Finally ready to start developing... again!!
For those of you who do not know me, I am a landscape/nature photographer (living on a remote, windswept and stunningly scenic island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland) and a collector of vintage cameras. I have a large display cabinet filled with flawless old SLR's, rangefinders, folders/box cameras, and my personal favorite, a gorgeous Yashica 635 dual format TLR. I have not used most of these cameras; it has been many years since I have shot with film. This is about to change, even though I am bedridden most of the time, due to a serious and permanent spinal injury. Although immobile for the most part, I do experience the odd "good" day, and I am making it my mission to get up and about on my good days, and start using some of these lovely old cameras!
And not only that, but I have decided to do my own developing for the first time in 35 years! In fact, yesterday I went online and ordered what I hope is everything I will need to start developing my own b&w film, but it has been so long I fear I may have missed something. Here is a list of what I have ordered:
- Film (duh!)
- Paterson Super System 4 tank with two adjustable reels
- Ilford Ilfosol-3 Film Developer
- Ilford Ilfostop Stop Bath
- Ilford Rapid Fixer
- Edwal Wetting Agent
- Darkroom Thermometer
- ClearFile Archival Plus Negative Sleeves (6X6 and 35mm)
- Film clips
- Set of graduated cylinders
- Beaker cups (set... small to large)
- Funnels (set of 3)
- Digital timer
- Large graduated pitcher
Now, before anyone decides to pounce on me, let me state here that my intentions are to begin developing film, and if my health allows, then work my way up to a full-fledged darkroom, but for now I'm just wanting to see if my poor spine will allow me to do the developing. One thing at a time, and we'll see how it goes for me. Now, back to business... It has been a VERY long time since I have done this, so of course I am interested in hearing any/all suggestions you may be able to provide. I don't need to buy a changing bag, as I have a light-tight room. (see, I'm already planning for a darkoom!) Am I on the right track? Anything else that I need to begin?
Because I live in such a remote region, there is nowhere within hundreds of miles to buy film or darkroom supplies. Also, any retailer in Canada is much more expensive than the USA, so although I would prefer to shop Canadian, I have to be realistic and watch my pennies, due to my very modest disability pension. So I buy most everything I require from either B&H or Freestyle; Even after duty/brokerage fees, it works out to about half the cost of buying here in Canada! (if someone can point me to an affordable Canadian retailer, I will be eternally grateful!)
Here is a list of 15 cameras that I plan to use over the next few months for capturing my Fogo Island (Newfoundland) landscapes:
- Minolta Maxxum 700si
- Minolta Maxxum 7000
- Canon AT-1
- Canon AE-1
- Cosina CT-1 "Super"
- Canon Canonet 28
- FED 2 (D6)
- Yashica Electro 35 GSN
- Minolta Hi-Matic "F"
- Yashica 635 TLR
Modified for 120 film:
- Kodak Duaflex I
- Kodak Brownie Flash Six-20
- Kodak Autographic 1A
- Kodak Brownie Target Six-16
The Canon AT-1 that I listed above is the very camera I used during my high school photography class back in 1977! My brother purchased it new and had allowed me to use it for my course. He recently informed me that he kept it for all of these years; had it sitting on a book shelf. You can imagine my excitement when he mailed it to me! I was amazed to see that it is still in beautiful condition! (only needed light seals) When I opened the parcel it brought back a lot of fond memories for me!
So, that's my story. This is all new to me again, so I will be posting soon to either show you my handiwork or to plead for assistance. I'm looking for all the advice I can get; hoping to hear from many of you with any pointers that may help me get through this!
Hello Glen sorry to hear about your misfortune.
I recently had a disc hernia so I can somewhat relate to your dilemma, the first thing I did after my return from the hospital was to weight my cameras and lenses. I now only use cameras that weight less than 2kg with lens.
Maybe a rotary processor or Agfa Rondinax can be of use both use less chemicals and are therefore less heavy, the Rondinax is available for 35mm and 120 film check the seals (love mine) and weights less than the paterson tank filled with water. I am missing an enlarger and a good chair on your list. A good chair is must have in any darkroom
Looking forward to seeing your work.
I empathize on the spine problems.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
You did not mention a darkroom, so you will either have to create one or get a loading/changing bag.
I´m very eager to see some impressions from your island. Must be a place of sublime beauty...
Regarding the equipment, I think you´ve got everything you´ll need now. There is no real need to use stop bath in film development though. You can, but it is not really necessary. Water at 20°C does suffice to stop development.
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All my best wishes for your health to improve.
One can put up a tremendous fight with only a little bit of equipment, actually. Although I am a bit younger and quite fit enough to carry heavier kit, I love the idea of using a small 35mm body like my Nikon FM2 with maybe two or three lenses (usually 28/2.8 and 75-150E, sometimes perhaps a longer zoom). At other times it is the F75 with the AF-S 24-85 G. I know it is tempting to use all those cameras you list above, but from my experience the last few years I know that one almost instantly gravitates back to only two or three bodies and a handful of lenses, with the rest gathering dust. I suspect you will also find this. So my advice is to keep it simple and focus on technique and your developing etc.
For film, there is such a lot, but I prefer Fuji Acros 100, and TMax 400. All the Ilford films are also fine. And see what you can find for a bargain every now and then. I got about 50 rolls of 120 in different types, mostly Foma and Agfa, for around $1.50 a roll. And I have scored three 30' bulk rolls of 35mm PanF and TMax 100 too. That will last me some time.
For developing, I use only home-made developers. The two easiest ones to use and make are Parodinal, and Caffenol C. They have quite different properties, and you have to decide what you want to achieve in development. I have never used Ilfosol. For Parodinal, you will need sodium sulfite, paracetamol capsules (Tylenol for example) and sodium or potassium hydroxide. I'll rather recommend potassium hydroxide as it improves solubility. Also, most of the published formulae are wrong - I'll provide you with a corrected formula using potassium hydroxide. Once mixed, it will last for a very long time, and you can use the published developing times for Rodinal exactly. For you, Caffenol C, specifically Caffenol-C-L for stand development, may be a very good choice. You wet the film first, then pour in developer, agitate for a minute or so, then let it stand for seventy minutes. It is almost impossible to stuff up, and it also gives a useful speed increase in the film speed. Most of all, you do not have to hover around to agitate every minute. For someone that is slightly immobilised, this will be a great plus. Caffenol C is published using instant coffee, sodium carbonate (washing soda) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). I have adapted the formula to use sodium hydroxide and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), as well as sodium ascorbate (which is much easier to obtain in pure form in my neck of the woods, being South African). Many commercial vitamin C products contain food additives and binders that are not helpful for film development, and locally I could not find a pure supply. Again, let me know if you require the formula - I do not mind sharing it at all. In the mean time your Ilfosol should last a while. I find fixer to be the more problematic (and expensive!) chemical, as to mix an acid fixer is really tricky, and the alkaline version does not have much shelf life. If you hoard 25 films and develop all at once, then that is not a problem, but I only do about two films a month, with the occasional binge on holiday or so. Fixer works out to a higher cost per film than developer, whether you buy or mix it yourself.
As for darkroom: If you have space, get a decent enlarger that can do the largest negative you take routinely. I have a 6x6 enlarger but I take 6x7 negs too, and it really irks me having to crop at times. I agree on the chair - get a nice one. And try keep your wet and dry sides separated if you can. Some ventilation is also recommended.
If you can, get a film scanner. For 35mm the Plustek OpticFilm scanners are more than decent. For 120 and above, the current Epson V-series is good value for money. I personally use a Minolta Dimage Multi Pro, which scans 120 up to 6x9 and gives excellent quality. But I think the Epsons give similar results and a lot less hassle with software and hardware compatibility. Having electronic back-ups of your film stock in my view is essential, and of course enables you to showcase your work online.
Have fun. I promise you, the second time you fall in love with film is even better than the first.
Wow, thanks folks, for all of your replies and pointers, and of coarse your well-wishes; very much appreciated! This is a fantastic group of people here on this fine forum.
Dominik, I will take your advice and get a comfy, supportive chair. The enlarger will have to wait for now. I want to see how I do with the developing before I possibly bite off more than I can chew!
Arkasha, I have a completely darkened room in my house, so I shouldn't require a changing bag.
Benjamin, yes, this island is indeed a very magical place of stunningly rugged beauty. I am very fortunate to be able to call Fogo Island home.
And Jaco, what can I say? You took time out of your busy day to write to me at length; there is a wealth of knowledge in your post. Thank-you so much for this; I have copied your info onto my desktop. Much appreciated!
Glen, it is only a pleasure, and a simple reciprocation of all the free advice and directions I have been given. I believe you North Americans have a saying "Pay it forward", which is uncommon as a saying in my country, although the principle generally applies. There are many analogue photographers who have been doing that, to the extent that it is more or less tradition.
Originally Posted by camperbc
Some additional advice for you to start up:
Get copies of The film developing cookbook and The darkroom cookbook, by Steve Anchell and Bill Troop, if you haven't already done so. Even if you use very little in terms of chemical formulas etc out of those books, it will bring your understanding of films and photo chemistry onto a whole new level. Ansel Adams's trinity (The Camera, The Negative, The Print) also makes for good reading, although some things (modern developers and tabular grain films) have moved on in the time since he wrote those.
A lot has been written about all the different films, and you will easily find all the info and examples for something you want to try out. The temptation will be there to test every film on the planet, but your learning curve will be better served by keeping things simple. It is also worth remembering that the best sellers sell best for a reason, and there isn't such a thing as an obscure film and developing technique that will suddenly transform your results into something unique and mysterious. Pity, but it is true . So start with one, maybe two, films and only move on once you have them nailed in exposure and development.
Onto Parodinal: My panadonal-K formula is based on parodinal, but with a correction to more closely match the original Rodinal formula, as well as switching to potassium chemicals to get greater solubility. The name plays on Panado, which is our local paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) product. I believe Tylenol is an equivalent. The capsules work better as they do not contain binder, but tablets can be ground in a mortar and pestle and will still work. The formula is:
Water: 100 ml
Sodium sulfite: 40 g
Dissolve at roughly 50 degC (122 degF)
Water: 60 ml
Potassium hydroxide: 17.9 g
Dissolve the hydroxide, then add 15 g (30 capsules) of paracetamol while the hydroxide solution is still hot. Stir in the powder thoroughly and break any clots. It will turn reddish and murky, which is fine.
Once the two parts are cool, combine. Use the sulfite solution to wash out all the paracetamol solution. Make the final volume up to 200 ml. Any undissolved sulfite can be added as crystals to the final container - it will dissolve over time. The brew is ready to use within two to three days. It is important that the cap of the bottle seals really tightly, as air leaks will eventually destroy the developing agent (4-aminophenol). Do not be alarmed if it turns redder everytime you open the bottle - that is natural, and it will still be active even if it looks like cola concentrate.
I'll post the ascorbate-corrected formulas for Caffenol too if you need them. In another Xtol-related thread someone asked why ascorbate instead of ascorbic acid. For me it is about availability, which is apparently no problem in the US, but elsewhere may be. I had no luck with health food stores and eventually bought from a chemicals distributor. The ascorbate dissolves instantly, and does not react with bases such as carbonates. So it also does not produce CO2 bubbles. If one can let it de-gas for some time, that should be no problem, but I dislike the idea of bubbles forming on the emulsion and depriving the film of developer. The reason for using caustic and baking sodas is that they combine to form washing soda. Washing soda has three hydration states, and as a result is at times impossible to weigh accurately. Since baking and caustic sodas do not form hydrates, they can be weighed accurately. Simple as that.
Did I mention that you should get a small scale? Something that measures up to 100 grams with 0.1 g accuracy will be more than sufficient. They are available for $10 a piece (or less) and will make life a lot easier if you are going to work with chemicals.
Congrats on getting back into processing! It is so soothing and hope it is not too taxing on you. The only thing on your list that I didn't see was storage bottles. Developer is used one shot but fix is to be reused. Some use stop one shot, others store and reuse. You prob can easily get a 500ml or 1L storage bottle locally at the grocery (reuse bottled water, etc). Hope all works great for you!
Again, I appreciate your taking the time to reply in detail with so much useful information; thank-you kindly!
At the risk of sounding a bit bold, I have had my share of success as a landscape/nature photographer. I have had my very own gallery for the past few years, my work has been published in many well-known photographic magazines, (including twice in National Geographic) and I have recently been invited to open a permanent exhibit of my Newfoundland landscapes at the famous Agora Gallery in New York. But this has all been from my... well... "non-analog" photography. (eeks!) But I have been slowly coming to my senses; it just took me awhile! I have truly missed "real" photography; getting back to the basics; slowing down and really planning each frame. Although I own many vintage cameras dating back almost 100 years, I have just recently started to shoot film again... and am loving every moment of it. My ummm... "non-film" cameras have been put on the back burner, at least for the foreseeable future.
I confess to being close to completely green when it comes to film developing. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom a very long time ago, but I'm definitely starting from scratch again, or so it seems. As you know, I am starting out with just the basics; a pretty straight-forward method using almost foolproof Ilford chemicals on Ilford Delta Pro film. But I have to admit that I am intrigued with this Caffenol method, and if it is as easy as some say it is, I must give it a whirl. I'm going to start researching this immediately. All I know at this point is that it is indeed possible to develop film using instant coffee crystals, ascorbic acid and washing soda. I think. Not really sure, as I have yet to start Googling. Oh yes, and apparently Tylenol may come into play somewhere down the line... (Yikes, I think I need to re-read your last post!) But if this is indeed possible, and if it is fairly easy to do, and it produces consistent results, I know that I am able to acquire these three ingredients in quantities, so all that remains is for the experts (such as yourself!) to spell it all out for me. But please keep in mind that I am quite immobile for the most part, therefore I need to know in advance if it would be a trickier, or perhaps more time consuming process that what I am about to attempt with my "normal" method of developing.
As always, any and all advice is very much appreciated, and if it is all spelled out in simple, easy to understand lingo, well, all the better for my tired brain to try to pick it up... highly technical jargon will only result in my cursing at varying volumes!