Film Development

…Or the next stage in the pleasure of slow photography.

One of the pleasures of working with film is the anticipation, the wait between what we see through the viewfinder and the finished art work, not forgetting the time and effort we put into that process.

I often leave weeks, occasionally months, between taking the film out of the camera and developing the negatives. That’s a luxury I can afford now that I’m no longer making pictures for a living. Even once I am ready to develop the film, time and patience is important.

This Sunday afternoon I’ve been developing films.

Changing bag ready to load the film.

The film we use these days is generally panchromatic, that means it’s sensitive to all of the colours of the spectrum so until it’s fixed, it has to be handled in complete darkness. I don’t have a darkroom at home at the moment so to get the film from the cassette into the tank I use a changing bag.

Once it’s in the tank and the light tight lid is in place I can continue with the rest of the process in the daylight of my kitchen.

Ready to start.

It pays to be prepared (time well spent as a Boy Scout), so I get everything ready before I begin. I make sure the clock is wound and I measure out 300ml per film of developer.

Checking temperature.

Then I check that I have the chemistry up to temperature. I want it to be 20C. Straight out of the bottle it is reading just under 20C. I am using D76 at stock dilution. I can stand the jug of dev in a bath of warm water to bring it up to exactly 20C and if I was diluting I would bring the water up to temperature before I mix. In this case the temperature out of the bottle is so close that I am happy to work at this.

I establish the development time by consulting The Massive Dev Chart If only we had this in the old days when we had to work from film and/or chemistry data charts.

The developer goes into the tank and I begin agitation immediately. 3 full inversions, turning the tank fully upside down and back, followed by a tap on the bottom of the tank. The tap is to dislodge any air bubbles that may have formed and, if left, will fail to develop underneath. Agitation (three full inversions) is repeated at each full minute until the end of the chosen time.

I use plain water to stop development. Once the developer has been poured back into the bottle I pour in the same quantity of water, again at 20C. I agitate continuously for one full minute.

The next step is to fix the developed images, to remove unexposed silver and render the negative permanently. Again I have pre mixed the fixer from Ilford Hypam at 1:4 with water. The temperature should still be 20C. I continuously agitate for 1 minute and then I leave it to stand for another 4 minutes.

Washing the fixed film.

At the end of the fixing time I pour the fixer back into the bottle so that I can use it again and run water into the tank for 10 minutes. I add a little hot water into the flow so that it is washing the film at around the 20C.

Wetting agent.

After I turn off the running water I add a couple of drops of wetting agent and let the film stand in the water for another minute. I then shake off as much of the water as I can and hang it to dry in my shower.

Films drying in the shower.

The films are weighted with another clip to prevent them from curling while they dry.

Clip weighting a film.

That’s pretty much it, once they are dry I cut them up and scan them…

That’s for next week.

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