Ektachrome Blues & Greens & CyansSunday, March 04, 2012
It was inevitable that it was going to happen. Kodak has announced that it will soon stop the manufacture of slide film. The film that I use is a specialized slide film called transparency film. It is in a larger format of 120 and it fits my Mamiya RB-67. Ektachrome has been my film of choice for most of my magazine shooting life, which means up until about a couple of years ago. But I still shoot Ektachrome for my own projects. I can still blow away audiences when I project these slides using my Linhof 6x7cm (the size of my slides) projector which happens to have Leitz lenses. The experience, while digital projectors catch up, is unique.
But slide film and shooting it wasn’t always all as good as people who swore by Kodachrome (let’s have three minutes of silence here) said it was. A typical problem I wrestled with for years was the photography of people in a studio where I liked to use a gray wall or gray paper backdrop. No matter what I did the returning material had some sort of small colour cast and the gray was never a neutral gray. It always had a bit of green, blue or cyan in it. With the methods for printing used then, the gray could never be made gray without affecting the skin tones of my subjects.
For some time now I have been jealous of my students who shoot digital with few exceptions, and their ability not only to achieve a neutrality of gray but to also achieve the Holy Grail of good portraiture which is to capture the skin colour of a red haired person without sacrificing the modification in tone of their brilliant hair.
Some who shoot slide film do so for some specialized reasons. One of them is called cross processing. It involves processing slide film as if it were colour negative. The result, in my humble opinion is a disaster that is usually oohed and aahed by the fashion crowd. Here in this blog are examples of Ektachrome E-4 (the Ektachrome that was to be eventually replaced by the modern but now to be defunct E-6) process as C-41 colour negative. Note how the skies have been washed out and the increase of contrast. I had a good time (but challenging) attempting to scan these here for your observation. Ugh!
The other picture was taken, with Kodacolor Film by one of the employees at Tilden Rent-A-Car on Alberni Street where I was working in 1976. The picture was taken with a 20mm wide angle (why? I have no idea). The lighting was florescent so the negatives if scanned normally would be very green. This is the best I could do. Notice me smoking my pipe and not realizing that life would eventually get very complicated, and that once again, now it is becoming much less so.