As a relatively new amateur photographer, I settled quite quickly into a default process. I have a favourite film in a preferred format that I develop with my process of choice. However, when someone sent me three rolls of expired Kodak Tri-X 400, I figured that I might as well experiment with them.
I have a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/2 folding camera which takes great big 6×9 negatives. I had already acquired some 35mm adapters for it in the past, but I only ever used them once or twice with mixed results. This seemed like a good opportunity to really get this sprocket panorama thing down. I might mess up the first roll, do a little better with the second, and hopefully really nail it with the third.
The First Film
It turns out that I messed up the first roll in several ways. To start with, I hadn’t attached the film to the take-up spool properly. I only figured this out when I had taken what I thought were rather more pictures than would fit on a single roll of film, but it just kept advancing without running out. Luckily, this meant that no film was wasted. I had just spent an evening walking around town with nothing to show for it, but at least I was outside.
I repeated the exercise the next day, after loading the film again. This time it all seemed to work. Because 35mm doesn’t have any backing paper, I couldn’t use the little door on the back of the camera to make sure I correctly advanced to the next frame. But I remembered that it was about five turns of the film advance wheel to get to the next shot. I managed to find six interesting scenes to shoot and went home to develop.
I mentioned before that the film was expired, but the cannisters didn’t have any date on them. So I thought I would play it safe and overexpose by one stop, which should be fine with this film regardless. Then I used stand-development in Rodinal to get the most out of the film’s latitude. There’s a lot of scepticism about stand development, but I have used this process dozens of times on Ilford’s Delta Pro films. Always with good results, and never a sign of streaking or drag.
It turns out that isn’t the case for Tri-X. And it also turns out that my frame spacing was rather large: five turns should have been five half turns.
The Second Film
I took the lessons to heart, and managed to take twelve new pictures, which I developed in Ilford’s DD-X, the only other developer I had available. They came out great, although slightly dense, and extremely curly. Scanning them was difficult, but I was quite pleased.
There were still some problems. My vertical pictures were leaning left. Either because I was using the viewfinder wrong, or because the film wasn’t running straight through the camera. There is some ghosting around the sprocket holes. And there is a light leak in the corner, probably because the light reflects from the frame counter window inside the camera. 35mm Film has no backing paper to stop this from happening. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to eliminate these problems even with the third film.
The Third Film
For the third film, I felt confident enough to do some double exposures. The Nettar doesn’t really allow for this, because the shutter is blocked until you turn the frame advance wheel. I figured that with a single turn, the frames would overlap enough for an interesting result.
None of these double exposures really came out well. Most of that is because I just failed to make interesting compositions or to think about shadows and highlights. But I was quite happy with the regular shots. I’m a city boy, and I already take most of my photos in a vertical format. It was a lot of fun to take that to an extreme, and make these vertical panoramas. Of course, panoramas allow you show beautiful wide vistas. But it also allows you to focus on vertical lines without a lot of context to distract from it. And Rotterdam is a city with plenty of verticality. I normally shoot half-frame cameras (my ‘preferred format’) and whenever I’m holding a regular 35mm camera, I am almost always holding it sideways. Even with these panoramas, it felt like the natural thing to do.
I hope you enjoyed seeing these frames from these three gifted rolls of Tri-X. It has been one of the first times that I went out to shoot multiple rolls of film with a single goal in mind, so I think this could be considered my first project. It’s great to be able to share them here.
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