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Found Film #3

Posted 2011.08.14 9.17 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

In my travels last week, I happened upon some ‘junker’ cameras in a local thrift store. These were modern P&S dime-a-dozen types that I’d normally not give a second glance to. What did catch my eye though, was that one of them had a roll of film in it.

For a couple dollars, I thought what the heck – I bought the camera, to have a go at the film. Getting it home, I quickly figured out why the camera had been abandoned. The lens zooming mechanism was jammed, so when the camera was turned ‘on’ the lens would try to move to the active position, but would lock up then the little LCD screen would show “E” for error.

I fiddled with it for a bit, determined that it was ‘dead’ in this state, so put it in the darkbag. In there, I opened the back, and going by feel, I removed the 35mm can and then carefully pulled the exposed film off the take-up spool, and rewound it back into the cannister.

Still going by feel, I could tell that there wasn’t a lot of film on the take-up spool – the camera had jammed early in the roll. Not a good sign – that meant there wouldn’t be many pictures, if there were any at all.

Of course, it was also a possibility that someone had opened the back and ruined all the film, so regardless of how many frames were taken, there was a good chance all of them would be ruined anyhow. So, nothing to do but keep on going.

Processing was a snap and when it was done, I could see as I was hanging the film to dry that there were only a couple images at the very start of the roll. It looked like there may have been four or five frames taken before the camera failed. Unfortunately, someone had indeed opened the back, which flashed out a few inches of film from the fourth frame back. The first three frames survived, although with some discolouration from the back being opened.

As with previous found films, it’s fun to see what you find, and then a mystery to try and figure out what is going on. Obviously this one is much more current, probably within the last 5 or 10 years, so there isn’t an historic feel to it. Though it’s an interesting note that they had at least two film cameras with them – the one these pictures came from, and the one visible in two of the three pictures.

Anyhow, it really is a bit of an adventure, going through the process with the found film, seeing if you get images or not, and if you do, trying to guess what the people are up to.

The camera itself was kaput and not worth fixing – though I did get a good CR123A lithium camera battery out of it – new, those cost more than I paid for the camera. The film was Kodak Max 400, souped for 20 minutes in (stale, exhausted) C-41 chemistry at room temperature (78° F).

34 Year Old Film

Posted 2011.08.10 10.52 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

This past weekend loaded my 39 year old Rollei A26 with some 34 year old Kodak Verichrome Pan film, and went out for some driving around.

The film was actually more than 34 years old – it expired 34 years ago (June, 1977 to be exact) so it was probably made in 1975. The results weren’t fantastic, but they were pretty darn good considering it’s more than three decades past it’s best before date!

I took two indoors (non-flash) shots while I was visiting the Lomography store in Toronto, but the camera wasn’t quite up to the task – it’s slowest settings are 1/30th at f/3.5 and with the 34-year-old 125ASA film… the second image below was barely usable, the other image I took was almost all grain and no detail.

Another problem I discovered was with the Rollei A26, the light sensor is in a location where I tend to let my fingers rest, so a couple sunny outdoor images were completely blown out as the camera exposed for ‘darkness’ while it was about EV+15. Once I realized (from the sound of the shutter) what was happening, I made a point of holding the camera differently.

Here are a couple images from that very expired roll.

Processed for 7 minutes in T-Max 1:4 developer at 76 deg F which is likely too long, except my brew is probably nearly exhausted as well as expired (over a year since I mixed it).

Found Film #2

Posted 2011.07.16 20.45 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

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 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.

Found Film

Posted 2011.07.13 18.20 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

I’ve read about this in the past – someone buys an old camera and finds a roll of film still in it. Or you find some film in the attic. Or at the back of a drawer in some old furniture. However you come by it, the common traits are that the film is exposed or partially-exposed, you don’t know when or by whom.

While I’ve acquired a number of old cameras, I’ve never been lucky enough to score any found film. It seems exciting to me – what shots might be there, how long ago were they taken, what happened to the people in them, or the person that took them… Not to mention, why were they never processed, how did the roll get forgotten or lost…

There’s also a bit of voyerism I think too – it could be a brief window into someone else’s life. Literally, a snapshot from a moment in time that a stranger thought was important enough to capture on film.

So I finally got my hands on a couple rolls of found film. Still haven’t had any lucky surprises in old cameras, but other people have those sort of surprises and aren’t interested in trying to process it. The rolls are both black & white 620 roll film. The 620 format was around from 1932 to 1995. It’s basically the same film size as 120 format, but wound onto a smaller spool.

The first roll was labeled as Kodak Verichrome Pan. I did some research to get a feel for how to process it, then I went ahead and winged it. Here are the results:

The first frame was partially blown out which may have happened when the film was loaded in the camera. The fourth frame was completely blown out / overexposed. At the end of the roll, it looks like someone opened the back of the camera while the film was still in it as frames 11 and 12 were blown out, and frame 10 was half-blown. However, I was able to get 7 complete images and 2 partials — not bad for my first experience.

So who are these people? Where were these shots taken? When was this? No idea. But it was fun to develop and exciting to remove the film from the tank and see there were images on there!

I have a second roll of found film, that I’ll process in a few days or so.

Edited to add: Developing details – Presoaked for 10 minutes then developed for 10:30 in T-Max 4:1 at about 77 degrees F.