Film failure

I used a roll of film and it didn’t turn out so well. It was an expired roll of Ilford FP4 Plus 125 Black and White. It expired last Summer. I had it for a few years and never got around to using it. I believe there were a few things that happened that caused these images to fail. 


I went to the river with a small tripod and my goal was to carefully set everything up to experiment. Not only did I kind of have to pee, but there were people occasionally passing by, and I didn’t want to be seen photographing myself because that feels weird. I would have preferred to have brought someone along to photograph, but it was a spontaneous decision to go there. So I was rushed and definitely not putting the care into it that I should have. Not to mention, I was really wanting to try out the multiple exposure setting and completely forgot! Dammit! So I still have to explore that another day.

So here’s the stupid things I did: 

Instead of shooting in manual mode, I shot in aperture priority mode. Because of lazy reasons. And I didn’t even use the tripod I brought! I set the camera on the damn ground! I barely took the time to verify things were focused. I’m so terrible. I kinda wanted to get it done and over with so no one would see me. I would have been so much more relaxed if someone was there with me and also if I didn’t have to pee. I believe I also lost enthusiasm because it’s hard to photograph film when you’re not behind the camera and can see how things look. It takes more patience than I had at that time.

I did take some rather nice pictures on my cell phone just to make sure I had something good to keep from my visit there if my film images were a fail. And they were!!

Processing the film:

The chemicals I used were new. I haven’t developed anything in quite a while and forgot how long I used to leave the negatives in the developer. I took a guess and did it for 4 minutes. I should have done some reading to refresh my memory on everything, but I did not. I remember when I used to develop film before and got pretty causal about it and the images still looked fine, but I should have still refreshed my memory. I could see images on the negatives before I hung them out to dry, so at least there was that. 

I busted out with my lousy, cheap Jumbl scanner, scanned the negatives, and was disturbed by how terrible they came out! Overexposed and super grainy! Ugh! They look like something someone created on their cheap cell phone, changed to black and white, and constrated the shit out of it for bottom-of-the-barrel black metal aesthetic. This was a fail.

I need to revisit some film processing knowledge, get a better scanner, and stop expecting good results if I am going to rush myself and not put real effort into things. I’ll have to revisit the 35mm self timer experiment when I have a lot more time on my hands.

Developing Color Film

If you read my last post, you will have read that I decided to develop film at home and purchased chemicals to develop black & white, although I did use it to develop C41 film, which is color. But I wanted to try my hand at developing color! None of the (two) local photography shops had a color kit, so I ordered one from Freestyle Photo

I was a bit intimidated because I’ve read developing C41 is a bit more detailed than developing black and white, mostly because the temperature needs to be just so. I was also nervous about mixing the chemicals, although it ended up being easier than I thought!  I messed up when I was mixing the developer, I believe I was supposed to mix it using hot water, but I used cold instead. I was thrown off at the dark, blood-red color of the blix chemicals. I couldn’t wait to try and develop a roll of film, so I popped one into my plastic Vivitar LC 600 camera. The film speed was 200 and it was getting later in the day, so I wasn’t sure I’d have enough light with the camera I was using.

Here are some of the images from that roll. They are very BLUE! And also very dark. I felt a little discouraged with developing color film when I saw this, but then I remembered the roll of film I used was a roll that I found in a used camera bag I purchased at a thrift store! Not only could it have been expired, but who knows what it may have encountered. It could have been left in the sun or heat and that would have done some damage. I did, however, get some compliments when I posted these images on my Instagram. I guess the flawed effect does look kind of neat and mysterious.

I took those images a couple weeks ago and had been wanting to give it another try with a fresh roll of film, just to see if I got the same result or if it would turn out better. So yesterday I grabbed my tripod and went in the back yard for some experimentation. This time I used my Canon EOS 10s so I could adjust the lighting. I developed the film shortly after, trying to be sure everything was at the right temperature.

Click images to see full size.

I am quite pleased with the results! They’re not too dark because I used my Canon, but there is still a slight blue hue. I could easily Photoshop the images to correct that, or even edit them on my phone. But let’s not forget the days when Photoshop wasn’t available and photographers had to learn to get it right when they developed the film. I want to learn how to get it right, so I don’t mind posting less than perfect photos because I want to document progress.

Here is one of the images above edited on my iPhone in two different ways:

I think they look much better this way, but I want to get it right during developing. That will mean more practice!

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.