Friday, 30 March 2012

Beziers, Ektachrome Plus

Yashica Mat 124
Kodak Ektachrome Plus

"The price is right; the cost of one admission is your mind". So sang Dorothy Moskowitz on The United States of America's classic 1968 psychedelic masterpiece The American Metaphysical Circus:

When I went to France I took along a couple of rolls of Kodak Ektachrome Plus, which expired back in February 2005 but had been preserved in a fridge. The negatives had a slight purple cast, but Photoshop easily corrected that.

Ektachrome Plus was part of the the last-but-one generation of Ektachrome. It was more properly known as EPP, and was launched in 1985 as the high-saturation twin of EPN, which was the standard daylight version of Ektachrome. Kodak used a bewildering range of three-letter codes to describe their film, summarised on their website here (PDF), and also here, here:

EPP100Daylight, Extra Saturation
EPX64Daylight (Warmer)
EPZ100Daylight (Warmer)
EPT160Tungsten (artificial light)
EIR200 (E6)Infrared

* Lithographic film has ultra-high contrast, and is designed for graphics and text, although it can also be used pictorially. It was popular in the film and advertising world to make mock-computer graphics, notably during the computer-world sequences in the film Tron.

By modern standards EPP's saturation is nothing special, although I admit I only shot it on dull days. I like non-sequiturs, and I'll tell you why; it's because they all came from different toy ranges. That's why Soundwave was bigger than Starscream despite the fact that Soundwave was a Walkman and Starscream was an F-15. And talking about fridges, am I the only person that mentally associates fridges with Jenny Agutter?

Why, you ask? Because of that bit in Logan's Run where Jenny Agutter and Michael York are trapped in a frozen cave by a robot, and Agutter changes out of a bedraggled futuristic dress into some furs. That's why. It had a powerful impression on me when I was young. Whenever I get something from the fridge, I think of Jenny Agutter wearing that dress. I like my fridge.

Seldom have I willed for someone's clothes to billow up as I willed Jenny Agutter's clothes to billow up, and sometimes dreams come true. Quite often in Jenny Agutter's case, if you've ever seen Walkabout. And Equus. An American Werewolf in London. China 9, Liberty 37. She's still going, you know, most recently in surprise BBC Sunday evening hit Call the Midwife, and has a small role in the forthcoming Avengers movie. I'd be good on the radio, wouldn't I? You're not allowed to stop talking on the radio, you have to keep going, and I can do that.

Avengers. Diana Rigg. Sorry, I appear to have distracted myself. You see, growing up in the countryside there weren't any attractive women. The only attractive women were on television; distant, unreal. Let's talk about Ektachrome. EPP's time in the sun ended in 1996, when Kodak launched Ektachrome E100, which had finer, T-grain emulsion and more vivid colour. Nonetheless EPP remained on sale for several years after that, until it was finally discontinued in 2009. By that time its nearest analogue was Ektachrome E100VS, which was much more saturated. Here's a day-of-the-dead skeleton figure of Marilyn Monroe, if I stop talking the spiders will crawl to the top of my head and close over me and then I'll be finished.

Why did EPP remain on sale for so long? Perhaps Kodak made a huge batch of the stuff, and couldn't get rid of it; perhaps there were commercial photographers who had their EPP workflow down pat, and didn't want to change. I have no idea. After EPP was discontinued the remaining flavours of Ektachrome remained on sale for three years, but by then all the commercial photographers and most other photographers had switched to digital, so in early 2012 Kodak stopped producing slide film altogether. And here's MC Hellshit and DJ Carhouse performing "I'm EEP", which isn't about Kodak EPP but it's great fun nonetheless.

And so if you want EPP nowadays, you'll have to look on eBay. The last rolls will have expired by now. As a consequence the film is a popular subject for cross-processing, because what have you go to lose?

Ektachrome itself was developed in the 1940s, as an alternative to Kodakchrome that was easier to develop. Throughout most of its life it was faster than Kodachrome, and was popular with the Big Three - NASA, the National Geographic, and Playboy. Particularly NASA. Ed White floating in space? Ektachrome. Ed White's arse floating in space? Ektachrome. I won't link to that one, it would be disrespectful, although White had nothing to be ashamed of. AS11-40-5903? Ektachrome.

You know AS11-40-5903. No, it's not that one. That's AS17-148-22727. It's the other one, this one, Buzz Aldrin on the moon, reading a checklist on his left wrist. Kodachrome got all the boo-hoos when it was discontinued, but Ektachrome captured the most famous images of all. Since ever. Of them all.

You know, there was a time when people might have imagined that the Blue Marble would fade from the memory, because space travel would be so common that no-one would think it exceptional to see the whole Earth from space. Back then, the progression from the biplane to the supersonic jet to the moon was a straight line, heading out beyond Earth orbit, taking us with it. At some point the line became dotted, and then it was a curve. Physics and money. Perhaps when we've solved all our problems on Earth we can go back.

All shot with a Yashica Mat 124G in Beziers, France, using Ektachrome Plus that expired in 2005. Same roll; of the three I didn't use one was crap and the other one was tilted a bit, and not quite as good. See what I mean about strike rate? I got nine good shots of eight different things, instead of 250 decent shots of eight different things.

Fabulous Sheep is a local band, by the way. Obviously the authorities don't want anybody playing with balloons 'cause they'll pop up in the trees there and frighten people.