This time last year I was driving home with rolls of film and I wasn’t sure what my results would be. I had no way of knowing if my experiment would be a massive failure, or if it would have some measure of success.
A lot has happened since last SDCC.
And with my inability to go to conventions throughout the year, I worry that I’ve lost my edge.
I’ll know that soon enough.
SDCC starts today.
Panels are already underway, and the doors for Preview Night are soon to open.
I’m planning to post some of the scans from last year both on my IG and my Facebook to try and get more people in front of the camera and a part of this crazy journey.
Below are some of my favorites. And when I get home from SDCC 18 I’ll post a full gallery.
But for now; enjoy. And I’ll see you out there.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been having issues with my scanner.
I have been working on getting the scanner to properly read the negatives for months.
What’s the issue?
The same thing it always is: nothing is made for 70mm.
No modern scanner is going to have the trays or film holders for scanning 70mm.
See, the tray for medium format negatives is set up for 120 negatives, those are 60mm wide. So my film is too large to properly fit in the tray. And I can’t just put it on the surface of the flatbed . . . .
Okay I CAN, but when I’ve done that the scan comes out uneven, out of focus in places, all in all it’s not great. The film isn’t flat and the scan comes out warped, especially where the ends of the roll are, because there’s so much curve that they go all wonky.
Another route is would be to trim my film down, but that runs the risk of damaging the emulsion, so that’s out.
All the way out never to be considered again.
And here is one of my serious failings as a human comes in: I overthink.
I also get very focused on the details and forget to look at a the big picture, or even just consider the obvious work arounds.
I spent the past six months trying to come up with making trays to hold my negatives myself. I used paper, cardstock, mountboard. I tried white and black and 18% grey.
Yes folks I sacrificed a grey card for this.
It still didn’t work.
No matter what I use to make the trays, the scanner freaks out and auto closes.
I can’t force it to manually scan for film.
Maybe there’s a way and I never found it, but that’s okay. Really.
Because I have tape.
Archival, low acid, black masking tape.
And I will give you a moment to realize that it took me months to remember that tape is a thing, and that I have been using this specific type of tape for projects for the last ten years or so.
The medium format scanning tray for the CanoScan mkII has two parts, the base that holds the film and the upper part that clips in place to old the film taut.
That pesky scan mount . . .
I removed the upper part (it snaps into place, so I was able to do this without actually breaking it) and put the film on, taping it in place.
I am a little concerned that this could affect the quality of the scan, but so far it looks good.
I have more testing to do with it, but I’m really happy thus far, and I’ll be posting some galleries soon!
Like tomorrow soon.
One thing I never considered when I began the 70mm Journey is negative storage.
I guess I always took it for granted.
It had never once occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to find archival negative storage for film 70mm wide.
It didn’t occur to me when I was buying specialty film loaders and backs for the camera and film stock.
Or when I was finding ways to expand my development reels.
Or when I was having to scan my negatives loose because I couldn’t find a way to mount them for the scanner. (more on that in another post)
No, it didn’t occur to me until I went to Horn Photo to buy the negative files, only to discover there were none.
Well of course there weren’t, there’s no demand for them really, and my local photo and camera store isn’t going to keep that stuff around, taking up valuable floor space.
So I checked Amazon.
I checked eBay.
I checked every site I could think of . . . nothing.
No one made anything to store 70mm negatives. Not anymore.
I could get 120 film storage, but as you can see in the photo, that wasn't going to work . . .
What am I using for a light box? A computer screen and a blank google doc . . . hey it's cheap and it works.
120 film is on the left, with 70mm on the right. As you can see, there's no swapping the two around.
I did find some 70mm continuous plastic sleeving available on ebay, but that wouldn’t get me through the entire 12 rolls.
Plus it's flimsy and can't be easily stored in a box or binder.
No, I needed something permanent and high quality.
I was not having my negatives destroyed by sub-par storage.
About three weeks ago I found a solution.
I was at my wit’s end.
I knew that I could store negatives, temporarily if nothing else, in glassine envelopes.
So, I went to google, as one does, and I typed in “Glassine Envelopes” . . . top hit; Bags Unlimited.
I click the link, and am taken to a splash page . . . for stamp collecting.
Guys, I may have not considered many things, but never in all my years has I even remotely connected the needs of stamp collectors to photography.
But there, in the corner there’s a link for Binders and Pages.
So I click, because why the hell not, and there, fourth from the top is the listing:
Stamp 3 Ring Binder Page
3 rows, 84mm x 195mm
What's that? It's a unicorn that's what.
I found them. Yes, they’re not cheap. One more expense in this journey of mine. But they EXIST.
And they’re made for stamp collecting which is arguably as picky and as worried about the acid content of stuff that comes in contact with other stuff as photographers are.
So now I have a storage solution, which is more exciting than it sounds, because I can start organizing and scanning and properly cataloging the negatives.
I am so unbelievably thrilled.
I converted this to black and white, but yes those are my 70mm color negatives in their nice new file folders. I am STOKED.
Now . . . if I can just get the scanner to cooperate we’ll be golden.
“Through the Fog” sounds like I’m going to spend the post expounding on my journey and coping with Pam's death and grief. And I guess in a way it is . . . but it also isn't.
Tule Fog is a special kind of weather phenomenon that happens almost exclusively in California’s Central Valley. It doesn’t roll in from the water like in LA or San Francisco . . . it rises from the ground and gets so thick you can’t see the front end of your car.
Being in it is peaceful and centering, and a little like being in a low budget horror film. Driving in it is a learned skill and can be something of a nightmare at the best of times.
I work for a school district where "Foggy Day Schedule" is a real thing and means that school starts two hours late. But I like to leave at my normal time, 6:45am, to give myself plenty of time to drive down carefully. One day, I decided to fire off some of my film. Just for fun, on my way in to work.
It felt good to get some photos done. To burn through a couple of rolls and not look back. I didn’t have to think about color, water, or anything. I just mixed everything up and went. I wish it was all that easy. I wish I could just slap together some chemistry and fix things. I can’t. That’s not how life works. But I forget sometimes that this film project, and picking up film at all is about my personal needs . . . and that I need to respect those needs and goals.
I leave you with these as I prepare for SDCC 2018, consider the various sources I can get water from, and work to block out time for film development in what is left of my summer.
While I work on that, please; Enjoy the fog.
The expensive question . . .
The $120 in chemistry question . . .
The question that everyone from nearly a year ago is asking . . .
Why aren’t you done developing film? That takes like a month at most.
You’re not wrong.
I feel I should open this post with the undignified and yet entirely true comment
"I am an idiot"
I tell my students all the time that chemicals are all around us, for example: water is a chemical.
It is a compound composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and there is no escaping or denying the scientific fact that water is a chemical.
Which is why I felt 37 different kinds of stupid for forgetting that water is such an important chemical part of the development process for photography.
It wasn't until about the end of January, I saw a forum post commenting on the hardness of water; that is the amount of minerals disbursed in the water measured in parts per million, and the subsequent effect on development; that I realized I had completely forgotten to take the chemical makeup of water in account when thinking of development.
Retrospectively, there are two reasons for that:
One: until I started this project I had only ever developed black-and-white film.
And Two: while the chemical process of black-and-white film is so well known, the chemical processes for color are, in most cases, an industry secret.
So this is me, once again, regretting not doing my proper research.
So about two rolls (that’s still like 30 feet) though development of the SDCC photos, I came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t go further without running some experiments. And that meant time that I didn’t have, research I hadn’t done, and chemistry I would have to order.
Which brings us from January/February to now . . . July. I have spent the past months researching color film chemical processes, and devouring all the anecdotal evidence I could find about the effects of water composition on color development, in between lesson planning, teaching, and making sure the school yearbook looked awesome. (it totally did btw)
This is where we’re at now:
Some of this I already knew. Like: water composition doesn’t matter so much for black-and-white because the black-and-white process is entirely based on silver halide crystals. These crystals, or silver salts, are the light-sensitive aspects of black-and-white film, and indeed color film.
What I did not know . . . with color those silver salts are chemically bound using an oxide to dye couplers which determine if the specific crystal will be Cyan, Magenta, or Yellow. And here’s the thing . . . I don’t know what oxides are being used as dye couplers.
(this is also a very basic explanation of how color film works, and not at all comprehensive)
What little information I could find was in academic journals and stuck behind a paywall.
Which is where the anecdotal evidence comes in: I may not know exactly which compounds matter, and without testing my water I don’t even know which ones I have . . . . but what I do know is that we can all agree that water matters.
And the water I’ve been using up until now is hard water. Really hard water. That is to say, there are a lot of minerals in our water in parts per million. Depending on how those minerals are showing up, and which ones they are, they may or may not have an adverse effect on the development.
I won’t know without experimenting.
It is entirely possible that my film, when developed using chemistry not mixed with hard water, could look completely different.
So what water to use?
I’ve done a bunch with the water at my house, so I don’t need to do more with that, I can use it as kind of a baseline.
I’d like to use the water from my parents’ house because it sits on an aquifer, and doesn’t have the water treatment that city water gets, and I want to know if that changes things. It’s going to have a lot of limestone in it, which is going to add calcium and raise the pH. Will this matter? I have no idea.
Then there’s the cabin, which sits on a mountain stream and whose water has a totally different composition to that of the aquifer and to my own home.
There’s also water I can buy at the store, like distilled or drinking water.
Distilled doesn’t have any minerals in it, or almost none. You’re not supposed to drink it at all because it pulls the minerals out of your own system and can really do some long term damage. Regardless . . . it means there’s nothing to play with the dye couplers.
Then of course drinking water, it’ll have a neutral pH and some minerals, but not in large enough quantity that it’ll have a drastic effect on development . . . as far as I can guess.
And those are just water sources I’m currently considering, there’s a lot more.
My husband says I’m getting a little crazy with my investment in the variety of water sources I want to use.
I don’t really care.
Now, I know what you're thinking, that's a lot of goddamn chemistry.
Because it is.
I’ve decided to mix up the chemistry in batches, each batch will be 1L of chemistry.
First I’m going to mix two batches: one from the Aquifer and one from the Cabin.
The Aquifer is under my parents' property in the San Joaquin Valley of California
The Cabin is in the Sacramento Mountains in Northern California
I’ve purchased the 2.5L kit, and I’ll be leaving the last .5L as concentrate.
In theory, there should be three distinct looks, one for each water type. If there’s not I’ll have to revisit this and decide where to go next.
BUT assuming that the development all looks funky I’ll purchase another 2.5L kit when I am financially able to do so, and I’ll do the distilled and drinking water batches.
The last 1L concentrate I’ll mix up when I decide what I like best, or when I grab water from somewhere else to see what it looks like.
This also means that SDCC 18 will be part of the water experiment, which I’m totally fine with, I look forward to a larger test base for this crazyness.
All that aside, there’s one part of this I really hate:
At the end of it all, none of this might matter.
It’s possible that I’m not going to see much of a difference in tone, contrast, or color.
I have to accept that “no difference” is as much a result as the weirdness I’m hoping for.
Regardless, I want to see what I’m going to get and I have roughly 15 days, give or take, before I leave for another SDCC.
So much has changed between last year and now.
I am excited. But apprehensive.
All I can do is as for your patience and support.