Last year, I challenged myself that in 2022, I would learn how to develop my own film.
No, seriously. Stop laughing.
I said stop laughing.
Here’s the rub. I’m finding fewer and fewer options for film development. McGreevy Pro Lab, my local pro lab of choice, will only develop B&W and C41 (print) film. Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas will develop E-6 (slide) film, but turnaround time is a couple of weeks. I still have DR5 in Iowa, they can develop the few rolls of AGFA Scala film I have, and then that’s it.
At some point in time, I’m going to lose my quality film development places.
And I’ve still got boxes of film to shoot.
It’s about time Chuck learned how to develop his own film.
So I figured I’d start off simple. One bottle of Cinestill Df96, known as a “monobath” in that it has all the chemicals I need in one wash. One roll of efke 100 B&W film that I re-spooled for eight shots in my Kodak Medalist II camera (“Kodak Red”). And a Paterson developing tank, which arrived three weeks ago.
First things first. Go out and shoot some photos. I took a few photos at the Rexleigh Covered Bridge in Salem, N.Y. (sort of a “lucky photo” location for me).
The developing tank came with two 35mm plastic developing reels, and with much strength and finagling and a few choice barnyard expletives, I was able to convert one of the rolls to accept 120-size film.
Now I had to take my film, and in the dead of night, I threaded it onto that plastic reel. Then I loaded the reel into the developing tank. Okay.
I don’t have beakers or measuring cups suitable for accurate measurements, but I figured I’d just add the Cinestill monobath the same way I add detergent in the washing machine. By feel.
The chemicals were at room temperature, and apparently you can develop film at room temperature with this monobath, so I needed to rotate and agitate this film for approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Agitate, agitate, shake, shake, shake, dump the chemicals out.
Okay. Moment of truth. Did I get images or not?
Well … I don’t know about your perception, but that sure as hell looks like the Rexleigh Covered Bridge in that negative.
Holy panochromatic, Batman, I just developed my first roll of film!
Now to let it hang and dry for a few hours. Yeah, I had to MacGyver a hanging system – duct tape to hold the film on my shower rod, and a binder clip and a ball-point pen at the other end to hold the film straight while drying.
I looked at that filmstrip.
Trust me. I’m chimping right now.
And in photographer parlance, “chimping” is when you stare at your just-taken photo, whether it’s in the developing lab or on the back of your camera, and you go ooh-ooh-ooh like a chimp.
But I won’t know anything until after I scan this image and see what came out.
And here’s what happened on the scan.
Well, I got … um …
It’s an image. It is definitely an image.
But I think I wiped it down too many times when I pulled it out of the developing tank. Which explains a lot of the crackle and brittle in the image.
But then again …
I developed my own image.
It’s not competition season-worthy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t come up with a competition season-worthy self-developed image at some point in my life.
So I’ll take this image as my first try.
And I’ll learn from it.
And someday I’ll link to this blog post when a self-developed Chuck Miller image picks up a silk ribbon in a future Competition Season.
Bet on that, Jack.
You mean those aren’t snow covered mountains in the background?
impressive! And frankly, exhausting!
Inquiring minds: Was the solution indeed “odor-free,” as advertised?
It is indeed. Odorless.
Congratulations! You are now at that level of photographic expertise which I achieved at age 7. (SNARK) But really, what other choice did you have? Little on its way to none.
BTW the best tanks, which aren’t made anymore, are the Ansco ones (try and find one in a thrift store or somewhere). The reel adjusts for multiple sizes of film and you need only twist the halves back and forth gently to wind the film on (if it’s working). Instead of shaking it, there’s an agitator with built-in thermometer (probably no longer working) which you give a twist every so often. I used them for decades and prefer them over the ‘professional’ stainless steel tanks.
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