Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Mother of Invention

It must be 15 years since I last processed any film, I used to do quite a bit and had favorite ways to get what I liked. In particular Tri X developed with Rodinal which gives a grainy but very sharp result. However in the past I had the use of a well equipped darkroom courtesy of my long suffering father who made his living as a photographer and is still involved in a picture library. The darkroom though has long since morphed into a computer room, housing scanners, servers, printers and all the paraphernalia of a modern picture library.

Selling Holga cameras gave me a reason to want to have another go. To see how easy it would be to get results without having to resort to a commercial lab (I did ask in a supermarket minilab if they processed black and white film only to be asked in return "is that digital").

So first, I needed a tank and spirals - second hand from Mr Cad for less than £16, the same sort I used to use - Patterson. Chemistry? I asked Mr Cad since they were shipping me the tank and
about 3rd in the list they reeled off was my old favorite Rodinal! I had no idea it was still available. Plus some Fix and I was all set. I had a roll of film ready to dev and no further excuse not to give it a go.

The darkest place I had to work was my office and I thought it was pretty damn dark but just to be sure I sat there for a minute or two and gradually realised that actually there was plenty of light! Even after switching off at the mains all the computers and peripherals with little LEDs on them. So dredging my memory for a solution I came up with the 'Fleece Changing Bag' A thick Fleece and a load of pegs, it worked a treat!

Now I have a roll of film, loaded on a spiral, in a tank and its time to get wet! I had found all the times for the development in the internet but suddenly realised that I had no way of checking the temperature. I am rather impatient and by this time couldn't wait another day to go and get a thermometer. The medical thermometer we have only goes down to 36° - way too hot for b+w so I had to guess. I worked on the basis that a swimming pool is usually just a little over 20° and as an enthusiastic swimmer I prefer to swim in coolish water so I stuck my finger in and asked myself "would I like to swim in this?" When I felt that I would I took the plunge, metaphorically and poured the dev into the tank... Much agitation later (timed on my iPhone) and after the fixing and rinsing I removed the lid and had a look.

Well, I don't think I will win any major prizes but I was pretty chuffed. With very minimal outlay and a little improvisation I now feel that I can produce photographs that I can be proud of. More importantly though, anyone could do this - nothing I did required expensive equipment or any special skills - if you discount the swimming!

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