I had a feeling it would be fun. I had a feeling it would fit right in with my current attempts at slowing down.
So far I have printed 14 postcards. I’ve sent three cards overseas: One has gone to Anchorage, Alaska in the USA, one to a village near Nagano in Japan, and another to Malmö in Sweden. Some are for old friends. Some for new ones. None to random people. Yet. I’m looking forward to my first postcard to someone completely random. I have a few more to print, but that will have to be a job for this weekend.
Above is the response from a friend (an old one, whom I see far too infrequently). I have to say that this response is exactly what I wanted from this little project. A bit of joy in somone’s mailbox. Something different in amongst the bills…that’s not an expiation notice. I look forward to getting more snaps from people when they receive their tardigram.
If people start sending me random photographs in the mail that would be even better. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
Let me know if you want one. Somehow. Try @techoglot on Twitter or @TechnicalKO@aus.social.
In passing, I mentioned to my Father in Law that I was hunting on Gumtree for an enlarger and other darkroom paraphernalia. Turns out that he has (or had, now!) a box of such paraphernalia in the garage, and would be happy to get rid of it.
I didn’t quite realise just how much stuff he was going to bring around. In addition to the Durst F30 enlarger, I got three Paterson 8×10 developing trays, two Paterson developing tanks (the old, non-Super-4 model, but they have spools in them, which is great), a bulk film loader, a safe-light, some old ID-11 and Microphen developer powders, a bunch of 5×7 and 8×10 papers, and a full 33m spool of Ilford FP4 125.
Aside from needing to make the electrical switches safe, and acquiring paper devloper, some tongs, and a new bulb for the enlarger, I now had everything I needed for the dark-room. Except for the dark room.
To seal up the doors, I got adhesive foam strip designed to seal doors, so that bit was easy. There is still a bit of light leakage around the bottom of the doors, but that would be easily fixed with a couple of door-snakes.
Sealing the window was a bit trickier, and needed a piece of MDF cut to size. Good excuse to get the table-saw fired up.
I gave it a crack this morning (see previous post about Project Tardigram) and it was a great success. The old 5×7 paper curled quite badly, but the modern 8×10 paper dried beautifully. I think I need some filters for the enlarger to improve the contrast of the prints, but aside from this I’m exceptionally happy with the darkroom.
I do need another shelf to stow the enlarger properly, but for now, I’m set and ready to print!
I don’t often have projects. I always have plans for projects, but rarely do I actually get around to starting those projects. I was a bit worried that this “Opposite-of-Instagram” was going to be the same non-starter.
But here we are. I just wet-printed my first piece of paper. Dried it. Wrote a message on it. Affixed a stamp. And popped it in the post. It’ll be picked up tomorrow after 3pm, and should arrive in Yarraville sometime in the coming week.
It’s exciting. Probably because it’s so slow. And smells. And is so tactile. In today’s sterile electronic and online world, it really feels like a breath of weird-smelling air.
The project needed a better name than “Opposite-of-Instagram” so I’ve decided to call it Project Tardigram. If you would like to be part of Project Tardigram, as a recipient, drop me a line with your postal address and I’ll send you a picture. If you’d like to be an active participant, Tweet/Toot at me, or something (I’m @techoglot on Twitter, and @TechnicalKO@aus.social on Mastodon) and show me what you’re doing.
I found lots of posts about developing film at home, but it felt like they left out some details. I’ll, inevitably, also leave things out, but I’m going to have a crack at writing a comprehensive guide to getting as far as having a dry, clean, developed film, and throwing it into a scanner.
Step 1 was gathering all the equipment I needed. It seemed daunting initially, but it turns out that I didn’t actually need that much stuff. Links to products are just as examples, and are close (or exactly) what I’m using.
There’ll also be a short section on what I plan on doing next to make life a bit easier.
A Paterson Tank needs around 300ml of each chemical per film. The DD-X and Rapid Fixer both need to be diluted 1+4 (1 part concentrate, to 4 parts water). Doing some maths, you get 60ml of concentrate, and 240ml of water, to get to 300ml in total of developer.
The IlfoStop is 1+19, so to make 300ml you need 15ml IlfoStop and 285ml water.
The Photo-Flo is 1+199, so to make 300ml I need a splash of Photo-Flo and the rest in water – this is really not critical. It does, however, get a bit bubbly if you use too much, so I try to go easy on it.
Step 2 – I’ve been out and taken some photographs, and I’m back.
I get water to the right-ish temperature (a bit over 20°C is good) and mix my chemicals with that water and pour from the measuring cylinder into clearly labelled bottles. I then dry my work-space and get ready for the trickiest bit.
When I rewind your film from the camera, I listen closely to hear when the film has rewound to the point where it’s disconnected from the winder, but hasn’t gone so far that it’s gone all the way back into the cassette. This makes life easier, because I can start it on the spool in daylight.
I cut the end bit off the film to square it off, and feed it onto the spool until it’s gone past the ball bearings that are in the reels.
This spool goes into the changing bag together with the centre post, the tank, the tank lid, and your scissors. I’m sure it’s not necessary, but I always have both spools in the tank when I develop, even if it’s just one film in the tank.
Now’s the tricky bit. I stuff my hands into the zipped up changing bag, and find all the bits. I unspool the film from the cassette and onto the spool by turning one side of the spool back and forth, while also unwinding the film from the cassette. When I’ve reached the end, I snip it off with the scissors, wind on the rest of the film so it’s all the way on, and assemble the tank and make sure I lock the lid on properly. I say this, because one time I didn’t, and the lid came off during the developing process and it wasn’t ideal.
Everything comes out of the bag, and it’s time to measure the temperatures of the chemicals. The most important one is the developer – the others are less important.
I’ve been pretty lucky and have managed to hit 19 or 20°C each time, so haven’t needed to compensate too much with the timings. Referring to the developing time chart for the film, I get the time required for developing at 20°C, then use the compensation chart to calculate the actual time required at the actual temperature. Today I did an Ilford HP5+ 400 film, which, at 20°C with Ilford DD-X needs 9 minutes. My DD-X was at at 19°C, so needed 10 minutes with temperature compensation.
The next bit, when I did it the first time, felt quite stressful. It feels like there are a lot of things to do in a short amount of time. I ran the steps through in my head a few times, as practise, and it worked out fine. The hardest part was definitely unspooling the film and getting that done neatly.
I start the timer as I pour the last bit of developer in to the tank. I then put the second lid on the tank and invert the tank 4 times, then gently tap it on the desk once or twice to make sure that any bubbles trapped in the spool come out. Every minute I invert the tank four times, tap the bench with the tank, and spend the next 50 seconds preparing the next step.
I start pouring the developer out in the last 10 seconds of the count-down, and once it’s all out, I pour in the Stop Bath. This only needs to be in for about 30 seconds, but I do make sure I swish it around thoroughly. Then I pour in the fixer which needs to be in for 3-5 minutes. I don’t know how important it is to invert this, but I make sure I do, just to make sure I get nice even coverage with the fixer.
When the time is up with the fixer, I start rinsing the film. I pour water, from the tap, into the top of the tank and let it pour for 5 to 10 minutes. It doesn’t need to flow fast, but I make sure I do a few tank-fulls of clean water first, and then leave the tap running for the 5 to 10 minutes. Then I pour in the Photo-Flo solution, give it a swish about, and pour it out.
NOW! It’s time! I can open the tank up and inspect the film. I open the spool up to remove the film, and carefully hang the film up to dry, taking care not to touch it until it’s completely dry.
I would really like to get an immersion heater to keep the chemicals at the right temperature – I think that’s going to be my next investment. And maybe a more sensibly sized measuring cylinder.
Once the film is dry, I slice it into groups of 6 frames, and scan them with my Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner. Making sure the glass is nice and clean. Removing every piece of lint is not easy, and I tell myself that the odd bit of lint adds character. Or something.
I developed a film today, and I don’t think I made any glaring mistakes. I didn’t kink the film as it went onto the spool. The whole film fit on the spool, so I didn’t need to do a random snip of the film partway along. The lid didn’t fall off the Patterson tank before the fixer had gone in. I didn’t scratch the film by impatiently running my fingers along it to speed up the drying process.
So, I’m improving from a physical technique perspective. I think that I’m also improving from a black and white film photography perspective. I’m seeing the contrasts better before I take the picture. I’m seeing what will work a bit more. Or at least I think so.
I’m very excited about this photograph, taken at Arthur’s Seat on Mount Lofty. Photographed with an Olympus OM-1, on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 film, and developed with Ilford DD-X at 1+4 dilution, for 9 mintues at 20°C.
A few weeks ago I wrote about doing wet photography again. I’m now two films in, and it’s as good as I remember it. My films aren’t working out perfectly. I’m making mistakes. A lot of them. Bad metering. Bad film handling. Bad dropping-the-film-out-of-the-Patterson-tank-during-the-developing-process. Bad walking-into-the-still-wet-film-leaving-lint-everywhere.
But, it doesn’t matter. I’m finding it incredibly relaxing. Incredibly fulfilling. And that’s exactly what I need, and exactly what I was hoping for. The last time I developed a film by hand was in year 10, and all the smells bring me right back to those hallways. Those buildings. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
If you’re a Fediversian, you can find me on my PixelFed instance. If you’re not, you should consider getting a Mastodon account at the very friendly aus.social, from where you can follow me here (@email@example.com), my Mastodon account (@TechnicalKO@aus.social), and my PixelFed instance (@KO@photos.karloskar.org). The other good place to find my photographs (other than right here!), is at Flickr.
I will do a post on my workflow, and general setup, once I’ve streamlined it a bit more.