photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography


Me too! Me too!!

in Film , Friday, February 04, 2011

So, has all the fuss about Kodachrome’s final expiration date died down? Excellent, must be time for me to stick my oar in.

I used Kodachrome a lot in The Old Days™. I’ve got stacks of mouldy decaying K25 and K64 slides, shot using either a Canon FT, a Canon FTb, or an Olympus XA3. I used in the Antarctic, because it was what people who understood photography told me to use. I barely knew an exposure from an aperture ring in those days, and the idea that a lens could have a “speed” was totally baffling.  Not much has changed.

But anyway, thanks to the convergence of luck, sheer quantity, and the Shakespearean Monkey Principle, I got a couple of photos that I like.  Here’s two of them, chosen because - with a lot of hindsight - I think they have a certain quality of texture and colour which I’ve been trying to recapture ever since, and which may be credited to Kodachrome.

Damoy biscoe 1

The British Antarctic Survey ship, RRS John Biscoe, in Dorian Bay, December 1987

Curious adelies 1

A couple of Adelie penguins, off Coats Land, December 1991

Both of these slides have of course gone through a scanner and Photoshop, but have been manipulated to match the originals, or at least my interpretation thereof.

It was interesting to read about another photographer’s thoughts about Kodachrome over at my current favourite blog.  Although in general I’ve never been particularly interested in film emulation plug-ins (more about this later), I thought I might try the free demos of two of the most popular to see what they could do. So I downloaded Alien Skin Exposure and DxO Labs Film Pack and applied their respective K64 presets to a shot I took last week on the Plaine Morte glacier here in Switzerland.

K64 comparison

Comparison collage

Dunno about you but I’m sorta like “yeah, whatever” (<- see I can do teen talk too!). The most striking point in my view is that the two renderings are completely different. The Alien Skin version is pretty subtle, but DxO totally changes the white balance. Now, I didn’t apply these to an out of camera file, but to a version exported from Aperture and tuned to my liking. The fact that Alien Skin doesn’t alter it much might (huge stretch here) indicate that I’m subconciously applying a Kodachrome look anyway.

Anyway, neither of them interest me very much, but I will say that the Alien Skin offering seems at a quick glance to be far better. DxO’s user interface is really not very good, the installation is clunky, and it doesnt offer anything like the range of Alien Skin. Actually this ties in with my general feeling about DxO stuff.

Generally I’m a little bit skeptical about some of this film stock talk. The differences between various films (I’m talking slide film here) are often extremely subtle, especially in an outdoors, uncontrolled lighting environment, and in any case, once inserted into a digital workflow, they’re largely irrelevant.  On a lightbox I have a personal, and unconventional, liking for Fuji Velvia 100F, and I’ve used it a lot. But over the years my choice of film has generally been more influenced by ISO rating and the light levels I’m expecting to encounter than anything else.  These days I’ve fixed on using Ektachrome E100G, because it is very neutral, has a wide dynamic range (for slide film) and scans very well.

So yes, I can be nostalgic about Kodachrome too. But I’m not terribly interest in artifical emulations of it.