The bulk loader was a deal and came with mystery film. It had a label that said ‘Plus X 125’ so I loaded a small test roll, shot it and developed it in Kodak D-76. The results were way underexposed but it looked like it developed properly and I could read ‘KODAK SAFETY FILM 5060’ on it. A search found that this stuff was probably Kodak Panatomic X, an ISO 32-40 fine grain film last made in 1987 for aerial photography.

My Nikon F3 / Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4, Andrew Collins

I wound another roll and put it in my Nikon F3. The F3 has a great feel on the winder so I trust it most with weird film. The Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 I used for the roll is one of my favorite lenses for its slight telephoto view and shallow depth of field.

My son and I got in the convertible and drove to a car dealership that is due to be flattened to expand the university hospital. The boy decided he didn’t want shoes so the whole safari was shot from the car. At the time of the shoot, New Mexico wass under a two week shut down to try to tamp down the COVID case numbers, so it felt appropriate to stay in the car and shoot the car dealership with this long-expired film.

Shooting at ISO 32 got me images with just about every problem expired film can have: fungus, cracked emulsion, weird stains, and low density. The grain was still very fine even after at least 33 years in the can. Being such a slow film probably helped keep it from being fogged. I tried printing a frame in the dark/laundry room and the density of the negative was just too low to get much contrast. The scanner was able to get a much better image from it.

Normally, by my nature and education, I avoid anything gimmicky like toy cameras or wacky films. I usually try to use gear that can make a good image and take pictures that speak for themselves without calling too much attention to the process. This pandemic has prompted me to throw out my old rules and just try techniques and subjects that I would not have before. This has resulted in a lot of ‘bad’ photographs but many of them have an emotional content enhanced by what before I would have written off as a gimmick. In the future, I will try not to wait for a quarantine to reevaluate my rules.

Excited by the results, I crank another roll from the bulk loader. It turns out to be the last 36 frames on the spool. I will have to try to make it count.

~ Andrew

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Andrew Collins

Andrew has a BFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University and works in New Mexico as a computer scientist. In between parenting twin boys, he shoots 35mm, 120, and digital. He recently stuck an enlarger in the corner of the laundry room and started...

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