Adventures in Old Film

Oh, you can’t get out backwards. You’ve got to go forwards to go back, better press on.

Willy Wonka

I’ve been posting some of my recent adventures in film photography on my Facebook page . There’s a resurgence you know. It won’t overtake digital now, but film has unique characteristics and it still has some advantages over the latest whiz-bang technological feats digital provides that will be obsolete in 18-24 months. Imagine not needing a battery, or if you do, one that lasts a few years.

You may find some of these sites interesting:

  • Lomographyt gets its name from the Lomo toy camera and neo-Pictorialist school of art photography. You may think the cameras are toys, but the artists are serious. I have a Holga and an original Diana, and an old Kodak Hawkeye (620) that take wonderfully distorted, overexposed, light-leaking, color-shifted images. My Canon G7x Mark II and Sony A6000 have toy camera settings, but there’s nothing like the feel of really cheap plastic cameras in your hands. Later on for that.
  • 35mmc Is a great site with all kinds of blogs, reviews of film cameras, film, etc.
  • Film Shooters Collective is a collection of blogs and photographs on the subject

There are a lot more than listed here. The fun is in the search.

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know I’ve been digitizing old photographs, color slides, and negatives, both color and black and white. The color ones are tedious, but the black and white are fun.

I came across a bag of 20 rolls of exposed film some time ago and I put it to the side for later. “Later” arrived and I had to decide what to do with it. I began with Google, searching for labs to process them. There is one, that is (1), I mean O-N-E old-style photo store within an hour of my house in metro-Atlanta; Wings Camera. You can tell right away, they have spared no expense to engage the modern Internet world. However, they are very nice, and the store may be small, but it is interesting.

Wing’s film developing prices are about what you find online. You can do the math, but 20 rolls of film would cost a small fortune just for the chemistry, not including digital scanning or prints. Ouch. So I decided I would get back into the alchemist side of the darker arts and develop my own stuff. Problem right off the top: These rolls of film were exposed 25 years ago! If you know about film, you know time is unkind to film, probably less kind than it is to old B-movie actors. Undeterred, I drove on.

I purchased some bottles, Ilford chemistry, and a film changing bag from Wings and everything else I got from our kitchen or the grocery store.

I researched available developing chemicals. I want to be kind to the the environment. I came across a film developer made from instant coffee. Yes, instant coffee… caffeinated, not decaf, table salt, cleaning soda, and vitamin C. It is called caffenol. You can drink the stuff before you develop the film, and it won’t do too much harm. DISCLAIMER: Please do not drink caffenol. That was meant as hyperbole – You can’t joke around these days.

So here you will find photographs from 25 year old exposed Kodak Tri-X film. One group’s negatives came from the Ilford Ilfosol 3, diluted 1:14, developed for about 11 minutes at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the other from the Delta standard recipe of caffenol, developed at 70 degrees, for about 10 minutes.

What I got out of them were very nasty negatives with a lot of fog (probably age related), some pin holes, and grain the size of golf balls. Interestingly enough, the caffenol resulted in sharper details and really interesting tonal characteristics. The Ilfosol 3 negatives, at that high dilution, yielded oatmeal. However, I made some images from them all.

I must add that I am sure that with a little time and experience, I think I can tame this developer. Online reviews say it works much better with slower film. So using it on old Tri-X was probably not a fair test.

Here is Group 1 from the caffenol. They have their own vibe, very antique, which I enhanced with some toning effects. I’ll probably try using it for special effects.

Next in Group 2 are the negatives processed in Ilfosol. There were pin holes in the negatives. I’ve never experienced them before. I will chalk it up to the age of the film for now. I was able to repair the images with the Lightroom cloning tool.

I’m not sure on the Web and at the relatively low resolutions if you can tell anything about the details, or lack of details, of the Tri-X in Ilfosol 3 compared to the caffenol. Again, 25 year old film is not a good test, but it is all Tri-X and everything as far as my processing methods go was consistent, if not benchmarked.

The quest continues. I’m back to the future, shooting film and digital. I offer personal tutoring in the analog arts. I’m in the metro-Atlanta area. If you are interested, you can contact me any number of ways – website, Facebook, Instagram, or here.


~ by Bill on June 25, 2020.

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