Santa’s in drydock: an Instamatic project

I’ve been trying to restore my photo-mojo of late, doing whatever it takes to get my photographic eye back in alignment.

And in doing so, I decided to return to some of my earlier photo projects, experiments and excursions.  Sometimes the experiments worked well; but there were other photo-attempts that I started, got frustrated with, and eventually gave up, figuring I’d get back to them some day – and then completely forgetting about them.

One of those was my Instamatic sprocket hole project.

Instamatic film, also known as 126 film, was the primary photo format in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  You just dropped a cartridge in your camera, took 12 / 20 / 24 shots, popped the cartridge out, and dropped it off at the local Fay’s Drug Store or Fotomat, eventually receiving some 4×4 photos for the scrapbook.

A few years ago, I cracked open some of those cartridges and re-shot the film in a different camera.

Adirondack Trailways bus station with Instamatic Sprocket Holes
Adirondack Trailways bus station. Kodak Brownie Bull’s-Eye Camera, Kodak Instamatic 126 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

But the exposures were just blah and urgh.   It was difficult enough to get fresh Instamatic film… and considering that although Kodak’s Verichrome Pan B&W film can still be used, the other color films were often hit-or-miss.  I tried it… tried it again… then got frustrated and gave up on it.

A few days ago, just for a lark, I ordered some black-and-white 126 cartridges from an eBay seller.  I figured if I was going to try this again, I would crack open the cartridges, extract the 126 film, and roll two strips of the film into 616 paper.  See, 126 film is 35mm across, and 616 film backing paper is 70mm across.  You do the math.

I then packed my prepared film into my AGFA Clipper Special F/6.3, and looked for a quick and dirty Friday morning shoot.

Nothing here, nothing there, nothing that will work –

Hold it.  Is that what I think it is?

It looks like a parade float that was tucked into one of those temporary awning garages.  I pulled my car over to investigate.  Nice parade float.  Almost looks like the sleigh Santa Claus rides in when he delivers his presents on Christmas Eve.  Now it looks as if Santa left it in the back yard while he and Mrs. Claus took a vacation to Key West.

First, I used my cell phone camera to capture this image.

Santa Claus float.  BlackBerry Q10 camera phone.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Santa Claus float. BlackBerry Q10 camera phone. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Okay.  Now for the test film.  Verichrome Pan rolls of film, packed in the AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3  Photo.  Taken.  Film.  Developed.  Negatives.  Scanned.  Combined… And I got this.

Santa Claus float
Santa Claus Float. Kodak Verichrome Pan 126 film (two rolls), rolled in AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Finally.  I got the project to work.

Now for the notes.  I flipped one of the rolls to show the sprocket holes together; next time I do this, I need to flip the film the other way, so that the sprocket holes are on the outside rather than the inside.  And I’ll need more sunshine; I took this picture on a cloudy day, I should have had more sun in the sky and at my back.

But this is the first successful shot with cracked-open 126 Instamatic film in over a year and a half.  Trust me, I’m on the right track.  I know there are photographers that experiment with sprocket hole photography… but nobody out there is experimenting with sprocket hole 126 film.


‘Cept me…