Developing B&W Film

As part of my return to a film workflow, I decided to work through my backlog of film. These are 35mm and 120 rolls of both B&W as well as color, which I’ve shot over the past year. (On expired film, no less!) I don’t have the chemicals yet for C-41 processing, but I did get what I needed for B&W. Last night, I developed one roll of 120, and two 35mm rolls. These were shot on a Holga, a Lomo LC-A, and a Leica M6.

Old habits die hard, and after a few minutes, I was back in my groove, able to process without thinking too much. After drying, I realized how important a good light box is, as I tried to use a flashlight and some paper to see my new negatives. What really stood out for me, were the images from the M6. Not only did it appear to have more keepers, but even photos I struggled to capture, seem to have come out ok. Once I digitize these, I’ll get a better look at the performance of each of these cameras.

Some tips for those wishing to develop their own B&W film:

  1. Use a Patterson tank, and double check the required volume of liquids (written on the bottom). This really helps save on chemicals!
  2. Use glass jars to store your chemicals. Photographer’s Formulary is a nice brand, and I like their amber colored containers. They also come with caps!
  3. Add in glass marbles to fill up the empty head space in those jars. This will help your chemicals store longer. Also store them in dark, cool area.
  4. Label all those jars! I have added information for developer type, mix date, and how many rolls processed (counting 120 as 2), for the stop and fixer. (I reuse these)
  5. You don’t have to wait 24 hours for freshly mixed developer, just make sure it is dissolved properly.
  6. Make notes for chemical types. Use it like a cheat sheet during processing.
  7. LabTimer for the iPhone is great, and simple to use.
  8. Pipe in some music to help pass the time.

I still have a few more rolls to process, and I just got some Portra 120 to experiment on. I have plans to visit the local badlands in Central California, in a few weeks, to try out creating some medium format landscapes. Film is back, and it’s better than ever!

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