Beginning with the winter break Michigan/Illinois trip (it was at this time Chris and I scored three sealed 500-sheet boxes of Kodabromide F2D postcard fiber paper and two sealed boxes of 11x 14" Kodak Polycontrast paper), we've continued to have good luck with acquiring reasonably-priced (at times they've even been free!!) boxes of expired photo paper. One of the best scores to date involved getting three sealed boxes of 500-foot rolls of Ilford Multigrade paper. Not only was it had for a song (25 bucks a box), but it's an AMAZING everyday paper. Sure, sure, there's a little extra effort involved with cutting the paper to size, but it has been well worth it. [Or so says the person who hasn't had to do any of the cutting thus far!]
At the time we got the Ilford, we also got (for free) some leftover Panalure paper. Otherwise put, the box and packet of Panalure we were given weren't full nor were they sealed. More on the box of Panalure later. . .
One of my most favorite recent finds--and by this I mean a "holy-sh**!-pinch-me-as-I-must-be-dreaming" kinda find--resulted in our acquiring: one sealed box of expired Panalure (8x10", 100 sheets); one sealed box of expired Kodak Polycontrast Rapid RC paper (8x10", 100 sheets); two questionably-sealed boxes of expired Agfa-Gevaert Portriga-Rapid paper (11x14", 50 sheets); two questionably-sealed boxes of expired Agfa-Gevaert Brovira paper (11x14", 50 sheets), and one definitely-not-sealed box of expired Agfa-Gevaert Brovira paper (8x10", 100 sheets). I've not yet tested the sealed boxes we got from (and this is the pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming part) the flipping local thrift store(!!!!), but I did have the opportunity to test the definitely-not-sealed box of Brovira and one of the questionably-sealed boxes of Brovira. The image below features an inverted scan of a paper negative made with a sheet from the questionably-sealed box on the left. On the right side appears an inverted scan of a paper negative made with a sheet from the not-sealed box. Go figure. The opened box of paper was still okay.
And it wasn't simply that the 8x10" box of Brovira wasn't sealed--it also didn't have any paper or plastic protecting the paper. Again, simply amazing that the paper was able to produce any kind of image at all. A true photo miracle. The first questionably-sealed box of Brovira that I tested was one that Chris and I actually opened (albeit very, very, very carefully) in the thrift store. [I know, I know, a huge no-no.] We felt fairly confident that the thick paper wrapped around the film hadn't been messed with, and so, with the box itself being in pretty good shape despite having been opened (i.e., the tape seals on three sides of the had, in fact, been broken before we even picked the box up), we decided it was a $4.92 risk we were willing to take. Again, the results--though not as great as those obtained from the not-sealed box--were ones we were happy with. We were simply thankful that the paper didn't turn black when it went into the Dektol developer.
During that same testing session, we made some paper negatives with one of the questionably-sealed boxes of Portriga-Rapid paper
(see image left). In this case, "questionably-sealed" means that we weren't sure if the orange tape that appeared on three sides of the box was part of the original sealing job or added after the fact. Clearly, the tape appears to be part of the original factory sealing job. The image here is a bit under-exposed, but again, we were just thankful that the paper hadn't been exposed to light and, thus, ruined.
The final paper tested during that session was some of the expired Panalure (see image left) that Chris obtained for free when he bought the rolls of Ilford paper. Ironically, I hadn't at all been concerned about this paper. Unlike the Agfa-Gevaert thrift store finds, these boxes came from a photo store and had been refrigerated. I felt confident that we'd get pretty good results from this paper. hmmm. Wasn't the case at all. I mean, since I tend to like less-than-perfect photo results (and since I still really miss being able to smoke), the messed-up, smokey look of the image itself has begun to grow on me. That said, I am cognizant that other people achieve much better results from expired Panalure. It's not typical, in other words, for the paper to go almost to black within seconds of being put into the developer.
To be fair, my results might have had less to do with the paper itself (i.e., being compromised in some major way) and more to do with my general confusion over Panalure and safelight conditions. I thought I had read somewhere that you needed to use a red safe-light with Panalure (which we did) but in other instances, I've learned that the safe-light must be dark amber. [As an aside, we took the Panalure from the box and protective sleeve in total darkness, but it was cut and later developed with the red safety-light on.] In an attempt to determine if the problem with the Panalure had to do with that particular box of paper (versus, say, having to do with the safe-light conditions or other variables we've not yet thought of), I had Chris cut (or prepare for testing) a sheet of Panalure from the sealed box we got at the thrift store as well a sheet from the other free package of Panalure he got when he purchased the Ilford rolls. I also asked him to cut up a sheet of paper from the other 11x14" box of Brovira. This was one that we didn't open in the thrift store--one that appeared to have all the original factory seals. I'm eager to learn if the results from this box will be a bit better than the results from the other 11x14" box.
I'm hoping to test both kinds of paper this weekend. In terms of the Panalure, I have the highest hopes, of course, for the sealed box we got at the thrift store. But if either sample's results mirrors those found in the image above, we'll definitely have to work on alternative safe-light conditions.