Hocking Hills: Pushing Portra 400 1 Stop to 800

To see Kodak Portra 400 pushed to 800 exposure tested and compared with Portra 400 at box speed and Portra 800 at box speed, follow this link. To get to a review of Portra 400, follow this link.

This is an article about an experience of mine pushing Kodak Portra 400 one afternoon when I was going through Hocking Hills in Ohio.

On my way home in Columbus, OH from Charleston, SC, I have to pass through one of Ohio’s prettiest areas – Hocking County. As it happens, I was also going to be driving through at dusk and on a day following several snowy days. Who could pass that up? Not I says the cat.

Then it hits you… It’s not just going to be dusk but you’ll be in gorge where it’ll get darker earlier and you realize you didn’t bring your tripod on the trip… No matter. You’ve got Portra 400 loaded in one of your spare film backs of your medium format camera and you go for it. Once you get into the bottom of the gorge and you realize it’s not just darker than you hoped it would be, it would be pushing the limits of what you can do with your camera handheld.

That was the situation I found myself in that afternoon/evening. I knew Portra could handle underexposure like a champ but when a neutral exposure was coming in 3 full stops slower than what I could afford, there wasn’t much of a choice but to push the film at least one stop. To add to the complexity, I had already shot the first roll of the film and overexposed that part by one stop (shooting at 200 to be developed at 400) so I was reluctant to push it beyond just the one stop. In the end, I think the pictures turned out pretty well for a moment of spontaneity.

That was the first of shots form the remaining 8 frames of the already half expensed roll. The following frames are from a second roll. As you can see in some of the shots, I was really pushing it with useable light. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the performance of the film that afternoon. Had it been any darker, I would have wanted to push another stop but with every stop I push, I lose some of the film’s versatility so as far as compromises go, I would say things worked out pretty well.

The following pictures weren’t actually taken with Portra but rather some Fujifilm Provia F100 that was in my primary film back. I was able to get out a few shots on the drive before I got to Hocking Hills.