It has been a loooooong, looooooooooong time since my last non-News post, and for that I apologize. No real reason for it other than I got a bit lazy over the summer, compounded by starting a new job that cut back severely on my time available to work on my blog, photos, and more. Still, I haven’t been sitting entirely on my bum and so I thought I’d share one of the more recent experiments that I tried.
Not long ago, I decided I’d try making a roll of redscale film to shoot. If you’re not familiar with redscale film, it is simply standard color film that has been reversed in the cartridge so that you are shooting it with the emulsion facing away from the lens. This produces an effect that renders each photo with a strong red-ish orange, sometimes green-ish, color cast which is due to the light having to pass through the tinted backing first before hitting the emulsion. It kind of looks like the effects of a strong sunset, but the color palette is somewhat odd and artificial feeling. It’s this oddness that makes shooting redscale fun, so, ever on the quest to try new things, I thought I’d give it a go.
For my attempt here, I made the roll myself. You can buy commercially available redscale film, but it’s a bit pricy. Since I’m a cheap bastard at times, I thought there might be a way to roll my own, and as it turns out, there is. Problem is, most of the ways I found were a bit haphazard in how they achieved their results, plus they relied on getting my hands on old leftover film cartridges, which isn’t so easy for me. After looking these over though, I thought that it might be possible to do so using a bulk roller to essentially bulk roll a single cartridge using the film from another, and that’s what I tried.
Simply put, I used a commercially packed roll of color film as my “bulk” film source and rolled that into a reloadable cartridge same as I would for B&W film. I put the donor cartridge in the bulk loader so that the film would come out in reverse and then spooled it like any other bulk roll into the new cartridge. The tradeoff with this is that you lose some film footage in the process and thus a 24-shot roll of film ends up becoming around 19 shots in the end. I originally estimated 20, but when I got the roll back the last frame was partially obscured from the exposure of what was originally the leader on the old cartridge. For safety’s sake best to estimate about 18 frames for a 24-shot roll, or probably about 30 maybe for a 36-shot roll, based on how many got lost when I rolled this test roll.
Aside from frame loss, there’s one other consideration you have to make, and that is what kind of film to use. First off, it has to be negative film, or there’s no red backlayer to shoot through for the effect. Secondly, it has to be fairly high ISO film if you plan to shoot normally, otherwise you’ll end up with exposures too long to handhold most of the time. In my research, I found that most info advised that there is about a 4-stop loss when shooting through the back layer of the film (varies with each film, but a good starting place). This means you have to shoot it 4-stops overexposed in order to get a “normal” exposure equal to what you would get if you shot it as normal film. In other words, to shoot redscale at a fairly typical ISO 100, you need to use ISO 1600 film as the donor film (1600 -> 800 -> 400 -> 200 -> 100). Problem is, as I write this the highest ISO color negative film I see is rated at 800, so you end up with ISO 50 redscale film, which is what I used (Fuji Superia 800). This to me, means that unless you’re OK with tripods and long exposures, you’re going to have to get at least ISO 800 film to roll for your redscale shooting. Not a terrible dilemma, but it means you have to have good light most of the time if you want to shoot redscale these days. Of course, some films might do OK with a 1-stop push to 1600, and maybe even higher, but that’s something to research later on. For now, I tried ISO 800 shot at ISO 50 and it worked OK, producing good negatives with good detail and grain.
Naturally, all is not perfect. For this test roll the major problem was light leaks. Out of 19 shots that I got, 9 were severely leaked, and all were at the start of the roll. Here’s a typical example:
Why this happened I’m not entirely sure. The camera I shot them in (’54 Kodak Pony 135) has never leaked any other roll I’ve put through it, though they’ve all been ISO 200, not 800. Also, the bulk cartridge I used is the same I use with my B&W film and I’ve never had a leak there either. Also, again – I’ve never had a leak with the bulk roller I use. As such, my hunch is that it’s something that occurred during processing. Especially since the leaks are white and not red, meaning that they didn’t pass through the backing layer from the front, but hit the emulsion directly (like a normal roll’s exposure) which would make sense since it’s now on the outside of the roll and not the inside. Probably something that happened when loading the film into the processor, and since the tech at Walgreen’s had no idea there’s something unusual about the roll other than I wanted the cartridge back, they may have manhandled it enough to cause the leaks. In any case, it is what it is and thus, I’ll try some safeguards when loading the next try to attempt to eliminate some possibilities for leaking. And I still got 10 shots that were fine, so could be worse as far as experimental results go.
And there we have it, my latest foray into the abyss that is photographic experimentation. Is this something I will use a lot in the future? Not sure, but I will use it again for certain. If anything, it’s just another tool to add to the toolbox, and will have a use when something calls for it. For now though, just a bit of fun and learning, and I hope, also, inspiration to others who might want try it themselves.
Here’s the images I like best from the test roll for you to enjoy.