Monday, May 27, 2024

First own development!

When I started using a film camera, I wasn't sure how into it I'd get. There were vague thoughts of doing my own developing, and then finding a darkroom for prints, but I think it's smart to walk before running. So here's one at my walk stage from last week, developed by the lab.

Those that have been following along know I now use two film cameras. The 35mm is a Canon EOS 3, one of the last film cameras before digital came along. The medium format is a Fujica GW690. I started by having a local guy develop the film and I've been really pleased with how that worked out. Alas, he has sold his home and is moving to Nova Scotia. 

Thus the time has come to try developing film myself. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, in spite of watching several videos about the process. I picked up everything I needed to develop B&W film from The Camera Store. Chris was very helpful and reassuring.

There were already several photos in the camera and I finished off the roll with a visit to a spot I've wanted to pose a model on for years. Alas with the rain the water was much deeper than our rubber boots, so we moved along and found a similar tree trunk on dry land.

I'll show you the pairs of photos, negative, then edited, with some comments, then get into development details below the photos.


1B. This was taken several days before Michelle and I visited on Sunday, and the water had risen so that most of the trunk was submerged. To get the photo I want, I need to be in the water. Right now it looks pretty muddy and gross.


2B. A river running down the hill into Fish Creek.


3B. The Bow River near the bird sanctuary.


4B. The Bow River near Mallard Point.


5B. Same as 4.


6B. Michelle posing on the other tree trunk we found. This is a tough exposure with overcast clouds, trying to balance her white dress with the dark jacket and the roots. 


7B. She got rid of the jacket, which makes the exposure easier, though in an ideal world an assistant would have reflected some light onto her face.


8B. The light was a bit better for this photo, although I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. I keep thinking there's an ever so slight green cast to this image.

Photos 1 to 5 are all long exposures, using a 10 stop ND filter with an exposure factor of 1.3.  The actual shutter time varies depending on the amount of light and what the wind is doing on the water. I generally aim to err towards more time with the shutter open, if the light is variable with changing cloud cover.

I'm not entirely sure if the photos were slightly under exposed in camera, or perhaps slightly over developed. My inversions were maybe a bit too fast, and did a few more than the recommended number. Not sure how much that matters. (If you know, feel free to comment or email!)

Develop process.
The trickiest part of the whole process seemed to be getting the film off the camera spool and onto the reel that goes in the development tank. I practiced a bunch of times with a blank roll. It's easy when you can see what you're doing, but as you all know this has to happen in total darkness. 

You need to slide the film into the end of the spiral track, just under the little tab. 120 film has a tight curl from being wound on the spool and it wants to stay curled. Plus the two sides rotate with respect to each other to load it on, but the tabs have to be square to each other to start, and stay that way till you're ready to ratchet the reel to load the film. They don't want to stay that way, and it seemed to me that three hands were needed. 

Then I figured out a trick. I cut a piece of exposed film into a slight wedge shape, and slide it into the reel just below where it needs to be loaded. This keeps the two sides aligned during the initial feed, and supports the film. Once the film is fed about a quarter way onto the reel, I took out the exposed film so I could ratchet the two sides. Ta da! First try in a dark room. 

I had assumed it would take a while. Then I had to wait while the water and chemical mix warmed up.

To go with the Ilford Delta 100 film, I used all Ilford development chemicals. Ilfosol 3, Ilfostop, and Rapid Fixer, with everything pretty close to 20 C. I followed the instructions quite closely using these mixtures and the same bottled water I use for making wine.

Dev 1+9 = 50ml + 450 water, for 5 minutes, with inversions per Ilford, though I did an extra one.
Stop 1+19 = 25ml + 475 ml, for about 20 seconds.
Fix 1+4 = 100 ml + 400 ml, for 3 minutes with inversions.
Then rinse with lots of inversion. The last rinse had a wetting agent added. Squeegeed with my fingers and dried. Digitized per my usual procedure, which I've talked about in earlier blogs. 

Am I thrilled? YES! I like how they came out, and with no more dust or water spots than I've seen on other rolls. They might be a bit dark in the shadows, but they were all done under overcast skies. I think it would look odd to see a brightly lit subject under gloomy skies.

Learnings? I was pretty close on times, though I got a bit flustered when the Devit timer on my phone kept going between pours and additions of the next chemical. That was between the Dev and Stop chemicals so I don't think it really matters. I think I'll turn off the auto feature for that, and do the pour and press the button thing. It took a little longer than expected for the chemicals to go from 18C to 20 C like I wanted, so next time I'll use a warmer water bath. Yes, I know I can let the development run a little longer for a cooler temperature.

Overall, as promised, it really wasn't difficult. I'll be doing this again.

It was suggested that I photo the procedure, but I was focussed on the procedure, not documenting it. I'll want to do it a few times before trying to take photos during the process. Plus if I'm the one doing it, it's pretty hard to be taking the photos.

As a bonus, here's what Michelle looks like in colour.

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  1. Heather said
    "Very interesting, Keith! I liked seeing the negatives as well as the finished product. It brought me back to my first experience with photography in Grade 7. My teacher was a photography enthusiast and we got to take b&w photos with his camera and develop them in his darkroom at the school. Also, when I trained and first started working as an x-ray technologist, we still used film. We used an automatic processor to develop the film, but still had to remove the film from the cassette, feed it into the processor and then refill the cassette in the darkroom. Things transitioned to digital a year or so after I started working. Less work and likely more efficient, but I always thought the developing part was pretty cool.

    I look forward to seeing more of your adventures in film photography and development. Have a great evening!

  2. Drew from the GW690 facebook group said
    "These look great! 1B & 8B are awesome.
    I do a ton of BW dev and I know some people get real caught up in the details of temp and time, but I have found there's a lot of wiggle room. I'm at a point now after a few years where I just go by feel on water temp and use my microwave clock as a timer if that tells you anything. I've yet to have a bad dev, unless I accidentally leave the center column out and flash a whole roll 🙂 😉
    Sidenote - my EOS 3 is my favorite 35mm body ever."


Looking forward to reading your comments.

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