Salvaging Miranda

Salvaging Miranda

A few weekends ago, I decided to use up four rolls of 35mm film I’ve had for a while.  I bought them cheaply off eBay – all were well-expired rolls of completely unknown condition.  Had they been kept in a fridge?  Or did someone store them on a radiator right next to an x-ray machine?  Who knew?

For this task, I chose my Miranda MS-2 Super and plumped for the f2.8 24mm lens – I broke the zoom lens a while ago and the other lens I bought, again cheaply of eBay, is the wrong mount so I guess my choice was rather limited!  I’m still getting used to this camera, with its strange focussing thing in the viewfinder and a meter so far over to the left of the viewfinder as to be barely visible in the periphery of my vision.  I like it though.

I wandered and I snapped. I pondered, crouched and was at one point mocked for photographing a puddle.  And then I went home.  A couple of weeks later, I finally got round to processing the rolls of film.  I had recently bought some Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer and was going to try this out.  I usually use ID-11, but I didn’t want to make up a batch of solution that I wouldn’t use that quickly, so Ilfosol 3 in theory fills the gap when I want to do a quick bit of processing.

It was at this point things started to go wrong.  I somehow managed to mix up my films (I had 1x Ilford HP5+, 2x Kodak 400 TMAX and 1x Kodak BW400CN) and ended up developing the HP5+ with one of the 400 TMAX rolls, then the other two rolls.  On the off-chance that someone with any real knowledge of film stock is reading this, did you spot the other problem?

I use black and white films because:

  1. I like black and white photos
  2. I have a shedload of them, thanks to an addiction to eBay
  3. They’re easy to process at home

The HP5+ and 400 TMAX films fall nicely into the easy to process at home category (as well as being really lovely films anyway).  However, the Kodak BW400CN isn’t actually a black and white film.  Well, technically it is since it will produce black and white images – but it requires C41 processing, which is what your local Snappy Snaps can do in a day (or shorter, if you’re really desperate and don’t mind paying more for it!) and is basically how colour films are processed.  Your average photo shop (Snappy Snaps, Boots, Jessops) will tend to send actual black and white films away for processing, meaning an agonising wait for photos that may or may not live up to expectations.

I digress.  Having a C41 film loaded in the tank along with a normal black and white film meant that my suck it and see weekend of happy snapping had now gone truly experimental.  Would I get any viable images from this process?  Only time would tell.

And time did tell.  Too much time, as it turned out.  Not being used to Ilfosol 3, I slightly messed up my timings.  Sadly, a slight error is all it takes to cock-up the negatives.  The HP5+ and 400 TMAX films came out a tad over developed, but salvagable.  The BW400CN (non-B&W process) film – itself a gamble – was blown out almost completely.  I say almost – I could see images on the negatives once they were drying, but I knew I had a challenge on my hands getting my scanner to make head or tale of what was there.

So began the salvage operation.  How many images could I rescue from this horror show?  Seventy-two, apparently (the gallery is below).  They’re not great, but I’m not showing them as examples of nice photos I want to share.  This post is all about the fun of learning, because that’s what I’m doing.  I’m still a total novice when it comes to processing films and mistakes are going to happen.  (Admittedly, mixing up rolls of film was a stupid mistake!)  Being presented with four over-developed sets of negatives presented me with the challenge of scanning and editing them to see what detail I could rescue and which photos had to be given up on.

The BW400CN film – the one that suffered worst of all – yielded a few images for me, but not without a lot of head scratching and a bit of Googling.  To rescue these images, I had to scan them not as negatives, but as positives – ending up with an image looking just like the film does when you hold it up to the light.  Then, in Lightroom, I had to invert the curve to get a normal-looking image.  After that, it was just whatever tweaks I fancied to bring them to life.

I can tell you’re itching to get to the gallery of salvaged images – or perhaps to pop the kettle on and have a nice cuppa.  I’m boring, I know this – I’m just laying all this out because I like to talk about the process from time to time, especially when what should have been a straightforward thing turns into distaster recovery.  I have learned much from this and it hasn’t dented my confidence to keep trying with film photography.

Now, without further ado, I present the seventy-two salvaged images in all their grainy glory…