Kodachrome was a film and process invented by Kodak in 1935. Kodak made Kodachrome available for both movie cameras and still cameras. The process produced color positives which were suitable for projection. Most film produced negatives, which were suitable for printing, not projection. As one of the early successful color processes, most publishing and printing outfits used equipment which would take color positives. Their monochrome process equipment still accepted monochrome negatives.
Kodachrome had a specific color balance, color tone, which made the color images very appealing to the eye. This color imbalance became a hallmark. Much like the polygonally shaped flashes of light which a movie camera lens will produce when it is panned close to direct sunlight, it was an imperfection which became a sought-after artistic effect. Agfacolor had a similar but different imbalance.
Much like one would prefer to have one's images rendered by great portraiturists like Gainsborough , John Singer Sargent , or Giovanni Boldini , important sitters would have their image rendered in nothing else except Kodachrome.
Digital cameras wiped out the market for film nearly overnight. As soon as the quality of digital photographs was sufficient, digital photographs replaced color positives (Kodachrome) in what was now an all-digital process from the camera lens through to the printing press.
Much as monochrome film was still used by art photographers, even though the advent of color film in the Fifties wiped out the use of monochrome film, art photographers still used Kodachrome. This consumption was a small fraction of the consumption of Kodachrome in its heyday which meant that it was no longer economic to produce and process Kodachrome. The last reel was processed at the last lab late in January 2011. The end of an era.
One of the last boxes of Kodachrome 64
Kodachrome photographs above, a Tiger Ausf B Königstiger, looks like it was processed with 1970s high-blue process method Kodak used in the Seventies.
AT&SF Steam Locomotive 5000 taken in 1943. It looks like it was taken with Ektachrome 64.
Götterdämmerung : A British Black Five in 1968
RMS Queen Elizabeth
It is possible that another reel of Kodachrome may be shot if enough enthusiasts can assemble the materials and equipment to do so. For example, flash powder, which was used in the era before flashbulbs in the early twentieth century, is still in production by one small company. Processing Kodachrome is a much larger proposition than making flash powder but is still feasible.
Meanwhile, digital Kodachrome can be obtained using add-ons for Adobe Photoshop which enable color balance manipulation to simulate the Kodachrome effect. The following companies make add-ons for photoshop:
In the above image, an early version of the Alien Skin plugin, showing some of the list of color balances available to be imposed on the image.
In the above image, Nik Software's Color Efex Pro 3.0, showing a list of color balances available.
Advertisement for Nikon from 1984 featuring a still-life of a Nikon F3 SLR camera, reels of Kodachrome, a glass of whiskey, local cigarettes&matches, a map of Burma and a climbing rope. Most of what you need for an good adventure.
This advertisement was placed on the rear cover of the European photography magazine Zoom . While the Second World War was fought by the Leica Rangefinder cameras , the Vietnam War was fought by Nikon SLR cameras. The Nikon SLRs loaded with Kodachrome became the quintessential professional war reporters camera. This still-life was composed to reflect and capitalize on that already powerful association.
Dennis Hopper wearing several Nikon F3 in Apocalypse Now (1979) .
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- Landscape photography htttp://www.betterlight.com/
- 4x5 Kodachromes from WWII
- Panotwins specialist site on panoramas
- Photographers' ephemeris - Software for determining the quantity and angle of daylight at any given location and time. Photographers, directors and the makers of advertizing films are geared to shooting in optimum type of daylight. A friend of mine in Italy is a man of the cloth and told that one wedding he conducted was for a couple, the bridegroom of which was a director of advertizing films. He said that the entire day was geared around the times that the light would be optimum for shooting each kind of photograph. That, and that even the women were 30cm taller than he was. Documentary filmmakers such as myself are lucky of the camera is working and that whatever one is trying to photograph is there at all.
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