I’ve made my love for the Infra-red films of old pretty clear around here. There’s just one problem – you can’t buy them anymore. Thanks Kodak, and, I suppose economic reality.
There’s another issue though – that film was hard to use. You had to load it in complete darkness. It had to be unloaded and processed in complete darkness. Neither the camera nor the processor could have an infrared detector to read the film codes, which most do. It was expensive. You had to process it E-6 – it was slide film. Don’t get me wrong – if I found some new 35mm stock, I’d immediately buy a ton, but it’s not without issues.
Enter LomoChrome Purple. To be clear, this isn’t infrared. It’s a color-shifting print film. Ignore the chrome part of the name – it’s print, not slide. Ignore the implication of infrared – it does some of the same stuff, but it isn’t. That makes it less cool, but much easier and cheaper to work with. Although the film isn’t cheap or readily available, you can get it processed the “normal” way at your corner drug store. And how does it work?
Fiery red leaves on a spring day – color shift courtesy of LomoChrome Purple film
Pretty darn well in the same places that EktaChrome EIR worked best – trees and foliage. I took it out for a day at the beach in Carkeek Park, and I was happy with the tree shots, fairly happy with the broad panoramas, and a little less happy with people. Things get a little weird with a green tint on skin, which is too bad – when your jacket turns from purple to green it’s neat. When your skin turns from tan to green, it’s a little creepy. The grain is pretty pronounced as well, but the effect is nice. I’ve left these pictures more or less how they scanned. You can also shoot and process the film anywhere between 100 and 400 ISO – these I shot at 200. I’ve got a bunch more so I’ll see what else I can do, now that I know how these came out.
I’m clearly city people. Lake Chelan seemed like quite the agricultural showpiece. But maybe I’m just thinking of things like these:
A huge stack of apple crates ready to be filled in Chelan, Washington.
Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/http://192.168.0.15/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/dole-apple-crates.jpg)
Yeah… that’s a lot of apples
I think I’ve made it pretty obvious that the one thing I can no longer get but really wish I could is Kodak’s discontinued Ektachrome/Aerochrome EIR (especially in 35mm). There is nothing like it in the digital realm and especially when processed as regular slide film (E6), the results were pretty amazing. Orange grass. Milky white skin where you could see the veins underneath. Good stuff, and sadly no longer produced. I snagged a few of the last rolls of 110, hand-rolled from some bulk stock that a guy in Germany had, but it’s not really the same as being able to buy it at your local camera store.
It still might not be the same, but the wonderfully strange folks at Lomography started producing their own version called LomoChrome Purple XR. I honestly don’t know what it will be like but after waiting upwards of 6 months since my order, I just got a tracking number, so I’ll know soon!
Instagram? Great stuff. Easy to use, lots of filters, and an awesome way to show people the taco truck you’re currently visiting. Strip of all the glossy varnish and what you’ve got is a pretty impressive digital picture – at least for something that came out of a phone. Want to get those saturated and then washed out colors? That great film noise? Those warps and lines that sometimes look so artificial when you digitally create them? There’s an easy system to do all that.
Film. If it’s been sitting in your fridge for upwards of 5 years like this Kodak Gold 200 has, so much the better. If you want to get into it this way, it’s not even too expensive. Film will set you back a few bucks, but really not much. Processing is an even better deal. Most big photo labs will develop negatives for a couple bucks (at Target it’s less than $2) and if you don’t have a film scanner, most places will scan the lot straight to CD-ROM for another few bucks – probably about the same cost as getting some crummy prints, which you probably don’t want anyway.
Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/http://192.168.0.15/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Old_Film_scan.jpg)
You might not even have a 35mm film camera sitting around anymore. I do have the last SLR I used before switching to digital, but frankly I don’t like it. That’s why I went back out and bough my first camera love all over again – the Canon A-1. Great camera, and after a little tune-up, it’s in good shape. They are also fairly easy to find with a high-quality 50mm 1.8 lens (and remember, since this is 35mm film, it’s actually 50mm – we don’t have the APS-C crop factor you get on consumer-grade digitals). The sound of that film-advance lever? Priceless.
Sure you can clean it up in Photoshop, but don’t do it – the first button you hit loses that look you’ve been trying so hard to create. Here it is, in all it’s questionable glory.
This time of year, the leaves remaining on the trees have usually turned colors already. This shot is from all the way back in July, but catches the maples of Volunteer Park in full red glory. Yeah – Aerochrome EIR will do that.
Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/http://192.168.0.15/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/infrared-maple-leaves.jpg)
This one was also shot with my Rollei, using the same Aerochrome EIR as the other shot here.
You used to be able to buy color infrared film. Kodak produced a line in sizes from 35mm to large sheets – I think the original purpose was for some sort of agricultural surveying. Living things reflect infrared light differently. This is color infrared film – specifically, Kodak Aerochrome EIR.
Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/http://192.168.0.15/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Aerochrome-EIR-watertower.jpg)
When the film is fresh and you do it right, the results can be amazing. Trees and gress in full sun are rendered red or orange. Human skin is pale, almost white, and sometimes you can see blood in the veins beneath. Unfortunately, you just can’t get it anymore. Well… mostly.
Kodak stopped producing the 35mm version around 2002 or so. They stopped producing the 120 version around 2006, and I believe they stopped producing the large roll format in 2011. Some enterprising folks stockpiled massive amounts of it. Even at 12 shots per roll using my Rollei, like above, those rolls still cost $25 each (from here, which has since sold out). Not only that but you have to load and process them in complete darkness in a processor that doesn’t use an infrared counter. Even in photo-happy Seattle, there is nowhere I can get these things processed anymore, so I had to ship it to Portland (which to its credit, boasts at least two places that can do this for you).
At the end of the day, it’s a great lesson in what happens if you even semi-successfully stack together a bunch of old technologies. Medium-format, color infrared, TLR – they’re all there. I’ve got two rolls left and they stay in my freezer, waiting for something momentous enough to justify thawing them out.
Maybe it’s just a cactus in the sun. Maybe it’s not a cactus – a succulent? I’m not a botanist and I’m too lazy to use the google. In any case, I like it. But technically there is something else going on. Photo nerds, follow me down.
Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/http://192.168.0.15/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/succulent-cacutus.jpg)
What you’ve got is an out-of-focus background. Bokeh is what people like to call it. This one was shot with my 24-105 f/4 IS L. Most of the time when you think of bokeh, it’s fast lenses with huge apertures, and that certainly makes it easy. When we talked about shaped bokeh, you need an aperture that is physically larger than the shape you put in front of it, so yeah – it helps. At the same time, you can get this blurred background with slower lenses. Remember that the lens I used above only goes down to f/4. If you check out the EXIF info under the picture, you’ll see that this shot was at f/7.1 – what gives, right?
A few tips. If you can’t drop the aperture, you can do two things. First, get close to the subject – as close as you can. This is the part that matters the most. Even if you have a zoom lens, use your feet. Second tip is that you want the background to be as far back as possible. Those are the two elements that are going to help your depth of field here, and that’s all we’re talking about, right? Bokeh comes from having an in-focus subject with an out-of-focus background. Smaller apertures (higher numbers) give you a greater depth of field, and it increases with the subject’s distance from the lens so keep the subject close (where your DoF is relatively smaller) and keep your background far (where you have a greater chance of pushing it out of your DoF).
Makes sense? Good.
I might have mentioned it before but I recently found myself with a few new old cameras. It all started with a visit to the camera shop that had me accidentally buying three new old cameras (2 190x Kodaks and a 1950s Kodak Retina folder) for $35. That got me hooked and a few weeks later I’d added 3 different Zeiss Ikon models to my collection. I’m shooting through some really old expired film with them, both to see if they work and to see what happens to film that has been in my fridge for the last 10 years. Turns out, still usable, but it scratches REALLY easily. The shots I’m posting here have all been cleaned up after scanning.
Image file not found(ImagePath:/volume1/web/wordpress/http://192.168.0.15/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/sam-sculpture-garden-trumpet-player.jpg)
This shot was taken with my Zeiss Ikon Contessa (the non-folding version – there are a lot of variations). I’m a bit unclear but some people seem to think it has a coupled rangefinder. I’ve either got a model without the rangefinder or mine is broken or… I’m very stupid. I’ve got an external light meter so I can get the exposure right without the built-in selenium meter (which works but tells me nothing), but guessing on focus is an interesting endeavor. You can always set to infinity and shoot something far away. Works pretty well here.