Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Few Words on Film

Initially I wanted this post to be a rant. I planned on going on-and-on about how pissed off I am that a local "pro camera shop" ruined two rolls of film I busted my ass on. I was going to bitch about how people have lost the ability to listen to their customers. I was going to kick off a long diatribe about how people with a waning work ethic frustrate me beyond belief. I was going to do that, but I decided against it. Instead I decided to write an informative post about E6 film and the two ways (that I'm aware of) to have it processed. If you're not interested in the story and just want to hear my advice on the film, jump ahead to the 'Lessons Learned' section towards the bottom.



Cross processed Fuji Velvia E6 film
Here's a little background. When I shoot film, I use a Nikon F Photomic, or a Mamiya 1000DTL. For those of you who don't know, these cameras are old. Real old. In the words of a close photographer friend of mine, "the Nikon is a great camera; the Mamiya...is just plain weird". In my opinion, the Nikon will do anything you want it to, as long as you know how to operate a manual camera; the colors and the detail are fantastic. The Mamiya is in fact, weird. The colors are oversaturated and have odd tones to them. They remind me of old Polaroid instamatic shots. My film of choice is Fuji Velvia, ISO 50. The detail looks great because of the low film speed and the noise is negligible. The film also has an interesting color cast, it looks vintage, which is exactly what I was looking for.



Ordinarily, I take my spent rolls to CVS on Columbia Pike in Arlington VA. There is a gentleman who works the weekday shift who processes my film with absolutely no problems. He gets me my negatives and prints in about 45 minutes or so, and they always look great. After shooting my latest rolls, I stopped by CVS to drop them off, and the women at the counter informed me that due to the fact the film was 'professional' they would not touch it. I argued with them that they could in fact both touch, and develop my film as their co-worker had on so many occasions before. I was told that this was impossible, as the machine couldn't even accept my film. Apparently my 35mm film is a different size than everyone else’s. This is the point in my story where I am going to resist the urge to rant.

Due to the setback at CVS I sought out another 1-hour place to take my film. Time after time I am told "we don't do professional". Eventually I stop in at the local pro shop near my neighborhood and they offer to develop the film. I tell the gentleman that I want negatives and a set of 4x6 prints from each roll. He tells me that he can certainly do that, and that it will be $20 a roll. I reluctantly agree to be robbed of $40. I needed my shots and it would seem that this is the only guy this side of the Mason-Dixon who can get them to me.

An hour later I return to get my prints. The developer asks me if I would like my slides mounted. If you remember the last paragraph, I'm looking for negatives, not slides, so I'm confused. I question why I would need my slides mounted since he is giving me negatives, not positives and I'm told my film is slide film, not negative film. This strikes me as incredibly odd since CVS gives me negatives. This too is apparently Cross processing makes for some funky colors, but I like the look. impossible. So impossible, in fact, that the shop offers me a complete refund of my money if I can provide them with negatives of my photos. Clearly, I'm getting two different stories. By now I realize my arguing is getting me nowhere so I simply ask, "In the future, what do I need to do to get negatives from this film?” It's impossible.

Frustrated and confused on exactly what is going on, I head home and grab my prints and negatives from CVS and return to the 'pro-shop'. I present them to the clerk. He takes one glance and tells me that my film has been cross processed. This means that the film was developed in chemicals not intended for that particular stock. This generally alters the coloration and gives the prints a unique retro/artsy look. In my opinion, the results are quite cool.

When asked why I hadn't been informed of this when I dropped the film off, he told me he just figured that I didn't know what I was talking about so he basically just went ahead and did it his way. His way garnered me a set of slides that I can't use, and a couple of prints that came out nowhere near what I intended them to look like, as well as a bill for about $60 bucks. Needless to say, I was less than pleased.


Ok, enough complaining, let's look some LESSONS LEARNED:


  • If you have 'Professional' film, check the canister and see if it says it requires E6 processing. If it does, you will need to find a developer who can handle it. Most places do not have a proper E6 machine.
  • E6 and slide film can be 'cross-processed'. This will alter the appearance of the shots, so make sure you try it out with some shots you are not real concerned about, you may not like it.
  • CVS, Eckerd, and every other 1-hour CAN cross process your E6 film; just tell them to run it through the machine like any other roll of film. They will probably argue with you and tell you it's not possible, or that it will ruin your film. It won't and they can, just keep asking or find a shop who will work with you.
  • Cross processing slide film will give you negatives, not slides. I'm not sure if it works the other way around.
  • E6 processing is expensive.
  • Cross processing E6 film is cheap. Usually less than half the cost.
  • If you decide to cross process, you can't change your mind, it's permanent.
  • Make sure you do a test roll if you decide to cross process, Velvia looks pretty cool in my book, and your film of choice might look different.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home