Travel Prints: Manhattan Film Photography

NYC film 2019 3.jpg

The only place I’ve photographed more than my hometown of Asheville is New York City. In the past year, after 3 trips, I’ve shot somewhere close to 15 rolls of film in Manhattan alone, which has given me the chance to practice my street photography in the city which birthed the genre.

There’s not much I can say in the way of describing each location that I haven’t said already, so instead I’ll share my aim for each type of film and why I chose to use it at that time. This is, by far, my favorite set of travel photos to date because I was finally comfortable photographing people at close range, so I captured a wide mix of photos of people going about their day, environmental portraits showing people interacting with the city background, and architectural shots.

I purchased the majority of this film at B&H Photo and Video once we arrived, then developed and scanned all of it myself when I got home. There’s nothing better for a creative break than analog photography in NYC!

Cinestill 800t on Mamiya 645

Central Park

Halfway through this very first roll, I actually tripped on the curb while walking and photographing. The back of my camera opened up so I lost half the roll to light leak, but still managed to capture a few favorites. I love how well Cinestill pulls out the moodiness of a cloudy day, saturating reds and blues while desaturating the warmer yellow hues, so I decided to start off this photographic practice with the motion picture film while we walked through mist-blanketed Central Park.

Ilford Delta 400 on Vivitar v3800n

Lower East Side, Roosevelt Tram, MoMA

After shattering the UV cover on my medium format, I thought it safer to switch back to the 35mm for the rest of the day. I was still a little shaken, so cheered myself up by shooting my very favorite film. I love Manhattan in black and white, just the right amount of film grain creates a timeless effect so that the photos could have come from any decade.

Ilford HP5+ on Mamiya 645

Upper West Side

Once I was brave enough to pick the 645 back up, I popped in my other favorite black and white film - also from Ilford, of course. It’s a little punchier but with good dynamic range, which was perfect for our sunny day capturing the high contrast window reflections, pedestrians’ shadows and even faces of people walking towards me.

JCH StreetPan 400

Now, as far as high contrast goes, StreetPan definitely takes the cake. I typically save this for really sunny days so that I can create silhouettes and make use of natural spotlights to highlight my subject while sending everything else to black. Our High Line walk was the perfect opportunity for StreetPan since the direct winter sunlight created the perfect lighting situation! Shooting this on medium format instead of 35mm as usual also meant that I had just enough latitude to pull up the shadows for high contrast without losing all of the details.

20-Years-Expired Kodak TC400N on Vivitar v3800n


Expired film, especially older expired film that hasn’t been refrigerated, is difficult to meter for, since it’s hard to tell how well the emulsion (and therefore original ISO integrity) has held up. Since I was confident with my first couple days of film, I thought I’d test out this c41 processed black and white roll since the aged effect would likely well-suite the art deco architecture. I under exposed by 2 stops most of the time (even hand-holding the Oyster Bar shot for half a second) which proved to be the perfect exposure. Aside from being fun, shooting film is also an exercise in honing my photographic intuition.

Portra 400 on Mamiya 645

Lincoln Center and Hudson River Park

While Dad enjoyed some downtime, I made use of golden hour. I’d planned all along to save this roll of Portra for sunset photos since its warm tones and retention of highlights means capturing the full range of sunset hues. I was not disappointed! Lincoln Center’s window reflections proved an intriguing spot as I kept trying to capture environmental portraits of concert-goers against their chosen venue back drop - I shot more photos there than I intended. To maintain some variety, I kept walking and ended up down by the river, where I got to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water with only the pigeons breaking the silence.

I saved one last shot for whatever I thought would make an interesting portrait. When I saw four older music lovers leaving the venue arm in arm, I whipped the camera up to my face, adjusted the focal point as quickly as possible and clicked. It turned out to be one of my very favorite photos from the weekend.