Bringing Kodachrome Back from the “Dead”

Garnell brought my attention to this fantastic experiment by photographer Chuck Miller, written up on PetaPixel.

Miller’s process went something like this:

He composed the photograph using a tripod, and shot the image through a red Bower 2 filter, then reshot the same image green with a Tiffen 58 filter and blue Tiffen 47 filter. His images were process by Film Rescue International, and scanned.

Look for the KR 64 in Miller’s negative below.

Using this as a alignment point, Miller layered all 3 images to create the final color image:

For those of you who don’t remember Kodachrome film, here’s a little history on the content of its fantastical nature.

Kodachrome was the first accessible color film that used a subtractive color method. Up until its recent discontinuation in 2009, it had been the oldest surviving brand of color film, the subject of a song by Paul Simon, as well as a national park namesake.

Most of us have been around long enough to watch most movies shot with Kodachrome film, sold exclusively through Technicolor Corp as “Technicolor Monopack.”

Kodachrome films are “non-substantive.” The difference between this and substantive transparency and negative films is the lack of dye-couplers in the film’s emulsion. Dye couplers were adding during Kodachrome’s complex development process, allowing the emulsion layer to be much thinner than other films. Thinner emulsion allowed less light to scatter during exposure, and allowed much great sharpness and detail to be recorded.

The last developed roll of Kodachrome was shot by Steve McCurry, on assignment for National Geographic. Browse through all 32 frames in an article from Vanity Fair.

Photograph by Steve McCurry.

Photograph by Steve McCurry.

Photograph by Steve McCurry.

Photograph by Steve McCurry.

From McCurry’s experience (all 80,000 shot frames of it),

“I don’t think you can make a better photograph under certain conditions than you can with Kodachrome. If you have good light and you’re at a fairly high shutter speed, it’s going to be a brilliant color photograph. It had a great color palette. It wasn’t too garish. Some films are like you’re on a drug or something. Velvia made everything so saturated and wildly over-the-top, too electric. Kodachrome had more poetry in it, a softness, an elegance. With digital photography, you gain many benefits [but] you have to put in post-production. [With Kodachrome,] you take it out of the box and the pictures are already brilliant.”

Anyone out there have their own Kodachrome images to share? Feel free to share them on our Facebook page.