"So, um, how do you like that restaurant down the street?" "I don't care for it?" "Really?!? How many times have you been there?" "I never have." "Um.... Alrighty then!" Such could very well be akin to the narrative defining my feelings on cross processing of slide film using C-41 chemistry. I'd never tried it, and never really intended to do so either, as the idea seemed little "hipster gimmicky" to me, and I'd considered myself a photographic purist. In an almost defiant move to the notion of the idea, I'd even happily developed two rolls of Agfa Crossbird, a film that readily promotes use as a cross processing medium, in conventional E-6 chemistry. In early April, while reading one of my favorite photo blogs, the Casual Photophile, I happened upon a post detailing the basics of X-Pro. In short, by the time I finished reading the article, the engaging Photophile managed to break it all down to the point where the idea of shooting a roll of film and then cross processing it actually sounded like FUN. That is, after all, a big part of why I like to shoot film. After posting my comments on the excellent article, he encouraged me to give it a try, hence the post that you are reading now. I had a few rolls of recently expired Velvia 100F 120 slide film lying about whose color rendition (when processed in E6) about which I wasn't exactly over the moon, so this seemed the obvious choice for a film medium. I also certainly had a few dormant medium format cameras sitting about waiting for their next assignment. I elected to choose the most "Lo-Fi" of them all, the humble Agfa Billy Record I, one of the very first folding cameras that I ever picked up. With a slow and modest f/6.3 lens and only 3 shutter speeds, it seemed to be the ideal conduit for this part of the experiment. Since this was a project centered on experimentation, it seemed like this would be a nice opportunity to broaden my experimental horizons in the process. Since my Olympus PEN E-PM2 offered a "Cross Process" creative filter, I figured I would shoot comparable images on it using this mode to compare to the film results. Finally, since I was going "Lo-Fi" with my look on the analog side, it seemed only natural to use an adapted manual focus lens on the digital body instead of an AF lens. To closely match the composition of the focal length of the film shots, my most suitable choice was the widest of these in my possession, a 24mm f/2.8 Promaster lens that I've rarely used. Therefore, this one experiment actually wound up consisting of four experiments rolled into one!
Cross Processing Slide film, which I've never done before.
Using the previously unused Cross Processing filter on my Olympus Pen.
Shooting with the under-utilized Agfa Billy
Shooting with the under-utilized Pro Master 24mm lens.
Learning is an interesting animal. There are times when one spends considerable time learning new things in bits and pieces over the course of many months. Then, there comes the time when one must draw from what they've learned to achieve a desired result in a far shorter period of time. In the past several months, I've been able to learn a lot about film photography at a leisurely pace, and to apply bits of this newly found knowledge at an incremental rate. Usually, as I've taken photos in the region, I've been able to experiment on my own time and pace, knowing that if I made a technical error in my photos, I could return to the same site at a later date without too much in the way of inconvenience. Unique or rare lighting and weather conditions were about the only factors that created much of a sense of urgency to "get the shot right," but even then, there was always some possibility of a return visit to get a better photo if needed. In the world away from my home in the mid-Atlantic, those same rules of forgiveness do not readily apply. So when I had to book a trip to Portland, Oregon to assist with some family business, I realized I could (and should) take along some film to shoot as a means of decompressing from the business at hand. If I had any free time, it would be in the evenings, and since I remembered some cool old neon signs that I loved in the City of Roses, it seemed this would make the ideal setting for some classic film photos. Given that I've worked with several kinds of film as well as numerous cameras over the past few months, the possibilities of what cameras to take, what film to shoot, as well as what combinations of film and camera would work most ideally seemed pretty daunting. I was looking at two evenings at most with which to do this, with no idea when I might be returning, so it was time to pull all I'd learned together to achieve the most of this opportunity. First, I had to do a little reconnaissance with Google Image searches and Street View to map out photo opportunities. I'd remembered a few signs from previous visits to the Rose City, but as I looked deeper, I discovered many more worthy photo subjects awaited me. Some were spectacular, some were quite nice, and a few were a bit more basic, but still worthy of my time. I took to Excel to list these sites, their locations in the area, and try to prioritize them by interest level.
Given that, I then had to make the decision of the cameras I would take as well as the films I'd use. This proved to offer some challenge, but as I had managed to get a good degree of experience with each, the choices I ultimately made gave me no heartburn. I got obsessive to the point of looking at each possible visit site to determine if there was any special film or camera that I'd specifically want to use for any of them. Ultimately, I took along about a dozen rolls of film of at least 6 varieties, as well as cameras to capture results in a range of formats. Though I'd hoped to give all the cameras use for this project, some, such as the Franka Solida, were never loaded with film at all during my stay, while others were also used at other parts of the journey back. Ultimately, the lit neon photos were captured on Velvia 50, Provia 100, and Agfa Crossbird 200 using the Balda Pontina, Zeiss Ikonta 521/2, Zeiss Super Ikonta 531/2, and the Kodak Autographic 1A 116 format camera. I began adhering to a pre-planned regimen of taking specific scenes with specific cameras and film, but had to abandon this notion as the whole process of unmounting and remounting various cameras on my single cheesy tripod proved to be extremely infuriating in the limited amount of time I had at my disposal, and the increasingly limited patience. I had expected to be recording exposures on my exposure notes, but that too went by the wayside quickly, as I interacted with my brother during our ride along through the streets of Portland. With all that was going on, I began to realize that I might be overexposing the shots by the end of the first evening of shooting, and had generally corrected this by the second night, though both the Pontina and Super Ikonta had some quirk of their own regarding the shutter closing after bulb exposures that I had to continually catch and correct. Upon returning home and sending off the four rolls of film for processing, my initially high expectations started to wane a bit with worry between exposure issues, and some of the equipment quirks. Quite fortunately, most of those worries proved to be unfounded, and the results that arrived just a week later from Old School Photo Lab were quite nicely done. Even one of the flub shots turned out to give a very interesting, and usable result. Though framing issues hindered the results I got from the Autographic 1A, I was elated to find that the Super Ikonta 531, a camera which had previously provided me some very disappointing results on its initial test roll, delivered some very good shots this time. Perhaps some of this had to do with me foregoing the use of the rangefinder, and relying instead on my distance estimates. Results from the Trioplan equipped Pontina were generally wonderful, though some of my favorites came from the more humble Ikonta 521, into which I fed a roll of Crossbird 200, processed simply in E6 chemistry. But enough with my jabbering already. It's time to let the photos do the talking. Enjoy!
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Among my first sign captures were images of one of the best of the batch, the Palms Motor Hotel on Interstate Avenue. While my first shot, above, shows some tripod movement, that while not bad, is a little odd, the second capture seen below manages to render this lovely classic sign in its best light, both literally and figuratively.
After too long of a hiatus, my classic images return! Every Monday, I'll be spotlighting a different classic Kodachrome slide that I've picked up, and trying where I can to detail the who, what, when, where, why, and how (much) of the image:
What: Business district on a very lovely Spring day.