There’s an old but strong rule in experimental photography. Part of getting the best photo involves lots of trial and error. You never get it right the first time, but what you learn from that first time will make your last picture awesome.
And this is doubly so when you use old film. Depending on the film’s age, you have to estimate an increase in exposure time – and even then, you’re not getting anything more than an accidental artistic result. You also have no idea how well the film has been stored, so your results might already be damaged before you get the film developed. You don’t know. You can only hope.
And such was the case with my experimental shots of the Jericho Drive-In sign last Saturday.
I used a roll of Kodacolor II 616 film that was manufactured in the early 1980’s. So I’m already pushing my luck on this film. And in a case of doubling down on the film, I decided that the film would be cross-processed – developing print film in slide film chemicals – to either enhance the inherent age issues with the film, or to at least pull something out of this nearly 40-year-old construct.
But I wanted to try to get a night exposure of the sign. Whatever it took to get it.
I took 16 pictures with this film, which was packed in my AGFA Clipper Special f/6.3 camera.
Unfortunately, 15 of them did not expose at all. In fact, the only picture that did expose to some level of acceptance looked like this.
Ugh. This film was apparently on the edge of uselessness. Only this long exposure – a five-second exposure – revealed anything.
Well, if I’ve got this image … let’s at least see what I can pull from it.
I decided to go with a “selective color” image, where most of the picture would be in black and white, while the neon sign itself would retain color. It’s something you see in PhotoShop as an entry-level technique – a red apple in a monochrome orchard, a girl’s bright red lipstick on her black and white face, that kind of thing.
A little adjustment here, a little masking there …
And here’s what I came up with.
Well, if nothing else, it’s at least viewable.
Now if I do this again, I may choose another camera and fresher film. Maybe pack some Fuji Velvia in my Rolleiflex and use that. Or pop in some Kodak Ektar in Leica Green and get an image that way.
Trust me, as much as I like what I was able to save from this image, it doesn’t belong in the short pile for Competition Season – not now, not ever.
But it DOES give me at least an impetus for building something for the future.
And I have an idea on how I can create that.
I just need some more film. And yes, I’m trying the old stock again.
I have to. Some of my best experimental photos – The AGFA Bridge over Ansco Lake, Washington County 2:30 a.m., Vivaldi’s Pond – were all based on the successful completion of experiments.
And even if this image was not up to what I expect…
It is up to what I can expect for the next shot.
Trust me on this.