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The story of the film: A beginner’s guide to black and white film development

The story of the film: A beginner’s guide to black and white film development

I love the immediacy of digital photography. In fact, I�™m puzzled how anyone managed to gain expertise in the days of film: it takes hours, sometimes days, to get any feedback on the shot you�™ve taken. By that time, I�™ve usually forgotten about the camera settings I used or even what I was trying to achieve with the photograph.

That said… there�™s something about the tangibility of using and developing film that�™s missing from digital photography. I find film photography thoroughly more enjoyable�”even if the resulting images are no better than I could get with a digital camera. It feels like there�™s more craft and expertise involved.

About this time of year, when the days are lighter, I get the itch to load a film camera and mix up some chemicals. So this week, I thought I�™d tell the story of how I develop a black and white film. I�™ve found lots of great advice on the internet, but there was little for absolute beginners, so that�™s where I thought I would start.

Getting prepared

I used a Canon EOS 1N. Back in the day (1994), this was a professional�™s camera, but now you can get them on eBay for £150. That�™s about 10% of what it cost when it was released. All of my existing Canon lenses work with this camera, so for me, it�™s a relatively low-cost way to shoot film.

I don�™t have a darkroom at home, so I use a Patterson tank and a changing bag to develop the film. The Patterson tank is like an oversized cocktail shaker that allows you to add and empty chemicals while preventing any light from entering. A changing bag is like a lightproof t-shirt: you zip everything up in the bag and then load the film by touch.

When I first started, I often found it difficult getting the film on the reel. So now I cut the end of the film into a kind of arrow shape and find it glides on. The Patterson tank comes with two reels, so you can develop two rolls of film at once if you are an overachiever.

These three images show the reel loading process. Of course, you do this in the dark or in the changing bag. I used an old piece of film here to show the steps.

Developing the film

I processed the film at 20-degrees. Everything I read about film development tells me that temperature is the most important variable, so I get the water to the right temperature in a 5-litre bottle. I then tip the water out of the bottle as I need it. In practice, I think the temperature only really matters for the first, development, phase so I don�™t check the temperature as I go on.

First in is the developer. I used a readymade developer called Ilford Ilfosol 3. My film (Fuji Acros 100) needed 5 minutes in the developer. After adding the diluted developer (1:9) to the tank, you need to agitate the tank for 10 seconds every minute. At first, I wasn�™t sure what �œagitation” meant in practice, but after watching some YouTube videos, I now interpret this to mean fairly vigorous shaking.

After the development time, I drain the tank into a bucket and add the stop bath. The stop bath neutralises the developer and so halts the development of the film. You leave the stop bath in the tank for a minute or so, then drain the tank and add fixer (which prevents the film being light sensitive). Finally, you give the film a good wash.

If you�™re curious about actual timings and steps, I created this crib sheet.

I downloaded a free lab timer app for my phone to get the timings right.

The moment of truth…

It�™s important to do this final step in a dust-free environment like a bathroom. A couple of years ago when I developed my first film, I was so overjoyed that it had worked that I proudly showed my family the result, only to discover that the wet film attracted dog hair and dust. That pretty much ruined the film.

I hang the negatives to dry in the shower. This usually takes about 4 hours, but the weather was so warm on the day I developed these that they were dry in a couple of hours.

This is the kind of mess you face when you return to clean up. I think it looks like a emergency room in a hospital show on TV when the patient has died.

The reason I use a bucket rather than just throw the chemicals down the sink is because I have a septic tank at my house. So I need to dispose of the chemicals more carefully.

Scanning and printing the images

I use an Epson Perfection V550 scanner. This has a dedicated holder for various size negatives. In the past, I�™ve tried photographing the negatives with a digital camera. I know that some people can get good results with a digital camera, but I find it cumbersome.

The white gloves keep fingermarks off the negatives and reinforce my delusion that I�™m a magician.

In the scanning software, I turn off every option I can find about automatic dust removal and noise reduction. I�™ve found these options add artifacts to the image, and are no better than what I can do using a dust blower and Lightroom�™s spot healing tool.

After importing the scans to Lightroom, I use a custom print template to print a contact sheet. As you can see, most of my photographs are of my long-suffering dog whose hairs appear on my negatives.

The end result

The image on the left is the original scan of one of my favorite images from the set above. I made some basic adjustments in Lightroom to get the version on the right. I don�™t want to come over all pretentious, but I do think there�™s a texture to film that�™s hard to emulate with digital.

But most importantly, it�™s terrific fun.

About The Author

David Travis is a portrait and editorial photographer based in Staffordshire, UK.  In 2017, he publishes a photo story each week, and you can check out the project here. For more of his work, visit his website, follow him on Instagram and 500px, and like his Facebook page. This article was also published here and shared with permission.


Sony and Fuji just released a large amount of firmware updates for cameras and lenses

Sony and Fuji just released a large amount of firmware updates for cameras and lenses

Firmware updates are kind of a mixed blessing. We like when they come out and fix issues we’ve been having or add new features. But when they come out too often, they can be a pain to keep updating. But it seems to be the way these days. Get the products out the door, and we’ll worry about fixing them later.

Well, Sony and Fuji seem to be doing a lot of firmware fixing right now. They’ve released a whole slew of firmware updates for a bunch of popular cameras and lenses. Below is a list of all the updates just released, along with the notes for each and links to the download page. Be sure to check the pages for each update to ensure successful application.

Fuji Firmware

Fujifilm X-T2 v2.10

  • Tether shooting is available by wireless communication.
  • Option of �œALL” is added to AF mode. With this option, select �œAll” in the AF mode so that you can select the AF mode and Focus Area size by only using the Command Dial.
  • Function extension for �œShutter AF” and �œShutter AE”. With the update, you can specify different settings for AF-S and AF-C in �œShutter AF” and for AF-S / MF and AF-C in �œShutter AE.”
  • Options of �œ�“6” and �œ�“7” are added in the EVF BRIGHTNESS setting. With the additional options, even in an extremely low-light condition, the brightness of the EVF does not distract you from shooting.
  • Switchover of the main and sub displays in the Dual Display mode. The update allows you to switch between the main and sub displays in the Dual Display mode.
  • Function assignment to the Rear Command Dial. You can assign a specific function to be activated when the Rear Command Dial is pressed.
  • Image transfer speed becomes faster to a smartphone or a tablet from a memory card in the slot 2.
  • The phenomenon is fixed that in MF mode, a focus can shift in a specified condition (ex. repeated CL shooting).

Fujifilm X-Pro2 v3.10

  • Options of �œ�“6” and �œ�“7” are added in the EVF BRIGHTNESS setting. With the additional options, even in an extremely low-light condition, the brightness of the EVF does not distract you from shooting.
  • Function assignment to the Rear Command Dial. You can assign a specific function to be activated when the Rear Command Dial is pressed.

Fujifilm GFX-50s v1.10

  • Tether shooting is available by wireless communication.
  • Operability improvement of exposure compensation. When EXPO. CMP. BUTTON SETTING in BUTTON/DIAL SETTING is ON/OFF SWITCH, the setting is held even after power off/on, mode change and removing/attaching a lens.
  • AF speed becomes faster for a relatively dark object.
  • Option for accessory is added in the function of firmware upgrade. This enables you to upgrade firmware for Shoe Mount Flash and so on.
  • Compatibility with GF23mmF4 R LM WR is added.
  • The phenomenon is fixed that communication can fail when a big capacity image is being transferred to a smartphone or a tablet from a memory card in the slot 2.
  • The phenomenon is fixed that setting can change when the setting of EVF COLOR in SCREEN SETTING is changed.

Fujifilm X-T20 v1.01

  • The phenomenon is fixed that IMAGE SIZE will be displayed when PHOTOMETRY is selected in ADD ITEMS of MY MENU SETTING.

Fujifilm X-T1 v5.20

  • BACKUP & RESTORE function is added in USER SETTING for Tether shooting function. When Tether Shooting Plug-in PRO or Tether Shooting Software HS-V5 is used, this function can save all camera settings as a file and restore the setting from a stored setting. Therefore, you can change the camera settings at a moment and copy them to multiple cameras.

Fujifilm X100F v1.01

  • The phenomenon is fixed that ISO cannot be changed by the command dial when ISO is set to AUTO by Camera Remote via WiFi connection to a smartphone or a tablet.
  • When a camera turns on in MF mode, the focus position comes to the original position where a camera turned off.
  • The phenomenon is fixed that in MF mode, a focus can shift in a specified condition (ex. repeated CL shooting).
  • Improvement of operability for the command dials.

Fujifilm Tethered Shooting Software HS-V5 for Windows

  • Tether shooting is available by wireless communication for GFX 50S and X-T2.
  • BACKUP & RESTORE function is added in USER SETTING for Tether shooting function. When Tether Shooting Software HS-V5 is used, this function can save all camera settings as a file and restore the setting from a stored setting. Therefore, you can change the camera settings at a moment and copy them to multiple cameras.

Fujifilm Tethered Capture Plug-in for Adobe Lightroom v1.6 (Windows and Mac)

  • Tether shooting is available by wireless communication for GFX 50S and X-T2.

Fujifilm PC AutoSave v1.0.1.0 and Fujifilm X Acquire v1.6 (Windows and Mac)

Sony Firmware

Sony FE 70�“200mm f/2.8 GM v02

  • Improves the startup speed when using the ILCE�“9.
  • Adds supports for continuous, blackout free shooting of up to 20 frames per second when using the ILCE�“9.
  • Improves the autofocus tracking performance during continuous shooting of still images.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS v03

  • Improves IRIS driving during continuous shooting

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 v02

  • This utility updates the lens system software to version 02 and provides improved IRIS driving during continuous shooting.

Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 v03

  • Improves IRIS driving during continuous shooting.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss v03

  • Improves IRIS driving during continuous shooting.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 v03

  • Improves stability of the autofocus feature.

Sony FE 24-70 GM v02

  • This utility updates the lens system software to version 02 and provides improved stability of the autofocus feature.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss v02

  • Adds supports for continuous, blackout free shooting of up to 20 frames per second when using the ILCE�“9.
  • Improves the autofocus tracking performance.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM v02

  • Adds supports for continuous, blackout free shooting of up to 20 frames per second when using the ILCE�“9.
  • Improves the autofocus tracking performance.

Sony LA-EA3 v02

  • This update enables the camera to focus continuously on a subject during continuous shooting at speeds up to 10 fps (using Hi or Mid Continuous Shooting mode) when the adaptor is attached to the ILCE�“9 camera.

Sony’s firmware updates seem primarily focused on allowing their lenses to keep up with the speed of the new Sony A9. So, if you own any of the above, and you’re thinking about getting an A9, then be sure to hit up the links to download the new firmware.

[via FStoppers]


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