As things would have it, it’s now been quite some time since my wife and I did an overnight trip with some friends of ours to Woods Point in the High Country, as a belated birthday present, to more or less re-create a trip that we did some 30 years ago. The last time it was to Kevington, but this time we decided to go to Woods Point, in roughly the same location, as covered in this post. That was one part of the nostalgia hit and the other involved recording the event with a range of historical photography implements. These involved a Kodak Retina circa 1957/1958, an Olympus Trip 35 circa 1974 both loaded with B&W film, and an Olympus E-M1 circa 2014, as a follow-on from my earlier post ‘The Age of Imagery’.
I gave the Olympus Trip to our friends and, after a quick lesson, said just photograph whatever takes your fancy this weekend. I was using the Retina, as it’s a somewhat more complex camera and pitted both against the later digital camera. How the results would turn out was going to be a guessing game, as there was no way to determine beforehand how well the cameras would work. So I’ll start with some photographs from the modern camera and add those from the older ones and see how they compare. I was hoping to make this a more timely post to follow the previous one, but I hit a few speed humps when it came to film processing, which I’ll talk about shortly.
As I posted previously in Life Behind Bars Part 5, Woods Point is an old gold mining town and a very interesting place to visit. There are many things about Woods Point that make even a simple overnight visit interesting and walking the length of the town on it’s own is quite a pleasant experience.
Sadly, finding a B&W film processor was a lot more difficult than I had expected (I should have researched more carefully), but eventually I did find a processor who, unfortunately, turned out to be a path of misery. From what was advertised as a two week turnaround became three weeks, after which I sent an email asking what was going on. The reply said that processing was outsourced and the developer would not process any film until they had a minimum of five rolls, but stated that my film would be delivered that week. In the fourth week, I received an email asking me what type of film I’d sent for processing. Considering that the film canister had all the same information that was on the box that it came with, I nearly fell off my chair when I received the email. A further email said they’d lost and then found my film; you couldn’t dream this up for a comedy skit. Ultimately, I received my film, as I’d raised a PayPal dispute, and clearly the film processing was rushed and the film was under-processed to try and meet the response deadline required by PayPal. I’m not sure whether it’s sad or funny, but the same day that I received the film, I also received an email asking me to rate them.
While there’s a degree of nostalgia about film, both B&W and colour, the reality is that it’s becoming way too difficult and expensive to buy and process film of either type. And while it’s not quite the same, digital enables you the ability to produce an almost endless variety of B&W renditions that, in most cases, are not that far removed from original film. Purists may argue, but in most cases World + Dog wouldn’t really care. More importantly, you have complete control over the entire process and don’t have to rely on less than competent third parties that make things so disappointing. So digital conversions is what I’ve done.
Some will advertise that ‘film will never die’; however, if absolutely crappy service is what you’re going to receive, then film is well and truly dead. When you have people that purportedly want to keep film alive, yet offer services that fail miserably, it’s a clear indication that film is a lost cause; they really aren’t that committed. The cameras that I bought are now most likely destined to become display items of a forgone era, because I’d rather spend my money on printer inks and paper, for high quality printing, than stuff around with unreliable film processors.
Update: With a fair bit of work, I’ve managed to recover some photos taken by the two cameras on this weekend. The first one is from the Olympus Trip 35 and the other two from the Kodak Retina. I have to say that the Retina has produced far better results than the much younger Olympus Trip. I might consider getting some colour negative film and giving the Retina another go, but this time with other processing sources.