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

8 thoughts on “Back to Film

  1. I bought a Mamiya C-220 earlier this year, and I’m more than delighted. But I shoot color, so I use a lab — it is just easier than get ahold of color chemistry in Canada.

  2. Earl, good times are coming!

    Hub, I’ve always admired the C-220. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I too wish it were easier to get color chemicals in Canada.

  3. When you take the time to think, compose and then shoot, the extra time it takes to develop the negatives is negligible. And the time it takes to scan negatives isn’t too much greater than importing and batching raw files. Once they’re digitized it’s no different than digital workflow, except you already have a luscious film look. And print film is more forgiving than digital, exposure-wise. Personally, I like having a clockwork film camera that can operate without electric batteries if need be. I’ve found that with b/w the temperature isn’t too terribly critical.

    Can’t wait to see some examples of your return to film, Gene.

  4. Glad to see you’ve returned to film and rediscovered your photography passion! I have always been an admirer of your picture-taking skills and look forward to seeing more!

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