On the first of this year, I started My Film Beginnings Project. I am attempting to shoot at least two rolls of film each month and to make at least one shutter click on a film camera each day of the year. For my second roll of the challenge, against my better judgment, I decided to shoot on a lesser known film and a film with which I have had no prior experience. The film, Svema Foto 400, should NOT be held accountable for my results. The mistakes were made by me in the developing process. You’ll see.
The Boring Details
As a long time digital photographer, I recently started a project that involves shooting 35mm film. You can find a few of my Street Photography digital images here: www.instagram.com/dspaedt.
Because I started the year on vacation, I finished my first roll of film in just seven days and I was able to start shooting the second on January 7th. I was able to get through two rolls of Svema Foto 400 by my January 28th deadline. One highlight during January was visiting a museum and I got a chance to make some images with a film camera indoors that included some interesting subjects. Besides the few shots at the museum, I stuck with my usual “A Vagabond Clutching A Camera” theme and just took shots when something caught my eye.
My problems with Svema Foto 400 began when I didn’t know how to properly develop it. I had read and heard a lot about The Massive Dev Chart and consulted it for my developing time using Kodak D-76 1:1. It recommended 20 minutes! That time sounded way too long but the chart did list the not so common Svema Foto 400 so I assumed it had to be right. Like most things in photography sometimes happy accidents happen and fortunately out of the two rolls I was able to find 12-13 images that I liked enough to keep. The bulk of the images were just too contrasty and lacked details in the two extremes of highlights and shadows.
A little bit of google research and I was able to confirm that what I was seeing in the negatives is exactly what can happen when you overdevelop black and white film. I suspect these rolls were severely overdeveloped. I wish whoever is responsible for publishing The Massive Dev Chart was a little more forward in explaining that the chart probably contains some data that is most likely just a guess. If you use Svema Foto 400 for the first you will find that it is a very thin film. The good news is that you can’t scratch it! It’s so thin you actually slice right through it if you were to scratch it. I’m kidding of course, but this is a very thin film. When you are loading the reels prior to development you have to be careful not to crease it while you’re handling the film. Some great news is that the film laid perfectly flat and this made loading the negative carrier during scanning a breeze. Would I use Svema Foto 400 again? I’d like to, but I’d only do it if I had developing times for the developer I had on hand from someone I trust.
I encourage you to follow along on my film adventures. You can subscribe via email or click the “follow” button in the bottom right corner if you’re a WordPress reader.
My Film Beginnings Project has also intrigued me to try using other 35mm film cameras along the way. If you have a working 35mm film camera that you no longer use please take a look here to see what I’m thinking. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.