The Myth of Solarization

Solarization of modern films while in the camera is largely a myth.   Evidence for this is all around you if you have been shooting film. Look at the leader on ANY negatives you’ve had processed, which would have been exposed to the light since it was sticking out of the canister.   Its black.  Here is an example…

The negative on the left was handled in typical way, so perhaps 2-5 minutes of cumulative exposure to ambient light. The one of the right sat on a shelf in my office for 14 months, fully exposed to the sun for about 2 hours per day! There is no noticeable inversion, only a slight difference in light leakage past the felt.

So that is a cumulative exposure of approximately 700 hours in full sunlight, to give you an idea, this is approximately +34 EV compared to a “proper” exposure of the disk of the sun as you would get shooting straight into the sun.This proves, conclusively, that solarization does not happen even with extreme over exposure conditions, e.g. 2,500,000 seconds of full sunlight seen in the right hand image.

Of course the technique of solarizing prints was used widely, and consists of either an entirely chemical process, or vie exposing the print to light during development.   Certain older film stocks did have a very pronounced inversion in their characteristic curve.   But it is virtually impossible to get this effect in modern films without an accident in the darkroom or a thermonuclear blast.  And even so the film will tend to burn first, literally, when exposed to enough light to see any effect.

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