A while back I came across some images from a flickr contact with an odd colour pallette, a very red and yellow mix, with only a few washed out blues and greens. They were labelled “redscale” which wasn’t a term that I’d come across before so I did some investigating on flickr and wikipedia. It turns out to be pretty straightforward – it involves shooting colour film from the wrong side. Colour film is made up of layers of different emulsions each containing different colour dyes – usually red, green and blue. However, all the layers are sensitive to blue, when loaded normally the blue layer is on first, with a yellow filter below which stops blue light reaching the red and green sensitive layers. If you expose the film from the other side, the red and green layers are exposed, but not the blue layer, and because of the additional blue light exposing both of them the final image contains an excess of red. All you have to do to shoot redscale is turn the film over although for most cameras this is impossible because the 35mm canister was designed to prevent it being loaded the wrong way around. What you have to do is open the film canister in a dark room, unwind the film and detach form the spool, tape it back the other way around and rewind the film.
I still had a few rolls of expired cheap Kodak colour print film lying around so I thought I’d try it out. I’d already built a pinhole camera specifically to use it, and at the time commented that ISO400 was too fast for that camera. One of the things about shooting through the back of the film is that you lose two stops because of the anti-halation layers that are normally behind the emulsions. So loaded backwards in my little pinhole camera it’s more like ISO100 film, which gives me much better control as the shutter speeds are measured in whole numbers of seconds rather than fractions.
It took me a while to shoot the whole roll, and I found later that the little clicker I used to count the sprocket holes as I wound on wasn’t really working properly, however having finally got the film developed and scanned I’m really pleased with the results – which I’m gradually adding to this set on flickr. For me the yellow tones really work with my preferred people-less photographs, and lend a gloomy post-apocalyptic sort of air. Coupled with the low fidelity and long exposure from the pinhole you get a great combination.
I’ve been thinking and I figured out exactly what it was about redscale that attracted me. It’s that they really remind me of the colour pictures from the Soviet Venus landers, Venera-13 & 14, which you can find here. The dense atmosphere on Venus scatters almost all blue wavelengths of light so that none reaches the surface, resulting in pretty much the same conditions as redscale film. If you moved the Isle of Wight to Venus it would pretty much look like this, although you’d probably need a stronger wind break.