While on my way back to Indy from Tennessee this weekend I really wanted to get some more of those cool cloud landscape pictures with my 35mm from out the airplane window on the flight back. There’s just one problem… I have no access to anyplace that sells 35mm film! When I finally got to downtown Nashville the night before my flight it was already past 8 pm, which is when all the pharmacies were already closed downtown.

Of course, my chances of finding any 35mm film in an airport shop was about a million to one… nonetheless, I looked at all the airport shops in between my connecting flights on my way back the next morning. I finally found a tiny shop that sold disposable cameras. Two in fact.Now, I wasn’t interested in taking any photos with the disposable, but it did register in my mind that there is, of course, 35mm film inside that disposable. The question was, is it in a canister? If so, I should be able to simply break open the back and load it into my SLR, but if not, I would expose all the film when I would open it to check. I decided it was worth a try and documented the process with my cell phone camera. Here you have your every day 800 film speed disposable camera:


Trying to pry the back open to get a look inside… and… Drat. I just exposed the whole roll…

It turns out that in a disposable camera, the film begins on a spool and every exposure you advance rolls it back into the roll. I should have realized before I broke the back open that because disposables have no mechanism to roll exposed film back into the roll, the film would have to start out of the roll, each advance drawing the next exposure into the roll: Here I’m making sure I have it straight, when I spin the scroll to the right it does indeed feed back into the roll:

Last chance. There was only one disposable camera left after my first mishap. So, first things first, I advanced all 27 exposures with my finger covering the lens to keep the film inside unexposed. Then opened the back again and tada! The roll is ready to load into any SLR.

Which is exactly what I did when I loaded it into my Pentax K1000. I was very pleased at the success of the project. I’m excited to develop this roll and see how it turns out. If all is well, it shouldn’t look any different from the others.


“If all is well, it shouldn’t look any different from the others.” How foolish of me…

When you read the sign the NSA has put out regarding film speed, “The X-Ray will not effect film less than 800 ISO. If you prefer a manual inspection of any undeveloped film, just ask.” You might be inclined to think, “Oh good, this 400 ISO film is safe in my bag.” A perfectly reasonable assumption to make? No, that would be a perfectly naive assumption to make.

These are excerpts from the roll I shot on the disposable film in the K1000:


If you don’t know what you are looking at, let me inform you that its what is known as X-RAY FOG.

This article from Kodak was extremely helpful in educating me on what has happened to these images: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/tib/tib5201.shtml

I would highly recommend it to anyone travelling and shooting film. The short version is: HAND INSPECT ALL FILM, even all speeds lower than the 800 ISO they’ve been putting out on their signs. This Kodak page was last updated in 2003, but I just shot this in 2013. NSA, please update your signage.