Developing Black and White Negative

Marek mentioned here that we spent a great week on Isle of Eigg attending workshop with well respected photographer Bruce Percy. I have never been to photography workshop before, so I had no idea what to expect, but somehow I took more rolls of film than I usually take for one week long trip. It was good decision since, I did manage to take 27 rolls of medium format film despite the fact that we went only to two locations during the entire week. Now is time to develop them, which might take approximately three weeks. In my previous post here I was describing how I do expose my black and white negatives, so now I would like to follow up and share how I do develop them. Before I begin, I want to emphasize the fact that I am describing here the way I work, which might not work for other more experienced darkroom masters. As I mentioned earlier I am exclusively using Kodak T-Max films.

Let’s start with the whole film development process.

You need to have properly exposed film, developing tank with a reel, measuring cylinders, distilled water, developer, stop bath, fixer, wash aid, wetting agent and running water. I would also recommend using the Massive development chart application (it really helps me to get the whole process under control).

Aa a first step I usually mix the chemicals in distilled water at 20 degrees Celsius

1L - Ilford Ilfostop 1:19

1L - Ilford Rapid Fixer 1:4

1L - Ilford Washaid 1:4 (I am thinking about switching to Kodak Hypo Clearing agent, since the last two bottles of Washaid create a lot of foam during agitation, I still have to investigate this issue bit more)

0.6 L - Tetenal Mirasol 2000 1:400 (it is very important to mix fresh solution of wetting agent for every session)

0.5 L - Kodak T-Max Developer 1:4 (I use this volume to develop one roll of film and I mix fresh developer for every roll)

When all chemicals are ready, I load film on reel and secure it in a Jobo developing tank (THIS HAS TO BE DONE IN TOTAL DARKNES!!!). If something goes wrong during film loading, do not panic and start again! I always develop one roll of film at a time, since I want my negatives to get the best treatment.

Now everything is ready to start the development. I set up the Massive development application and pour developer inside the tank. After that, I start timer and agitate for the whole first minute (I do invert the tank approximately 30 times). Remember you are not making cocktails, so rotate the tank gently, but make sure you turn it upside down (180 degrees) that developer can really flow around negative. After I finish this first agitation I knock few time with the tank to the table or kitchen sink, to release potential bubbles from negative. It is very important to do it after every agitation session, since the bubbles can ruin your valuable images. After that, I do agitate it for 10 seconds at the beginning of each minute for the remaining time. In my case, total normal development time for Kodak T-Max 400 film is 7 minutes and 8 minutes for Kodak T-Max 100 film.

After development I pour stop bath into the tank and agitate continuously for 30 seconds, then I fix the negative with Ilford rapid fixer for 5 minutes. I do agitate for the first 30 seconds and than 10 seconds every half a minute. I do rinse the negative in running water for approximately 30 - 40 seconds after fixing before applying Ilford Washaid for two minutes, with the same agitation. Next step is washing, I do use washing cascade from Jobo, which is making the process more efficient and quicker. I wash one roll of film for 5 to 10 minutes.

After washing, it is very important to rinse the film in fresh solution of wetting agent for one minute to make sure that negatives dry evenly without any drying marks. At the begging of my darkroom experience I did not pay too much attention to this part of developing process, and unfortunately from time to time I had really bad drying marks on my negatives. After a while I have found that mixing fresh solution in distilled water is quite effective and I have no drying marks on my negatives anymore.

Last step is drying. I am not squeaking negatives at all. I let them dry slowly hanging in my shower corner for the whole night. I do cut them and store them in archival sheets in the morning. I do use antistatic gloves anytime I am touching negatives to prevent any fingerprints.

Even though it might not sound that way, but film development It is not very difficult process. If you do not feel confident just try with few rolls of not important film and you will see it actually quite easy. Just remember be consistent and repetition makes you better. Take this as starting guide and find your own way, which works for you.

Have fun!!!

Here is just quick scan of one o f my latest negatives from Isle of Eigg.

Title: Bay of Laig, Study 1, Camera: Mamiya RB Pro SD, Lens: Mamiya Sekor 50 mm, Filter: Lee Big Stopper and Lee Hard Grad 0.3, Film: Kodak T-Max 400, Exposure: 160″, f 16, Isle of Eigg, Scotland, 2013
Title: Bay of Laig, Study 1, Camera: Mamiya RB Pro SD, Lens: Mamiya Sekor 50 mm, Filter: Lee Big Stopper and Lee Hard Grad 0.3, Film: Kodak T-Max 400, Exposure: 160″, f 16, Isle of Eigg, Scotland, 2013