I’m a weird person. It’s why I’m still single.
I’m weird because when I get into something, I learn as much about it as I can. My capacity for learning seems to be hindered only by my interest in the subject. (Just because I learn something doesn’t mean I’m any good at it… I take a lot of crappy pictures and make a bunch of crappy landings.)
Of the research I’ve done into photography, I’ve learned about films that are no longer made. Kodak films, Ferrania films, Fuji films, just any film that isn’t made anymore. I’m jealous of people that got to shoot on legendary films like Kodak Kodachrome and Fuji Provia 400.
When I first caught wind of Kodachrome, I researched the feasibility of shooting it even though it’s expired. No joy there. Not only is Kodachrome dead, but it’s been buried, too. The processing, known as K-14, is not available anywhere in the world. Well, maybe somewhere there’s a hoarder with the chemicals needed, but even those are probably expired. If they expire. Point is, no Kodachrome.
And Kodak has NO slide film anymore, either. No Ektachrome, no EliteChrome, no nothing. It’s all print film. Ektar and Portra for professional grade color films, T-Max and Tri-X for black and white, plus Kodak Gold which is surprisingly good in 400, and a favorite film, Kodak Color Plus, which if what I’ve read is right, it’s just a Kodak Gold formula from the 1980’s. I could be misinformed about that, though.
Being the kind of person I am, obsessed with things from the past and really wanting to experience them, I grew a little sad at the notion I’d never get to shoot on a Kodak slide film. I could shoot expired film, but most of the time that’s film that was sitting in a sock drawer, forgotten about because of a DSLR, and now is being sold on Ebay because the hipster Lomography crowd loves the look of expired film. I don’t, but hey, to each their own. Your art is your art.
Recently, though, I stumbled onto a sale. It was on Ebay, and it was for 10 rolls of Kodachrome 64, listed as cold stock. What is cold stock, and what does it mean?
Film is temperature sensitive. It ages poorly in extreme heat, and can be stopped from aging when frozen. Cold storage is like sticking it in the fridge. It’s not going to last forever, but you’ve slowed the signs of wrinkles.
The seller was a camera store in Flint, MI, and they were moving to a new location. The move necessitated the need to get rid of a bunch of old film stock. Part of this stock was 10 sealed boxes of Ektachrome 64.
Ektachrome was a sister film to Kodachrome, like Portra is to Ektar today. Kodachrome was a slow film. The fastest was 200 iso, and that was killed in 2007. It also, from the opinions of those lucky enough to shoot it, didn’t think it did as well as an Ektachrome equivalent. Low light and unpredictable light is what many Nat Geo photographers used Ektachrome for. In fact, when Steve McCurry went back to find the Afghan Girl, he used Ektachrome film. Part of this was because Ektachrome is an E-6 process, which Fuji and Agfa still use, and the other part is it’s faster than Kodachrome. Again, like Ektar and Portra today.
The seller said that the film had been frozen once, but was moved to a fridge around a year before listed because a local photographer started asking if they had any, and apparently at one time, they had a LOT in a freezer. They moved the film from the freezer to the fridge to help this photographer with waiting to shoot the film. Because it was expired, and he was using it on jobs, everything needed to be Swiss precise. According to the store, the photographer moved, and this pack of 10 just stayed in the fridge.
So I bought 6 rolls, as they were breaking the brick. I would have bought all 10, but I’m not that well off financially. I struggle to deal with the cost of Velvia and Provia, which is why I don’t shoot much slide film.
I bought 6 so that I could have one or two to test out and see how they work, then the rest to use for special projects.
I’m calling this experiment the Ektachrome Chronicles. Just in case you didn’t read the title.
Here, I’ll be sharing the shots from the first roll. I had hoped to shoot one roll to test and then use the rest for special projects, but I’ll have to use two rolls, and you’ll see why.
So, shot number one. Everything looks… Blue, very blue. The red sign came through very nicely, and the colors aren’t terrible, but everything has a blue haze.
And the same with shot two. Orange comes out nicely as does red, and the grain is wonderful. But we still have a blue hue everywhere.
I don’t know a whole lot about how expired film acts. Again, I don’t shoot it very often. But I think this is part of the aging process. I do like the vintage hue everything has because of the expired-ness of the film, but it also kind of annoys me.
There’s another problem too. It’s a little… Let’s say sensitive to light. Yes, that’s a good word. Sensitive. For this shot here, I had a Nikon F4 and a Nikon D200, and the D200 had no problems rendering the scene without blowing it out completely. I kinda like this shot though. It looks like a scene from Star Trek or something, when the Enterprise is appearing from the bright light of a star. But this is a tractor. And I over-exposed my film.
Not all is bad news, however. Here, this shot, the scene is fairly accurate. The blue tone is still there, but it’s not as bad. In fact, I had my D200 with me here, too, and if I can…
*kicks a can*
*knocks over a tool box*
*drops a hammer*
AH! Got it!
This is a D200 shot, processed through DXO Film Pack, and using the Kodachrome 64 emulation. I’d have used Ektachrome 64 for a truly fair comparison, but the program, ummm… It doesn’t have Ektachrome 64. So Kodachrome it was.
The D200 also had a fixed 50mm Nikkor f/1.8af/d lens, where the F4 had a 35-70mm f/3.3 Nikkor zoom, that’s why it’s not quite the same frame. The aperture and shutter speeds were also different. BUT. There are similarities in the color profile.
All in all, I think I might have this cracked. I just need to slow the film down, give it even more time to expose. I know, right? How much slower can a 64 film go? Well, there’s 32 ISO. The next roll will be shot there, to try and compensate for the aging of the film.
Despite the expired nature, the color reproduction is still pretty good. A little dreamy, sure, but blues are blue, yellow is yellow, salmon is salmon, purple is purple. It’s just all got a little more blue than normal.
So there they are. The best shots from my first roll of Kodak Ektachrome.
There were many more, but the aging of the film made many of the desired effects too much. I had a shot of very low storm clouds passing through a small valley, but my exposure and the age of the film made everything look grey and washed out.
Every film shot came through a Nikon F4, with a Nikon Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3 lens, a warming filter, and of course, the legendary Kodak Ektachrome 64 film.
Digital shots came from a Nikon D200, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8af/d lens, no filter, and digital processing hob-gobbly-gobbledy-gook!