How I shot a ton of film on Expired Film Day 2016

Ford truck at Pumpkin Patch
The 1938-39 one-and-one-half ton Ford truck at the Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Patch near Longmont, Colo. has been surprisingly well maintained. Taken on Expired Film Day 2016 with my Pentax 6×7 on Kodak Porta 160VC that had expired in 2000. (Daniel J. Schneider)

A lot of people have commented on the ambitiousness of my plan to shoot nearly a dozen rolls of film on Expired Film Day last year. Here’s how I did it.

It really wasn’t as ambitious as it sounds, for one thing. I’m pretty sure most of the people who have commented were thinking that meant nearly a dozen rolls of 36-exposure 135 film — 300-400 exposures — which would be hard. But that’s not what I did.

I did take some 35mm film, but most of my supply was smaller — at least in terms of the number of exposures per roll.

I took a lot of 120 and 220 film for the Pentax 6×7, which means either 10 or 20 frames a roll. The 127 film in my Brownie Bullet was only good for 8 exposures, and so was the film in the Kodak Six-16 Brownie Junior. Twelve frames for the 120 film in the Agfa B2 Speedex — a 6×6 camera. The 35mm film I took was all 24-exposure rolls save for one — and that one was only 20 exposures. All told, I made considerably fewer than 200 exposures, spread across seven or eight cameras.

Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch truck
The same Ford truck at The Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch outside of Longmont, again on Expired Film Day, but this time taken with my Agfa B2 Speedex (before repair) on c. 1955 Agfa Isopan FF film. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Okay, it still sounds ambitious, even to me. But it wound up not being hard.

Part of my plan was to ensure I’d get some kind of usable results from at least some, if not all, of the film I took. I think of that as redundancy for the sake of preparedness.

If you know even a little about electronics — what you might’ve learned in a junior high science class, for example — you might remember the difference between a circuit where current flows through multiple components one at a time, in order, and circuits where it flows through multiple paths concurrently. The former is a series circuit, and the latter a parallel circuit (more about the differences).

If I’d been shooting the film in series, it surely would’ve been quite an undertaking. Sure, when I spend an entire day on the plains I tend to take 80-100 pictures with the Pentax. But March 15 was a shorter day than those in late August or mid-September. And I spent a chunk of the morning getting my Leica back from the shop.

1938-39 Ford truck
Another Expired Film Day image of the one-and-one-half-ton Ford at the Pumpkin Ranch outside of Longmont. Taken with my Kodak Brownie Bullet camera on nearly-fresh Efke R100 film. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Instead, I chose to shoot in parallel. I loaded all the cameras, and each time I stopped the Jeep I picked several cameras and made a picture or two with each one.

Which cameras I chose was based in part on getting a variety of images on each roll of film, on which had the most frames left in it, and on the scene. In some cases I chose the camera for its ability to fit my visualization of the scene I saw, and in others because the scene might be likely to show favorably some aspect of the camera.

In the end I managed to finish off 10 or 11 rolls of film, I think. It’s hard to remember exactly, because there were some failures and I’m too lazy to dig up my notes. At least 28 frames’ worth failed utterly, and one roll was about half blank due to mechanical issues. I think I finished with right around 100 usable frames in the end.

Of those frames, virtually none are unique. Almost all were replicated, at least the same scene from the same or a similar vantage point, on two or more cameras, except toward the end of the day as I was finishing up rolls. As noted, all the photos on this post are of the same truck, taken with three cameras and four films. But you knew that already because you read the captions, right?

This year I don’t plan to be quite as ambitious, but I do plan to take multiple films and cameras once again. Expired Film Day 2017 is less than two months away!

1938 Ford Truck
That same 1938-39 Ford at The Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch, on Expired Film Day, March 15, 2016, with my Pentax 6×7 on Kodak Vericolor III VPS. (Daniel J. Schneider)
  • Good idea! I may try something similar this year, though I don’t have a great variety of films available at this point. May just do two or three cameras. I’ve already booked a vacation day, though!

    • Excellent! Booked mine, as well. Fingers crossed for good weather — not that I’ll let snow stop me. If you’d like, my offer to Jim above stands — happy to send a roll of mysterious bulk Tri-X along. Film swap time! :P

      • Thanks for the offer! Not sure I need it right now though as I have about 17 or 18 various expired rolls in the freezer at the moment!

        Would happily give away that 46mm polarizer I found though if you have any interest.

        • Nah, I don’t have any cameras with a 46mm filter thread that I’d ever break out a polarizer for (because I’m lazy!). I bet there are better homes out there for it. Appreciate the offer, though!

          17-18 rolls seems like a perilously low supply to me! Also, turning down free film seems like a sign of something wrong — are you running a temperature? ;-)

          • Haha well if it makes you feel better I’ll take some :-D I also have about 25 fresh rolls in the freezer too, and I usually only get through a few per month so I’m not panicking yet. :-)

          • Ha cool! Want to hit my contact form and send me your address? Link in the menu bar above. ;-)

  • I’ve put this date on my calendar for this year so I don’t forget like I did last year. I have one last roll of Plus-X in my fridge that would be appropriately shot on this day!

    • Excellent! If you’d like to do more, I know plenty of sources! In fact, I have a bulk loader full of mysterious Tri-X I’d be happy to load you up a bit of. I’ve been meaning to try it myself, actually (I developed a little un-exposed film I clipped off and saw a little fogging, but not too bad).

      • My favorite old film to shoot is actually Verichrome Pan! I put some through an old 620 box Brownie last year. But if you’re saying you want to give me some expired Tri-X I wouldn’t turn it down!

        • I’ve still never shot any Verichrome Pan — but I might have a roll or two in the fridge. *gears whirring*

          And yeah, it’s just plain 35mm Tri-X, but I’ve been meaning to learn how to bulk load it anyway. ;-) Hit my contact form and drop me your address, I’ll get a roll out to you in time for EFD :P

  • Marcus didius falco

    Dear Dan,
    Canny article:)
    Day is already in my diary:) I plan to shoot colour neg/slide film. depending on the weather/subject etc.
    Regards,