of Les Tres Xemeneies before I went to Barcelona, which means two things. I didn’t know what I’d find there when I was on my way, and I knew nothing about its history once I did arrive and saw how cool the place was.

We can address that information gap here though with the following blurb:

The Three Chimneys were part of the old Paral·lel power station, which was also known as La Canadiense. The Canadian. This power station played a crucial role in the city’s industrial growth in the early 20th century, and those remaining chimneys are now a symbol of Barcelona’s industrial heritage.

The site as a whole underwent various transformations once the power station shut down, but is currently a public space that’s used for urban art and music events.

It’s also a canvas for street artists, with plenty of graffiti and murals giving it its vibe, as the kids say. And skateboarding. Ramps have been installed and there were plenty of people using them.

This was good for me, as it allows me to show you what not to try to do with some ISO 50 film.

There’s some of that motion blur I promised you earlier.

You see, buildings don’t move. So you’re alright photographing them with a slower shutter speed. People too. Even if they’re walking, they’re probably walking relatively slowly. Relative to people on skateboards, that is.

I tried to get some action shots of these guys. I was a little too ambitious.

Motion blur on the skaters themselves and some camera shake overall too. May as well throw in some lens flare while we’re here.

They just didn’t come out very well.

Moving on and finding a festival

It was time to leave the Three Chimneys behind and head on towards the beach.

I still wouldn’t arrive there for some time, what with finding something worth shooting at every single corner I walked around and every street I crossed in this beautiful city, but I was at least going in the right direction.

Unbeknownst to me, there was a festival going on at the nearby Moll de la Fusta – the large open promenade that overlooks Barcelona’s harbour.

Perhaps I should have done some more research beforehand. But then again, it’s always nice to stumble upon unexpected things when you’re travelling. Festivals, century-old power stations. That kind of thing.

Before reaching it though, I took a few more street shots. I think a couple of these have slight camera shake, again. But not to the extent that they’re not worth posting.

From looking at the next image below, I can tell you the unexpected festival was in fact the Jazz & Food Festival. Which was good in some ways, and less good in others. Because I’m not really a fan of jazz, but I do like food.

Not that I bought any of the latter whilst there, and I did have to listen to the former whilst walking around taking these photographs.

But hey, live music is live music, and even jazz is better than nothing. I was just happy to be in amongst people having a good time in the sunshine. Because that’s what I was doing too.

This was my first day in Barcelona, my first walk out of my small hotel room with no external windows, and nothing was going to ruin my mood.

Not even jazz.

Finishing this Pan F off at the fairground

I should be more careful with my subheadings. They shouldn’t have phrases like f off in them really.

But I really did need to finish this roll of film before I lost the light that day, and wanted to be at the beach before sunset too, so I moved on from the Jazz & Food Festival and continued on down to Barceloneta.

Walking along the promenade alongside Passeig de Colom, shooting whatever I felt might look nice bathed in the golden hour sun, everything just seemed right with the world.

Until I saw a Russian Z symbol painted on the flowerbed. That did dampen the mood a bit.

By now the sun was getting low and the shadows were getting long.

Really long.

So long that if you wanted to shoot with the sun behind you, as I felt I should with this low ISO film, your own shadow is going to be in the image. There was no way around this.

You either accept it’s going to be in there, or you don’t take the shots.

I chose option one. Because it’s better to do than not to do.

The final little set of images on this Ilford Pan F 50 is from something else I came across on my way to the beach.

A fairground, being held at the Moll de la Barceloneta.

Ideal for finishing off the roll, I thought. So long as nothing is moving too quickly for my shutter speed.

I have to assume that everything in the first shot below was stationary when I took it. If a bloke on a skateboard is going to cause motion blur, a machine built with the sole purpose of spinning around really fast surely would have too.

As it turned out, that’s one of my favourite images from this whole thing. Lucky timing, but I do like it.

And of course, a Ferris wheel from beneath. If you walk past a Ferris wheel with a film camera and don’t take a picture looking up at it from below, are you even a film photographer, bro?

Wrapping up shooting this ISO 50 film in the streets

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first walk around on my first day in Barcelona. I had another four or so days there, and I shot plenty more rolls of film as I explored around.

However these images came out, I’d had a good time making them. That said, of course it would have been frustrating if they were all bad. But in the end, most of them weren’t.

Shooting an ISO 50 film out in the streets though. Can you? Should you?

I think this has proven that yes, you can.

But whether you should or not is up to you.

I’ll say this… there were some shots here that definitely would have come out better with more shutter speed. Be that because of motion blur or camera shake. I got both.

I think the camera choice contributed to that. I do love the Lomo LC-A, but maybe using something like Pentax MX where I can set the shutter speed myself would have been better here.

An ISO 400 film like Ilford HP5 would certainly have helped too , although the results wouldn’t have been as clean as the decent ones here. More grain, less sharpness.

You don’t have to go this far, though. I believe something like a Kentmere Pan 100 would have delivered similar photographs as the ones here with this Pan F 50, and I’d have had double the shutter speed too.

You do you, of course. Try some Pan F. Knock yourself out. Let me know how it goes.

But for me I think, in the future, I’ll go no lower than ISO 100 when walking and shooting in the streets.

In terms of balancing the good results vs the risk of them not coming out very well, there’s just not really any need to.

If you enjoyed that write-up on shooting some low ISO film in Barcelona and want to read some more analogue photography essays, why not have a look at some of these:

And if you think others will find this post worth a read, help them see it by giving it a share 😀

written by
LEE WEBB
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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