A Journey into the unknown
A Facebook ad that lead me to buy big batch of 35mm film from a London based photographer, set me out on a an adventure to learn more about the analog photography craft and surprised me with results that are reminiscent of an era long past.
I always wondered how film photographers showcase their developed film negatives on a light-board or a self-executed scanned image and have it render a positive image. From my experiences, I only saw an inverted / negative render of the image on the developed film strip. The words "Color Negative Film" meant little to me as I've been shooting and developing this type of film without being mindful of the development process. Only when the seller of the bulk film stash told me, "Hope you're excited to shoot with your new batch of slide film" I realized that this was a different medium to work with.
Turns out that slide film, or color positive film, renders a positive image when developed by E-6 processing method. The reason for this is that these film strips, once developed, were cut out and inserted into slide cartridges that could be directly projected as a slide-show by sending a beam of light through them to render an image on a wall. This of course, was before MS Powerpoint. More research and extensive reading on the topic revealed to me that this film type is predominantly used for daylight photography and results in a sharp, fine grain. Photography forums warned that the film is susceptible to strong contrasts and is very easily under or over exposed. Another variable to note is that only one place in South Africa processes slide film (E-6) and it’s located in Johannesburg. Having resided at in Cape Town at the time, this was an extra kink in the logistics chain that had to be taken into account for cost and time to have the film developed. Nonetheless, I was determined to load it up and have a go at it.
The Batch of film I purchased included the following:
20 x FujifilmVelvia 50
10 x Fujifilm Velvia 100
8 x Ektachrome 100
6 x Fujichrome Provia 100
With the Kodak Ektachrome 100 being the more sought after or rather desirable of the batch due to it having been discontinued in 2012, I decided to take the more generic Velvia 50 and Velvia 100 for a spin. The Beach was misty and the sunlight gave it an eerie, illuminated gloom. Visibility was about a 20m circumference from where we were walking and the sun crept out every now and again to reveal a small window of opportunity to capture the beautiful soft light. To the right was the roaring, cold ocean and to the left was the ominous Rooisand wetlands. Caught between these two natural forces, the deserted beach provided a perfect opportunity for capturing beautiful intimate photographs.
A few days later I visited the local Postnet to ship the five rolls of film to Johannesburg. I did not have much hope that the product of expired slide film on a unfamiliar camera (My Canon AE1 was in for a service so I was given a replacement Minolta of which I could not remember the specific model) would produce anything worthy of a “cool shot man”, even less a “Wow” or “amazing”. Days passed and what seemed like a thousand emails in correspondence between me and the film developer on time of delivery estimates left me a bit hopeless compared to my initial excitement. When my phone back-light illuminated with an inbox notification with my scanned files in my received, I wasted no time to download the file…
The initial hue of the photos revealed themselves to be somewhat purple with dark, sharp colors. Another thing was apparent and this was that the scanner had more dust on it than a vintage wine in the dark corner of a cellar. Upon further inspection of the individual photos, “wows” tuned into joyous laughter and amazement as the results of the photos were reminiscent of a different era and something unlike I’ve seen on color negative film. Dark tones and sharp contrasts gave skin tones amazing dreamy colors with sunsets and the dying sunlight of the day giving warm saturation to the landscapes.
Having said that, I won’t be scrapping my color negative film anytime soon. For one, the whole development process and logistics is a bit of a mess, especially when traveling. Secondly, More photos are unusable with dark contrasts spoiling the photo. What I can say is the following; if you’re shooting to get a perfect and color correct photo, this film should not be in your fridge door. If you’re shooting for the thrill of the unexpected and the chance to have your mind blown in a nostalgic and vintage photographic experience with photos that seem timeless even by the hands of an amature photographer, then give slide a go!
All photos are taken by me and are left unedited.
Shot on Minolta XD
Story and photographs - Carl van der Linde
Muse - Danielle Smith