Reminiscing on Ektachrome

Among some slides I recently digitized is a series of astrophotos featuring Orion. Taken in early 1986 this represents one of my early forays into astrophotography. While most of the images are troubled by bad tracking, at least two worked with round, if somewhat overexposed, stars. Judging by the field of view it was a 50mm lens which means it might be an f/1.8, the common nifty-fifty.

Ektachrome Orion
The constellation of Orion captured with Ektachrome film in 1986
The image was most likely taken with my father’s “borrowed” Canon AE-1 35mm camera riding on a small equatorial platform of my own construction. This platform consisted of two disks of acrylic and a small synchronous clock motor. I still have this platform… I wonder if it still runs?

A few thing are quickly revealed when looking at the image. Taken on Ektachrome film the image is heavy on the blue, with poor sensitivity in the deep red. The Orion Nebula shows very little color and less extant than I would expect. The image is also quite grainy, the film grain being quite obvious and distracting. I cleaned up the image a bit in Lightroom, but this is about as good as it gets.

The images was likely a fairly long exposure, perhaps 30 seconds to a couple minutes. I have no records to show how long, no EXIF information on a 35mm slide. The image would have been hand-timed with watch a manual shutter release cable.

Kodak has announced a resumption of Ektachrome production after ceasing all production in 2013. This appears to be in recognition of the remaining, but robust, niche community of film photographers and continued demand for film. First scheduled for 2017 this was delayed into 2018 due to the lack of availability of some materials necessary for production.

Even if the film again becomes available I doubt I will be grabbing a roll for astrophotos. I do have the cameras and lenses available to shoot film. Modern DLSR’s are vastly better at low light.