Graveyard of the Poorly Exposed

March 29, 2005

As March 29, 2005 also seemed to be too packed to take 60 seconds and make a Photo Phazer movie I've included a few more images from Cherry Canyon. 

The above image was shot using a roll of film that I was rightly very dubious of— a C41 process black and white. For you non-photo people out there that means that this is a roll of "black and white" film that's actually processed using the same chemistry as color film. The results are predictably flat, with dramatic differences in contrast and not much subtlety through the gray tones. As I didn't have access to a darkroom at this time I had no way to produce black and white images using standard black and white film, so in a fit of desperation I picked up some Kodak BW400CN and decided to give it a try. The resulting images turned the thickets of the canyon into jumbles of indistinct black and white lines (although it didn't do too badly at capturing the gray tones of the smog or the glint of noon light off the top of a porta-potty), and I haven't used it since.

These images were created by cross-processing slide film or, in layman's terms, shooting with slide film but then insisting that it be developed with the chemistry used for color films (the c41 process mentioned above) as opposed to the chemistry intended for developing slides (known as the E-6 process). Cross-processing slide film yields images with an odd color shift and heightened color saturation. You can really see this effect in the grass image above, where the sky is an ungodly blue and the pale dry grasses have taken on a peculiar greenish yellow cast. In the image below of an abandoned oil tank, the actual yellow should be more of a school bus tone, not the strange chartreuse cast seen here.

On the back of these two photographs I've written in pen, "pushed 2 stops w/normal exposure." Such valuable information was obtained the hard way when I shot what might have been my most perfect roll of film one autumn morning in the canyon. I took it to the photo shop that very day and had them cross-process it. What I neglected to tell them (as I assumed they already knew) was that you have to over-develop the slide film when you choose to cross-process. Otherwise, that collection of 35mm masterpieces will be little more than dingy under exposed slides. I still feel physical pain when I think about looking through the loop at those negatives and seeing what could have been. Perhaps someday my Photoshop skills will be strong enough to raise those photographs from the binder that serves as graveyard for the poorly exposed.

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