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I really love the look of deep red tints across a photograph and I’ve tried to process some of my digital shots that way in the past.
So I thought using Lomography’s special redscale film would be the perfect way to get that look naturally.
I ordered six rolls, picked up my Fujifilm Natura Black camera for the first time in a little while and headed to London to paint the town red.
While on the train I loaded the film and started to wonder exactly what I’d put in the camera. What had I just bought six rolls of? What actually is redscale film?
With the sound of the camera still whirring as it wound in the film I did a little research on my phone.
Redscale film is normal film. It’s no different from any other - except that it’s loaded into the canister the wrong way around. The dark reddish back of the film becomes the top layer - and instead of the light hitting it last, the light hits it first and it acts as a filter. It’s kind of like putting a red translucent sweet wrapper in front of the lens - or more accurately - in front of the film itself. A bit like that anyway.
This filter not only affects the colours produced - it affects the amount of light reaching it. I was advised by one random line written on the internet to compensate for this by overexposing the pictures by two stops, so that’s what i did.
When I’d finished scanning my first set of negatives. I sat down to write a few words, but didn’t really know what to say. I thought I’d got some nice pictures, but they didn’t turn out quite how I’d hoped or expected.
Those two stops of compensation do create an everyday normal exposure, but also give the pictures a washed out look with hints of yellows, reds and even light blues. It’s OK, but not what what I was hoping for. I converted a lot of these to black and white - and once I’d done that I fell in love with many of the pictures. More than anything, it was great to be shooting with my film camera again.
Occasionally - I’d get one or two shots that gave me the rich reds I’d been looking for. These seemed to be if I’d metered the photo to an extremely bright highlight such as the sun - and this had caused the rest of the image to be plunged into a deep dark red.
This gave me some hope, I ordered some more film and left the exposure compensation at zero. The results here were a nice mix of the washed look and deeper reds. I was getting somewhere.
For all of three final rolls I set the exposure compensation to minus two and finally found what I’d been looking for. It seems to make the shots grainer and more contrasty, but the reds I’d been looking for are there - they’d been hiding in the shadows.