Wednesday, October 22, 2008

N Is For Negative

Two Negatives Don't Always Make A Positive

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Here’s a question that’ll make you think and make you smile. When was the last time you loaded film into a camera? In my case, it’s more than two years and I have a film-based Canon EOS that I haven’t used since 2005.

We all had our favourite brand of film, didn’t we? And we all bought a particular speed of film, in the fervent hope that we would be shooting every frame in the same weather conditions and in the same light. But in the case of most amateur photographers, it was customary to have the same film in the camera for weeks on end.

You’d take the film in to your local dealer and you’d stand there, looking at the prints and wondering why the final result was not always as good as you imagined. My local Kodak dealer has long gone, swept away by the commercial reality of digital technology.

Time was when I’d pay $15 for a roll of film, back in the days before you could buy multi-pack Kodak rolls. On top of that, developing and printing was another $15-$20. I generally opted for 24-frame film rolls, rather than 36-frame rolls, so that I could see the results quicker. Now it’s not uncommon for us to take that many shots - and more - in a few minutes on a digital camera.

If you were married before 2000, I’d say your wedding photos were taken on a film-based camera. When Mrs Authorblog and I were married, we were lucky to have several people using cameras in church and at the reception. Because of this, we stocked up on really good-quality film, which we gave to all our friends who planned to use their cameras on the big day.

I had a really good plan. Anyone who completed a roll of film that day would simply drop off the roll in a pre-arranged container (clearly marked) and would help themselves to a new roll of film from a different container (also clearly marked).

I even had a back-up plan in case someone - perish the thought - put a used film into the container for unused films. It was simple, yet foolproof. If a film spool was entirely wound off a camera, it was possible that a tab of film, a few millimetres long, would still protrude from the spool. I simply asked everyone to use the black knob above each spool to wind the last remnant into the spool entirely.

In such a case, if anyone picked up a used film by mistake, it would be impossible to load the film into a camera.

The concept was great, the execution was (almost) flawless.

After the wedding, I knew there would be several unused films in the appropriate container. So just before we flew out on our honeymoon, I grabbed a few spools of film and we departed for the airport. When we returned, I took these and all the films shot at the wedding to a special photography store.

A couple of days later, I went to pick up the prints and returned home with an armload. As the family members began looking at the prints, someone exclaimed: "Something’s not quite right here."

Bad feeling. B A D feeling.

The truth dawned very slowly. At our reception, someone had a) not wound off a film completely and b) dropped the film into the wrong container.

Each of the 36 prints was a double exposure. They were ghostly composite images. The first exposure in each case showed our closest friends beside us at the end of the wedding reception. The second exposure on each print was a view from the wonderful beachside resorts we had visited on our honeymoon.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

49 comments:

Moannie said...

I'm first...yippee!
Well first of all I thought, David has slipped up here, a bad pic. of negatives? I should have known there was more to come and that it would be good.

Such a good idea, but like the best laid plans something had to go awry.

Would like to have seen a photograph of the great day too.

Hilary said...

I think we still have some film waiting to be developed from before we were married. :/ Every now and then we bring one in and it's always a huge surprise.

My first camera, when I was a kid, had this problem where the teeth wouldn't catch on the film to advance it and I got lots of double exposures. I thought it was really cool. I probably wouldn't think it was that cool if they were wedding pictures though. ;)

lime said...

it has been about 3 years since i used film. i am addicted to the instant gratification of digital and i think it has helped me improve because i can see immediately what i did right or wrong rather than with film sometimes forgetting what exactly i was doing when i took a particular shot.

now how about slip slidin away? how long since you've done that, eh?

i still have my slide projector and slides and i have a huge box full of my grandparents' slides...sigh....

Daryl said...

Someone gave me 'film ends' which I am sure you know are the cut off ends of motion picture film. BUT they forgot to tell me to tell the processing place what they were ... so I have all these wonderful photos of a trip Husband and I took to FL, a belated honeymoon where everything and everyone is BLUE .. sigh

Blue describes how I felt when I opened the packet of prints ...


:-Daryl

Sandi McBride said...

It's hard to believe that the camera film industry has gone the way of the dodo...I remember finding a Kodak Instamatic cartridge when I left home to be married buried in the back of the bookshelf. I immediately put it in my handbag where it rested for another fifteen years (I never seem to be in a hurry). We sent it off to be developed (not really hoping for much the film was old old old). When it came back there were a dozen photos that had been taken at Girl Scout Camp...hideous shorts, ugly swimsuits...and the most beautiful Great Dane (owned by the Camp Supervisor) it's ever been my privilege to pet and pamper! Sorry your honeymoon pics were ruined, that to me is a tragedy!
Sandi

lisaschaos said...

Almost flawless. Were any of the double exposures keepable? It could happen on a fluke, right, that at least one looked great?

When I was a teen, my dad had a camera store named Double Exposure. :) But I cannot remember the last time I used a roll a film. Heck it may have been high school. as my kids were growing I was too busy with them, I only just got into photography in the last few years.

Ackworth Born said...

My last printed photos are dated 1990. I often kept film so long in the camera that by the time I got it developed it was old. Gave up photography altogether then as there was little satisfying me for the expense and hassle - used a camcorder for a few years and only went back to photography in 1998 when digital started being barely affordable.

virtual voyage said...

Such a shame over the double exposure on a non repeatable day...

Last film I loaded would have been a decade ago - changed to an early digital which loaded floppy discs in 1999. Low res, but I literally wore it out with use, and the novelty of immediately sharing/copying the discs never wore off on people.

marina said...

Believe it or not I bought my digital camera last July! I was using my old camera for many many years and I sometimes miss it!!!

RuneE said...

Ah, yes - the days of films! My favourites were Kodak's Tri-X for black and white - you could do anything with it! For slides (at least in the 70's and 80's) was Kodak's Kodachrome 25 (don't start singing Paul Simon now!). There wasn't a shadow or a white house in Spain that didn't have structure. But, alas - you had to go to Spain to get enough light to use it...

antigoni said...

I don't believe it! We have the same post! It's a great post.

lmerie said...

Enjoyed the story - it was a fun read and a memory that you and Mrs. Authorblog can always smile about.

Hmmm, loaded film eh?

I have 4 (yes, 4!)cameras right here to my left. Two cheap cameras and two disposable cameras. ALL have film to be developed - I just keep forgetting to take them ~ and I believe all 4 are the kids (well ...except 1 that I think might have been left at birthday party by hubbies ex wife - kinda scared).If they are in fact kids cameras, it will be many shots of feet, backs of heads and ground pictures.

Enjoyed the story - it was a fun read and a memory that you and Mrs. Authorblog can always smile about.

Oh, one more thing, since you are not a latte drinker, rather a tea drinker, I will assume you mean hot tea. BUT, do they drink cold tea in Melbourne, and then, is it sweet tea as in the southern U.S. or unsweet tea?

Cheers!

TorAa said...

Agree - but what about two diapositives or slides;))

Deslilas said...

Oldies but goldies.

leslie said...

A friend found an old disposable camera that's dated "process before 2008 02" - do you think it'll still work?

I love my digital and one day hope to progress to an SLR...right now they scare me. lol

Millennium Housewife said...

Oh dear david, let's hear it for camera phones... I do miss the old films though, think how many 'undesirable' photos are deleted from digital cameras that many years later would have shown up something interesting about the time/person/event that it was taken in....and the excitement of carrying home those wads of photographs, desperate for a peek and willing yourself to wait until, cup of tea in hand, sofa under bottom, you can give them their full attention. My children will probably never know that feeling.

Millennium Housewife said...

ps I agree with Moannie, give us a peek at the photos!

richies said...

My wedding was well before 2000, so there was definitely film. I bought a new Yashica SLR just before the wedding. That camera was always hard to load, and I realized that I had missed the most important shots when the cameras film never wound to the end even after I reached the number 36. I must say that i love digital photography .

An Arkie's Musings

Hilary said...

Great story.. and hopefully it was only one roll... and not your only honeymoon roll.

And I'll bet they were still quite charming.. you were, after all, Mrs. Authorblog's Prints Charming. ;)

Maggie May said...

You must have been gutted. Did you not get ANY good photos of your wedding?
It is about 4 years since I used ordinary film, I should think.

CrazyCath said...

Hmmm. Can't say as I have had that particular problem, but I have double exposed on the same roll due to not winding on at the end of the film far enough.

And to answer your question at the beginning - it was a few weeks ago I went and bought some film for the old camera. It was so frustrating! All the shots on 100 ISO. Grrr. And only 24! Grrr.
Sticking with the digital. Much more versatile (cheaper and lighter cameras with instant results!)

There was something nostalgic though about lifting that old camera to my eye again....

Rambling Woods said...

Great post...sorry about the double exposure....Mine is about nature
ABC Letter N

Kathryn said...

Oh no! And it was such a good idea. Foiled!

I was very slow to catch on to the digital camera fad. My husband kept trying to convince me but I wouldn't budge.
So glad I finally did. I wonder what took me so long. ;)

Babs (Beetle) said...

That brought back a lot of memories!

The last roll of film I used would have been in the mid to late 80's. I used to do a lot of B/W photography and develop it myself in my blacked out bathroom. That was great fun.

I have always been a person that likes new ideas, so I sold a Canon AE1 for my first digital camera sometime in the 90's. They were not very good when they first came out and I regretted it for a long time.

babooshka said...

Over 5yrs. since film was dropped into a camera. Negatives a plenty I still have. I have mebraced the digital age too much.

Rebeckah said...

Wow. I can't believe that happened. Were you able to salvage anything? I never think about film anymore now that everything is digital. I always loved taking pictures though, and film is what got me started. Hope you have a wonderful week that is filled with blessings!

dulce said...

I also have many of those. It seems it was a long time ago ..

Betsy said...

Ugh...so sorry about the double exposures...especially on your wedding day!

You are right...the industry has really changed in a quick amount of time! It was so expensive to buy the film and have it developed! We are spoiled with digital!

Helena said...

Erm, a couple of weeks ago! LOL! I gave my old camera to my mum, and she can never get it loaded properly so she asks me to do it when I'm there!

She once shot a whole day at a wildlife park and the film hadn't got onto the teeth and wound. So no pics. Poor mum.

Anyway. Hullo! (LOL) Sorry I'm not about much. I've just done my first properly *written* piece in a long while, if you have time to investigate ;)

Seamus said...

'twas a good plan, too bad it fell apart!

I'm glad not to have the hassle of film, but I gotta tell you, there is still something about the depth of film (especially slide film) that I've yet to experience in the digital world. I live in a world of pro photographers and those who were film photogs all pretty much share that sentiment as well. One camera that I've had the opportunity use recently that really came close was a medium format 33mp Leaf AFi-II 7 - 'course it cost as much as a new SUV, but ... huh? ... yeah, yeah, yeah. Good thing it was just borrowed! LOL!

Bear Naked said...

Both of you must have been so disappointed but the pictures in your minds will always bring back the memories of that most important day.

Bear((( )))

ellen b said...

The last time I loaded film into a camera was May of 2006 on a trip to England. Went digital after that...
Oye, about the honeymoon double exposed!!

Suzanne said...

What a story! The NIGHTMARE of using film. Those were the days.

AirmanMom said...

Oh my...so many things have come to pass. Thanks for sharing a cool memory-from the good ole days!


~AirmanMom returning to her blog...

CK-II said...

You have one good analogy. Happy WW! :)

Kikamz said...

This is very nice! I miss using a camera with a roll of film in it. I remember way back in high school where me and my girl friends were having a blast doing some photo shoots of ourselves. We were doing a pretend fashion show and at the end of the day, we realized that there was no film inside! so much for all the trouble of dressing up... :(

Mushy said...

Got a cabinet full of those sleeves down in the basement, some 35, some 120, and nothing will ever be done with them. Such a waste of space.

If my dad died and left me old negatives, I'd be converting them right and left, but alas, no one with give a crap when I'm gone. Oh, not because they don't love me, it's just no one has any interest in history, genealogy, or film around here.

Sad, huh?

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

one of a kind photos!

Zathyn Priest said...

Cameras used to use film????

DeeJay said...

FUJI 400ASA was my favourite
All my photos of the early years of my two sons were produced on 35mm slides

Thought provoking post for N thank you

Protege said...

I enjoyed reading this; I too so well remember all the mishaps with films. To this day I have an undeveloped film sitting in my old camera, it must be almost 10 years old. I wonder if I could still develop it today and I also am very curious to know what I is on the pictures.
Thank you for stopping by my blog.;)

Therese said...

Is it how you switched to a digital camera?

AphotoAday said...

Oh yes, film... I know people who still use it... And everybody has an opinion -- even non-photographers... This past summer I had a fellow ask me if that camera of mine was a "real camera"...

fishing guy said...

David: What a neat but sad story of a past time.

I love the digital camera age. You take a shot that is off and you can correct before printing or showing to others. I would never go back to film.

GreenJello said...

I still prefer film for black and white-- you can't get the same "crispness" with digital that you can get with film. At least, I haven't been able to completely duplicate it yet... I think digital sensors are made for seeing color, not contrast.

That being said, my digital camera is used almost exclusively.

Jay said...

I loaded up my Aria with film a few years back and was pleased to see I hadn't entirely lost my touch! I haven't done it again since though, because I have been completely seduced by digital.

What a shame about the wedding/honeymoon photos! It just goes to show, 'the best-laid plans gang oft astray'.

becky voyles said...

I had a similar experience happen with a Yashika panaramic camera which I loved. I put pictures from my baby shower back in the camera and took pictures of an old friend I had not seen in months and we were having dinner during my pregnancy. So I had my friend David upside down against my maternity dress I wore to the shower. Our son-in-law from his birthday in Jan in the same fashion. That camera latch broke & I couldn't find a replacement for it but I wouldn't take all the crab legs in the sea for my Pentax Optio M30.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Well, you have a great story and some very unusual photos to remember the day(s).

TSannie said...

I love your stories! Double negative exposure happened to me once as well. Made for some pretty interesting pics.

Very nice N!