BIFscale16, part 2: Doing it fresh with Ektar

The DeLaney Farm's round barn
The DeLaney Farm’s historic round barn may be the last original round barn in Colorado. Built as a grain silo around the turn of the 20th century, it was converted into a two-story dairy barn around 1912. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I managed to finish four rolls of redscale film for this year’s #BIFscale16 event, but I wanted to do something a little different for one of them.

So, forsaking my supply of 400-speed don’t-know-where-it-came-from-or-how-it-was-stored color negative junk film (from which the rest of my redscale supply was created), I opened up a fresh roll of fridge-stored Kodak Ektar 100.

It’s called redscale because reversing the direction of the light causes the film base to act almost as a red filter. There’s more to it — the different wavelengths are passing through the color layers and masks in reverse order, too — but that’s the important bit. And so I reasoned that the actual color of the film base would have an effect, too.

John Gully homestead stable
Nearly all the paint has peeled away from the slats of the once-white stable on the historic John Gully homestead, which was moved to the DeLaney farm in 1982 when it was threatened with demolition. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Older Fuji films have a decidedly brown base that seems to impart less of the ‘redscale’ effect to the color layers. Kodak’s consumer films are a redder, but still a little toward the orange. The blacks seem a little less black with Kodak’s film, too, depending on how many stops you add to the box speed.

But Ektar — oh, saturated Ektar — has an incredibly red base. The reddest of any color negative film I’ve seen. Once exposed and developed, the negatives take on a decidedly Xmas-y look: everything that isn’t film base turns green.

I didn’t even rate the film down that much, mostly exposing it at ASA 50 or bracketing a few shots at ASA 25. Nevertheless, the results are so amazingly red they seem to have gone out-of-gamut in scanning. Except they aren’t, according to the histogram. The red is just overpowering everything else, like a tug of war between a teacup poodle and a Newfoundland terrier.

My Ektar redscale negatives
Some of my Ektar redscale negatives. Ignore the mottling from the paper behind them. You can see the incredibly red film base, and how green everything else is. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I just can’t get over what an unbelievable shade of red everything turned out. While most redscale results are a bit orange — and I really like the rusty and earthy looks — the Ektar only gave me hints of orange in a few of the very brightest highlights.

The worst part is, I don’t think I like the way Ektar works for redscale as much as I like some of the results I’ve gotten with Kodak’s consumer grade print films like Gold, Max, and even the stuff that just says “Kodak 200” on the cassette.

Subject matter

It was the middle of the month and I wasn’t feeling super-inspired. I really wanted to find some things to try out the Olympus Trip 35 and have some redscale work to submit. But I found something…

DeLaney Farm Historic District
The DeLaney Farm Historic District in Aurora, Colo., is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several other historic buildings from around Aurora have been moved to the DeLaney Farm to save them from demolition. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I’ve been tracking down history in the Denver area little by little. I’ve seen a lot of the history of Colorado’s mining culture in the mountains, and the farming and ranching heritage on the Eastern Plains. It’s not as if I don’t know about the history of Denver and the Front Range, but there’s depth to this borderland that I haven’t touched yet.

Young Broncos fan
A young Broncos fan hitches a ride on his dad’s shoulders as fans await the arrival of the team’s Super Bowl 50 victory parade through downtown Denver, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (Daniel J. Schneider)

To that end I’ve been seeking to understand the surrounding areas, many of which now have been enveloped by metro Denver, becoming more like neighborhoods or boroughs than independent towns. Littleton, Parker, Arvada, Aurora, Brighton, Golden — all were once distinct settlements and are now just suburbs.

What evidence we save of those formative times is not only instructive about how we got here, it’s informative about how we want to remember those roots. Largely, I feel we do a good job of not forgetting the ways we got to where we are now. In spite of the environmental ramifications of lax practices a hundred or more years ago, for example, I think a lot of people are still proud of the industries that brought Colorado’s first settlers to Kansas Territory.

On that day I found myself in Parker, and having seen most of what it’s saved, I sought other nearby history. I found the DeLaney Farm Historic District in Aurora.

For the nearly thirty years I’ve lived in Denver, I’ve never had a high opinion of Aurora. It’s been the butt of so many local jokes it’s got a split down the middle. It’s the cheapest part of the metro area to live in, probably because so many people work so hard to live anywhere else in the area. Okay, enough ragging on Aurora.

Fans during Broncos parade
Fans crowded the streets and climbed on everything in sight at the intersection of Broadway and Colfax Avenue in Denver in advance of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory parade, Feb. 9, 2016. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Thing is, because of Aurora’s reputation, it had never even occurred to me before to wonder about its history. It turns out that it has some, though, including the farm where the town has moved several other historic buildings when they were threatened with demolition. There aren’t that many historic sites in Aurora, but there is at least history.

The DeLaney Farm’s round barn is unique and beautiful. The farmhouse and other outbuildings are still there, and the John Gully Homestead and Coal Creek Schoolhouse, and associated outbuildings, have also been preserved in this quiet, grassy refuge between the East and West Toll Gate Creeks.

I only had a couple hours to explore the park, but I took plenty of photos with the Trip 35 and the Trip AF4000. I didn’t quite finish the 36-exposure roll, though, and I wound up finishing it off a few days later at the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory parade on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.

I’ve entered several of my earlier photos, and a couple of these, to win the $100 in film processing and free film. It’s not too late for you to enter, but based on the results posted so far, the competition will be fierce!

Through this experiment, what I’ve ultimately learned is that Ektar is creepily red but ultimately not as cool when you shoot it backwards as I wished it would be. Next year I’ll have to try some backwards Portra 400. Or maybe some tungsten-balanced film? The possibilities are endless! Okay, not endless — but more diverse than I’d previously considered.

The rest of the examples are below.

Disused service road and DeLaney round barn
A disused service road passes the historic round barn on its way from the fields of the DeLaney farm down to West Toll Gate Creek. (Daniel J. Schneider)
DeLaney Farm trees
Plains cottonwood trees, once a thrilling sight for pioneers short on water, clump in the narrow floodplain of West Toll Gate Creek along the edge of the DeLaney Farm in Aurora, Colo. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Cottonwood tree on DeLaney Farm
A leaning Cottonwood tree on the DeLaney Farm in Aurora, Colo. The effect of using Ektar backwards was almost like using black and whitered film. (Daniel J. Schneider)