Revisiting Analog Photography

After over a decade, I decided to dabble in analog photography again.

I had a black and white photography class in Spring of 2007, took a lot of pictures with an old Canon, and ended up with a bag of about 30 rolls of 35mm film, mostly color. I never took them to get developed. I used to take the color rolls to Walgreens and I’d develop the black and white in class, but then my class ended. And I loved that class. I loved the darkroom. Sadly, I never took any of those rolls to get developed. I’d see them time and time again in my closet and wonder if there was even any images on them anymore and when I’d ever try to develop any of them. I marked some of the canisters with a Sharpie to remind me what was on them. I noticed some were from occasions with people I don’t even talk to anymore. Weddings of people who have since divorced.  But then there were the rolls that I knew would be of value to me. Finally after all these years, I knew I had to do something with those rolls.

My first thought was to take a few rolls to Walgreens. Do they still develop film? I called and was told they can develop, but it would be sent out and take about two weeks, plus it would be about $16. Umm no. I did some more investigating and found that most places so have to send them out to a lab and cost around the same. I even heard some places don’t give you your negatives! They give you a disk with mediocre scans on it! Again, no!

I decided to call a local camera shop and got a better response. You get to keep your negatives, they care about better quality, but with a steeper price. I wasn’t ready to spend too much money on this film not knowing if there were even any good images on them since they were exposed over a decade ago. So my options were to spend the money and take a risk, let them sit in my closet longer, or throw them away? I suddenly got a wild idea to develop them at home. I have a mediocre negative scanner, so I can develop them and digitize them for online viewing. I figured I developed black and white before, I could learn to do color. I looked up instructions on YouTube. I researched what I would need. I became a little obsessed about giving this a try. The cool thing is my Dad, a photographer since he was 18, gave me a few boxes of his vintage darkroom supplies. Some were too vintage for me, but I did find some things I could use.

I recall there being more camera and darkroom supply shops, but I only found two in town. The one I used to go to when I needed supplies for my photography class has closed their doors. It appears we now live in a digital age and analog is being kept alive only by those who are passionate about it. Although I decided not to take my film to get developed at a camera shop, I would support their business by going to them for the supplies I need to develop the film.

I bought the chemicals. I was still unsure which to buy so I asked the man at the camera shop. I thought I made it clear I was wanting to develop color film (C41) and thought he gave me color chemicals. (I found out later that I was given chemicals for black and white development and the store doesn’t regularly stock color chemical kits.) I was very paranoid about mixing the right dilution for the chemicals and did my best.

I couldn’t find the right thermometer so I used a stupid digital one, which I found out later was a crappy idea. Again, I thought the chemicals I had were for color, so the right temperature was necessary. So I was paranoid. I got the kitchen sink set up. I set everything up in the bathroom and put all the things in order so I knew exactly where they would be once I am in the dark and need to transfer the film into the developer tank. I did my best. These are a few of the images I came up with:

These are pictures taken indoors with the flash on. Not the best setting for nice images. Of course natural light is my favorite. But what makes these images priceless is they are my cats. The dark cat is my cat Isis and she passed away in 2016, so of course it’s a priceless treasure to have new pics of her to look at. Never mind the quality.

Here are some other images from the rolls of film I’ve developed:

There was a roll of black and white film and a roll of color. I didn’t expect the color film to look so black and white. I thought to myself, “Wow, these rolls of film expired long ago. Did the color degrade that much?” They are literally black and white images with a purple hue. After investigating, that is when I discovered the fact that the chemicals I purchased were for black and white processing. I still have, yet, to purchase color chemicals and give that a shot. But I can easily make these greyscale and they look just fine.

I have developed a lot of my old rolls of film, and I still have more left. I still have a lot to learn. I will be writing more soon.