The Darkroom- My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film

My Film Photography Podcast friends already know, but I recently built my 1st darkroom, to develop TriX, and eventually, other emulsions. As I have a tendency to overengineer everything, this was surprisingly easy, after drawing up a developing flowchart. I received wonderful tips and walkthroughs from my favorite FPP listener/contributor, Dan Domme. Dan was a tremendous help, as was Harry Pulley. While their methods differ, they were incredible resources. What I found reading online, and in library books, is there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of ways to do this. I won’t recap step-by-step how I developed, as someone is bound to say I was wrong, or someone else will say I did it perfectly. Anyways, I used Kodak D76 developer, which is an all around great all-purpose developer. Tricky to mix, as it is H2O temperature sensitive, and you have to make sure you dissolve all of the powder thoroughly.

Lesson learned :the most challenging part of the entire process is loading the developing tank in the darkroom. You cannot see a thing. But, if you sacrifice a “dummy roll’ or two in light, and practice, and then practice again in the darkroom, you will be very nicely prepared. I say darkroom here, because I converted an unused closed pantry area adjacent to my kitchen, and sealed off the door cracks with weather-stripping from The Home Depot. The two glass window panes on the back door were sealed off with Fuji instant film darkslides. Of course, a nod to my Polaroid obsession. The best test for the “does my darkroom pass the pitch black test” is to take a piece of white paper, hold it up in a dark area in the room, and wait for 5 minutes. If you can’t see the paper, you’re good to go. Kodak really does have excellent whitepapers on how to set up, mixing, agitation, etc on their website.

One note- I selected the Omega universal system for my developing tank. Others swear by Paterson tanks, while others opt for the stainless steel, and won’t use anything else. The Omega was fantastic. No leaks, and it can develop two rolls at once if you choose. If developing only one roll, as I did here, make sure you put the empty one back into the tank in the darkroom, so as to serve as a spacer when you begin inversions. I would have bought the Paterson, but my camera shop. LB Wheaton’s in Worcester, only had the 35mm tanks, not the universal. With the Omega, I can later develop 120 from the Hasselblad, and 127 for the Kodak Brownies. And, I goofed a bit. I had stop bath ready to go, but after receiving a phone call, forgot to use it. Stop bath, while I was told is not a must, I did have the presence of mind to use the fixer, a must if you want your developed film to last. Don’t answer the phone while doing this. It’s all about time and temperature.

I sincerely thank Mike Raso, cohost of The Film Photography Podcast, for the inspiration to do this, as well as FPP fans and contributors Dan and Harry for their assistance. No longer scary, this truly was one of the most gratifying experiences in my photographic journey. I posted some other shots on my Flickr Photostream, but here is one taken at Moore State Park in Paxton, Massachusetts, with the Argus C3 Colormatic, and 100mm Argus Tele-Sandmar lens-

Scary No More- From My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film- Moore State Park, Paxton, MA Kodak TriX, D76, Argus C3, 100mm Tele-Sandmar

Scary No More- From My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film- Moore State Park, Paxton, MA Kodak TriX, D76, Argus C3, 100mm Tele-Sandmar

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8 thoughts on “The Darkroom- My 1st Roll Of Home Developed Film

  1. There are many ways of developing film because it isn’t as critical as many would make it out to be. Comments like, “dump the developer 10s before the end time to make sure it drains before the end” are a bit much. You can get printable/scannable results without being super temperature/concentration/time critical. If you need to have a fully repeatable process where you don’t need to tweak any printing/scanning parameters then sure if would be nice to get bang on exposures and development every time but for those of us who do this for fun, you don’t really have to be exact. Forget the stop bath, some people never use one…

    It takes practice to load film properly. You’ll want to keep your reels nice and clean (I just use hot water) or else they can get a bit sticky which makes loading difficult. Also, try not to be nervous when loading the film as the sweat on your hands will also make the film stick to the reels. Silly little things…

  2. Congratulations on your anachronistic pursuit! It will give you inexplicable pleasure, indefinitely.
    I have recently built a darkroom for all black and white formats from 35mm to 4×5 sheet film. It took a year of poking and tweaking but it is in pretty full production now. My photo site at jeffbeddow.com is under construction, but many of my black and white photos are at flickr.com/zeitguy. I look forward to following your adventures. I also curate a scoop.it news feed at http://www.scoop.it/zeitghost. This blog entry will show up there today!

  3. No, I haven’t tried Caffenol; I prefer to drink my coffee! Not really that interested to be honest as chemicals are the cheapest and easiest thing to get! I can get a similar ascorbic-acid based (better for environment) developer like Kodak Xtol which costs under $10 for a 5L packet! One day when you can’t buy your own developer I’ll try to make my own but for now, developer is the cheapest, easiest to get thing for the darkroom so I’m happy to pay a few bucks for it.

  4. I’ve got some Zone 6 hypo in the plastic bags. They could be ten years old. But they look good, no discoloration or stains. Would it be safe to use it or is there any way to check it . I have at least 7 bags enough to make 7 gallons of working solution.
    Thanks.

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