#BIFscale #BestOf x Red Dragon review

Well, #BIFscale17 is officially over, and I, for one, am thankful to be back to straight shooting. That said, I have a bit of a backlog awaiting some processing, and I should collate some of my thoughts on the redscale process, in general, and the Ultrafine Red Dragon 100 in particular, so here we go, once more into the #BIFscale…

In case you missed it the first time, redscale is the process of shooting Color Negative film upside down, or backwards, or back to front: shooting through the base, rather than exposing the color sensitive emulsions first. It’s easy to make your own with a darkroom, or dark bag, or dark closet, or under the duvet, or at night in the country. You can also buy your own from a couple of different companies: hooray for the capitalist marketplace.

For #BIFscale17, I shot 5 rolls of redscale—4 of the Ultrafine Red Dragon 100 (LC-A at various EIs, Nikon FE at EI 6, Nikon One Touch 100 at EI 100, and the Olympus XA at EI 25 or 50); 1 of a roll of Kodak Gold 400, hand fogged by Dustin Adams, renamed Psychedelic Blues, redscaled by me, and shot at EI 12 in the Nikon FG—plus 1 roll of the Red Dragon, de-redscaled and renamed “Green Kitten,” then shot at EI 320 in the Ricoh 35 ZF.

Let’s look at some pictures…

1st Roll: Lomo LC-A, various EIs, Ultrafine Red Dragon 100

The first several frames were marred by fog from the factory and totally unusable. I thought something was wrong with the LC-A at first, but it cleared up by the middle of the roll, and was gone by the end, and the same fog appeared on the first ~10 frames of every roll of Ultrafine Red Dragon I shot, so it’s in the film and not the camera.

I stitched together a panorama of the first 15″ or so off of this roll. I stuck the psd in my dropbox and you can play around with it if you like, and here it is as a jpeg. (Pardon the variation in exposure between frames: there’s more falloff in the Scan-O-Matic X than I originally thought and it looks like I’ll have to rebuild again, again.) If you look closely, you can see some signs of a light leak around the sprocket holes, very probably something introduced by poor light seals in their rolling machine.

The picture below appears near the end (in the right-hand third) of the roll above, and it’s still fogged. You can see evidence of the fog extending down from the sprocket holes, and I had a horrible time getting the scan to even this sorry state.

It’s not all disaster from Red Dragon in the LC-A, though. At EI 25 or 50, and once I got past the fog, I got a couple of shots that I like well enough.

2nd roll: Psychedelic Reds – Nikon FG, EI 12-50, redscaled Psychedelic Blues (Kodak Gold 400)

I botched this roll horribly… You can read all about it in the original post. Redscaled, the Kodak stock does some interesting things at EI 12. The sky goes almost teal, and the bleeps and bloops of red and blue fog from Douglas Adams produce some interesting variation. It would be easier to deal with if it was predictable, and I’m not sure what I’ll do with the other 3 rolls in the fridge. I have fun playing around, but I take most things way too seriously, and if I’m wound too tight for XPRO, I’m definitely wound too tight for Psychedelic Blues.

3rd roll: Ricoh 35 ZF, EI 320, Ultrafine Green Kitten (de-redscaled Ultrafine Red Dragon 100)

I wish I knew for certain what film stock this was… I love the colors it produces, and would like it better at EI 200 or 160, I think: it’s a bit too grainy, and largely underexposed at 320—but I got a couple of decent shots, and one absolute stunner with it.

From the colors, I suspect the Red Dragon is redscaled Konika Professional 160, but I can’t prove it. Whatever it is, Ultrafine has a bunch of the stuff: it sells 100′ rolls of it (my birthday is coming up: hint, hint) and seem to have plenty on hand. I reached out to them on Twitter, but didn’t get a reply. If I knew what it was, I’d probably stock up on it: beautiful color.

And it was with this roll that I realized that the issues I had with the first dozen frames on my first roll were just part of the, I don’t know, “charm” of the Red Dragon, and if the good people at Ultrafine happen to read this, I suggest you start rolling film in the dark, or maybe tape up your bulk loader, or something, please.

4th roll: Nikon One Touch 100, Red Dragon 100 at EI 100

I had no intention to shoot an entire roll at 100, but after committing to EI 6 in the FE and to de-redscaling too, I realized it would only be fair to shoot one at box speed. Since the One Touch 100 defaults to 100 with non-DX Coded film, and since I wanted to see how flash impacted the Redscale, I loaded up a roll and shot it quick one week.

Short answer: if you give it enough exposure, it’s red on red, but if not, it’s deep maroon and black.

In color or black & white, the sun would’ve been completely blown, and there would be some more visible detail in the shadows, but with redscale, we only get the red-sensitive layer and a little bit of the yellow-sensitive layer, and so we lose most of the blue light and whatever detail the blue light contained.

This requires a different technique to shoot effectively. Where Color Reversal films like early morning and late afternoon, Redscale favors high noon and more high-contrast situations.

And if you totally blast it with light, you can get some different results, though: compare, for example EI 100 with EI 6:

5th roll: Nikon FE, EI 6, Red Dragon 100

Shooting at such a low Exposure Index is fun! Bright light is favored, and a steady hand is necessary in all but the brightest light, but I had a good time with it. Depending on how I processed it, I got khaki/green and purple, or more yellows and oranges. Both are interesting, and I think this, combined with maybe some bleach bypass and/or colored filters could produce some really fun results, but they wouldn’t be redscale, really.

6th roll: Olympus XA, EI 25-50, Ultrafine Red Dragon

For the last roll, I went with EI 25 in the Olympus XA. I was a bit tired of it all by this point, and sorta phoned it in, but I did get maybe my favorite shot from the whole of #BIFscale17.

SubhanAllah.

Ultrafine Red Dragon Review

Ok. So with 4 rolls of Red Dragon (and one of the “Green Kitten”), shot at various EIs, in about 4 weeks, I’m familiar enough with it to make a couple of comments.

First, expect the first 10 frames to be fogged. You can probably compensate with something, somehow, but I don’t know enough to really recommend anything. If you have any recommendations on compensating for known, factory, fog, please share.

Second, expect random, blue color casts throughout. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, and I found it in every roll.

Third, the Red Dragon is fairly clean, grain wise, and what grain there is is pleasant enough, as long as you’re not trying to dig your image out of some factory-induced fog.

The general character is pleasant, and de-redscaled, it’s absolutely beautiful, but I can’t get past the 10+ wasted frames on every roll, and the incredible difficulty I had getting the scans converted and processed into jpegs.

Grain
Character
Handling
Processing

Overall, I’d give it a meh 2.5 stars. Honestly, 2/3 of every roll are fine, more or less, but that 1/3 of wastage puts me right off.

Recommendations: in bright, direct, full daylight, EI 100 is nice and red. In part shade, the mid morning or mid afternoon, or in very well-lit indoors, EI 50 will do. In open shade, early morning, late afternoon or dim indoors with strong backlight, with EI 25. And if you want a general purpose, set it and forget it Exposure Index, I’d go with 50, rather than 100.

You can pick up a roll for $4.29, and 5-packs go for $22, so it’s fairly economical. When #BIFscale18 rolls around, I’ll probably roll my own, or try some of the Lomography stock: I don’t mind light leaks and fog in film, if I’m in control of it, but I don’t want it straight from the factory.

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