The Story of 20 Year Old Film

When I cleaned out my garage in January, I found a box of stuff that probably hadn’t been touched since my ex and I bought this place 15 years ago. At the bottom was a small Ziploc bag with eight rolls of color print film in it, shot but never developed. Now given that I stopped shooting film in early 2001, that gives you a minimum possible age for this stuff. Could there be any hope for this stuff? Back when I still shot film, heat was pretty much enemy #1 and I was extremely careful about keeping film cold if it wasn’t in the camera. This stuff, on the other hand, had been in a box in a hot garage for nearly two decades.

I packed the rolls in a box and sent them off to Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, KS. I used to use Dwayne’s all the time, and was always happy with the quality and price of their work. I’m glad to see they’re still around and serving the remaining film shooters of the world – and those of us who find film we shot two decades ago. Plus, they’ll process a roll of 35mm color negative film for $6 if you don’t want any prints or scans, which I didn’t. If the rolls turned out, I’d scan them myself. If not, then at least I knew that there was nothing on the roll to be saved.


Very dark film – the top is a normal negative, exposed and developed in a timely manner. The bottom is some of the 20-year old stuff.

After two weeks, a box from Dwayne’s arrived this afternoon. I popped it open, and the results were surprising. The negatives themselves were extremely dark (Fuji worse than the Kodak), but there was definitely still an image on them.

So I threw them in the scanners (an Epson V700 and a V850 – I’m doubling up to scan all my old film while I’m stuck at home during Viruspalooza 2020). Clearly the scanner had the gain way up to compensate for the little amount of light getting through, but the color was still decent. The only downside of the high gain being that it brought out some noise in the sensor, making the images a little grainier than I would have liked. But the images were still there and sharp with good color, and very much salvageable as memories. Included were things like our first apartment in Colorado, my ex’s two cats when they were still kittens (both have since passed on from old age), shots from the old office building, and quite a number of railfan shots from an era where most summer evenings after work were devoted to chasing the last Rio Grande SD40T-2s down the Joint Line. Much of it, turns out, wasn’t mine but was Chelle’s – easily determined since I’m in a shot or two with my camera, and therefore clearly not the photographer.