06
Sep
09

Just for fun: Cross-Processing

First off, this isn’t about cross-dressing, like the killer in ‘Dressed to Kill’. (Great movie. Lots of little plot details. Even a bit of a photography angle, in the form of character Peter Miller, who hides a camera to catch a killer.)

Nope, this is cross-processing; the intentional developing of one type of film in chemistry intended for another. You’ve seen the look; like Kodachrome, but more vivid, darker blacks, and blown highlights, and often incorrect or unnatural colors.

Cross-processed Fuji Sensia 100

Cross-processed Fuji Sensia 100

When I got the Diana F+ one thing that drew me to it were the samples; unreal colors and flaws that are really difficult to produce by editing digital, if only because of their apparent randomness.

My first couple of rolls were some Lomo 120, ISO 100. Not bad for outdoor use in bright light. But black and white; and I developed myself – the first time in 25 years, so a little lacking in deep blacks. But that’s another post.

My third roll, and one I was dying to shoot, was some Fuji Sensia ISO 100, a slide film. I had purchased it intending to use in the Kodak Stereo Camera on a mountain hike, but the hike evaporated, and there sat the Diana, just begging for some color film.

The first surprise is how hard it was to get it processed here in Calgary. Within 15 minutes of me are probably a half-dozen drug-store processing machines, all C-41 (print chemistry). What I had was slide film, or E-6 chemistry. I did a little leg work and found that neither WalMart or London Drugs would take it, first citing fears that I wouldn’t like the results, and second that it might somehow gum up their machines. I did a little reading after that, and found that the only film that’s likely to do that is Kodachrome – no longer available. (There are others, but likely to be in unmarked/self-loading 35mm cans).

In that search I found a local lab that would process it ‘wrong’ for me, but I’m going to have to keep it a secret; I don’t want a sudden influx of hobbyists flooding the lab because they don’t make much (if any) money from it. If you have a roll, live in northwest Calgary, just do some leg work (and a Google search). You’ll find it.

The next surprise was that the slide film came back as a negative… I hadn’t thought about it; all the shots that I’d seen online, even those with sprocket holes, seemed to be clear slide film. A thread over on APUG showed me the light; the chemistry dictates if the results are positive (slides) or negatives (for prints).

But it wasn’t an ordinary negative; the actual film substrate turned green. Yikes! Again, the APUG threads indicated this is normal-ish… for certain films, notably a few of the Fuji’s, like my Sensia. Ah well…

My next challenge was to scan it and see if I could invert it digitally. I was hoping to avoid any digital manipulation at all – and go totally lo-fi, but what the heck; I had an HP film/photo scanner, so let’s see what we have…

Step 1: Scan as Slide

The scanner did some pretty funky things to the scans if I told it to ‘scan as negative’, so I lied to it and said it was a slide. Also, for this sample strip I did NOT use the film loader; it hides the sprocket holes! I put the slide into a print carrier, which is just a bit of clear plastic with a white paper backing that is only sealed on one edge. Great for feed loading delicate items, like this. But the big reason why I like this way: I get sprocket holes.

What the film looked like from the lab. Ugh! (click for bigger version)

The scanner saves this as a TIFF file; which is perfect for more manipulation…

Step 2: Color Inversion

This is really straightforward: I loaded the image into the GIMP (think ghetto Photoshop) and selected ‘Invert’ from the Colors menu. That’s it.

Ooohh! Thats looking better...

Ooohh! That's looking better... (click for bigger version)

I saved this step as another TIFF file also, so I could come back to it if needed. These files aren’t high resolution, so the files are really small, about 2.4 MB.

Step 3: The Tweaks!

This is where things get personal. I used the curves editor to drop the red a few notches, and bump up the blue and green. In the curve grid I simply drag the point from the right hand corner; straight down for red, and straight left for green and blue. Play around until you get it ‘right’. It’s possible to actually get colors that are really normal – but where is the fun in that?

The result: Lomographic goodness.

The result: Lomographic goodness. (click for bigger version)

That’s really all there is to it. You’ll notice that I didn’t get the film advance right, and one frame is damaged. Meh. That’s part of the process. If you don’t want overlapping frames then take the time to load and count turns; I used about 1.25 turns at the start of the roll which was waaaay to few; and 2 turns in the middle  – waaaay too many; and about 1 turn at the end… which was about right. That sounds like a whole ‘nother post, so I’ll leave it at that.

My flickr page has a few more samples, sans sprockets. Comparing the two: Sprockets Rule!

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