Had A Bad Film Day

When I packed for Vancouver I decided to bring my newly reinvigorated love for film photography with me. Today my enthusiasm took a hit. Here are the broad strokes-

I left my trusty Canon FTB at home since I knew I could grab one of my dad’s old cameras. I settled on the lower end FT and a 35mm f3.5 lens. I was going to be heading to the beach so I wanted the lowest end equipment he had. I dug out a roll of Ilford B&W film that we had lying around and found that it expired a few years back. This did not daunt me in the least.

A quick check of the meter revealed a dead battery. Not to worry though, it was sunny, I was going to be outside and Sunny 16 is better than a meter. However, the film was rated at ISO 400 which means that with my FT’s max shutter speed of 1/1000 sec I had very little wiggle room. So I shot it at ISO 100 and would pull it back down when I processed.

I burned off the roll of film during the day and into the evening before the fireworks started at English Bay. As the sun dropped I was forced to guess at every exposure as the meter was still not working. (NOTE- when I guess at an exposure, I guess OVER. I prefer to have a little more info than less).

With the film in the can I hit my first real snag. Turns out the change bag I bought last year is WAY too small. It’s functional but there is no real estate to work with once you throw in the tank, the scissors, etc. The bag you-know-who advised me to buy in Germany is far better. Always listen to him.

But the real issue had yet to reveal itself. This was a new tank and reel that I was using. Rather than test it outside the bag I got cocky and dove in head first. And it jammed while I was loading it onto the reel. Over and over. Every time it jammed I would unload it and try again. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the whole roll to load.

The frustration mounted and the sweat started to pour as I battled the film for about 30 minutes. Finally I knew I had to have a look at the reel to see what the issue was. The problem was that I had the film unraveled in the bag and light would spoil it. I figured I would pop the loose film into the light tight tank and unzip the change the bag to inspect the reel. Good plan until I realized that the tank is only light tight if you use the centre post. I did not. And so, at this point I fogged the film but wasn’t sure to what extent. Awesome.

I got the reel out and gave it the once over. All looked fine so I tried again. Before I could load it again I had to unroll the mess of celluloid that was now all stuck together. Once I pulled it all apart it jammed again. And again. And again.

With approx 1/2 the roll loaded I decided to cut my losses and snip the remaining film. It would be lost but my sanity was perhaps salvageable. With a half roll loaded into the tank it was time to process.

I checked the Mass Dev Chart online for my particular combination and found that there was no data available. (Remember, I overexposed the film by 2 stops and now had to compensate for that by underprocessing it 2 stops). I would have to make a reasonable guess at the development time. By that point I didn’t really care all that much which is why everything went smoothly. After all those variables I still got an image. 18 of them in fact. Of course they are a mess of scratches and some are slightly fogged but hey, artistic choice. Or something.


4 thoughts on “Had A Bad Film Day

  1. Oh, you had a lot of bad luck there. But it also shows that even under those circumstances you can get decent results when shooting film. 🙂

  2. We’ve all been there.

    Having to do without a light meter: check.
    Forgetting the center column in the dev tank: check.
    Fighting a stubborn film in the changing bag: check.

    Most of those I’ve only done once though. Forgetting the center column ended up in a very artsy rendition of four of my early large format negatives. The stubborn reel and film ended up in me getting a second reel (and subsequently many more) and a hair dryer to make sure they’re super dry and nothing gets stuck.

    As soon as you step into the realm of large format photography, you’ll be greeted with even more sources of error.

    It’s a wonderful ride, and the occasional setback is only there to make sure you properly learn something (“..if it’s hard to learn, it’ll be hard to forget..”)

  3. Oh boy…I know how that feels. When I processed my last role of B/W it jammed so many times that when I finally got it in there some of it stuck together and I lost several images that way. I also spilled the finishing chemical in my C41 kit down the sink rather than back into the container. Yeah, film can be a challenge!

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