Regardless of their questionable compositions, these pictures are rather good for being shot on expired film. They result from following the development instructions to the letter. Three and a half minutes in the developer chemical at exactly 38°C, as confirmed by three calibrated thermometers. Vigorous inversion instead of twirl agitation. And most importantly, no fingerprints on the film. The bleach, fix, and stabiliser stages were just as carefully performed.
My photography still sucks, though.
But now that I am confident with development, I can take time to improve on the elements of making good photos, namely composing and finding good light. I think a film camera is the right tool for learning, primarily because the limited number of shots per film roll encourages slowing down and paying attention.
But the Nikon FG-20 is not suitable for this purpose. Although it’s cute, it’s prone to mishandling: its shutter speed wheel can easily be knocked to the wrong setting by accident (and I suspect that caused the bad exposures from a few posts ago). Also its viewfinder isn’t as clear and informative as that of the Nikon FM2 or of the Minolta X300. Perhaps this realisation of a camera’s limitations is an encouraging sign of improvement.
The results of my film development are still hit and miss.
Here are samples from yet another roll that was started in 2018 and finished just this month.
I set the camera to ISO 400 for the Agfa Vista 200 film. This mistake not only caused the pictures to come out dark but also revealed what I thought to be light leaks when I increased the exposure in Gimp. Comments in online film photography forums, however, suggest that they could also be caused by under- or over- development, too high or too low developer temperatures, too little or too much agitation… In other words, any thing that I did during development might have been wrong.
Still, I spent an hour yesterday evening to replace the light seals on the Nikon FM2. This simple maintenance job eliminates one possible source of future problems. My next adjustments are to pay more attention to the temperatures of chemicals and to twirl – yes, this is jargon – the right amount when agitating the contents of the development tank.
I make it sound like I am completely unaware, but I actually know what went wrong. It’s just easier to ascribe this failture to randomness. The truth is—
I am quite sure that the camera did not let light in. But the film was loaded in 2018, was expired, and is not known for quality. I mishandled it in the changing bag, touching it with my fingers many times. And the chemicals were poured into the tank when they were at 40°C instead of the prescribed 38°C. In other words, I screwed up. And those are mistakes that could be avoided with more care and patience.
To end this post, let’s look at the mobile phone version of that last picture from the series above. Why bother with film photography when the digital image can be made so conveniently and gives such quality? Film is just more fun.