What can you do with an old roll of Kodachrome?

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October 15, 2012

The last Kodachrome processing lab closed a long time ago. I had an exposed roll that had been sitting around since 1986, first in a drawer, then in the fridge and finally, years later, it ended up in the freezer -  just a 35mm film cannister wrapped in aluminum foil. I remembered what was on it, but expected the latent image was long gone. It wasn't!

Back in the early eighties, I had to scrimp and save for every roll of film that I bought. One day I was shopping in Woolworth's and saw a batch of outdated ASA 25 Kodachrome II for about fifty cents a roll, and I bought the whole batch.

It was expensive to process though, and I held back on sending out this last roll.  About 23 years later when I was getting back into darkroom work, I remembered this film and even some of the images that were on it. With a freshly mixed batch of Diafine black and white film developer and some free time, I set off to experiment.

I read posts from other photographers who had successfully retrieved images from Kodachrome with black and white chemicals, so I figured I had a good chance of getting something out of it. I would have been happy to see even a trace of what I had photographed.

Diafine is a two-part, compensating film developer with a very long shelf life. Processing temperature is not critical, nor is processing time beyond a minimum three or four minutes in each of the solutions. I processed for four minutes in each bath, A and B.

I was amazed when I unspooled the film and discovered an image. Kodachrome has a black rem-jet carbon backing that has to be removed to make the film transparent. I did this by laying the wet film down in the sink and carefully sponging the backing away. I missed a few bits here and there, though, and these show up as white specks on the final image. The film also had an overall yelllow stain, which fortunately, caused no trouble my Nikon Coolscan.

This was on the grounds of the Supreme Court in Washington.
This was on the grounds of the Supreme Court in Washington. Diafine film developer (see the article below) allowed processing Kodachrome as B&W, heightening the film's inherent sharpness, adding texture and shortening the tones, all of which work perfectly with these images of stone.
Another statue in the same area.
Another statue in the same area. Don't know why I photographed this so far off center.
I was studying Greek history at the time and was fascinated by the the columns and flourishes. This is the Supreme Court.
I was studying Greek history at the time and was fascinated by the the columns and flourishes. This is the Supreme Court.
More columns on the Supreme Court building. The sky also shows some developer agitation streaking or mottle.
More columns on the Supreme Court building. The sky also shows some developer agitation streaking or mottle.
This is the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. The sharp contrast and shortened tones emphasize the building's geometry.
This is the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. The sharp contrast and shortened tones emphasize the building's geometry.
This giant urn is outisde the Supreme Court. A bit of soot adds to the dimension.
This giant urn is outisde the Supreme Court. A bit of soot adds to the dimension.
I was fortunate to photograph these sculptures before they were cleaned. I don't believe the stonework is now as gritty and dark as it was when this image was made in 1986.
I was fortunate to photograph these sculptures before they were cleaned. I don't believe the stonework is now as gritty and dark as it was when this image was made in 1986.
This is one of the sculptures in the Court of Neptune fountain in front of the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress.
This is one of the sculptures in the Court of Neptune fountain in front of the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress.
Here is another powerful sculputre in the Court of Neptune fountain.
Here is another powerful sculputre in the Court of Neptune fountain.
A turtle sprayer are in the Court of Neptune fountain.
A turtle sprayer in the Court of Neptune fountain.

The biggest treat in doing this was discovering the photos I had made of my niece, Sharon, with her then new baby. Even though the copy of it here was flatbed scanned through the plastic negative sleeve, it looks nearly as good as all of the other frames scanned with the Nikon.

This was a special treat at the end of the roll of Kodachrome, a photo of my niece, Sharon, with her then new baby boy, Michael. Before I processed the film, I remembered that it had images of statuary, but I had forgotten about these last few exposures.
This was a special treat at the end of the roll of Kodachrome, a photo of my niece, Sharon, with her then new baby boy, Michael. Before I processed the film, I remembered that it had images of statuary, but I had forgotten about these last few exposures.

 

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