Returning to shooting in infrared

I only get one shot at this.

Well, eight shots, maximum.

Two little things came in the mail recently. I had ordered some drop-in lens filters for my Kodak Medalist II camera (“Kodak Red”), and one of the filters in the collection was a vintage Wratten R78 filter. Perfect for shooting infrared film.

A pack of foil-wrapped efke IR 820 film, along with a vintage R78 filter.

Also in the mail was a package of efke infrared I820 film. Yep, you remember efke, right? That’s the German high-contrast black-and-white film I really enjoyed using, until the manufacturing plant’s coating machine broke, and they chose to shut the plant forever instead of attempting the more expensive option of, oh, I don’t know, FIXING THE COATING MACHINE.

Now I had a few rolls of efke from previous purchases, but I never got around to using them. Yet.

This time, I’m going back into the infrared forest. Figuratively and literally.

But so many things can go sideways with this. All it takes is one mistake, one error, one slip-up … and my film is ruined.

Shooting with infrared film is extremely challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Just in preparation, you need a camera that’s totally mechanical; any sort of electronic counters inside the camera can cause a bad flash on the film. And this type of infrared film has to be loaded in complete and total darkness, none of this “subdued light” malarkey. And I’m compounding this by transferring the film to a 620 spool, so there’s twice the possibility of ruining this film before I even capture a single image.

All my shots must be taken in full sunshine, just to get the best results. And my camera must have an infrared lens affixed on the chassis – in this case, that’s where this Wratten 87 Series VI filter comes into play. And I have to attach Kodak Red to a tripod, and use a cable release shutter. All the specs online say that I need to aim for f/16 with a shutter speed of half a second per exposure.

I’ve only worked with efke infrared film once before; back in 2015. I used a pack of 35mm film, with an old Minolta film camera. This was probably my best shot of the roll.

Hadley Parabolic Bridge. Minolta x370s camera, efke 820 IR film with Hoya R72 filter. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

I mean, you can see where I’m going with this – sorta. My mistakes back then – I shot this on a cloudy day, which made everything dank and messy. If I’m doing this again, I need to make sure I take every single proper precaution.

So here’s the plan. Kodak Red with a Wratten 78 filter. One roll of efke infrared, respooled to 620 spool and loaded into Kodak Red in total and complete darkness. I can’t even afford to bracket this. Look for anything with foliage and sunshine. This either works 100% … or it doesn’t.

I had to wait for sunny days, or at least plenty of full sunshine. First subject was the old Toll Gate Ice Cream restaurant in Slingerlands. Still bummed that the place closed down four years ago. And since then, there’s been four years of creeping ivy that’s taken over the building’s facade.

Next up – a return to the old dairy barn at the corner of Wemple Road and Route 9W in Glenmont. Tried to get some shots that incorporated both the barn and the 9W route sign. Hadn’t shot this building in ten years. Still looks creepy as anything.

Third subject – when I dropped my photos off at the Durham Fair, I took a side trip over to Colchester, Connecticut to photograph the Comstock Covered Bridge. Yeah, I’m on a covered bridge fetish, live with it.

Took three shots, but I went without a tripod on these.

I dropped off the roll at McGreevy Pro Lab (my pro lab of choice), and hoped for the best.

A few days later, I received an emailed invoice from them. This is a good sign. That means there are images on the film.

Let’s see what comes out.

This is one of the negatives, before I’ve a chance to scan it in and clean it up.

Sweet lord. That’s an image. These were shot in direct sunlight (or at least partly sunny) with an f-stop of 16 and a shutter speed of half a minute. And I pulled this out.

Okay. Let’s check the 9W dairy barn.

Well, well, well. There’s something here. Definitely.

All right, how about the Comstock Covered Bridge? Were my hands steady enough to snag an image or two?

This could be interesting. Can’t wait to give these guys a full-fledged scan and see if there’s treasures on these strips.

First up – the Comstock Bridge.

Comstock Bridge, Colchester, Ct. Kodak Medalist II camera, Efke 820 infrared film, with Wratten R78 filter. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

I like it … but it’s kind of muddy. Not enough sunshine. And this really needs a tripod for tack-sharpness.

All right, let’s check out the Route 9W dairy barn in Glenmont.

Route 9W Dairy Barn. Kodak Medalist II camera, Efke 820 infrared film, with Wratten R78 filter. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

I like this, but you have no idea how I had to position myself to get the silo PLUS the route marker MINUS the telephone wires MINUS some “beautification by such and such” sign. I’d have a better chance of hitting a cricket ball through wickets that were four miles away.

All right. How about an old ice cream parlor in Slingerlands? Give it to me good.

Toll Gate Ice Cream 2021. Kodak Medalist II camera, Efke 820 infrared film, with Wratten R78 filter. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Okay. Thoughts.

Am I going to purchase more efke infrared film? That’s a tough order. The film hasn’t been made in years, and surplus rolls run anywhere from $50 to $65 on the collector market. There’s another clone of efke film, called Macophot, which is just about as expensive. And some of the other infrared films out there either not for 120 cameras (like Kodak HIE or Kodak EIR), or are no longer available (that Aerochrome I used to get from Germany, the supply has dried up), or some of the films are fake infrared (the jury’s still out on Konica 750, Ilford and Rollei infrared films are still a mystery to me).

So if I’m doing this again, it’s either with old efke infrared or macophot infrared.

Oh, and one other thing.

That Toll Gate Ice Cream photo?

I just opened a new folder on my hard drive. “Competition Season 2022.”

And take a wild guess which photo got dropped in that folder.

Yep, that one. 😀