B&W FILM PROCESSING 01

John Steinberg. 4×5 TRI-X, by Tom Rice-Smyth

PART 1 OF 5

We all have to start somewhere.

I know, I know, everyone wants to skip the boring basics and get on with making prints like:

But everyone starts at the same place and gets to where they are through consistent good practice. Oh and a lot of practice. I still remember waking up one morning some 40 years ago and saying to my wife at the time, with absolute excitement ‘I know what zone 4 toast looks like!!’ It didn’t go down well at 7:00 am.

To start I would recommend everyone begin using 35mm. The equipment is inexpensive and everything you learn from it is applicable to every other format. Thus making your transition to larger format (if you decide to) less daunting and “sort of” trouble free. I say sort of half joking as there is always hurdles to overcome that are unique to larger formats.

What you will need:

Equipment for processing film

  • Reels to roll the film (my preference is for stainless steel not plastic)
  • Tanks to develop the reels of film
  • Film washer
  • Enough clips, one for each end of the film and a safe place to hang them
  • Either a completely dark room or a light bag to roll the film into the reels and put them into the tanks
  • Suitable thermometer

Chemistry

  • Developer (Kodak D-76)
  • Stop bath
  • Fixer
  • Hypo clear agent
  • Kodak Photo-flo (wetting agent)

Consistent

I have used this word a few times now and it’s probably the most important methodology in film processing. You have to be consistent every single time with everything. Otherwise you will chase your tail in a circle of frustration. I should know I chased my tail for years trying to figure out what went wrong!

Why stainless steel reels and tanks

  • Yes, I know, they are harder to get the hang of than plastic but and this is very important they can be cleaned of chemistry so much easier than plastic and they come up to temperature much faster and more consistently.
  • They can also be washed, dried and re-used much quicker than plastic reels and tanks
  • Due to their conductivity they are more consistent when it comes to temperature control

I realise this is rather short and you probably already know this stuff, but I want to start from the very beginning. I think if you can afford it you should start over with stainless steel for the reasons I have outlined above.

So check back again in a couple of days and I will publish the next installment.

All the best

Part 02

 

HOME

Isla Plana, Spain. Fuji X-100, Tom Rice-Smyth

Hello

So this is going to be my new blog in which I will post photos, essays, tips, and insights about B&W and colour photography. I will also review books as I add them to my library. These reviews will not be formal reviews as I’m not a writer but will be based on my response to the book and what it has to offer.

I want to dispel a lot of myths and bad practices about B&W film processing and printing. My first article will be a 5 part ‘How to’ for all B&W film shooters. It will go into choice of film, developers and what to use and how to develop you film for a classical look (full-scale image). You will then be so familiar with the process that you will be able to manipulate the entire process to get the look you want.

There will be articles about getting started, how to calibrate film and best practices as I see it, along with descriptions of the kind of random marks on film from processing. I will get into film choices ‘where and why’, chemistry choices. You may see it differently so please chime in with your comments. I would like to build up a community of film and digital lovers as I see both co-existing, with both having plus and minuses.

Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think and what suggestions you think I could incorporate!

So I will start with an overview of film processing and how you should start this journey.

All the best and I look forward to our future journey together.

I’ll leave today with a quote from Luigi Ghirri, an artist who’s work I admire greatly.

“When I travel, I take two kinds of photographs: the typical ones that everyone takes, and which, in the end, I’m hardly interested in; and the others, the ones I really care about, and the only ones that I really consider ‘my own’. In this second category of photographs, the subjects are every day objects, things found in our ordinary field of vision – images that we are used to looking at passively. Isolated from the reality which surrounds them and presented in a photograph as part of a different discourse, these images become laden with new meaning.”

“When I travel, I take two kinds of photographs: the typical ones that everyone takes, and which, in the end, I’m hardly interested in; and the others, the ones I really care about, and the only ones that I really consider ‘my own’. In this second category of photographs, the subjects are every day objects, things found in our ordinary field of vision – images that we are used to looking at passively. Isolated from the reality which surrounds them and presented in a photograph as part of a different discourse, these images become laden with new meaning.”

L. Ghirri (2016) The Complete Essays 1973-1991

Mack: London Cardboard Landscapes: 1973, Luigi Ghirri.