Some weeks back I bought 3 rolls of expired Fuji Neopan 1600. This is a film that was discontinued circa 2010 and one I had been interested in trying for some time.
I swapped two in a #FILMSWAP because why not share the wealth, and I put the remaining roll in the fridge, as that’s what you are supposed to do right?
Getting my milk for breakfast in the morning that little green Fuji box would be there looking back and minding its own business. It would still there waiting when it was time to get my evening beer. Just sitting patiently.
This ritual went on for two weeks and grew to include the odd eye roll from my wife as to why was there this little green box taking up room amongst the salad and veg – and more importantly, soft mutterings as to how long would it stay there.
As each day passed that little box and I exchanged knowing glances and it got me thinking. What was I waiting for? What special occasion or alignment of stars was required for that hallowed little green box to be taken out of the fridge and placed in a camera? This was no unopened Stinky Pete doll destined for a toy museum.
I began to question myself. I bought it to try, yet there it sat shivering away day after day, wondering what its destiny would be. I bought it to try, yet I seem too scared to use it. I bought it to try, yet I was just waiting…but waiting for what?
What would be the consequence of actually taking it out of the fridge and using it? I would get to try it. I would have fun challenging myself to try and get some good pictures with it. But what if I liked it and then could never get it again?
This went on until one day it dawned on me. There was no need for a special occasion, it was a roll of film whose manifest destiny was to be loaded into a camera and be exposed to the world.
So I did just that. I spent a couple of days in and around London taking some pictures using Fuji Neopan 1600.
First thing that hit me – considering I normally shoot 400 ISO or less – was that the Olympus OM1 dial only went up to 1600, something to think about when it comes to loading it with Ilford Delta 3200.
My plan was to try and shoot the Nepoan 1600 indoors as much as possible to take advantage of the higher ISO so I headed to the new Tate Modern Switch House, a place I had seen that had become very popular with street photographers.
Now here is an interesting thing (at least to me) whilst the higher ISO gives you more opportunity it is still no magic wand against bad light. Let me explain: when I loaded it, my assumption would be that I could go indoors and magically take pictures in dark areas and the 1600 ISO would deal with it no problem, like having an imaginary flash on my camera.
This view was quickly put to bed walking around the switch house because in reality, the film is actually only giving me two extra stops of light, it’s not banishing the shadows. Don’t get me wrong, the two extra stops do make a big difference but not in the way my naive self thought at first.
I quickly got my head around this and found areas where there was enough light for the compositions I wanted. I did also take a couple of outdoor shots but unsurprisingly the sky was a little blown out. The following day I went to Kings Cross Station to utilise those two extra stops of light.
I enjoyed shooting with this film as it changed the way I could compose in some of these locations and looking at the final results, I like the look and indeed the grain. I learnt more about ISO and light in those two days than I could have from a book.
So, now the rush of nervous anticipation is abating and the adrenaline is wearing off, how do I feel about shooting the only roll I had?
I feel fine actually, thanks for asking.
I enjoyed trying it and I think I got a couple of good images from it too. I may never shoot it again but that does make me a little sad? Maybe, but I’ll print the ones I like and I’ll always have them.
I completely understand why we keep these discontinued film stocks precious. I understand why it can be a real wrench to knowingly shoot the last roll but it’s worth remembering that it is there to be shot.
Thus I urge you! Take that roll, put it in a camera and fulfil its destiny.
Once done and the regret kicks in, curse me to the ends of the Earth for this article but remember that instead of a sad lonely little box in your fridge or freezer, you will have a picture or two (or three) to treasure, and all the memories that go with it.
~ Sandeep Sumal
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