Introducing NoColorStudio no.99: Satellite reconnaissance film from Europe
Recently NoColorStudio had released a new film stock — the experimental no.99 satellite. I wanted to talk more about the inspirations on this film release and its previous uses. The starting point with this release was an interesting conversation about various film stocks with a fellow photographer. We were mostly talking about the grain of films and how many photographers would rather choose a lower grain film over something that is very grainy, perhaps because the actual subject matter of the image itself is much more important than the material it was shot on or a lot of grain would mean a not professional-enough material to put into your camera?
But I am a big fan of grain!
When I make gum prints from my negatives I usually choose a paper that would give a tremendous amount of particle chaos to my image. For me, specific type and amount of grain gives a more intimate relationship with the subject and the material In which it lays.
After that discussion, I got to my searching in the aerial photography department. My thinking was that usually, a higher ISO film would give off much more grain in the image simply because the emulsion has larger molecules and can capture more light at a given time.
This process is quite simply controlled by the speed at which the silver halides are introduced into the gelatin solution. So I looked at a few industrial aerial reconnaissance films that are still in use today. This particular one intrigued me because it was once even used from extremely high altitudes — from reconnaissance satellites! I just had to check it out, because I always thought that film (especially higher ISO film) has a big problem withstanding radiation simply from an aircraft flight, let alone a flight to space and back. But as I found out, with proper transportation everything is possible.
I learned many things when researching more information about it, like how very high altitude photographs were usually taken only in infrared and black and white, because color film would be too much affected by something that’s called atmospheric haze. Also the fact that this film is quite grainy also depends on the lenses used apparently, because in high altitude aerial reconnaissance – mostly very high-end gear was utilised. So originally the images which came out of this film from satellites were not as grainy as they come out of my simple camera today!
Making this film usable for every day/creative photography was quite difficult because there was very little information about it for the common man. The processing of this film is mostly used in automatic processors. Its speed also varies from the temperature used in the processor, so I really had no idea what was the general speed of this film or how to process it in my lab.
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At one point I even thought that there are just too many variables to begin with and I should just scrap the project, but I persisted my testing and eventually settled for ISO 990 — hence the name no.99. I had great results with a few developers thus far: Kodak D-76, Kodak D-11 and Rodinal, but most of the photographers who buy my film stock tend to experiment with various developers and development times – so don’t take my findings to heart and feel free to experiment on your own and let me know what you find by e-mailing me.
I am currently en route making tests to see how much can this film be pushed and pulled and I will definitely post my results on my instagram @nocolorphotography.
I am very glad I didin’t give up on this project before it even started because now it is my go-to film stock for most of my creative projects. For now, this film is available in the High ISO set, which includes two rolls of the no.99 and the special edition of no.10 push process. You will also find this film in the 35mm sampler set. Both sets are available in the nocolorstudio.com webpage.
The Studio is planning to release this film separately in January 2022, both in single rolls and sets of 5 and 10 in hand-made origami boxes.
Thanks for reading!
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