Memories from the golden age of film...

Posted by
Jeffrey (Scottsdale, United States) on 30 October 2013 in Miscellaneous.

Taking advantage of my present unemployed status, I recently started working on a large household project. Specifically, I'm cleaning out my two-car garage so that I can actually park two cars in it! In addition, I am also going through the closets and drawers in the rest of the house to cull any and everything that no longer has any value or serves any need (or anticipated need) because there is simply too much "junk" hidden away and the house is beginning to feel cluttered as a result.

Earlier today, to my surprise and delight, I stumbled upon a box of 8x10 Fuji Astia color transparencies I captured back in 1997-9 as well as the light table I used to view them. While it seemed the majority of photographers were attracted to the vivid, supersaturated and often garish colors and high contrast of Fuji's Velvia, it was Astia's softer, less contrasty and more accurate color palette that caught my eye. I bought every partial or outdated box of it I could on eBay (typically for $1/sheet) and over a couple of years, I ultimately exposed a couple of hundred sheets with a Toyo 810G view camera and $7,000-when-new Nikon process lens that I bought used for a few hundred dollars.

The lens didn't have any shutter (because repo and process cameras didn't need them) and since color transparency film doesn't tolerate exposure errors at all, I would stop-down the lens as much as I could to lengthen the exposures and then added as many neutral density filters as necessary to increase the exposure length out to one or two seconds, which would let me use the lens cap as a shutter. It was very much a "Rube Goldberg" setup and, obviously, capturing any type of action (i.e., a flag waving or leaves rustling, etc.) was out, but if I was very careful with my technique, I could usually produce very good-to-excellent results.

People can sing the praises of digital photography all they want (and I am guilty of doing so, too!), but to my eye, when everything comes together in the camera just so, the experience of popping the resulting piece of film onto a light table and then wandering around it with a high-resolution loupe is one that is incomparable. Nothing I have ever done with a digital camera, including with my hoity-toity Phase One digital back, even comes close to delighting my visual sense in quite the same way...

It's quite unlikely that I will ever use my Toyo 810G again -- not only are there no longer any labs in Phoenix (the fifth largest metropolitan area in the U.S.!) that can process 8x10 color transparencies, but the $15+ cost per shot for film and processing far exceeds my present budget limit -- yet I'll continue to hold onto it regardless (and closet space be damned!) because it's worth so little these days, it's simply not worth investing any time and effort in selling it.

P.S.: With enough magnification, it's possible to read the Surgeon General's health warning on one of the cigarette packs in the photo ... talk about resolution!