Freelensing & Caffenol

For a few months I thought about selling my Pentax K1000. The mirror was sticky, it needed new seals, plus we really, really needed the money.

But then I realized…my Pentax is the only one of my film cameras I can freelens with.

I have only one other film SLR: the Canon EOS Rebel T2, but it refuses to take pictures without a lens attached. Even in manual mode, the mode where I’m supposed to be in charge.

So I sold my speedlight instead, then sent out my Pentax to have the seals replaced and the shutter looked at, and I came home from Cedar Point to a box on my counter. I quickly tore off the tape, loaded the camera with some HP5 and immediately began to marvel at the dreamy world beyond my viewfinder. Moving the 50mm up and down and this way and that way, I felt a calm I haven’t felt since I first plunged into film.

I was me.

I used up the entire roll in a few hours, taking pictures of Goo outside as she ran through the backyard in her adorable polka-dot dress.

Then, that night, I decided to do something even more daring. Even though I wasn’t sure how the photos were going to turn out, I whipped up a batch of Caffenol CM and developed the negatives in a beautiful stew of coffee and vitamin C crystals.

The results were scary, at first.

Dark negatives usually means, in my beginner’s experience, overexposed pictures. But HP5 is a 400 speed film, and the highest shutter speed I had for the bright and sunny day was 1/1000. I’d had to work with what I’d been given.

All I could do was develop some 120 from the trip to Cedar Point to console myself, then go to sleep and hope the next day’s scan would give me something to work with.

To my surprise, the scans were more than I could have dreamed.

They’re eerie. They’re haunting. They’re mysterious. With digital, an edit like this might take me hours among days, but all I did here was detach my lens and then soak the negatives in coffee. My entire Lightroom experience entailed nothing but the minor tweaks necessary after a scan.

No textures were added. The grit is au natural. The brown tinge is all caffenol.

I’ve already shot an entire roll of FP4 and developed it in caffenol. The negatives are drying now, and the eeriness is already quite apparent.

To be continued…

All images © Lina Forrester, 2017

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