A few years ago, I was gifted a lot of film for a project I was working on which involved shooting a roll a day for two weeks and vlogging my journey. I was mailed so much that I am still shooting some of it. If you’re subscribed to my channel, you’ve likely seen me use them in episodes with mixed results. Sometimes it shot just like new, as in the case of my 30-year-old roll of Kodak Ektar 25, and in other instances it ends up as an unaired episode due to the lack of usable images. One thing I have noticed though, and it’ll probably sound obvious, is that as time goes by, fewer rolls are producing printable or even scannable results. I am grateful for every roll though, and some of them I decided not to shoot at all opting to add it to my permanent collection of expired film in my office.One of the gems donated by a viewer though, was Fujifilm Neopan SS. I had about five rolls and while it doesn’t have the greatest name, the results were amazing. I was able to shoot them all at box speed, and I used some on special projects, like a couple recent zines and the aforementioned marathon. Before I show you what I got more recently with my final rolls, here’s some of my favourite photos previously taken with Fujifilm Neopan SS
I’m very happy with these results, and while I can’t be sure the renderings are representative of what a completely fresh roll of Neopan SS would look like, I think being able to shoot in its native ISO gives me a pretty good idea. There’s probably more noise overall, and less detail in the highlights if I had to wager a guess. Still, what I’ve got is a rich tonal range with emphasis on deep shadows without the loss of detail.
So with everything I’ve told you, it only made sense that I would use one of my trusted expired film batches to shoot part of my Alberta Grain Elevator Project. For the past two years or so I have been trekking around the Canadian province of Alberta, my home, capturing grain elevators, both abandoned and still in use. So far I have shot almost forty of them, and based on the info I have, I’m about half way there. From my most recent trip, and with the last rolls of Neopan SS, I captured elevators in the towns Warner, Skiff, and Hilda, as well as an abandoned home in Empress with a couple of late model Nikon 35mm bodies and modern, new-when-purchased Nikkor lenses.
Unfortunately one of my rolls was scratched, namely by my Nikon F100, the the guilty speck of dust likely made its way in while changing rolls because not every one was affected, so whether I’ll be able to use any of those shots in the darkroom is uncertain. I asked my Discord members what they would do in this case, and someone suggested “Edwal’s No Scratch”, and so I got a bottle from Argentix. Perhaps I’ll write about it in the future. I’m aware of the old insider tip of using nose grease to fill in the scratch and that is, without a doubt, disgusting.
I’m sad of course. It’s like a limited-edition soda or the McRib, once it’s gone you wish you had more. From what I have read it was only discontinued in 2011 so that gives me some hope.
As we move forward into the 20s, shooting an expired roll of film is an exercise of diminishing returns. Most of the rolls we will use, have already been produced and are sitting somewhere. On someone’s shelf… in a relative’s basement, and the more time that goes by the worse the results, at least from a technical standpoint. Plenty of analog shooters just love faded grainy results, but when we’re talking about how these emulsions were originally intended, it’s objectively worse as the years stretch behind us. Pro photographers keeping hidden gems in the freezer are the exception, and the cost is getting higher too.
After this trip I made some decisions about my workflow. I had to take a hard look at what I wanted as a photographer, and for the most part, I was done with expired film, with a couple of exceptions of course. First, if it’s less than a decade old, it’s probably fine and I’ll go ahead. And second, if I come across multiple rolls that have weathered the test of time together, I can use one as a tester, to see if the other(s) are worth it.
If I were to leave you with one recommendation though, is that you should strongly consider leaving the roll you found in the box and putting it on display. I recently bought an MP3 player that I owned in my twenties off eBay, “new” in box, in order to inject myself with a heavy dose of that sweet sweet nostalgia and after opening it and trying to set it up, I discovered that the lithium battery would not hold a charge, and the protective case it came with started cracking and flaking almost immediately. Now I wished I had kept the package sealed and hung it somewhere in my office. I would have been able to look fondly at it from time to time, instead of it ending up in a drawer somewhere. The same goes for some of the old film I’ve opened and shot, I wished I had put it behind glass and admired it that way. Ultimately the gamble is yours to make.
Thanks for reading, you can find my youtube channel here
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