Film Photography, Photographs

Expired Kodak Tri-X in the Olympus Stylus

Milton-Madison Bridge

My wife and I spent a long weekend in historic Madison, Indiana, in October. In Indiana’s early days, Madison became the state’s largest and most important city. It capitalized on its Ohio River location as a port of commerce. Nearby Louisville and Cincinnati soon became more prominent, stalling Madison’s growth. It had the effect of freezing the oldest part of the city in time. Lots of buildings from Madison’s earliest days are still in use. The area has been a historic district since 1973, and over the years properties have been restored one by one. It’s a lovely place to take a camera.

Olympus Stylus

I brought a couple of SLRs, a TLR, my little Olympus Stylus, and a whole bunch of film. I loaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since September, 2001, into the Stylus and slipped it into my back pocket. The rest of the film I shot was color, both negative and slide, and went to a lab for processing. That takes time. But right after I got back I developed the Tri-X myself in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned it on my Plustek 8100i. So you get to see these black-and-white images first!

The image at the beginning of this post is of the bridge that connects Madison to Milton, Kentucky. It might look old, but it went into service in 2014, replacing a similar bridge completed in 1929 that had lived out its service life.

On the Ohio River at Madison

I made several photos as Margaret and I walked along the river, above the shore on a sidewalk. We also walked down this ramp to the bar that’s on the left and had a couple of beers.

Fairfield Inn, Madison

This building is a Fairfield Inn hotel today, but it was originally built as a cotton mill. It was vacant for a long time, decaying. Its transformation is remarkable. The hotel overlooks the river.

Third Street, Madison

We also strolled the city looking at the houses, most of which are a century old or more, and some of which date to near Madison’s founding in 1810.

Old houses in Madison

The Stylus handled easily as always. It fit comfortably into the back pocket of my jeans. When you factor in the sharp, detailed images it returns, is it any wonder why I shoot it so often?

Joy house

Images near the beginning of the roll didn’t turn out well. The base fog was thickest on the first few frames. This was the first frame on the roll that turned out at all, and as you can see the grain is pronounced and the image is a little faint.

Madison Airbnb entry

The deeper I went into the roll, the better this Tri-X behaved. This is the front door to our Airbnb, a renovated three-story row house. It was a lovely place to stay.


Unfortunately, my Stylus has developed a light leak. You can see it in the upper right of this image. It doesn’t always occur, and when it does I can often remove it from the image in Photoshop. Given the details the leak touches in this image, Photoshop couldn’t repair it without scrambling the lines.

On stilts

I successfully Photoshopped the leak out of this image. The first thing to check is the light seals, of course, and if those are bad I’ll happily replace them. That’s a repair job I’m willing to do myself. The photo forums mention four other causes of Stylus light leaks, all of which involve some disassembly of the camera and in one case replacement of a rubber seal that is probably no longer obtainable. Many of these problems are beyond my repair skills — and willingness.

Gourds and hay

In time, I’ll investigate the root cause of my Stylus’s leak but there may be nothing I can do about it. Time was, Olympus Styluses were cheap as chips. Faced with this problem just five to seven years ago, I’d buy another used Stylus. This is already my second Stylus, as my first one died. A reader empathized with my plight and sent me this one, free. He had picked up four or five of them for next to nothing, 10 or 20 bucks each. Those were the days! Now these cameras sell for $150, even $200, which is straight-up ridiculous.

If my Stylus is not repairable, I’ll have to choose whether to live with the light leak or to sell the camera for parts. But that’s life with an intricately designed early-1990s electronic camera. They are all on borrowed time after 30 years.

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The lighthouse at Michigan City

The trip Margaret and I made to South Bend included a short jaunt over to Michigan City. Despite it being a chilly, windy day, we hit the beach at Lake Michigan and walked out to the lighthouse.

Michigan City lighthouse
Michigan City lighthouse
Michigan City lighthouse
Michigan City lighthouse
Michigan City lighthouse

Olympus XA and Kodak Tri-X 400, expired 6/2001, in HC-110, Dilution B.

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South Bend on expired Kodak Tri-X 400

The stash of Kodak Plus-X I bought a few months ago came with a few rolls of 20-years-expired Kodak Tri-X too. Now that I develop and scan my black-and-white film at home, I avoid Tri-X because it curls and is hard to lay into my scanner’s negative holder. Ilford HP5 Plus offers a similar look but lays flat, so I use it instead. But I’ve got these rolls, and I might as well use them. I brought one along with my Olympus XA on a trip my wife and I made in April to South Bend.

We stayed one night, in a room in the DoubleTree downtown. This hotel is connected to the headquarters of First Source Bank by a huge glass atrium.

Glass wall

The hotel and bank buildings were built in the early 1980s. From then until a few years ago, the hotel was a Marriott, and I will probably always think of it with that name. Here the atrium connects to the First Source Bank building.

All the angles

This is the East Race of the St. Joseph River, taken from LaSalle Street looking south. The river’s main channel is about a thousand feet west of here. In the ’80s, you could kayak down the East Race. I did it once and it was a lot of fun.

The East Race of the St. Joseph River

This is the Jefferson Boulevard bridge, one of my favorite South Bend subjects. This concrete bridge is of a Melan arch design, which is a way of reinforcing concrete with giant curved steel ribs.

Jefferson Blvd. bridge

Here’s the bridge from the other side of the river, in Howard Park. I’ve always thought of downtown South Bend being west of the river. But the Howard Park neighborhood has revitalized over the last several years, with shops and bars and restaurants opening. Downtown is now on both sides of the river.

Jefferson Blvd. bridge

Howard Park borders the east shore of the St. Joseph River. This sidewalk and railing have been there for more than 100 years.

Howard Park

Looking the other direction, the walkway leads to this former railroad bridge that carries pedestrians today.

Howard Park

Here’s the view from that bridge.

St. Joseph River

Looking south downriver, we saw these rowers. We guessed that they were a team from Notre Dame. This would have been a great moment to have a zoom lens!

Rowing in the St. Joseph River

This film had always been stored frozen, so I treated it as if it were fresh, shooting it at box speed and developing it normally (in HC-110, Dilution B). I notice a little loss of detail in the shadows, however, which suggests that the film may have degraded a little. Perhaps I’ll shoot the next roll at EI 200 and develop it normally and see if I get better shadow detail.

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Film Photography

The Indianapolis Zoo on Kodak Tri-X 400

Our granddaughter’s mom asked us if we’d like to go to the zoo. Heck yeah!

Our granddaughter is fascinated by elephants. Here she is, with her mom, looking at real elephants for the first time.

Looking at the elephants

Here’s a direct look at those elephants.


I had Kodak Tri-X 400 in my Yashica-12. I’d never shot this camera in a setting like this. I brought it along to see how it handled, and to finish this roll.


I normally shoot a long lens, or at least a deep zoom lens, at the zoo so I can focus on the animals themselves. The Yashica-12’s lens seems wide at 80mm, which made me figure out compositions that took a broader scene into account.


Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t. I came away with a strong feeling that if I shot nothing but this TLR for a year I’d grow tremendously as a photographer. I’ve used this camera a lot in the last year and have come to know it well. I enjoy using it a great deal.


The Yashica-12’s square format was challenging in this environment. A 3×2 format would have worked so much better, effectively cropping useless sky and ground out of these compositions. I want to shoot more scenes like these with this camera so I can figure out how to use the 1×1 form factor to best advantage.


Because the animals in these images are so distant, the images work better at larger sizes. If you click any of these images to see them on Flickr, and then maximize your browser window, you’ll see what I mean.

I developed this film in LegacyPro L110 (Kodak HC-110 clone), Dilution E (1+47). I always lean on the Massive Dev Chart to guide me in development times. It let me down with Tri-X — it gave me a range of times for all dilutions I normally use. I’d have to experiment to find the time that works for me. This is my last roll of Tri-X and I don’t plan to buy more, as the film base’s curl makes scanning a pain. Persistent Googling revealed a blogger who got pleasing results with Dilution E at 6:50 at 20° C. so I did that.

I got slightly thin negatives. The scans are okay, but I wasn’t wowed, as shadows were blocked up. It could be insufficient development. It could also be a result of the Yashica-12’s metering, which is probably center weighted. I should meter by aiming the camera at the darkest area of my intended composition, and then compose and shoot.

Recently photo blogger Alyssa Chiarello got very nice results from Tri-X in HC-110 Dilution B for 6:50 at 20° C. I wish I’d seen her post before I developed this roll, as I think Dilution B would have given me better results.

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Film Photography

Walking through Zionsville in the rain with an old camera and expired Kodak Tri-X

Wet brick street

I didn’t mean to walk in the rain. It’s supposed to be romantic and all, but I was alone, and I didn’t really want to be wet. But this shower popped up out of nowhere. It caught my Dark Sky app by surprise — it is very good about warning me before it rains.

Argus Argoflex Forty

I figured the rain wasn’t going to hurt my camera, a circa-1950 Argus Argoflex Forty. It’s a hardy little box. So I pressed on.

It’s also a reasonably capable little box. Its lens is sharp except in the very corners, and it offers a range of apertures and shutter speeds.

I was burning off my last roll of Kodak Tri-X, expired since June of 1981. After shooting my last roll at box speed and getting dense and foggy negatives, I set exposure on this manual camera as if this were an ISO 100 film, hoping for improvement. I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution B (1+31).

This roll looked far better than my last one — less grainy, better resolution. Fresh Tri-X would have looked even better, of course; these still look like they were shot on expired film. But I’m pleased with these results.

The Flower Shop
Black Dog Books
Five Thirty Home
One Nine Five
VW Bus
Downtown Zionsville

I shot this back in early July during a week when we had several pop-up showers in full sunshine. That’s a real rarity! I haven’t seen anything like it since I was a child.

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Film Photography

40-year-old Tri-X in the Yashica-12

I buy film impulsively with some project in mind. Then I never get to the project and eventually forget why I bought the film. I’ve done it enough that I now have about 15 rolls of film I need to shoot up. I’m working my way through this stock while I refine my home developing technique.

I own two rolls of 120 Kodak Tri-X that expired in June of 1981. I had a day off a couple weeks ago, and it was a warm spring day. So I spooled one roll of the Tri-X into my Yashica-12 and took it for a drive in the country. It was lovely to smell all the rural-Indiana spring smells. Along one country road the fields were awash in fragrant golden flowers. Another road smelled strongly of swine. That’s Indiana!

I stopped when I came upon the small town of Sheridan, and blew through the whole roll there.

In small town Indiana, everybody knows everybody and everybody’s lived there for ages. Even though the streets were largely deserted, a stranger like me stands out. These little towns are seldom popular destinations. The locals are sure to wonder why I’m making photographs there.

As I wrapped up the roll, I noticed one fellow stick his head out his door and give me a sidelong look. Several minutes later a woman pulled up to me in her car to ask what I was doing. Two minutes later, another car bearing two women pulled up to ask the same thing. They put on friendly faces, but that they asked at all told me I had worn out my welcome.

I’ve experienced this many times as I’ve photographed small Midwestern towns. I have a window of time before people let me know, at first subtly and then directly, that I’m noticed.

I’m a middle-aged, well-groomed white man. While I stand out because I am not known there, at least I look more or less like everyone else.

When I was in my 20s, with hair halfway down my back and wearing rock-concert T-shirts, I feel sure I would have received a distinctly unfriendly reception.

If my skin were brown but all else about me were the same as it is now, I’ll bet someone in Sheridan (or in any small, rural Midwestern town I’ve ever visited) would have called the sheriff.

It’s safe to be a middle-aged white man.

I developed the film that afternoon in L110, Dilution B, and scanned it the next day. This film was so fogged that the images were barely visible on the negatives. Yet my scanner cut through it and brought out usable, though very grainy, images. Here are the best of them.

Barber shop
Farmer's Bank
Christian Church
Central Indiana Telephone Co.
Reserved parking
Step up
Sheridan Post Office

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