Riley J.B. - Photographer & Alchemist


Calgary photographer, Riley JB, writes essays, photo stories, reviews & tutorials in his photographic Journal.

Film: All in.

It was a few months ago when I stepped back into the world of film photography. Previously I shot film as a teenager, growing up on full auto or with disposable cameras. This is an overview of what my life in film has become. {I will be following up with three other blog posts before the New Year. They won't be instructional per se, but they will document how I shoot film, develop film & scan film.}

I wrote about when I bought my 1961 Rolleiflex 3.5F here. Since then I have gone farther down the rabbit-hole of film photography. And why not? Seems like everyone is. Which is great for the whole film community.

I thought I would be content with shooting medium format film and shooting 35mm equivalent on my digital Fujis. Well I was wrong. I wanted to also do some 35mm film. I was given a Canon A-E1 and 3 lenses in the spring. I could use that.. I guess. But if I was going to go into film I was going to do it how I wanted to. I had a fully mechanical Rolleiflex that I could likely hand down to someone in 50 years and I wanted to match that with a 35mm film camera.

Enter the Leica M3. Some believe it is an implement of snobbery. To me it is a very solid, fully mechanical film camera from the same era as my Rolleiflex. They both look beautiful and were a great team. No dependance on batteries. Just two fully manual, mechanical marvels of engineering.

1961 Rolleiflex 3.5F & 1959 Leica M3

1961 Rolleiflex 3.5F & 1959 Leica M3

Now my team was assembled. I had to sort out my workflow. Previously I had been sending my film to either Richard Photo Lab in California or Caribou Film Lab in Ontario. They both do a fantastic job and are great to deal with. The only issue for me was I am shooting film for personal work and at $19-$26 a roll plus $12 for me to ship it there and $20 for the negatives to be shipped back it was a little cost prohibitive.

I know I know "You just bought a Rolleiflex and a Leica!!".. to buy both of those I didn't invest savings or really go out of pocket. I sold some gear to finance them. The moving of funds from one asset into another I like to think of it as. But film & developing are raw costs that come out of pocket.

I did some internet research on C-41 developing.. I am a colour film guy.. and the majority of stuff out there was about how scary it was and difficult it was to home develop colour film. However, there are a handful great tutorials on blogs as well as on YouTube to get started. I bought the Tetenal C-41 Press Kit for Colour Negative Film,  glass bottles, a 1L Paterson Tank, a dark bag & a few accoutrements to complete my home developing kit. The chemistry would be replaced (At $24US for a kit to develop 8-16 rolls) but the rest was mostly a one time cost.

Warming up the chemistry.

Warming up the chemistry.

My first roll did not go great. I did not fill the Paterson tank full enough which resulted in a dark band on the right side of my shots. But those are the mistakes that allow me to hone this skill. 

My Pops. (Not enough developer in the tank).  Kodak Ektar 100 | Rolleiflex 3.5F

My Pops. (Not enough developer in the tank). Kodak Ektar 100 | Rolleiflex 3.5F

So I have the developing portion handled. But I want my film shots on my computer to share as well as to print (not the traditional darkroom print.. yet). 

Scanners. They vary from the relatively inexpensive flatbed variety up to the behemoth $25,000 pro scanners used by pro labs. I opted for a Epson V600 flatbed. It scans 35mm & 120 film. I found one refurbished directly from Epson so it was a heck of a price. 

The V600 does a pretty good job on 120 negatives. Especially using Vuescan software & a BetterScanning holder with anti-newton glass. How is it at scanning 35mm negatives? Terrible. It just doesn't do a good job for whatever reason. Not that I was happy with anyway.

I started looking into a dedicated 35mm scanner. And along came a Pakon.. The Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus. Formerly it served as a scanner in your friendly neighbourhood mini-lab. It eats up my 35mm film like nothing else. The only problems.. max resolution is 3000x2000 pixels.. and you have to run it on Windows XP.

So far I have only fed it 5-frame strips as I had already cut and sleeved my negatives. But it will take a full roll. So next time my 35mm film will go from hang drying right into the Pakon.

Nom nom nom.. the Kodak Pakon scanning a 5 frame strip of 35mm film.

Nom nom nom.. the Kodak Pakon scanning a 5 frame strip of 35mm film.

This resurgence of film is not the end of digital for me. I still think digital is great and still own a Fuji X-T1. I can not see that changing any time soon. But for personal work I seem to be reaching for my film cameras over the digital.

To finish off this post here are two galleries of photographs from the past few weeks. I don't think they will win any awards but they will end up printed in a photo album. A pretty high honour for any of our photos.