5 frames with...

5 Frames (oops, 6) in Mississippi with 35mm Kodak Ektar 25 film in a Spotmatic by Andrew Morang

August 21, 2019

Dear 35MMC readers, I am a dreamer. I keep hoping I will be able to buy some Kodak Ektar 25 (or Royal Gold 25 – the same emulsion) which has been frozen all these years and will respond perfectly, as if it was fresh. In my previous post, I showed some examples of 120 Ektar 25 and concluded that it was too late and was time to move on. Ha, I can’t keep my own advice. A seller on eBay claimed that three rolls of 135 Ektar 25 had been stored frozen in an old photography studio. The price was reasonable, so I bought them.

Much of west central Mississippi is still inundated by Mississippi River floodwaters and local runoff, so there is plenty of interesting subject matter this spring and summer (2019). Here are some examples that I took with my wife’s 1971-vintage Pentax Spotmatic (which she bought new in Boston, Massachusetts).

Satartia Grocery, 304 Plum St., Satartia, Mississippi (35mm Super-Takumar lens)

Satartia Grocery, 304 Plum St., Satartia, Mississippi (35mm Super-Takumar lens). The Fordice sticker on the door refers to a former governor, whose administration was marked by racial discord, scandal, and some drinking (this is Mississippi….).

House off US 61 near Floweree Rd.,Redwood, Mississippi (135mm Super Multi Coated Takumar, tripod-mounted)

Dead dogs, US 61 near Floweree Rd., Redwood, Mississippi (55mm Super Takumar)

Trump sign, US 61, Vicksburg, Mississippi (135mm, tripod-mounted). The pumps refer to massive units that Congress authorized in 1941 to be installed near the Steele Bayou flood gates to pump water out of the lower Delta and into the Yazoo River. These would be some of the largest pumps on earth and would now cost over $300 million. The US Army Corps of Engineers, farmers, and environmentalists have been arguing over the pumps for 75 years.

Tar paper shack, US 61 near Floweree Rd., Redwood, Mississippi (55mm Super-Takumar). This is in the area that would be drained by the Steele Bayou pumps if they are ever installed.

This first roll of expired 135 Ektar 25 surprised me:

The good: some of the frames are superb, like the poster of Trump and the pumps.

The bad: On many frames, the colors are definitely off. Blue was not recording correctly and many scenes were too green. However, that is not completely unexpected because here in summer, there is so much forest and wetland, the green light bounces back down from the humid summer sky. I noted this many years ago when I started a roll of Kodachrome in Greece and finished it in Mississippi. The Greek scenes were quintessential blue and glowing with light; the Mississippi scenes were green and muted – same roll of film, same Leica and lenses.

Scanner issue: I scanned this Ektar 25 with a Plustek 7600i scanner controlled by Silverfast Ai software. The Ai does not have an Ektar 25 profile. The closest appears to be the Ektar 100 profile (the modern emulsion), so this may account for some of the color issues. But I am sure the Ektar 25 is just too old now. I corrected the color on many frames by using the neutral grey dropper on pavement, concrete, or metal roofing.

Camera motion: I also experienced some camera movement, so I am not being quite stable enough when hand-holding. And I slightly mis-focussed the 35mm Super-Takumar several times. The old Spotmatic has a rather grainy finder screen. I have had excellent results from the 35 before, so my copy is not damaged.

Grain: This Ektar 25 seemed to be coarser grain than I remember. Possibly something happens to the emulsion when it is old, but I do not know for sure. Maybe I am romantically remembering how fine-grain it was in the old days.

Thank you all for reading. Keep supporting 35MMC and keep photographing! You can follow my wanderings and experiments at: https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com

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  • Reply
    Steven Bleistein
    August 21, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Andrew, these are really great documentary photographs. I suspect you could adjust the color in Lightroom or whatever application you happen to use, but it might take some more fiddling. I’ve never particularly liked the Silverfast scanning software. Too user-unfriendly in my view.

  • Reply
    Terry B
    August 21, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Hi, Andrew.
    Always a pleasure to see your images of urban decay. And thanks for the captions which add immeasurably to them. For an international viewing audience, the pumps image would make no sense at all. I was musing, cheaper to build the pumps than a wall, and for a more worthwhile cause?
    Your reference to the green cast is interesting. In the mid-1960’s when I first started using slide film (K25/Ektachrome) I was sometimes plagued with a slight green cast when shooting in summer with fields and trees illuminated by strong sunlight. This was particularly so with very fresh Kodachrome. Our eyes can not determine the colour of the light; they adjust. We see a nice green countryside and are oblivious to the colour of the light reflected off the trees and grass.
    I was reminded of this when I recently submitted a post to Hamish’s site “Five Frames in Ferrari Heaven”. The digital image of my M3 with the Elmar was taken with the camera positioned near a window. Immediately outside and very close was a large tree in the full glare of the sun. The M3 was thus mainly illuminated by the light reflected off the tree and this can be seen. I find the effect not unpleasant, but the shot would not be acceptable for advertising purposes!

    • Reply
      August 21, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      Terry, thank you and Steven for the kind comments. You are right that when we are on a scene, our eyes adjust to the color balance. But of course film does not, it recordes the photons on various layers of emulsion. I rather like the varying tones and colors of color film. I find the “perfection” of digital rather boring.

    • Reply
      Jonathan Robson
      August 21, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      As a new user to scanning and scanning software, what would you recommend Steven. I have SilverFast, but I agree, it seems to be quite unfriendly and stuck in 1995.

  • Reply
    david hill
    August 21, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Great stuff, Andrew–regardless of its failings, I think you did damn well with this Ektar batch.
    Love the dogs. They look really pissed off.

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    August 21, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    A superb post, well-illustrated with classic documentary photos. I have shot Pentax gear since the days of the Asahiflex, and have a large selection of Super Takumars, as well as pre-Supers and later SMC lenses. I shoot these today mostly with an M42/PK adapter on a K3 crop-sensor digital body. You mention the 35mm lens … the first f2 Super-Takumar, the one with a massive diameter front element (67mm filters), was my “standard” lens during the late 1960s and early ’70s. Wide open it is very soft, unsharp across the field, but from f4 thru f8 produces very sharp and well-saturated images. Back in the day, I made many 8×10 prints of cropped negatives shot on Pan-X and Tri-X with excellent results. The later version of the 35, which is smaller and takes 49mm filters, is IMHO superior across the board. That lens was reworked into SMC configuration and released again in M42 mount. If you have that one, you’ve got (IMHO) one of the best 35mm lenses in existence. Here is a link to the “gospel” about the 35/f2 Takumars on PentaxForums: https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/S-M-C-Super-Takumar-35mm-F2.html

    • Reply
      August 21, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks for commenting. My 35 is the f/3.5 Super-Takumar, not the SMC version. I agree it is remarkable for an inexpensive optic. I think I bought it for under $40 or so two years ago. As usual, I need to practice with it more. Cheers,

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    August 21, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Mostly great pictures-BUT dead dog shots made it impossible to show them to the rest of my family…

    • Reply
      August 31, 2019 at 9:03 pm

      Tell your family that they were coyotes. We have so many here, farmers are allowed to shoot them to control the population and prevent predation on chickens and other farm animals.

  • Reply
    Martin Cutrone
    August 21, 2019 at 10:23 pm

    Nostalgic trip through time looking at your photos. I remember shooting rolls of Ektar 25 in my Oly OM10 as a teen. I think you did a great job. The colors are good, and the lack of “perfection” gives them the unmistakeable look of film. Well done!

  • Reply
    September 12, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    Hey! I also live in the Jackson area. I’m just getting started in the hobby

    • Reply
      September 12, 2019 at 10:34 pm

      Thanks for commenting. When you wrote getting started, I assume you meant getting started with film photography. Mississippi has a wealth of interesting material. Winter is the best time to get out and photograph, when the trees have lost their leaves, the poison ivy is somewhat subdued, the snakes are underground, and the skies have texture. Go for it!

  • Reply
    Kodak Ektar 25 - Urban/Rural Decay in the Texas Panhandle - by Andrew Morang - 35mmc
    May 19, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    […] one of my remaining rolls of discontinued Kodak Ektar 25. Long-term readers may recall that I have experimented with Ektar 25 before and concluded that it is well past its prime. Of course, I am unable to follow my own advice […]

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