Summer of Phoenix: A Holiday in Greece

By Paul McKay

I spent last week on the Greek coast - the southern tip of the Peloponnese to be exact - and took the opportunity to shoot some Harman Phoenix 35mm film! A colourful 35mm film with some unique quirks that come from being Harman's first EVER colour film, Phoenix launched in December 2023. While it was brilliant fun to test it through the dark winter days I've been waiting to see it shine in the sun. Let's see how it did...



Throwback to the test roll


Technically I have actually shot Phoenix in the summer before... But that was a pre-launch test roll in 2023. The emulsion was still being worked on by Harman scientists, it wasn't in the right canister, and there were some open questions about layer stability.

Despite these challenges the film created some really special images. The grain is prominent, the contrast powerful, and I was still learning how to control the halation in bright light but it was easy to see the promise.

Harman Phoenix film shot in the sun - a field in summer


Harman Phoenix film shot in the sun - a tree in summer


Harman Phoenix film shot in the sun - looking up at balloons



Harman Phoenix in 2024


For this trip I was using a roll of Phoenix delivered fresh from Harman and perfect for a holiday adventure 👌🏼 I'd successfully navigated the perils of flying with film by packing a roll of Delta 3200 to wave at security, and I was ready to capture some light.


A roll of Harman Phoeix 35mm film in front of trees and a hammock


I loaded it in my trusty Lomography LC-A film camera so that I could play with multiple exposures, and headed out to the swimming pool.




The results


When I got back into the office on Tuesday I dropped off the roll at the WonderLab - alongside a good six or seven others! - and waited nervously for the text to say they were ready...

...I was not disappointed!


Harman Phoenix sample shot - swimming pool


Harman Phoenix sample shot - waterfall


Harman Phoenix sample shot - building with clouds behind


Harman Phoenix sample shot - volleyball pool


Harman Phoenix sample shot - sign at the beach


Harman Phoenix sample shot - double exposure of trees

I told you I'd shoot double exposures!


Harman Phoenix sample shot - swimming pool with palm trees in the background



My reflections


I was blessed with exceptional weather - and very picturesque surroundings - but even taking those factors into account I spy ~20 photos from the roll that I LOVE. That is a noticeably higher hit-rate than my average roll of film.

So there is definitely something about Harman Phoenix in the summer that clicks for me. I love the slightly unusual colours, I adore the way the film renders blues, and now that I've learned how to bring subtle halation into the shot - without it being overwhelming - I think it can add a real visual interest to the scene.

But it didn't all go perfectly. For example with this photo I deliberately shot towards a strong silhouette, aiming for an interesting effect as the sun shone through the branches. But in reality the film couldn't cope with the super-strong contrast and (apart from the stepped gradient in the sky!) there's nothing visually striking here at all.


Harman Phoenix silhouette of trees at sunset



#SummerofPhoenix top tips


Looking at the entire length of the roll I can spot some common themes that seem to bring out the best of the film:

1. Shoot with the light behind you. Allow the reflected sunlight to bounce off the subject and fill your camera with strong shapes and colours.

2. Include lots of lovely blues. Sky, pools, sea....blueberries? Whatever you can find, from cobalt to ultramarine, they will sing.

3. Avoid shadows and silhouettes. The emulsion doesn't seem to cope well with darker tones - in truth I could have probably rated it at 100 for some of these scenarios - so stay in the light as much as possible.

4. Play with creative alternatives. Double exposures, reflections and inversions, colour filters - you already know that the tones aren't going to be as true as something like Kodak Portra, so embrace the difference and allow yourself to get all experimental!

Do you like the way these photos look, and has it made you consider adding a roll of Phoenix into your camera bag for summer adventures?!


  • Really don’t like this film at all. Harman would be better working on this more before releasing if they genuinely want to compete. I wouldn’t trust this film for anything I cared about shooting.

  • I didn’t like the results from this film on release and still don’t. It’s experimental at best, grainy and ´off’ colours. For me it’d be reserved to messing about to see what results you can get, but it’s an expensive way to do so.

  • It’s great to see your results and tips for using Phoenix film Paul.
    I have ordered some and hope to use it on the Big Photowalk!
    Every film emulsion has its own strengths and weaknesses and Phoenix looks very interesting to me.
    I shall remember to keep the light behind me for best results!

    Barry J
  • Great shots. The colour is super on this film. I have just had some Candido film developed and love it. This phoenix film definitely suits a summer location.

  • I don’t get the enthusiasm for these photographs. Phoenix has a colour palette that can be difficult to manage. The rendition of the camera lens may also be an issue. It seems that “brilliant” light is not the forte of this film.

    John Richard Stuart Collins
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