What Is A Film Swap?
It’s my first ever film swap, and I crossed state lines to do it! The Old Camera Guy and I joined forces to create a series of unorchestrated images by running the same roll of film through our cameras!
This was originally planned as “A Tale of Two Cities,” as we each live near a town named Marysville. We agreed to shoot all the photos in our respective state’s Marysville and see what random creativity would ensue with these double exposures.
I was lucky enough to be the one to choose the film for our swap. I picked Kodak Portra 160VC. The main reason for this film selection was… it’s what I had!
A few months prior to this swap, I had purchased a sleeve of this 35mm Portra 160VC at an estate sale. The film had expired in 2005, but I was certain it had been kept refrigerated due to the quality of the photography gear and other items at this estate sale.
How It’s Done
By tradition, when two photographers agree to do a film swap, they agree to shoot the film at twice it’s rated ISO, or to underexpose the film by one f-stop. Since Portra 160 has an ISO of 160, we each shot this film at ISO 320. The theory is that by the time the film is exposed twice at one f-stop under, the negative will have received something approximating a correct exposure. As always, your mileage may vary.
I was able to use my new vintage Olympus 24mm f2.8 lens for many of these photos. I nabbed this beauty at an estate sale for $8.00 USD! I’ll do a video about this little lens someday. I loaded the roll of Portra into my Olympus OM 1 and did the initial series of exposures. After rewinding the film back into the canister (being sure to leave the film-leader out) I packed it into a mailer and sent it to the Old Camera Guy in Ohio so he could do his exposures and then develop and scan the film.
Frankly, I was amazed at the fun coincidences we had in our combined shots. Everything from us both photographing a series of traffic signs, to the juxtaposition of a vintage car superimposed over the gas & oil refineries in Canada. The most amazing (to me) combined photos, were the couple I took of the abandoned guard house of the former Marysville Detroit Edison power plant. The plant had been shut down and imploded a few years earlier, and when I saw Dave’s images of a cannon and a “WRONG WAY” sign combined with my shots of the guard house, I was stunned.
This was the most fun I’ve had shooting photos in a while. I’m pretty controlled and particular about how I photograph, and the letting go of the final result was very freeing. Not since I was a kid have I ever shot photographs not being able to envision what the final result would be. I really want to thank The Old Camera Guy for encouraging this exercise in unpredictability.
More film swaps with The Old Camera Guy to come! Be on the lookout for them!