Found Film #2

Posted 2011.07.16 20.45 in Hobbies, Photography

A few days ago I blobbed about some “found film” that I had acquired, and included images recovered from the first roll. That roll was Kodak Verichrome Pan in 620 format. I shared some of the images in a thread at Photo.net where the consensus was that the film was probably exposed towards the end of the 1950’s or the early 1960’s.

That the images were in relatively good shape and relatively easy for me to develop and scan after about 50 years is quite the testament to Verichrome Pan’s aging qualities!

Along with the roll of VP I had received a second, unidentified roll. The label indicated only that it was a Panchromatic film and was ASA 100. This roll was also in the 620 format, and as it came with the VP, the suggestion was that I should process it the same way that I had done the first. Sound advice, and I agreed with it fully.

After loading the film into my developing tank, I had a look at the backing paper, hoping that the lead end might indicate who made it or what it was. No such luck, however. As a teacher of mine used to say, Whoever made it wasn’t proud enough to put their name on it.

I followed the same process as before, and when the moment came, I opened the developing tank and had a look at the film… Aww… Well you can’t win every time. The film looked completely opaque, as if it had not even been developed. Still, I continued on with the final processing stages – rinsing, then using a surfactant* and finally hanging the negs to dry.

When I hung the strip up, I realized I could faintly make out some horizontal lines. A closer look revealed they were the gaps between the frames – spaced about 9cm apart. Perhaps there was hope for this film after all… I left it to finish drying, before inspecting the film carefully using a very bright light. I could just make out some ghostly images!

Thanks to several past failed experiments, I have some good familiarity with my scanner (Epson V500 Photo) and I know how to squeeze out whatever images are possible. That, with some adjustments in Gimp, enabled me to recover the following six images from this old roll:

When a 620 roll is shot in 6×9 format, there are 8 exposures on the roll. I was able to get image data out of 6 of them. With a very bright light I am just able to make out an image on Frame 2, but could not coax anything out of that frame with my scanner. Frame 8 appears completely dark, but I don’t think it was light-flashed. It’s just that the fog-to-image ratio is too high to get anything out of it.

Obviously, the entire roll suffered from light-leaks or similar fogging at both edges of the reel. It also appears that the image quality degrades more towards the end of the roll – presumably the outer part of the roll suffered more exposure to elements such as heat etc. over the years. Finally, there are a lot of digital artifacts in the images; this was unavoidable due to the need to push the scans quite hard in order to reveal the imagery.

Looking at the pictures themselves, it looks like a collection of family snapshots. Everyone is dressed up so perhaps it was the day of a special event. Looking at the faces, I see some smiles, some stress, and the younger boy appears bored. Sounds like a special event to me, hehe. The women must have been important to the photographer as there are several shots of them, in different groupings. And I am particularily intrigued by the “H” on the door in the fourth image. What does that stand for?

All in all, I’m pleased and excited to have been able to recover images again, and although this roll proved much more difficult, it was a challenge, and it was rewarding.

These are the two films – the Verichrome Pan on the left and today’s unknown roll on the right. Reviewing the information provided by the person I got the film from, these came from two different cameras and so they almost certainly had nothing to do with each other. Probably different families, different times, different places.

* Usually one uses Photo Flo or Hypoclear or a similar product. When I got back into film a couple years ago, my local shop had no such things, so I’ve been using a drop of Jet-Dry from the dishwasher. It isn’t ideal as it does foam a bit, but my empirical testing has shown that I get better results with it than I do without it.

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