Rescued images from Wales

I didn’t expect to be able to publish these two images; because the negatives fell into a stream about six weeks ago.

That’s the stream above, the Afon Cwm Lan which flows from the flanks of Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, down to Llyn Dinas, alongside the Watkin Path.

An hour after taking this image (on 4×5 Ilford FP4+ in an Intrepid camera) I was looking for one last image possibility before the light faded, still next to the stream but fortunately in a quieter spot. I crouched down to get a lower viewpoint and heard a faint “plop”. I looked around and couldn’t see anything that could have caused the noise. I decided it was getting too dark to set up the large format camera again and turned away from the stream, to see two double film holders of mine in a pool on the edge of the stream … which I fished out before they got washed away. They had fallen out of the laptop-style pocket on my camera backpack, which I hadn’t zipped up.

When I got back to my holiday accommodation, I put the two film holders in a warmish spot, near a radiator but not too near, in the hope of drying them out. I remembered a previous occasion on which I had dropped a Yashicamat TLR into a Scottish stream without any mishap – the film showed no sign of it’s enforced shower.

Four days later, before returning home, I put the film holders into a changing bag and tried to get the sheets of film out – but they were well and truly stuck. So they were left there to come home. Then I developed the remaining film, took a break from developing whilst decorating, and finally got round to developing the film about six weeks after they were exposed, six weeks of being stuck inside a damp film holder.

It took quite a lot of force to prize the film out of the film holder. Recently I’d experienced some chunks of emulsion missing from other sheets of FP4+, probably linked to attempting to use a new-to-me Mod54 developing tank for the first time. So I was pretty convinced that these sheets would also have missing chunks.

The factor that persuaded me to develop them anyway, was that the films were stuck to the holder by the non-emulsion side. The dark slides had come off no problem, indicating that the film was not stuck to the emulsion side, which faces out and is covered by the dark slide, except during exposure. If the emulsion side was OK, there was a chance I might rescue something.

In addition, I was now trying out a Stearman SP-445 developing tank, and wanted more experience with that, after my unhappy trial with the Mod54.

In the event, the only damage showing when I took the negs out of the tank was some crinkling around the edges, due to having to grip the film to remove it.

Presumably any initial damage was limited to the anti-halation layer, which gets dissolved during development anyway.

Both images were developed in Kodak HC110 developer, dilution “B”.

I experience many disasters in the course of photography, so it’s nice to have been able to get away with this one.

My next task is to do the same thing with two 4×5 sheets of Kodak Portra 400, which are in the second film holder that went in the stream. There’s more at stake financially so I’m thinking of deliberately soaking the film holder, in water with a few drops of photoflo, in the hope that this might enable the Portra to slide out of the holder rather than being dragged out.

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