Getting The Old Film Look (With Old Film)

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.Scanned 35mm Kodak Gold 200 Picture

  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: A1
  • ISO: 400

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.

  • Camera: A1
  • ISO: 400

Two More from the Sundowner Motel

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.

  • Camera: Eos Elan 2e

What Remains of the Salton Sea

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.


  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Taken: 25 March, 2012

Sundowner Motel, South West side of Salton Sea, 3.6.2000