Has the Roll of Film Ended...?*

 

It certainly has if you use Fuji Neopan 1600 ASA!

If you shoot on film, you buy it in bulk and store it in the freezer.

On my Paris trips to the Passages, I take two Nikon FEs: one loaded with 400 ASA for the "normal" lighting shots, and one loaded with Fuji Neopan 1600 ASA (a faster film) for those dark corners.

Just before my trip to Paris last Thursday, I took out a roll of Neopan from the fridge, then went to the freezer to replenish the fridge. Just two rolls left in the freezer, so I had better order some more.... Shock Horror. None to be found anywhere on the internet – it's been discontinued!

It is probably three years since I bought 20 or so rolls of Neopan 1600, and somewhere down the line I've missed the announcement of its demise.

And worst still. There is not another 1600 ASA film now in production. Either 400 ASA or jump all the way to Ilford Delta 3200 ASA. In future I'm going to have to shoot on 3200, stop down a couple of stops on my camera, then compensate for this when the film is developed. I foresee a few trial rolls being shot and developed until the right result is achieved!

*See my blog, July 06 for comparison...

 
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The Dark Arts...

 

Just finished a darkroom session printing up just three images from one roll of film (36 exposures) from my last trip to Paris. You might think that three is not very many from 36, but ask the digital photographers out there and... that's not a bad hit-rate!

One of the images, a long shot down Passage du Grand-Cerf with a girl, sitting and having a cigarette outside her place of work, posed a familiar problem I've had during this project. Namely, balancing skin tones with the bright, sunlit, tiled floor of the Passage, and the glass ceiling.

In the darkroom I might make 9 or 10 test strips until I achieve the right balance – not just the length of the exposure, but also the grading (the contrast levels of the photographic print). The test strips were on different areas of this image. On the girl’s skin tones, the tiled floor in the foreground, and lastly on the glass ceiling in the upper background. As I have three different exposure times for this one print, I use the “Dark Arts” of Dodging (lightening areas) and Burning (darkening areas) under the enlarger light to produce the desired photograph.

And then there is the “Dry down” factor. Dry down is the phenomenon responsible for many fibre prints being sent to the waste-bin. The wet print looks bright and glows, but the following morning the highlights in the dried print are dull and the print lacks the contrast and punch from the previous evening. My experience in using Ilford Multigrade IV Fiber Glossy Paper tells me to subtract about 8% of the enlarger exposure time – once I think that I've achieved the right result on the wet print.

I make notes, both on the back of the final print and in a notebook, of the exposure time, the enlarger aperture number, the contrast grade, the developing times (developer and fix), and the date. Also, in the notebook, I record the enlarger height and the temperature of the developer.

Fibre Paper will buckle unless dried correctly. After washing for 45 minutes, the wet print is dried in the darkroom, pegged from a Sheila Maid clothes airer until 95% dry – this takes about 90 minutes. Then it is flattened overnight between sheets of rigid blotting paper in my 20 x 16 inch Ademco dry-mounting press (switched off).

The next morning I open the press to examine my work. Will it be back to the darkroom?

 

Has the Role of Film Ended...?

 

Just visited the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – last year they had a complete gallery full of photography, including an information notice that said something like, “Photography has always played a big part in the RA Summer Exhibition...” This sign was an insult to photographers, as the previous year the few images that were on show were hung, literally, on the back of a panel screening the exit door!

So this year was to be no surprise: out of 1,250 artworks on show, I would think maybe only 15–20 were photographs!

My entry for this years Summer exhibition was not in fact a photograph – even though it was made up from 35mm film. The work (nearly a metre square) has the words “Has the role of film ended?” – the letters being made up of small rolls of 35mm film. As a darkroom photographer, I was indeed making a statement – a statement that obviously went right over the heads of the judges (who, no doubt, were sculptors/printmakers/artistes etc.) as I didn't even get past the first round!

An artist friend of mine describes the whole RA Summer exhibition thing as a “cash cow”. At £25 per submission, and a limit of (only!) 12,000 entries from the public, I think I agree!

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Real Photography...

 

Reviewed some of my prints and decided to print two of the best at 20 x 16ins – the largest I can in my darkroom. From a 35mm neg they have enlarged beautifully, though of course all my enlarging notes from the smaller prints were useless. However, that's the joy of film and darkroom. It is REAL PHOTOGRAPHY!

 
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