Friday, April 06, 2007

Help! Bacteria is eating my 35mm transparencies

Something is living on the film emulsion, Yikes!

There is a lot than can go wrong in the trail from raw film to a developed
transparency. I have been scanning groups of family slides that span a period of over 4 decades. Some of the early Kodachrome slides from the late 1940's have kept their deep colors and the color rendition is very good. But in some of the later slides I started to notice a strange greenish spider type growth embedded in the emulsion. The green globs can be easily erased with photo-editing when they appear on a wall or the sky, but these globs seem to prefer to grow on people's faces and bodies. I was fairly consistent with my choice of films, Kodachrome, Ektachrome and Fujichrome. During my Navy Service I preferred to use a fine grained Kodachrome with a very slow speed of ASA 25. The resultant transparencies from this film have wonderful deep colors and have held up well over the years (see below).

Spices and Grains in Singapore

So what went wrong with some of the transparencies? I'm guessing bad dyes, stale film, stale developing chemicals, storage that was too hot, too wet, too dirty....probably all of that. Some of the results of the "Seattle Filmworks" brand film that I tried were dreadful, over the years they developed a garish greenish tinge. Some of the transparencies that my sister gave me to scan suffered some unimaginable trial of a badly designed slide projector (not the preferred Kodak Carousel), water damage and perhaps rodent abuse.

Water is no friend to slides

Thankfully we have entered the era of digital photography. Images are kept as 1's and 0's written in a proprietory format on a thin spinning disc of oxide coated aluminum being read by a magnetic coil flying over them at 7200 rpm or faster. What possibly could go wrong? Computers running realiable software maintain the whole system, it is completely foolproof.