COFFEE FIX FOR PHOTOS


After a break of a couple of years I decided to get back into analogue photography last autumn.

I was going on a trip to Belarus and wanted some instant photos to stick into my journal so picked up a second-hand Fuji instant camera and a couple of packs of instant film. I liked the results but not the price of the film. So, I went back online and got a Canon Ixus APS camera and some old film. The photos were amazing so I sold on the Fuji and kept the Canon.

I gave away my Praktika TL1000 a few years ago but had a hankering to go back to the pre-digital SLR age. A Pentax SFXn came my way for a few pounds so I stocked up with batteries and old Fomapan B & W film. I have since added a no brand plastic camera and several throwaway cameras to the analogue armoury. Each camera and each film is unique so I get some interesting results.

The downside of the analogue resurgence is the cost of developing film. It is a trek to find the developing shop which can do my APS and the B & W has to be sent away. The solution is the Caffenol Developing Process.

As is the way of things, all three sets of digital scales in my cupboard are malfunctioning and the thermometer cracked when placed in water.  I consulted the web and found a process using spoons on http://www.caffenol.org. Look up “recipes.”

Two stage developer

  • 240ml Water, 7 rounded Teaspoons of Instant Coffee (I used M&S)
  • 100ml Water, 4 Teaspoons of Washing Soda (I used DP washing soda)
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vitamin C (got the powder off the internet)

Equipment needed:

  • A dark room changing bag
  • A developing tank with spiral wheel
  • A pair of scissors
  • A can opener
  • A couple of spoons
  • A couple of jugs or bottles
  • A timer
  • Squeegee
  • A used film

Method:

First, put everything you need into the changing bag and close it up. Put your arms through the holes and spend some time fiddling about trying to get the cap off the film.. When you have done that get the film out. Snip off the shaped end bit which feeds into the camera spool. Attach newly shorn end into the niches on the reel. Spool entire film on. Snip off end bit attached to the cannister spool. All film should be nicely attached. If not, then the developing mix cannot really get to all parts and not all the film is developed. Place the reel onto the centre column and lock into developing tank with funnel lid firmly placed.

Put the Coffee mix into the developing tank, agitate once per second for the first minute. Leave it for another 2 minutes, agitate for 10 seconds every minute.

Pour out 100ml of Water and add the Washing Soda mix.

Agitate once per second for the first minute. Agitate for 10 seconds every minute for 9 minutes. Stand development for another 4 minutes.

Now wash out thoroughly several times. This gets rid of the coffee stuff.

When that is done you need to fix the image onto the film. You can use a salt solution or chemical fixer. Agitate several times and then pour out. Wash the film in water.

Unpack the film and get all the water off with a squeegee. Hang the film up to dry before scanning or printing.

Full information on the process is also to be found on:

https://fstop138.berrange.com/2014/09/caffenol-aka-developing-bw-film-w-instant-coffee/

I had a bash and the results were better than the first time…..

I failed to get the film onto the reel properly because I forgot to stick the scissors in the bag! And I could probably have done with timing the process better.

Here are my results:

LOMO_20170528_142740[1]LOMO_20170528_142942[1]

 

Analogue film experiments


I am sad to say that my first experiment in film developing did not work at all. When I took the film out of my canister there was nothing on it so I did a Google search for an explanation. It appears that some light must have got into the film. I am undaunted and want to teach this stage to some students I am teaching so I have splashed out on some new equipment.

Despite film developing being something of a niche interest these days there is still plenty of competition for any products which turn up on eBay. Having been outbid a few times I eventually got my hands on:

  • a black changing bag (essential for making sure no light gets onto the undeveloped film)
  • a Paterson film tank
  • a squeegee for getting the water off the film
  • a bag of washing soda (from a small independent shop)
  • a packet of vitamin C powder
  • some coffee
  • an old fashioned bottle opener
  • a pair of scissors
  • a thermometer
  • washing up liquid
  • Clothes pin or binder clips
  • a packet of Adofix P
  • a couple of measuring jugs

I also got a Paterson darkroom light by accident which will come in handy should I ever print out the images.

20170219_1727371

The developing kit

The theory goes like this:

  1. First shoot a roll of b & w film.
  2. Get together the ingredients and equipment.
  3. Put the film, scissors, bottle opener, reel and developing tank into the changing bag.
  4. Get the film out of the cannister using the changing bag and an old style bottle opener.
  5. Still in the bag, snip the end of the film and wind onto the reel which comes with the developing tank.
  6. Now pop the film into the tank and snap on the lid. The film should be safe now.
  7. Make up six ounces of coffee at 20°C.
  8. Add half a teaspoon of vitamin C powder. Stir.
  9. In another cup mix six ounces of water with three and a half teaspoons of washing soda. Stir.
  10. Mix the coffee mix and the washing soda mix together and heat up to 20°c again.
  11. Mix up the fixer according to the packet instructions.
  12. Add the developer to the tank and put the lid on. It needs to sit in there for around nine minutes. Agitate for a minute to make sure that all the film is coated and then agitate three times every minute.
  13. Pour out the developer. Keep the film in the tank and wash it through three or four times.
  14. Pour in the fixer. It needs to in there for five minutes. Again agitate three times eac minute.
  15. Pour out the fixer. It can be reused a few times so store it in labelled container.
  16. Now wash the film again maybe three times. For the fourth wash add a spot of washing liquid to ensure the film dries spot free.
  17. Hang up and let to dry.
  18. The film can now be scanned or printed.

I am hoping to try this out when I get to the end of my current film.

Curiously Analogue


Rediscovering Analogue Photography

I first started taking photographs with a Kodak Land Camera which was a large flat looking beast into which you asserted a film cartridge with a gel pouch at the bottom. The camera was a very basic point and shoot with the added fun that a photograph popped out of the machine. After waving it about and blowing on it for a few second the image would appear piece by piece. This was great fun and almost instant. The results were rarely great but it was the immediacy which was the fun part.

My parents had owned a Kodak Brownie before that but it had only come out on special occasions and recorded events in black and white. I still have a few of those shots to remind of obsolete traditions such as the town parade where we all dressed up and walked around the town. I was smitten with photography and at College I bought a Praktica TL1000 35mm manual Single Lens Reflex camera. In the mid1990s I supplemented it with  a Vivitar pocket camera which produced decent enough snaps with Fomapan film. I acquired a crate of processed 35mm slide and negative film which went in my mother’s loft for a few years.

In 2002 I bought a Nikon Coolpix 4300 (which I still use) for around £400 and became a total digital convert. I even gave away my Praktica. During the early part of the 21st century 35mm film became scarcer and more difficult to develop. Increasingly developing shops concentrated on digital prints. The last big outing for my Praktica was a trip to America in 2004. On that trip I used both analogue and digital cameras but the digital was winning since I could see the results instantly and not having to wait for 24 hour service. On my return, I went fully digital with a Sony DSLR.

But I still had a hankering for old film. I picked up several classic models at charity shops and online but had problems finding films. For a time I owned my own Polaroid Land Camera. The Impossible Project had rescued one of the Polaroid machines used to make the instant film cartridges but it was difficult and expensive to get the films. I eventually sold the camera on but endlessly lamented the loss.

lomo_20170114_130544  Old negative.

I rescued the box of old films and photos from my mother’s loft and spend many winters scanning them on to a PC using an Epson scanner. It was a laborious process and I got fed up of it. I purchases several specialist scanners before selling them on barely used as the results were not worth the time taken up.

I did go back to analogue briefly about 2007 when I bought a Lomography Sampler at the Science Museum in London. It was fun for a while but I had no real interest in multiple images of the same thing taken microseconds apart. I used it a while and sold it on.

church-somewhere A church. Chester Cathedral?

And then last year I paid a visit to the London Photographer’s Gallery. True I had been before but on that day I wandered down into the basement and saw all the goodies they had: Fomapan film, Kodak film, Fuji Film, Lomo film, specialist film, everyday film, throwaway cameras, instant film and camera, lots of cameras. I had an upcoming trip to Belarus and wanted to take some artistic photographs of my trip. I was sold back on analogue.

lomo_20170106_214341 Cricklewood North London.

Ebay provided me with an old Fuji Instant Camera and a couple of boxes of film, a Pentax 35mm auto SLR and batteries (it is not easy to get hold of some of these old batteries) and a Canon Ixus APX  (both around 20 years old) and I was off. The Fuji had a few outings in London but was too unpredictable for my liking and expensive to boot. It is now about to go to a new home. The Pentax is my pride and joy. I take it off to Regents Park for photo shoots. The Canon went to Belarus and the result was some excellent photographs. Now I take it everywhere.

lomo_20170114_171726 Somewhere near Prague in 1995.

I have just acquired a Lomography film scanner and my old 35mm films are coming back to life. What a  record of my travels they are! I am still getting the hang of it but already I am retrieving my past.

apartment-buildings-usti-nad-labem Apartment blocks in Usti nad Labem, CZ

It is now quite expensive to have films developed and printed so when I take my old cameras out I think about the shot rather than taking lots of shots. With this new careful consideration has come a renewed appreciation of the art of photography and I am loving it. I am hooked all over again just like I was at 19.