There’s a reason why the best black and white films out there are meant for traditional developing. While C-41 monochrome is convenient to process, the results aren’t so impressive. I shot one roll during a beach holiday and was a little put off by how washed out and grey it turned out.
I received an unbranded roll of black and white 35mm film for C-41 processing on Christmas and decided to use it during my trip to Tali with my college best friends.
Since we were heading to the beach, I loaded it into my cheap underwater film camera which was my primary mistake. It had no ISO options whatsoever so I couldn’t manually over or underexpose.
Daytime indoor photos look okay, but you’ll notice the dirt and scratches. (It was probably expired too.) Under the afternoon sun though, the photos look white-washed and more grey than black and white.
I was hoping to get high contrasts but I guess that’s what you sacrifice for the convenience of C-41 processing. And maybe my camera was becoming light leak-y as well.
After a dip in Coral Beach, we headed back to the house to celebrate my friend’s birthday! Flash photos at al fresco dinner turned out alright and was hoping the rest of the roll registered like this.
When we decided to go nightswimming at the pool and stargazing at the roof deck though, this film didn’t do so well. Probably because it was also really dark and there were no other light sources.
We were supposed to go sailing the next day but 1) the sailing yacht’s battery died, 2) we couldn’t get another one from the marina, and 3) even if we did, the boat’s busted engine would still keep us at bay. Bummer! We explored Tali instead and ended up on Sunset Beach where a little trekking led us to what I now call “Inception Beach.”
There were blocks of half-laid concrete in the shallow end of the water (maybe from an attempt to build a dock/bridge?) as well as a lot of naturally-formed rocks and boulders. I thought it was beautiful in a derelict way and it really reminded me of the Limbo scenes in Inception. It was really sunny out that day so, at this point, I’ve come to accept the grayish tones of this monochrome film.
One thing I did like about it was how well it captured light underwater! Too bad I only took a single shot. I guess this film was a one-hit wonder.
In the end, I’m glad that at least the photos turned out, given how mysterious the film was (no brand, no expiry date, etc.). I’ve grown to like the nostalgic look the film gave off but I do wish there was more contrast and that it was less gray. But at least the sun-drenched, sand-dusted film matched the beach trip’s feel.
Now I know to invest in cult classic B&W films (like Kodak T-MAX or Lomography Lady Grey), even if labs that develop it are rare, so I’m sure of the look that I’m getting. If I do find more C-41 monochrome rolls later in life, I’d still try them out for easy-to-process black and whites. I just wouldn’t expect so much of them.
See more photos from this roll in Talifornia.