You may remember from my previous post that I had bought myself a nice little rangefinder the Olympus 35sp but now I had a problem. Ugly orangy-red marks on my negatives and prints. I said in my last post that I had used an old, out of date film for my test roll which might have been a mistake. The problem now was I couldn’t figure out where the light leak had come from. The ebay seller had assured me the camera had just been serviced so I was hoping it wasn’t the light seals on there. Also the light leaks weren’t on every frame and seemed to recede the further into the roll I got. I surmised (wrongly it turned out) that the leak was on the canister. I guess it was wishful thinking! I really didn’t want it to be a problem of the camera I had just spent over £100 on!
I needed to shoot another roll now, of fresh film, to try to isolate the problem. Now as I was intending to develop my own film all along it made sense to grab a roll of black and white film and develop them myself.
I am all for supporting local camera stores and as there is only one left in my home town I made a trip in to buy myself all the kit I needed to develop a roll of film. If you haven’t developed a roll of film yet then have a go! You don’t need much equipment and what you do need can be picked up cheaply online or in a store. So I went to my local camera shop but they had zero equipment in unfortunately so I had to resort to eBay again. I picked up a Paterson tank and reels online then went to the Real Camera Company in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. The shop is an Aladdin’s Cave for camera lovers. They have some great stuff little miniature 35mm cameras, SLRs, Leica gear it is enough to give you a serious case of GAS.
On the advice of the staff I picked up a Black and White developing Tetenal stater kit. It has all the chemistry you need to develop: developer, stop bath, fixer and wetting agent. They also sold me a changing bag, film leader retriever and gave me some cylinders. Without getting too technical Tetenal is
fundamentally the same as R09/Rodinal.
I got home and started practicing with an old roll of expired film loading the film reel. Retrieving the leader was easy enough, you just slide the tool into the light seal on the film canister and it latches onto the sprocket holes and you can pull it out. I did this, re-winded it did it again and again and again. Once I had this down I started loading the film onto the reel first with it out in the open, then with my eyes closed, then with it in the changing bag. Once I could do this every time it was time to have a go with a real roll of film.
I rerieved the leader. I placed everything in the bag. I started to load the film onto the reel. Now, I could do this every time with the dummy roll but could I do it with a proper roll?! I think it was just that I was getting myself stressed out by it but I must have been going for about an hour till I got it on finally. All you do then is pop the reel in the tank (which is also in the changing bag) and put the lid on. Once this is done it is sealed in and light tight and everything else can be done out in the open.
The next step was quite simple, figuring out the correct dilutions of the chemicals and placing them in the tank and agitating them. The Massive Dev Chart app is really useful for figuring out times and agitations etc.
Once i was done with my developer, stop bath, fixer and final wash I hung the strip of film over my bath using the clips on a trouser hanger. You are meant to squeegee your negs to make sure you don’t get streaks but as I didn’t have one I just used my fingers.
It is an amazing experience to see your negs there in front of you. I can imagine it is even more amazing if you are printing too. Seeing your image appear in the tray. But knowing that you have actually physically made these images is a great feeling. I love digital and still get a buzz when I see a good picture but it is a much more sanitized experience than film. When you develop your own film you have actually created something. You have mechanically chosen how much light to expose onto a strip of light sensitive material. You have applied the correct chemicals and agitated them for the correct amount of time. It feels more like a hand made product, I can see how this becomes quite addictive.
Once my negs were dried I had to decide what to do with them, print or scan or photograph. I first examined the negatives with a loupe and guess what? The light leak had returned…