One of the great things about analogue film photography is that the results are always going to be a surprise since there are so many factors involved in the production of the image. These factors involve the type and functionality of the camera, the type and condition of the film, the way the film interacts with the camera, the camera settings such as F stops and so on, the way the film has been stored, the length of time the film has been in the camera, the atmosphere, the lighting conditions and so on. What you see is not necessarily what you get with a film camera.
I have been experimenting with out of date film, lomography style, without knowing how the film was stored etc. The first thing I have learned from the experiment has been that out of date film needs to be shot a lower stop than the originally designated one. I have to say that when I checked the film the frames shot at 65 and 50 were more defined than the ones at 125. Lesson learned.
The second thing I learned from experiment one was that developing out-of-date film is trickier than developing new film. Taking a standard Caffenol-C recipe straight out of the box and using it on a different film, let alone an out of date one, does not produce the results intended. Caffenol=C produces a high amount of grain which when coupled with an out of date film produces rather artistic results. The image below resulted from the recipe I posted previously and I lot of people I have shown the results to have like them for their artistic qualities.
Another lesson learnt is that the developer needs to be able to coat the film evenly. When I do not get the film on the reel properly then the developer cannot do the job intended. Developing is a journey and I am just starting out on that journey.
I am still having problems with the Paterson reels. While I can thread them easily in daylight I just cannot get it done in the changing bag. This is very frustrating but I need to keep trying. In the meantime, I am keeping my eye out on the new developing tank coming to the market in September.
Back to the film. I am sticking with the Pentax SFXn for the black and white film as I can go down to 64 or 50 film speeds to get enough light onto the film. This is working much better though I am thinking of going even lower since the hot weather might be causing more film deterioration. So far, the results have been promising.
I have also gone back and done some research on the caffenol method. Using the site https://fstop138.berrange.com/2014/09/caffenol-aka-developing-bw-film-w-instant-coffee/ I have checked out a new formula. The new ingredient is the iodised salt. I am going to use his Caffenol-C-H-UK Recipe which is derived from Reinhold’s Caffenol-C-H. The C stands for Vitamin C and the H stands for High Speed. The salt apparently makes all the difference. I used Aldi coffee rather than M and S since the Aldi worked better on a previous test run.
For a single roll of Ilford FP4+ 125 which is about five and a half years after its expiry date I created a 300 ml solution:
- 45g soda crystals. (I am using Dry Pak)
- 4.8g vitamin C. (High Peak)
- 12g instant coffee. (Aldi)
- 3.6g salt. (Cerebos Iodised table Salt)
- water to make 300 ml of solution – I made up the concoction using 150 ml of water and then topped it up from the cold tap.
I picked up the Dry Pak washing soda at a small grocery store, the Vitamin C powder came from the internet but you can also buy it from a health store, the coffee came from Aldi and the salt was from Sainsburys which seemed to be the only place which sold it. I weighed everything on a set of small scales intended for jewellers and measured the temperature using a photo thermometer.
Following Daniel Berrangé I used this method to prepare the developer:
- Fill the measuring cylinder or jug with half the target volume of water so that is around 150 ml of water. Some people recommend distilled water but I used tap water.
- Pour in the soda crystals and stir for a couple of minutes until they are well dissolved. Since Dri-Pak soda crystals are a decahydrate, the temperature of the water will typically drop 8-10 degrees and the volume of solution will increase. NB anhydrous soda crystals would have instead raised the temperature.
- Pour in the vitamin C and stir, at the very least until it has stopped fizzing.
- Pour in the instant coffee granules and stir for about a minute. The solution will now be a disgusting looking brown sludge :-).
- Pour in the the Iodized salt and stir some more.
- Top up with further water to achieve the final desired volume of solution. The developer is intended to work at 20 C, and mixing in the soda crystals will have lowered it to about 10 C. So when topping up to the final volume it may be necessary to add hot water at first until it is 20 C, then finish topping up with cold tap water.
- Check the temperature using a photographer’s thermometer.
After everything is thoroughly mixed, allow the developer to stand for 5 minutes to ensure all the desired chemical reactions have completed. If you could not get the temperature to exactly 20 C during the mixing phase, then sit the cylinder in a basin of hot or chilled water as necessary to adjust to 20 C, stirring all the time. If it is too hot try putting the mix into the fridge for a little while.
NB When I tried to do this on a hot summer’s day it was very difficult to get the temperature down.
Apparently, it smells something rotten but as an ardent coffee drinker I didn’t notice.
Processing the film
When all this is set up then it is necessary to put everything into a changing bag (film, developing tank, scissors, bottle opener) and fasten the bag securely. It is tricky working in the dark using fingers only but you need to get the film out of the can and onto a reel. Cutting the edge of the film in the dark is not an easy task so bear in mind that you need to keep fingers out of the way. When the film is on the reel snip the final end of the film and pop the reel into the developing tank and seal it up.
From this point onwards, fairly standard darkroom film processing rules apply. Pour the Caffenol into the film tank, turn the stirrer several times and then seal the lid. Invert the tank 3 times and then bang it on the work surface to dislodge any bubbles. The quoted development time from Reinhold’s site is 15 minutes. I have seen 20 minutes quoted elsewhere so I guess this is a bit of trial and error. I have done 15 and not got the best results so I guess more than 15 is good.
For the first minute invert the tank continually to make sure all the film is coated. During the development time, invert the tank slowly 3 times at the start of each minute. You can time it on your phone if you do not have a darkroom timer.
Caffenol does not require a chemical stop liquid, so when the development time is up, invert the film tank pouring the caffenol away (you can pour it into a bottle and reuse it once again within a week), then rinse multiple times with cold tap water. Keep rinsing until the water is no longer brown, as this minimizes subsequent staining of the fix. Once rinsed, add any regular fix. I am using Adofix which I got off the internet.
Once fixed, a thorough wash is needed. For this fill the tank with water, replace the lid and invert 5 times. Replace the water and then invert it 10 times. Replace the water once more and invert it 20 times. So that is 3 washes. Some people leave the film in the fixer for around 7 or 8 minutes.
Do a final wash using warm water and a drop of washing up liquid. Pour it in and agitate several times. Then let it sit in the solution for 1 or 2 minutes. Drain out. Again rinse several times until the water is clear.
Then take the film out and squeeze the water off it using a squeegee or finger. Leave to dry making sure there are no water marks on the film.
I was impressed with the results after I scanned them in and had a little fiddle around in Photoshop:
The earlier version
Coffee Machine taken at 50 and developed in Caffenol-C
Wall graffiti taken at 50 and developed in Caffenol-C
Scanned using the Lomography Smartphone Scanner and Helmut App.
There are some helpful posts out there on the web such as: