Miss S. – A Beautiful Disaster

To clarify, this shoot was a bit of a disaster, not Miss S. She did great, and she’s definitely the “beautiful” part of this equation.

I have photographed Miss S. twice before because she has had two boudoir sessions at our studio. We also follow each other on social media, and I’ve hung out with her once or twice. So, I didn’t hesitate to ask if she wanted to model for me a couple of weeks ago when I was feeling the itch to shoot. One of the girls I went to Cancun with earlier this month gave me a bag of expired film, and I was dying to try it out!

So, Miss S. and I met up on a Sunday morning. I had loaded one roll of the expired Orwo Color NC19 film in my Pentax 6×7, and one roll of TMax 400 black and white film in my Canon EF 35mm camera. I’m not really sure why I decided to shoot with b&w film, and in hindsight I wish I hadn’t, simply because Miss S. has such gorgeous red hair!

While shooting with the Pentax and the expired 120 film, I actually got out the extension tubes that came with my camera and got some really interesting macro-like detail shots. By the time I finished that roll, I was VERY excited and hopeful that the photos would turn out okay.

Next, I loaded a roll of Portra 400 into the Pentax 6×7. Everything seemed to be fine, until at some point I felt like I had definitely taken at least 10 photos on that roll, but when I checked the frame counter, it was stuck at 5 or 6. Uh oh! I tried snapping a few more shots, but the frame counter wasn’t budging. Miss S. had to leave by that point, so I told her she could go ahead and pack up.

After she left, I found a dark closet and a black bag and opened the back of the Pentax. I could feel that the roll of film was still not finished, and as I messed with the film advance lever, I could also feel that it wasn’t advancing. Eventually, though, I did feel the film move again, so I shut the back of the camera and tried to burn off the remaining frames.

After I was finished shooting with the roll of Portra 400 and packed up the Pentax, I grabbed the Canon EF and started cranking the rewind lever so I could also pack up that roll of film and the camera. To my horror, the rewind lever suddenly lost tension after just a few turns, and I could tell that the film was no longer rewinding into the canister. I went back into the dark closet, put the camera in the black bag, and popped open the back. Sure enough, I could feel that the 35mm film had come out of the canister somehow.

And just like that, I went from being super excited about all the shots I had gotten with Miss S., to feeling super defeated because I was now afraid that I had completely wasted her time. I had no idea if any of the shots I took that day would turn out.

The next morning, I took my cameras and film down to the Boutique Film Lab so that Ryan could retrieve the 35mm film out of my camera and hopefully give me some insight as to why both of my cameras malfunctioned. It turned out that one of the sprocket holes tore inside the Canon EF, which resulted in the film being torn in half for the last 5-6 frames. Ryan couldn’t tell me why my Pentax may have stopped advancing the film, but suggested that the advance lever could possibly use a little oil.

Finally, I showed him the expired roll of Orwo Color NC19 film and asked if he’d ever seen that film stock before. He hadn’t. As he examined the box, though, he said, “Oh! This is 64.” I didn’t know what he meant, but then he showed me that the box clearly stated that it was 64 ASA, which is the same as ISO. I went, “Well, shit. I shot that at 400 ISO because I didn’t know…” Ryan did some calculating in his head and determined that he’d probably need to push the film about 2.5 stops. Yikes! Then, I explained to him that he would also be cross-processing this film, because I had read online that it wasn’t made for C-41 processing. He seemed surprised and then examined the box some more. That’s when he said, “Oh yeah, I can barely make out the expiration date, but there it is. October of 1969.” This film was 50 years-old!!!!!

Ultimately, Ryan and I decided that it would be safest if he developed the expired film as black and white film, because he said he was afraid that film that old wouldn’t survive the C-41 processing. I was really bummed about that because I really wanted those photos to be in color, but I told him I trusted his recommendation to develop the photos as b&w. At that point, I truly was not expecting any of my photos to turn out.

Well, to my shock and amazement, Ryan was able to salvage a few shots from that 50 year-old expired film. They are technically kind of a mess, but in that good “looks like film” kind of way. I don’t hate them, at all, but I do still wish they could have been in color. That being said, I’d much rather have a handful of weird looking images than no images at all, so I really can’t complain. Oh! And as for that roll of Portra 400 that stopped advancing within the camera after the 5th or 6th shot, all of the other images I took after that ended up being multiple exposures on top of each other, which actually ended up looking very cool.

So, again, it wasn’t Miss S. who was a beautiful disaster that day, it was the shoot itself due to the fact that BOTH of my film cameras decided to be assholes. When it was all said and done, though, I ended up being pretty happy with the photos that survived from this shoot.

These images are from the expired Orwo Color NC19 film from 1969:

These are the 35mm images taken with TMax 400 film, as well as the only color photos I was able to get on Portra 400 film (note the multiple exposure photo at the end):

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