Back to Film

Nikon F100

When I gave up film to go 100% digital, I thought that was it. It’s not that I didn’t like film. It’s more I was on a simplification kick and with digital being so good now I thought I wouldn’t miss film.

I did rather wonder why my photography had fallen off and I couldn’t work up any passion for it. I attributed it to the usual causes: aging, depression, other things on my mind, whatever. I didn’t clue into what was the matter until I bought a new film scanner, an Epson V700.

I got the scanner to scan the hundreds and hundreds of photos from the 1980s and 90s that have never been scanned. Color negative film, mostly.

But as soon as I did some test scans, something heady happened. Suddenly I was enthusiastic about photography again. And with the ability to scan everything from 35mm to large format, the film bug caught me and I started asking around if anyone had a used TLR medium-format camera available.

Both my friend Nancy and my friend Jan offered me a TLR. The first one I tried had a stuck shutter and, alas, couldn’t be used. The second one, a Yashicamat 124 is on its way to me from being repaired in the U.S.

Then I got to thinking about 35mm and how I missed having a film SLR around. Another friend, Guy, mentioned he’d seen a nice Nikon F100 up for auction on eBay by Henry’s. I bid on it, and won it, and took it out for a test spin with some Ilford HP5 Plus film.

Development of the film was tricky. I’d given away or sold all my photo processing gear so I used a donated stainless-steel tank and reels. I picked up some HC-110 developer and some rapid fixer and did my best to load the film onto an SS reel. The last time I used SS reels was over 40 years ago, and I’d been using Paterson nylon reels ever since so it was a challenge.

Then as I was ready to start, I discovered there wasn’t a thermometer in the house I could use to measure the temperature of the developer. So I guessed, as best I could, at 20C. Film loaded, I developed it, fixed it, and washed it. I could see that the film had been slightly mis-spooled and there was a small area where it looped back on itself and didn’t receive any development. Worse, the film was badly fogged. Evidently the SS tank leaks light.

I could see just enough on the strip to see that the frames had been exposed consistently by the F100 and that spacing was good. I took one frame, a reflection of a tree in a puddle, and zonked out the contrast in Photoshop to produce a textured abstract. It was the only semi-salvagable frame on the entire roll.

So now I’ve ordered a new Paterson three-reel tank and three Paterson reels so I can have a comfortable, light-tight tank and set of reels. They no longer carry them in the store. I had to special order the tank.

I might be off to a hard start, but I’m delighted to be back to film. Not film exclusively, of course. I like digital photography very much, but I missed the craft of film photography and am glad to have returned to it.

Here’s the salvaged frame:

Abstract in Sepia