I had a grand plan to bring 2017 to a close and celebrate the beginning of a new year of photography; shoot a roll of film on New Years Eve and another on New Years Day.
I selected two of my most dependable classic cameras. For the last day of 2017 and a sunset walk on the beach, my serviced Pentax Spotmatic F fitted with a crystal clear SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8.
For January 1st and my traditional long hike out to the tip of Point Reyes, my trusty little Minolta XD, serviced by Blue Moon Camera & Machine with a splendid MD Rokkor-X 50/1.4.
I decided to use Kodak's Portra 400, a color film that I use almost exclusively now. I'm getting comfortable with Portra and feel like I get consistent and dependable results shooting it at ISO 200.
Good hardware and trusted software...what could go wrong? Turns out...lots!
The moment I stepped through the front door of my local camera shop and saw the pouty face on my friend behind the counter, I knew that either they decided they didn't like seeing me anymore or something was wrong. The latter was true. My little camera shop started a new employee in their mini-lab the week between Christmas and New Years. During her first day running the C-41 processor all on her own, the machine decided to jam up and shut down, leaving my two rolls of Portra cooking in the developer. Amidst blinking error lights and alarm signals, she panicked and by the time she was rescued by another employee who got the machine running again, my Portra, over exposed intentionally, was now over developed as well.
You can see trouble afoot from my first shot on the New Years Eve roll, the wavy vertical lines in this frame of my Christmas poinsettia.
It was approaching magic hour. My plan was to grab some sunset shots with the Spotmatic. The light was spectacular. Considering that my film was sitting in the soup for way too long--kudos to Kodak! This film actually held up pretty well to the chemical torture. Note: I have not used any digital post processing on these.
I'm not an expert on the processing machinery used at my camera store, but my research indicates that the UFO-like dark spots on this next shot are caused by two rolls of film coming in contact with each other or with some part of the machinery.
Even pushed one stop and mini-lab processed, Portra 400 typically exhibits very fine grain. Over development yielded very apparent grain and tons of contrast.
Strolling along the beach at sunset on New Years Eve with my Spotmatic was a great way to wind down the year. It really is one of my favorite cameras and the walk was reflective and peaceful.
The Tomales Point trail is a nearly 10 mile roundtrip hike that starts at Pierce Point Ranch on the tip of Point Reyes National Seashore. It's become sort of a New Years Day tradition for me and requires layered clothing and a backpack full of snacks. The compact and lightweight Minolta XD camera and prime 50 are the perfect choice for this hardy hike. I considered taking one of my Pentax K bodies and my 135mm telephoto lens as I knew I might encounter Tule elk on the trail, but I opted for portability instead.
There are a number of ranch outbuildings at the trailhead.
I'm not sure if this roll preceded or followed my New Years Eve roll through the processing machine, but this entire roll over-cooked as well. Unaware of the future chemical catastrophe, I headed up the trail.
I've shot this same seascape from this same place many years in a row on Fuji Acros black and white film and on Portra. Over development made grain apparent, increased contrast and disturbed the film's wonderful color palette. Again, I am not digitally correcting any of these images.
Pierce Point is a Tule elk reserve and it wasn't long before I spotted some. They could have cared of less about me snapping away.
And that's about where this roll really got into trouble in the soup.
When I looked quickly at the negatives at the photo counter, it seemed as if some of the shots indicated a light leak in my camera, but the XD has new seals, a full CLA and roll of Acros I shot after these turned out just fine. I think it's safe to assume over development caused these issues as well.
Apparently, a great many people make Tomales Point trail a January 1st expedition. I had lots of company.
As I looked at my end-of-year/start-of-year images on my computer that night, I was overwhelmed with disappointment and considered changing labs. I've had near perfect results when I've used Richard Photo Lab and thought perhaps that in 2018 I should use them for all my work. Sleeping on it, I realized that I've sent many many rolls of C-41 through the machine at my local Mom & Pop camera store, all with very good results and I like to support local businesses whenever I can. Come to think of it, in all of my years of photography, these are the only rolls of film that have ever been spoiled in processing.
Of course, the camera shop refunded my money and let me select two rolls of film for free. They don't stock Portra (I get it at B&H), so I picked up two rolls of Tri-X. I haven't shot any in a while and I'm going to make a serious effort to home process my black and white work this year.
Considering the chemical torment the newbie lab tech put Portra through, I have to give this Kodak film credit for returning any images at all. 2018...cheers!