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-