My exploration of black and white, part II

Developing gear

I've been spending a lot of time in the past year or so on finding ways to continue to shoot film, but doing it more economically. The first step was getting my own scanner so I didn't need to pay somebody to print or scan my photos.

Lately, I decided that my cost of B&W developing was too high. I could shoot the chromagenic B&W films like Ilford XP2 Super or Kodak' BW400 and take them cheaply to the one-hour nearby. But they wouldn't do 120 film, and if I wanted anything other than a 400 speed chromagenic film, I'd have to pay a decent amount of money.... more if I wanted to push or pull. Plus, there's a lot of stuff that's just too hard to expect a lab to fit into their production pipeline, like developer dilutions or specifying exact developers or whatnot.

So took a deep breath, ordered the necessary equipment, and took the next step along the way of shooting film in a more economical fashion. I don't need an enlarger since I usually prefer to scan my work and send it out for printing, so the actual gear required is quite minimal. Also, I figured out that based on my chemical usage, I'll be paying around a dollar per roll for developing at home, which makes shooting real B&W film even cheaper than shooting the BW400 film that the one-hour will do.

There's a lot of advice, most of it conflicting, out there. I researched it all quite heavily and ended up mixing and matching the advice when it was given with justification. For example, you probably do need a wash aid when you use a hardening fixer, but you don't necessarily need a hardening fixer and therefore no wash aid.

Right now, I'm using Rodinal, which is one of the oldest developers that you can still buy. It's an accutance-based developer that creates a reasonable amount of sharpness, an incredible perception of sharpness, and can be used as a compensating developer. It also provides a great grainy look to the images, which I am quite fond of. HC-110 is next in my explorations, as something that's slightly more normal.

Abandoned Warehouse at night

I purchased a bunch of really cheap film -- Arista EDU Ultra 400, which is really just Fomapan 400. I got it because it was $1.50 a roll and I wanted to do a bunch of shooting to make sure I got my process right and that I understood what happens when I do various things to the film. It's OK stuff. If you look at the datasheet, you'll note that most of the time it won't actually reach a real 400 ASA in toe speed. It comes on a funky blue base, and has funky black paper pointing towards the camera instead of white and is not exactly an advanced fine-grained emulsion.

It turns out that I got things right on the first try.

I find that when I shoot color, I tend to like saturated colors and high contrast. On the other hand, when I shoot black and white, I prefer a lot of shadow detail and graduations of tone, so I started right in on tweaking my developing to get the sort of look I want. After I shot the first roll, I started running speed tests against a card to test out shadow detail. To get heavy shadow detail, you need to pull the film and maybe use a compensating developer.

What seems to work is metering at E.I. 200 and developing for 20 minutes at 1+100 semi-stand. I decided to work this out, using the zone system as a guide but not a rule, by placing Zone V at the same film density as the standard development, which I understand is not what most Zone practitioners will tell you to do, but what I want. It ends up giving you an incredible amount of shadow detail and just about the right sort of contrast for scanning.

I was a bit worried starting out that I wouldn't like developing my own film, but I do rather like doing it. It's really nice for snapshots on my RB67, which is ordinarily a little expensive for that.


The proper name is "Yolise's Semi-Stand Developing technique", since we've all been copying how she does it. You agitate for the first few minutes as normal, then leave it stand, agitating halfway through, and then let it stand the rest of the time.

This works for Rodinal because it doesn't suffer from bromide drag.

I ended up using a 60 second pre-wash, 60 secind of tap water as a stop bath, Ilford's washing protocol with Ilford Rapid Fixer, and photo-flo plus distilled water to make it dry quickly and without streaks.

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