accozzaglia: (colourful little heptagonal star)
[personal profile] accozzaglia
I am 31 exposures into my first shot roll of Kodak Ektachrome EIR film, which was loaded yesterday in the complete darkness of a camera changing bag after some friends and I watched a Mexican wrestling event at Harbourfront Centre (colourful and great burlesque theatre, and at no cost!). Since starting on this Kodachrome stretch of shooting, I vowed that all colour film going through my 35mm cameras for the next 17 months will be nothing but Kodachrome notwithstanding (we love to make use of the annoying notwithstanding clause here) Ektachrome EIR.

So what's the big deal here?

Ektachrome EIR is probably one of the strangest colour films ever put on sale. Trees look otherworldly, lips look yellow-orange, skins of various hues look like delicate porcelain, blue eyes look dark, and brown eyes look bluish. Sometimes veins close to the skin's surface can be seen. Blood can look greenish (take that, Vulcan!). Black clothes seldom look black, but often appear burgundy (it all depends on the infrared-reflecting properties of the dyes used on the fabric, somewhat like how some clothes "glow" white under a black light for near-ultraviolet lighting). In other words, absolutely no green (except when using an orange filter to cancel out deep blue hues — see below on examples!). It's a favourite in goth photography (there's actually a way to "cross-process" EIR so that foliage looks strange, but skin tones look a little less crazy).

EIR is, at its very basic sense, a colour reversal — or colour slide — film, just like Kodachrome (Kodachrome uniquely differs only in that it starts out as a black-and-white film with added colour during processing, whereas all other colour films have the dyes in the film from the get-go). They can be cut and inserted into cardboard or PVC slide sleeves, stuck into a Kodak Carousel slide projector, and displayed on a big screen, old skool-style if one so desired. EIR is developed using the same chemicals as all other slide films, with exception to the aforementioned Kodachrome process.

[An easy way to know whether a film is a colour reversal/slide film or a print film is whether the name uses "-chrome" — like Ektachrome, Kodachrome, Fujichrome, Scotchchrome, and Agfachrome (you're liable never to see these last two, because they're all but gone now). Print film ends with "-color" — misspelled, of course, but whatever.]

So EIR differs because one of the three colour imaging layers — what would normally be used for the green light layer — is sensitized to infrared light instead (colour reversal typically has red, green, and blue imaging layers). [edited to correct: and I quote, "infrared yields a red image, green records as blue, and red as green."] So when taking pictures of a tree with green leaves illuminated by sunlight, the amount of infrared light reflected, or radiated back to the eye is pretty high. The thing is, our eyes generally aren't able to see this light — and even if we did, "colour" would likely not be how we distinguish it, but as a "light".

Black-and-white infrared film uses only one imaging layer instead of colour's typical three, and the way it renders infrared wavelengths is whitish. A dark green tree in colour would look dark grey to most black and white films, depending on the kind of lens filter you added. But in black-and-white infrared, the leaves would be light grey to whitish — almost as if an ash or snow had fallen on those objects that reflected infrared light.

With EIR, the infrared-sensitized layer renders infrared light as a crazy magenta hue, because the film is sensitized to blue light and infrared light; when these wavelengths mix, purples can result. This is unique to EIR, and digital cameras converted to record infrared light won't do this — not without post-processing hacks. The result is that the colour "reality" in EIR can look positively bizarre and inexplicably unreal. Also, it requires an orange (or gold) filter to cut down the amount of blue it would otherwise reproduce — which can get a bit overwhelming, as seen by this demonstration. At this point, though, it's up to the photographer, since colour accuracy was defenestrated the moment one was crazy enough to buy this film.

Kodak stopped producing EIR a couple of years ago, and it was already expensive to begin with. Whereas one might pay about $4–5 for a roll of colour print film and $8–12 for a professional colour reversal film, EIR was sold for about $28 a roll in Canada before it was discontinued. I found a few rolls that were deep-frozen, but expired in early 2007 and mid-2004. EIR must be kept in a deep freeze until they're used. That store heavily discounted the price because they were beyond their sell-by date. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to afford them. When I realized I wouldn't be able to shoot all those rolls, I sold a few and made up for the cost of buying them. Since then, someone in Germany bought a monster supply of the aerial photography version of EIR, which is still offered commercially, and he cut down the master roll for 35mm and 120 medium format shooting. So technically you can still buy this stuff, but it's a third-party hack. And still costly.

In any case, I finally felt that yesterday was the day that I'd pull out one of my three remaining rolls and shoot it as an experiment. I need to get through the roll fairly quickly, but I also want the quality of what gets shot to be fairly worthwhile. Aside from taking pictures of some friends (and letting one take a picture of me, so to see how purple-dyed hair looks), I've shot a few familiar scenes — including the most unexpected coincidence today.

A year ago this week — 363 days, to be exact — I was walking beside the railway line near my home when I saw this guy reading a book in a somewhat precarious, but neat perch: atop an electrical box for switching the railway track routing. So I asked then if I could shoot a frame of him, and he said sure. Today, at about the same time of day, I saw him for the first time since. I like to walk that stretch regularly, but had not seen him again before today. We talked a bit this time, introduced ourselves, and I shared that the photo of him reading a book turned out well (and gave him the link to view it). He allowed me to shoot him with Ektachrome EIR today, and I expect it, along with the rest, to look positively surreal. The difference this time is he was looking at me, semi-posed on his perch, so it should prove to be an interesting shot.

So that's pretty much the boring dope on why I'm excited to shoot this film. I know I'm a nerd, but I'm amongst company here, right (please say yes please say yes please say yes)? :)

p.s.: If anyone's interested, I'll post some of the better results (touch wood!) in a future posting.
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