Shades of Gray: Part IV

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