It’s been about six months since I began shooting with film; both 35 and medium format. While six months sounds like a long time, for the world of film it really is nothing more than a blip. That said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the learning process, and have much more to learn.
My greatest difficulty has been understanding what aperture truly does to an image. On my D750, stopping down my aperture means I’ll have a wider DOF with almost everything in focus, however I will also need a slower shutter speed to account for the lack of light. Shadow recovery and messing with highlights after the fact is quite easy to manage. This has not been the case with the rolls of film I’ve shot with. I find that while yes, a sharper aperture means I’ll have more in tack-sharp focus, I also have almost similar amounts of light. Obviously, this is all dependent on the box speed I’m shooting at, but if I were shooting 400 during the day, and I stop my aperture down to f/22, I’m going to have tack sharp focus with very little side effect on my shadow and contrast. This is the benefit of the iso you choose to shoot with, because while a digital sensor will have noise in an image at higher iso’s, film will also have its own cruxes for certain speeds.
Why exactly am I telling you about how aperture affects an image? Well it’s quite simple, shooting with film or a digital camera is wonderful when you have your settings dialed in…but what if something were to inhibit that? I’ve found myself wanting more and more challenges in terms of shooting, and I often come back to one thing: expired film. It’s a complete gamble when you pick up an old roll of film that’s past due. I’ve shot with rolls as old as 23yrs expired, and as young as four years expired. The fact remains that what will occur is nothing more than uncertain.
My most recent endeavor with expired film has been a roll of Kodak Gold 200 that expired sometime in 2011. I chose to shoot this roll at 400 to see how much I could do with it, and I will say I was shocked by the results of some of my shots. I found myself becoming rather frustrated in all honesty, because I did lose some wonderful shots due to the expired nature of the film. The greatest impact to the film itself was the blacks, shadows, and color balance. My familiarity with kodak gold images are of a sultry, smooth aesthetic similar to gentle browns and oranges, with rather vibrant blues, washed out red/yellows, and mellow greens. Many of my shots were rather unique when it came to color balance. I am aware that my choice of shooting at +1 probably impacted the images to an extent, however, I do not regret that decision.
This was the very first shot taken on the roll, f/17 @400. Here you can see the blues are a nice deep saturation, with a gentle gradient from the top to the bottom of the image. also worth noting is the color noise present in the upper left areas; I’m fairly certain that’s due to the scanner, but I can’t know for sure as I don’t have access to many scanners.
Here’s a wonderful example of where a shot went okay…f/13 @400. The red and blues are a wonderful mix of vibrant and gentle, with a side of umph. The shadows along the base of the porch are extremely dark, however that was more of a stylistic choice on my behalf due to my disdain towards the previous, ultra-grainy shadows.
An interior coffee and cheesecake shop, f/1.7 @400. I really quite like this image as it has a kinda 90’s feel to it. something about the color of the wall mixed with the brick and golden sheen of the display case is eerie, yet comforting and delectable all at the same time.
Another good example of how the color science is with this roll…f/9 @400. The red and yellow are rather vibrant, but desaturated all whilst the blue remains to be a deep and powerful mix of flat and sharp. Most notable in this is the presence of rust along the solder points of the figure. The gradient from brown to gold, then silver and black is quite interesting to see.
An obelisk in town…f/22 @400. The dark nature of the sculpture in the foreground is no doubt related to my choice of aperture, however in this case I was going for a silhouette approach. I wanted the figure to appear so massive that it blocked out the sun, leaving nothing but darkness on the viewers behalf while also being able to see the beautiful plump clouds behind. An odd choice of balance probably, somewhat chaos and peace simultaneously, but it wound up working out.
I think this was the best image produced from this roll…f/18 @400. There are two things occurring here; First is the composition of the image. I’ve been unable to capture the density of the buildings here in downtown Greensboro at this single spot for quite some time, however I believe I’ve finally done it. From the bridge to the building, and then the bank tower behind, I can really get a sense of dense clutter, but also maintaining a beautiful level of architectural symmetry. The second thing worth mentioning in this photo is that the dark and light color balance occurring is phenomenal. This image had some of the finest grain out of the entire roll, and I can’t quite tell why that would be. I’d love to find out, that’s for sure.
The last image is my least and second-most favorite…f/1.7 @400. I really wanted to finally capture a decent portrait of my friend on film, this was not the day it seems. Even with the aperture open all the way and the shutter somewhere around 1/60 of a second, I couldn’t dodge the silhouette bullet. While I enjoy my earlier silhouette, this was actually supposed to let you see his face. Oh well, in the name of science, right? Rather than being able to enjoy a nice portrait and give it to my friend, I’m now thinking of the “who’s that Pokemon?!?!” intermediary before and after commercial breaks. At least this will produce a good meme for us.
All in all, I quite enjoyed shooting with the expired roll of gold. While yes, shooting any roll of film feels the exact same, there is a dash of extra intrigue and excitement when I shoot with expired rolls. It’s that sense of not knowing whether an image will actually work out. Of course with any roll of film you have a level of uncertainty, especially with my medium format (no light meter, just sheer ability to understand light and composition). But I say again, expired film is a complete gamble; you never know what you’ll get!
Here are some of the shots that didn’t quite make the notable cut, but I still really enjoyed them.