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Sunday, November 6, 2016

••◊ Getting to know film: Kodak Plus-X (of unknown vintage)

In order to finish up my test roll of Fujifilm Pro 400H I decided to brave the crowds and go to Brazilian Day San Diego.  I quite literally had 3-4 Fujifilm shots still left on the roll (I don't remember exactly) and those were quickly taken up by the Brazilian dancers in the parade.

My grandpa passed away in 2009 leaving me with a camera bag full of technologically foreign looking camera equipment; lenses, a Pentax Spotmatic body, filters...etc.  He also left an unexposed roll of Kodak Plus-X film.  Kodak Plus-X was produced from 1954 up until 2011.  That means that the film could have been anywhere from 7 to 57 years old by this time.  On top of that, it was kept in whatever conditions our combined closets offered since no one was really aware that there was a spare roll until I dug it out of the bottom of the camera bag.  If I had to guess by the condition of the outer container, I would say that the film was *at least* 20 years old.  Keep in mind that most photo stores won't let you return film within 24 hours because they can't verify that you kept it in a refrigerator for that entire time!

Ahead of attending Brazilian Day I researched using old expired film and most sites said to over expose it for a chance at acceptable results.  I did just that; rating the film at ASA 64.  What I didn't need to do was pay for pull processing, which I now know with experience was completely unnecessary. 

When I got the negatives back the film was in pretty poor shape.  I ended up having to scan the film as a positive slide then invert in Photoshop, as scanning as a negative didn't quite work.  The exposure range was extremely limited - so much so that I had to expand it back to something humanly viewable with Photoshop curves.  All photos were extremely noisey/grainy, which along with the limited latitude, didn't help photos of people with dark skin.  The frame exposure uniformity was inconsistent and sometimes had white patches with spots of black - as you can see in the picture below of the gentleman in the white jacket.

Below are some pictures of the Carlinhos Brown concert at the Brazilian Day event (which was a great experience even through I don't speak Portuguese).

The next act after Carlinhos Brown was DJ Potira, an LA based Brazilian DJ.  By this time the sun was mostly down, so shooting at ISO 64 was a crap-shoot.  I had a frame left in the 24 exposure roll, so I took a gamble and got this extremely damaged looking photo.

What I've learned from all this shooting on film is that it's not an exact science - certainly not as exacting as my experiences with digital photography.  Film stocks have their own personality.  You bring them in, like image making partners, and they carry their own opinions on how to express an image.  You need to pick and choose which opinions fit the job best and that only comes with experience.

As I wrap up these film stock blogs, I just have to say that I enjoyed the challenge of learning film photography.  I like challenges in general.  If it's not a challenge I tend to be bored or indifferent about a task.  Plus, photography offers a chance/excuse to get out in the world and be an actively engaged participant.  It's just too bad that good photo labs are difficult to find now days and film scanners are items pretty much only available on Ebay. 

I don't have the opinion that digital is better/worse.  It's different.  It has it's own demands and quirks.  Film and digital are just tools; and as I wrote previously, they express opinions about how an image should be.  Speaking as a photographer, these are just tools that are malleable with experience and care.  Use the right tool for the job...and if you don't have the right tool, make it look messed up on purpose.   

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