Colour Implosion

A little while ago I was at Silverprint buying some paper and saw rolls of ADOX Colo(u)r Implosion film on the counter. “Imploding Colours! Bursting Red! Toxic Green!” it said on the canister. This is a Lomo film isn’t it? But it was pretty cheap and, you know, why not, so I bought a roll as well as the rest of the junk I was buying.

Researching it on the net, the suggestion is that it was a ruined batch of 800 ISO colour aerial film. People suggested shooting it at between 100 and 400, so when I went to a photography meetup on Easter Monday I thought I’d give that a try – shooting 12 frames at 100, 12 at 200 and 12 at 400. Here are some scans – I’ve messed with levels slightly on some of them, but not changed colours. (Correcting for the green tint isn’t hard but in this situation seems a bit silly.)

EI 100

roll346_02 roll346_04 roll346_09

So this is really green then. And also, at EI 100 (that’s Exposure Index i.e. the ISO that I exposed the film at) pretty over-exposed. And also very grainy.

EI 200

roll346_14 roll346_19 roll346_23

So these are all very green too, and grainier. I suppose there’s a very slight blue cast too.

EI 400

roll346_28 roll346_29 roll346_31

Some red! Not all that bursting though I have to say. Basically still very green and even grainier, to quite ridiculous levels here.

At the end of it all I wasn’t that impressed by this film. I didn’t see any colour shifts between different speeds and it was absurdly grainy at all of them. Like a lot of expired or damaged film, I think it might be best when used to take pictures of one large thing rather than complex crowd scenes like the ones here which rather require detail.

(The camera was a Minolta Dynax 5 with 50mm/f1.7 prime, for the record.)

What is light, anyway?

I expect that better writers and philosophers than me have explored what it is that photography teaches us about perception. Certainly it is teaching me that light is not perception. First of all, with black and white film, I had to reconcile the difference between what I was seeing with my eyes when taking pictures, and what actually came out in the negatives. It’s hard to recognise how much levels of light really vary in the real world when just looking at things – eyes, after all, are very well suited to looking at things in all levels of light where there is any at all, and also many different levels of illumination in the same scene.

For instance, I am currently indoors in a not terribly well lit bar, but I can easily see everything around me. If I concentrate, I can tell that I have a lower depth of field here than I would in daytime, and that my eyes have to adjust slightly to see things at different distances. But I have to concentrate to notice that. There is probably 1/1000th of the light in here now than there would be outside in full daytime, but that doesn’t matter to me in practice, except if I am taking photographs, when it suddenly matters a great deal.

There is also the issue of colour. Most of the light here is very yellowish, but I adjust for that pretty well – I instinctively know that the menu by the candle is white, not yellow, and that the plant on the other side has green leaves. When there is more light and the difference is more subtle I barely notice the ambient colours. On the other hand, here are two versions of the same shot taken on Elite Chrome 100 in downtown LA recently.

Note that this is slide film, so there aren’t any of the odd issues regarding colour correction that you get with colour negatives. But the uncorrected picture looks very blue. I googled to see whether this was a known issue with the film (several others from LA at the same time have the same) and saw some people saying “yes, shadows are blue with Elite Chrome” but then also others saying “but shadows are blue in natural light – they’re lit by ambient light from the blue sky, not from the sun”. From my memory, the second picture is closer to what I remember, but look at how the white balance correction in the second picture also removes a lot of the blue from the sky, which really have should stayed. And, you know, it was pretty monochrome in the shadows. Perhaps it did look like that and I’m misremembering?

What helps me get past this sort of rumination is remembering that the point of taking photographs is to produce a good picture. Maybe the camera and film will capture colours and light in a way that won’t correspond to what I remember seeing, but that’s okay – what matters is knowing how they will capture the scene given the settings I choose, what sort of results I want, and matching the two together.

More film experiments – C41 colour in B&W chemicals

Yesterday I developed some cheap ISO200 Agfa colour film from Poundland – unsurprisingly, £1 a roll – in B&W chemicals. I’d heard that this was possible, but reported results varied from “it’s fine but negatives are really dark” to “it’s all grainy and horrible and negatives are really dark”, and detailed instructions were a bit limited.

The summary of my report is that (a) it looks fine, the results are actually surprisingly sharp (b) negatives are really dark due to the orange layer on the film which does… something… but you can compensate for this when scanning (c) it turns the developer orange as well so best not to re-use it.

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Experiments with stand development

I have occasionally heard about “stand development”, which appeared to be, instead of using a concentrated solution of film developer for a short period of time (agitating frequently), using a diluted solution of a film developer and letting it sit there for a long period of time. Well, I have absolutely no problem with letting chemicals sit on a shelf rather than having to pay attention to them. Really, I am extremely relaxed on that point. So I decided to try this process. I have a lot of Ilfotec LC29; I made up c. 500ml of a solution at 1 parts developer to 100 parts water (1+100) and immersed a roll of 120 Fomapan 400 film in it for an hour. Initially I gave it 30 seconds of agitation, and, after half an hour, another 30 seconds. After the hour was up, the usual stop bath and fixer for four minutes.

The results seem quite reasonable. Shots in bright light have not come out that brilliantly, but that is a problem generally with Fomapan 400 in my experience (also, perhaps, how I expose it). In mixed light, they have come out well. The grain isn’t any more than I’d expect from normal development. And: it used 5ml of developer, and also gave me the time to cook dinner while it was going. I think I may do this again – mixing up more concentrated solutions is faster and allows for re-use of the mix, but I rarely want to develop that many rolls in a short time. I’m not sure how useful it would be for pushing.

Things I wish I had known about black and white developing

These are of course just In My Experience, but I like to think they’re at least close to correct.

  • You can re-use developer. It may say on the bottle “always mix fresh each time” but this is for absolute best results. You can keep the mixed developer in a sealed bottle (I use squeezy ones that you can push the air out of after filling) and use it for several rolls – it doesn’t get “used up” as such.

  • You can’t re-use developer indefinitely, though. After a while, even in sealed bottles with only a tiny amount of air in, it goes off and you get horrible grainy negatives. Even if you’re just snapping aimlessly with a Holga, this is not what you want. Seeing as how you can only develop your negatives once and then you’re stuck, and developer is not all that expensive, with my Ilfosol 3 and LC29 I think a week or maybe two is enough before throwing it away and mixing some fresh stuff.

    So, the rule I follow is: mix new developer if (a) you can’t remember when you mixed the old stuff or it’s a week or more, or (b) you’re developing a really important roll.

  • Fixer and stop will last for ages, pretty much indefinitely. Some people don’t use stop at all, just water or citric acid or vinegar or something else acidic. I’ve not tried this.

  • A final wash with a few drops of washing-up liquid stops drying marks. (I believe Americans call this “dish soap”.) I’ve messed about with wetting agents in different concentrations, but I always get drying marks with the Ilford one, at least. A few drops of washing-up liquid in about 500ml of water, four agitations, leave for a bit, then pour out and shake off, leaves me with no drying marks. However, it is important not to wipe this off between your fingers when trying to remove excess bubbles… do this very gently, if at all.

  • The process is quite forgiving of times and temperatures. The fact that times are all in multiples of 30s should indicate that these are not measurements that are absolutely precise to the second. Similarly, if the temperature is slightly off, I wouldn’t worry too much. It’s not worth watching every tick of the timer so as not to leave it for a moment too long, or using hot and cold water baths to get the developer to precisely 20C. Just don’t make vast mistakes. Which leads to:

  • The whole thing is generally very easy. It’s surprisingly hard to really mess it up. The only times when I have ruined negatives have been when I:

    1. Completely got the times wrong, say four minutes instead of six;
    2. Used horrible old developer;
    3. Bent the film horribly when loading it onto the reel (and this doesn’t completely ruin it, just adds some odd lines to a few pictures).

    You are much more likely to mess up taking the pictures in the first place, underexposing, opening the back by mistake, leaving the lens cap on etc etc.

  • Lastly, it can be fun but not always. Sometimes I enjoy the process of developing film. I set the timers, pour out the liquids and listen to Radio 41 while I am standing around in the bathroom shaking things occasionally. At other times I just can’t be bothered and let half a dozen undeveloped films build up in the sealed bag in the fridge. Initially, the whole magic of taking a piece of magic plastic and making pictures appear on it entranced me, but after over a hundred rolls the novelty sometimes fades. So it is best not to assume that you will always have the energy, even if, overall, you enjoy it, which I do.

  1. Of course this depends what is on. Gardener’s Question Time makes this less fun. 

Pictures from the Easter city – Lubitel 2, Rollei Retro 80S

I got a roll of 120 Rollei Retro 80S a while ago and decided, on Friday, that it was sunny enough to try it out – so I loaded it into my Lubitel 2, went out to where the City meets the East End, and wandered about in the Easter Bank Holiday emptiness.

The above were scanned at 2400 DPI, which provides images that are about 27 megapixels, and even then there’s very little grain visible. I don’t think there’s a lot of point in scanning at much higher resolution given the lens, but that’s quite impressive performance. (For the record, the roll was pre-soaked for a bit, then developed in fresh Ilfotec LC29 at 1+19 dilution for 5 minutes, then fixed for 3 in Ilford Rapid Fixer.) This is the first of the Rollei Retro series of films that I’ve tried but it’s a good start. It isn’t vastly expensive, either, and even comes in a nice canister rather than a crushable card box.

I also decided to try using the Sunny 16 rule with it, setting the shutter speed to 1/60 and then altering the aperture, which worked… reasonably, I suppose. I always seem to err on the side of underexposing at the moment which is the wrong way to err. Thank god for curve editing. I’ll get it eventually.

Odd patterns on colour negatives

Scanning some colour negatives that I got back this afternoon, I find that several of them have faint blurry white spots in a diagonal grid pattern on them. This mostly seems to appear on bright ones which have a lot of blue sky on them, but then that could just be because I only notice the spots against a bright blue – a couple indoors have noticeable ones too.

This is with the Olympus XA, so it could be something to do with the camera – I noticed that the bit which presses on the film inside the back of the camera, whatever that’s called, has holes in it – but I’ve not noticed it on any shots I’ve taken on black and white film and developed myself. (Admittedly, shots on other rolls were all in fairly poor light, as opposed to Thursday’s brightness.) I’ve never seen it on other scans using the same film, either. It could be development… this is just at the local Snappy Snaps, and while they are nice there I’m not that sure about their development process. Most of my colour films from there have looked rather washed out, from a number of cameras.

Any thoughts?

Expired Kodak Tri-X Pan film packaging

Expired Kodak Tri-X Pan film packaging, a set on Flickr.

Before the recent announcement on Kodak and bankruptcy, I had already ordered these two packs of expired Kodak film on eBay – two rolls of 35mm and five of 120, influenced to a great degree by the terrific box that the 120 comes in. The latter film expired in 1972. I look forward to shooting some with the Lubitel 2 that I also ordered, when that arrives.