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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
This is the picture that made me come back. On my first photography trip to the Salton Sea, when I got this far, I knew I wanted to see more. Maybe next time I’ll post more of the color shots I took in the same area. This is the edge of Salton City – beachfront property that nobody wants.
There are different reasons I like certain pictures, but this one just tells the whole story. I like a lot of my Salton Sea pictures, but this sort of sums it up.
These shots are the same motel as the last post, but some different angles. When I was there in 2000, there was one chunk of a building left, which you can see at the right above, but the sign points to where the motel was. Now, just a pile of detritus. If this was a city, they’d at least fence the remains, but this is the Salton Sea. It just is.
What a great sign though. I love the electrical wires protruding from the top of the sign. At some point, someone was up there futzing with things trying to get it all working. It’s like fiddling while Rome burns.
I’ve got a couple more to post but since this is coming from 12-year-old scanned film (Kodak Max 400 for the curious), there are a lot of scratches and spots I have to clean up and it takes a while.
Southern California doesn’t have the history required to create a lot of ghost towns. The Salton Sea is a sort of natural equivalent though. Formed in a strange accident that saw the Colorado River flooding the Borrego desert for several years, the Salton Sea became a huge tourism mecca before slowly dying a slow death as agricultural runoff polluted the water and the lack of any source of replenishment dried much of the lake away.
Today, not much remains. I’m going to post a series of pictures I took 12 years ago – I can’t speak to the current state of the place but I’m willing to guess it’s no better.
This is the start of a few posts that, for the first time here, are going to be scans of actual film negatives instead of the normal digital stuff. Because of that, the EXIF information will be missing. I do know that most of this was taken with a Canon A-1 or a Canon Eos Elan 2E and a 50mm 1.8. I’ll post more info when I have it.
This is the Sundowner Motel – I have a few more shots of the place as well. It had obviously been closed a long time, but I’ve learned it burned down in 1998, a few years before these pictures were taken.
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Sundowner Motel, South West side of Salton Sea, 3.6.2000