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Sunday, 01 August 2010

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Some other great books shot mostly, if not exclusively, with Kodachrome:

Pete Turner: African Journey
Ernst Haas: The Creation
Ernst Haas: In America
Dennis Stock: Brother Sun

I find it a little sad that a guy who has probably shot 100,000 frames of Kodachrome now feels he needs to chimp his shots. It tells you how much of a crutch that little LCD screen has become.

In imagining the pressure of shooting the last roll, "sponge-worthy" keeps coming to mind.

David S.,
He reportedly has 1,000,000 frames in his archive, meaning he's shot many times that number. So, lots more than 100,000.

I'm sure he didn't *need* to chimp his exposures, but how would you like to screw up the last-ever roll of K'chrome? I'd check and doublecheck everything ten times, if it were me.

Mike

Dear David S.,

Reread this column:

"Lazy? Does Not Compute!" http://tinyurl.com/5ayovj

pax / Ctein

Let´s hope it will never happen, but who could we choose to shoot the last roll of 35mm Tri-x?
Paul

Paul,
Bite yer tongue.

Mike

Just today I saw a documentary (of sorts) from 1968 explaining and showing the film-making process at Agfa-Gaevert, going even to such lengths as filming parts of it on infrared film in the parts of the factory where no light is allowed, which was something new for that time.
Unfortunately, I can't find a video of it.

The German title is: "Mit Licht schreiben - Photographein"

I never shot, or even saw, any Kodachrome One but I well remember Kodachrome II which was a wonderful film with the most beautiful and subtle colour rendition but which was prone to bad production runs and very easily ruined by less than perfect processing. I think most photographers working at the time greatly regretted the move to K64 (which was a lot easier to process), though the extra film-speed was useful. In time I think we all came to see that K64 was also a great film, just different from KII.

Dave Paterson

Three weeks ago the BBC published an illustrated interview with Steve McCurry in which he tells the stories behind some of his famous photographs:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/photoblog/2010/07/steve_mccurry_retrospective.html

I have a few rolls of Kodachrome II sitting on my bookshelves, though I guess I won't be processing them anytime soon. For now, they contain my fantasy images, those masterpieces that all us photographers carry around in our heads, what we keep working towards.

Mike and Ctein,

I figured I'd get that reaction. (And I enjoyed and agreed with Ctein's "lazy" post.)

My objection isn't so much chest-thumping or the idea that difficulty of execution makes a photograph more valuable. (Steve McCurry has earned the right to shoot any way he pleases, after all. He has nothing to prove to the likes of me.)

It's that, if I were going to ask Steve McCurry to shoot the last roll of Kodachrome, I would hope that he would shoot it the same way he'd shot frames 1-1,000,000. I wouldn't necessarily want every exposure to be perfect, any more than the first million exposures were. I'd want that last roll to be shot Steve McCurry's way, not the Nikon D3's way. I'm much more interested in how Steve McCurry exposes Kodachrome than the "correct" way to expose Kodachrome.

It's kind of like eating your last meal. I'd like to think I'd savor it for what it was, rather than consulting my computer to make sure it had been prepared correctly.

It also has to be said that consulting a digital camera on the preparation of Kodachrome's "last meal" is pretty ironic, since the digital camera is what killed Kodachrome in the first place. It's like inviting the murderer to be a spectator at the execution.

So long as I can get TMAX, Delta, Tri-X, Neopan or HP5+, I'm okay. Every single one of them is a truly great film. Even Efke is passable, though I do prefer more modern emulsions. When none of these are available for reasonable amounts of money, it's time to go full-digital.

Barring total industrial collapse, digital will be there for the rest of my life, cheaper and better than today. That's why I'm shooting film now. When it's gone, it's gone.

Use it before you lose it.

I still remember that as a young man I saw a cartoon showing Donald Duck walking by with a camera. And behind him was an ad for "Koduckrome Film - Film for ducks" ;-)

Wow what a thought, to have that last exposure in your camera body. I can almost feel that pain...

My favourite Kodachrome book is "Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs" which Mike introduced to TOP readers.
Its a sad passing of an era. Even if there's a Kodatein out there stocking a freezer with film where could it be processed? Too bad.
bd

Please, let me include my own review, which was post in Amazon UK:

A great book, 13 Jan 2010
By M. Angel Garcia Martin (Spain) - See all my reviews

This review is from: Looking East: Portraits by Steve McCurry (Hardcover)
I you like photography, buy this book. if you like people, buy this book.
You will enjoy these fantastic pictures, taken with a lot of photographic skill

Una soberbia colección de asombrosos retratos. Una visión humana del ser humano. Imprescindible

Growing up outside Rochester, NY, we always took out of town visitors to two places: Niagara Falls and the Kodak factory tour. I truly wish I remembered anything of that tour now. I'm really interested to read the book on the process of how film is made. It might be irrelevant info to some, but how much better to have it documented than to lose all that hard earned knowledge to the sands of time. So much of that city-within-a-city is gone already. It would be sad if every remnant of it vanished.

I don't by any means mean to disparage the upcoming last roll, but, since that 1984 photograph shown here is one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen, I wonder how he could top it.

Still I can hardly imagine the jitters you could get having *that* responsibility.

Given the fact that I bought a couple of dozen rolls of Kodachrome last summer and twice asked the folks at Dwayne's Photo how much time I had before processing would shut down, I feel a little gipped. Not that I mind the fact that I still have a dozen unused rolls in the freezer, it's the one last exposed roll I have in my possession for which I feel a bittersweet note to my long love affair with Kodachrome. When you ask two different times when the processing will end and get told twice that it will be in October 2010, terminating with fanfare in the summer of 2010 just doesn't sit right for me in the customer satisfaction department. Oh well, long live Kodachrome!

Mark,
As I understand it, Dwayne's will continue to process Kodachrome for several months yet. The roll Steve shot was the last roll produced by Kodak, not the last roll that will be developed.

Mike

Concur on Vanishing Breed by Bill Allard. I would have picked him to shoot the last roll.

Ah, silly me, I now realize this article is about the last roll of Kodachrome that was manufactured. But I also saw a forum post last week that had already led me to believe we were talking about the processing line being shut down. I will call Dwayne's photo in the morning and get the definite answer as to what constitutes the last roll manufactured versus what was the last roll processed. Perhaps they are one and the same. That would poetic, but perhaps I've overlooked something here. Inquiring minds want to know, particularly those of us who have some unexposed Kodachrome left in our possession!

"...pretty ironic, since the digital camera is what killed Kodachrome in the first place."

Digital didn't kill Kodachrome; Velvia, the public's embrace of its over-the-top saturation and quick processing for all E-6 films did.

Noon at December 30th is End Times for Kodachrome processing at Dwaynes. Kodak will stop accepting prepaid rolls for processing in Europe on November 30th.

So I have a little time left to figure out what to shoot with my first and probably only ever roll of the stuff.

From Dwaynes' Web page, the last day of Kodachrome processing is Dec. 30:

Kodachrome Film Status: The last day of processing for all types of Kodachrome film will be December 30th, 2010. The last day Kodak will accept prepaid Kodachrome film in Europe is November 30th, 2010. Film that is not in our lab by noon on December 30th will not be processed.

(Emphasis mine). I have a vision of FedEx trying to shoehorn a DC-10 into the Parsons airport on December 30.

I'd seen an earlier quote in a Kansas newspaper story that said December 10 would be the last day, but the above seems to be the Word.

As a historian by profession, I fully endorse Mike's call for memoirs and other writings. Some may think, "Kodachrome is so passé," but within a few decades those who know that medium well will be gone, and their knowledge lost for ever. Sadly this has happened for other technologies and different forms of material culture. Given the way "things passé" can eventually become "chic retro," there may very well be a new "Kodak moment" (at least in terms of appreciation if not in practice). At that time those who study and appreciate our technological and cultural legacies will very much want those memories.

True, a an overflow of information create its own problems (storage; the need to shift the seeds from the chaff, etc,). Nonetheless, I hope those who are passionate and knowledgeable will share their experiences. To frame this point in digital photographic terms:

A boom in Kodachrome nostalgia with many books and articles would be akin to the increasing size of image files with the newest sensors: increasing volume creates pressures to find storage space, faster computers for better data processing, and so on. But, at least you have the images for future use and enjoyment.

A dearth in information is like the overblown highlights in a critical spot on an image: all you have is empty white space, and that information ain't ever going to come back.


Alex Vesey

So where did Mr. McCurry scrounge up a film camera? Did he stash a couple away just in case an air born mold mutates into a silicon eating bug and destroys all the digital camera sensors?

Hey, that sounds like a good short story plot in a horror anthology.

"Yahahahaha....now I will be KING with my OM-1's....Yahahaha"(evil laugh).

Dear David S.,

OK, now I see your point. I could imagine going that way, if I were the one with the roll... if it were a private thing. This is not, though-- Kodak and the whole world are making a huge deal out of this, and Steve is center-stage with the spotlight shining on him. Talk about performance issues.

IOW, this was an *Event*

What you're really wishing is that it weren't. Fair enough.

As for what killed Kodachrome, your belief is a commonly held one, but it doesn't jibe with my semi-inside information. Well, yeah, technically it's true, but it would be like saying a "bubble baby" was killed by a cold. No, the real cause of death was a nonfunctional immune system; the cold just happened to be which opportunistic infection got thru first. Well, digital just happened to pick off Kodachrome, but it was already terminal.

Even in the early 1990's Kodachrome was on the chopping block. Demand for the film was dwindling, and it hadn't been economically important for years (all slide films, combined, were only a percent or so of the film business). Kodak kept it going for the prestige, much the same way camera makers kept/keep trotting out medium format cameras -- there's no money in it, just glory. But fewer and fewer photographers cared, and so there were fewer and fewer labs that were willing to tackle the fabulously difficult K-process line, which meant it got harder for photogs to get Kodachrome processed, so they were even more inclined to migrate to E-6, and so on and so forth.

In the early 90's Kodak undertook a major development project which was to build a Kodachrome "minilab" machine. Understand that this would be turn-key only in comparison to a regular K-line. It would still require a trained, skilled technician to run. But keeping a traditional line going required two graduate-degree industrial chemists as well as several techs. Kodak's goal was to get Kodachrome processing automated and compact enough that a normal custom film lab would entertain doing it. I was told quite candidly (and not for publication) that this was make-or-break for Kodachrome, its last chance for survival. If the project succeeded, Kodachrome could very well be around as long as any other slide film and Kodak might develop new and improved flavors of it. If the project failed, then Kodachrome was dead. Not publicly, but internal to the company. It would be considered terminal and no further effort would be invested in its future.

Unfortunately, the project did not succeed.

Well, as is frequently the case with terminal patients, they linger along on their own schedule. It was widely assumed that Kodachrome would be gone by the turn of the century. Instead Kodak dragged it out for another decade, simply for the glory of it. Uncharacteristic of the new-and-unimproved Kodak, but good news for slide film lovers. But really, it died when the K-14 minilab died. You were lucky to have it at all more than a few years after that.

pax / Ctein
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-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
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Never shot it. Won't miss it. Don't care all that much. But please Mama don't take my Tmax 100 away.

Two things. One, utter pedantry. The other, fond memories.

For the first, it's "HOME in", not "hone in" (and I realize that the error here is the original author's, not Mike's). To "home in" means "to move toward a specific target" (in this case, the "perfect" exposure. To "hone" means to sharpen an edge. In the first, there's an actual point in space toward which the active agent is supposed to be moving. In the second, there is no destination. A sharp edge is conditional. When does one stop honing? At this edge, or that? Or one further along?

Phew. Having gotten that bit of nitpickery out of the way, man, did I love Kodachrome 25.

Worth a link here: Steve McCurry's weblog.


Among many great photographs, it also has nice insights and tips, like this sequence of some other pictures on the roll the picture above is from.

"Let´s hope it will never happen, but who could we choose to shoot the last roll of 35mm Tri-x?"

Sebastiao Salgado

And what about this FSA photographs:

http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/26/captured-america-in-color-from-1939-1943/

Many thanks to Adrian - DPReview Pentax DSLR forum

God, How our past is different. Here in France, in 1939/43 that was the savage German occupation. Nostalgia is not the right feeling, but History is the same.

Technology changes, so what?

I wonder what Steve said to the Supasnaps guy who processed the roll.

MHMG:: Or just check their web site. Dwayne's says

Kodachrome — The End of an Era

Kodachrome Film Status: The last day of processing for all types of Kodachrome film will be December 30th, 2010.


There's a decent AP piece on The Last Roll here:

http://www.seattlepi.com/artandlife/1404ap_us_kodachromes_last_roll.html

Dear Sal,

Yes, that was part of the problem, if by "public" you mean both pros and amateurs alike.

Kodak had a film designated EPN - Ektachrome Professional 100. It was the most accurate film in terms of tone and color reproduction that Kodak ever produced. It's what professionals used when they needed extremely high fidelity in a chrome. It had a punchier sibling, EPP, but that was nowhere near a match in fidelity.

EPN was very old technology, predating T-grain, DIR couplers and the like. Consequently, it was very grainy and unsharp by modern standards. Kodak decided to come out with a modernized version in the 1990s. They produced trial runs of new and improved EPN, EPP, and even more saturated "ultra" version. Guess which one the pros liked the least? It was so unpopular that Kodak decided not to even release the new EPN.

Internally, Kodak was kind of irked by this; they knew they had a really great film here by every technical measure, and it was really unfortunate there was no market for it.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
======================================

Two quick thoughts:

1. I have never shot Kodachrome but can't help but feel some sort of loss over its demise.

2. I have a copy of Sam Abell's Stay This Moment, a gift that my wife coordinated with several other family members a few years ago. It is a beautiful book filled with beautiful photographs.

After reading this, and wondering who it must feel to shoot the last roll you'll ever shoot of something, i found a lost roll of Foma 200t 120 in the freezer - a film I had been testing some months back, and after developing and falling in love with, of course it was discontinued before i could get any more.

So now i get 12 shots to see what Steve felt:)(So what if my slides* will only be blue and black, it's just Kodachrome with 2 less layers!)

*Thanks to DR5.com

"Let´s hope it will never happen, but who could we choose to shoot the last roll of 35mm Tri-x?"

Jim Marshall.

Here's a short film about making film at Kodak in the '50s.

http://thelightfarm.com/cgi-bin/showvideo.py

Ha, the laugh is on them. The last roll is still in my fridge. I think maybe Ansel Adams shot it. No? Anybody know where I can line up "experts" on this?

This Kodachrome sound intersting, where can I find a good plug-in for Lightroom?
;)

In case anyone is interested, I ordered a copy of the book Making Kodak Film and it came today. Just the pictures alone are fantastic. Haven't even started reading the text yet.

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