Let's talk about something different today, photography! Or, more precisely, developing black and white film.
I found that when I started, I didn't quite find a source that gave me the starting point I needed. That's not to say that there aren't great resources out there, but it felt like I had to piece things together from many sources, blogs, videos, word of mouth, reports from my crow spies, and match them to what I did and needed.
So long story short, let's talk about the process I ended up with for black and white films.
First up, why stand development? Because it's incredibly stress-free, cheap, and environmentally friendly as it uses very few chemicals. It allows mixing and matching films, file ratings, and even pushed and pulled images on the same film. The only exception I've found is ADOX HR-50 and CSM 20. Those two are great films but don't develop in Rodiol.
This post will be lengthy since I will try to expand on each step. If all you want is the recipe, I'll write it down at the bottom.
Tools and chemicals
Next up are tools. I will list the tools I use as they work for me. You can use other devices, but the experience I have made so far is that any change to the process results in a difference in the outcome. For example, I tried both a Paterson and a Jobo tank, and the results differ. I tried both spinning agitation and flipping agitation - the results vary. If you replace parts and tools, you need to re-evaluate the process.
I'll put in links to where I buy them.
- A PATERSON two reel tank
- Rodinal (I use ADOX ADANAL but as long as the chemical formula is the same it should be replaceable without adjustments)
- ADOX ADOSTOP ECO (this also can probably be replaced, I like this stop bath since it's non-toxic - basically it's fancy lemon juice, please don't try regular lemon juice!)
- ADOX ADOFIX Plus (I start to sound like an ADOX fanboy, probably I am, but they're also very affordable and readily available chemicals where I live)
- Kodak Photo Flo (see, I don't only buy ADOX)
- Distilled water to mix developer, fixer, stop bath, and Flo
- Tap pater to rinse
- A changing bag (you can swap this out for anything that keeps things perfectly dark, it has no impact on the process)
- A one-liter measuring cup (replace with whatever you like; please don't use the same you use in the kitchen!)
- A tiny measuring cup (we need this since the Rodinal dilution is very thin and we won't get correct enough numbers with a big cup alone)
- Two bottles to store Fixer and Stop (I use the folding ones, they keep the chemicals fresh realistically, you only need this for the fixer. The stop bath has an indicator, and the Rodinal is single-use anyway. Please, don't use anything that looks like drinking bottles!).
I do all the development at room temperature and “whatever comes out of the tap.” I've done this process throughout the year in Germany, and the temperature fluctuations between summer and winter did not noticeably affect the process.
The Rodinal, Flo, and stop bath will last you forever. Since it needs a higher concentration and more frequent replacement, the fixer will likely be the first to go - so if you're on a budget, buy a smaller bottle stop bath or Rodinal before you cut down on the fixer.
I'll run this in order since I use spare time to multi-task and optimize the process.
Mixing the reusable chemicals
Note this assumes the chemicals listed above. If you used different ones, look at their documentation and follow what it says. Also, remember that since they're reusable and stored well last weeks, if not months (consult the manual!), you can do this well in advance.
We start with mixing 1 liter of Stop bath. It's the most resilient of the whole bunch. The rate is 1+19, so 1 part concentrate 19 parts water. For a liter, we get 50+950. So fill the measuring cup with 50 ml of ADOSTOP and fill it up to 1 liter with distilled water - this is noncritical. If it's 1.1 liters or 950ml, things will not explode. Pour this into a bottle for storage.
Second up stop bath has a much higher concentration of 1+4. Wash the measuring cup, pour 200 ml of the stop bath (see, I told you you'd use more of this), and fill it up to 1 liter with distilled water. Again not super critical, but try to be a bit more precise. It's not lemonade this time. Pour it into a bottle for storage. If you use the collapsible ones, I recommend pushing down until you squeeze nearly all air out of the bottle before closing the lid.
Third, Foto Flo has a very high dilution of 1+200. So basically, mix 5ml FotoFlo with 1 liter of distilled water and put it in a bottle. Foto Flo can be re-used but is unaffected by air, so any chemical bottle works. It's mostly a fancy soap.
Loading the film
Put everything in the dark bag, open the canisters (if you do 35mm), unroll the back paper (if you do 120 films), put them on the spool, close the tank, and be happy! I'll not go into detail here since the millions of excellent videos out there are much more helpful than a written instruction set.
Wash the film and prep the developer
I always wash the film. Once it's loaded, I fill the tank up with tap water until it overflows and let it sit for a bit. Perhaps I spin the wheel once or twice, but it's unnecessary.
Now is also where multi-tasking comes up. I use this time to prepare the Radinol. We'll make roughly 300ml at a dilution of 1:50. So take your measurement cup (the one you hopefully washed after preparing the fixer), the small one too. Use the small cup to measure 6ml of Rodinal, and don't stress it. If it's 7 or 5, it'll work too. Then fill the large measurement cup with 300 ml of distilled water and pour in the Rodinal. Since the amount is so small and usually a drop or two sticks to the small cup, I pour some of the mixtures back and forth a few times to clean out the small cup. Stir well.
At this point, empty the tank. It is time to wash the film now. Depending on the film you used, the water might be clean or nice and colorful - let the stock surprise you!
Okay, here is where the fun begins. We will do this in three parts, using one hour and 15 minutes of development time. Again we're back to: don't stress it, the beauty of stand development is that it's pretty forgiving. I've forgotten to set a timer once and just eyeballed it. I've been 5 minutes over or under, and it still came out okay, so sit back and relax.
I've found that using the stirring stick works better than flipping agitation (it also makes less of a mess). So we're going to use that. If you want to invert it, YOLO, and good luck, it'll probably work somewhat, but you'll have to find your process.
Round one (one minute constant agitation) @ 0h0m
Pour the rodinal mixture into the tank, and tap it on a hard surface a few times to remove any bubbles that might have stuck to the film. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Then take the little stirring stick and keep rotating it a few times, left a few times right for the first minute of the timer.
Once that's done, you've some free time to write film companies to stop raising prices, take photos, write a poem, watch some TV, or clean the room you're working in (this is a perfect moment).
Round two (about 5 stirries) @ 0h25m
Okay, you cleaned the room, watched TV, did something fun, and your timer beeps. Set it back up for 25 minutes. Then using the spinny stick, spin a rotation left, a rotation right (or right then left that works too) for about five times. If it's four, it's okay. If it's six, it's okay too, but you can't use your fingers to count anymore if you do 6.
Time to wait some more.
Round three (about 5 stirries) @ 0h50m
Same as before, this should start to be expected, spin left, spin right, five times done!.
Round four (stop, fix, flo and done) @ 1h15m
You could have prepared your workspace in the last 25 minutes, but let's pretend you didn't, and that's okay if you spend a few minutes gathering the fixer, stop and Flo, that won't hurt your film!
First up, pour the Rodinal into whatever container you use to collect it (don't mix chemicals for disposal! a container per chemical keeps the waste people happy.). I use cheap 10-liter chemical canisters with 300ml / 2 films. They last long enough before I need to drop them off.
Once empty, fill the tank with tap water and empty it. Can you skip this? Probably, but I like not to contaminate the stop bath (which sounds silly writing it), but do it okay. This is my process. You can change it later if you don't like it. Then pour in about 300 ml of stop bath - to be honest, I don't measure. I add enough until I see it no longer draining since you re-use using more than needed has no downside.
You can take the spinny stick and spin it a few times. The stop bath only needs to be in there for about 10s, but it's not an issue if it's in a bit longer, so spin spin spin. When you pour it back, your stop bath should still be orange/yellow. If it starts to turn purple, it's dead, and you should mix a new one (this only applies to ADOSTOP ECO!).
Again I follow the stop bath with one round of water. I know I probably don't need to but let me have my process, okay? It works and makes me happy. Pour in the fixer. Again I fill it until it stops draining down the funnel, as more is never a problem. Tap the tank on a hard surface once or twice to avoid bubbles. We leave this in 4 minutes; five minutes are okay too. Fixer is forgiving, so don't stress it (I write that a lot, it's a relaxing process). I use the spinny stick about once a minute and give it a spin or two to give the chemicals some mixing.
Pour the fixer back into its bottle and markdown that you used for two films (1 l ADOFIX lasts for about 20 films).
Okay, back to washing. We're pretty closely following the Illford method of washing, with a tiny change. I like the technique since it reduces water use (yay, environment!). I start by filling and emptying the tank once. Now we do it like Ilford says: fill the tank and put on the lid, do five inversions, empty and refill, do ten inversions, empty and refill, do 20 inversions. Wash done!
I like to do a final wash with Foto Flo and distilled water. You can fill the tank and pour enough in to cover your film. Then take the film out, hang it to dry, and the Flo will make sure you don't get marks on it. Pour the Flo back into its bottle and: You. Are. Done!
1:50 dilution of Rodinal.
- 1 minute constant agitation after pouring
- 25 minutes in, five twists left and right
- 50 minutes in, five twists left and right
- 1 hour 15 minutes, dispose of, stop, fix, wash
The process above is the process I use. It's a good starting point, but varying from it can change the outcome, so be prepared to experiment with what works for you. The main things to change in experiments I found are:
- Rodinal dilution. I've seen 1:100 as well. 1:50 works better for me. The process's length, one hour 15 minutes, was the sweet spot for me, but I've seen anything between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
- The amount of agitation. One initial and two in the middle work for me, but I've seen anything from every 15 minutes to only at the beginning.
- The method of agitation. I prefer the spinny thing to flips/inversions, but many people feel differently. The inversions got me streeks, and I was not too fond of that.