That Was The Month That Was: September 2018

Time for September’s round-up of photographic odds and ends…

It’s been an extraordinary summer, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that this has officially been England’s hottest since records began in 1910. That’s troubling for those of us that believe global warming is a reality. The human race is on the road to extinction, and the planet will soon become uninhabitable for all life. Except perhaps for a few mindless creatures, such as cockroaches and Nicotine Fromage. On the other hand, I’ve had some cracking weekends this year, so it’s swings and roundabouts really.

It’s probably been obvious from previous photos that there have been dogs in my life this summer. That’s made me very happy. And they love it when we take them to the pond. Even Daisy, who’s 15 and a bit unsteady on her legs, still enjoys a bit of a paddle.

Pentax KM / Kosmo Foto Mono / Semi-Stand developed in HC-100 1:160 for 45 mins

It’s not entirely accurate to say this is only the second roll of Kosmo Foto Mono that I’ve shot. It’s a re-badged rather than a new film, and as the website says, it’s an “existing emulsion made by a European film producer”. That might be all the clue you need to tell you where it comes from, but if you look at the development chart you’ll see that Arisata chemicals are predominately mentioned. And Arista film is also known to be repackaged from a well-known East European manufacturer….

Kosmo Foto Mono doesn’t quite have the biting sharpness and fine grain of something like Tmax 100, but that probably contributes to its somewhat vintage look. These shots were taken in the South Downs, where Coco The Cocker and Daisy The Springer live.

I’ve read that having dogs can have a positive effect on your health and well-being, and increase your longevity. I totally buy this and always feel incredibly happy and relaxed when I spend time with these guys. Apparently being married can have a similar effect, although that’s something I wouldn’t know. Nevertheless, it’s probably just a case of life just feeling like it’s going on longer. (I’m joking; I’m not quite that cynical. Yet.)

I live in Chertsey, right by the River Thames, which is great to cycle alongside. Upstream is Hampton Court and central London, but I usually head the other way, towards Windsor.

I finished up this roll as I walked back home one sunny afternoon. This was another opportunity for me to try out the Miranda 24mm Lens on the Pentax KM.

My Five Favourite Facts About Chertsey:

  • Chertsey was destroyed by Martian fighting machines in the afternoon of 8 June 1902. According to HG Wells’s novel War Of The Worlds, that is.
  • The One And Only 1990s teenage heartthrob Chesney Hawkes lives here. Please try to contain your indifference.
  • Chertsey has a spooky abandoned orphanage. I dodged the razor wire and surveillance cameras to make a surreptitious visit back in 2015.
  • Chertsey is home to The Great Cockcrow Railway. This is a miniature railway with over 30 steam – yes, steam – locomotives. These operate in exactly the same way as the full sized, pre-war steam engines they’re modelled on. The drivers stoke up the hot coals on these eighth-scale locos.
  • Charles Dickens visited Chertsey whilst writing Oliver Twist. He evidently thought so highly of the town that he used it as the location for where Oliver is forced by Bill Sykes to take part in an attempted burglary.

After my successful experiments stand developing 35mm film in HDC-110, I thought I’d try some medium format. FP4 is my go-to medium speed film in 120, and I usually stand develop it in Rodinal. HC-110 gives similarly pleasing results.

Mamiya 645 pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Semi-Stand developed in HC-100 1:160 for 45 mins

Finally, if there’s one thing that being on the internet for 25 years has taught me, you can never have enough cute dog pictures. Cheers, Coco.

Nikon F90X / Kodak Tmax 400 / Developed in D76 1+1

All The President’s Tweets

I’ve read all the literary outpourings of an adolescent serial bankrupt and money launderer who played a successful businessman on a reality TV show. And now I’ve read the book by a world-renowned investigative journalist who was played by Hollywood legend Robert Redford in a blockbuster movie. I’m nothing if not balanced.

Nikon F90 / Kodak Tmax 400 / Developed in D76 1+1

Bluebell & Ella

My life: now with added chickens. Four of them in fact. This one’s called Bluebell, and you can look forward to plenty of chicken related content in coming months. Not to mention some clucking awful poultry themed puns. You lucky people.

Nikon F90X / Kodak Tmax 400 / Developed in D76 1+1

Stand Development With HC-110

Several years back I gave Kodak HC-110 a go for developing my 35mm films. Up until then I’d mainly been using D76. But HC-110 is very economical, and in it’s undiluted, syrupy form it stays usable for many years. As it turned out, I found it to be less sharp and less contrasty than D76, which is why I’ve still got most of the bottle under the kitchen sink. But I had thought that one day I’d try and do some stand development with it.

Stand development is the process where film is left in a very dilute developing solution for an extended period of time, with little or no agitation. The theory is that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development, while remaining active in less-exposed areas. In other words, the highlights don’t burn out whilst the shadows develop a bit more detail. Not all developers are suitable for this, but I’ve been using this method successfully for many years with Rodinal. I’ve found that I only get satisfactory results with traditional grain rather than T-grain films, which is why I mainly use FP4 and Tri-X rather than Tmax and Delta in 120 format. For 35mm, I find Rodinal too grainy, irrespective of the method used.

I came across a roll of exposed 35mm film that I’d slung in the back of a drawer and forgotten about. It was a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono so I knew it couldn’t be that old. Nevertheless, I wasn’t sure what was on it or even what camera I’d used. But the very fact I’d forgotten about it meant it was unlikely to contain anything of consequence to rival the Zapruder film. So I thought it was worth taking a chance with.

After some rummaging around online I decided to give it a go with a dilution of 1:160 for 45 mins. I threw in a single gentle inversion at the halfway mark, so technically it’s semi-stand development, but it’s still development for lazy guys. I’m quite pleased with the results. Grain is very fine and contrast is well controlled but still punchy. Oh, and after seeing the pictures I think the camera used was my Nikon FE.

Camera: Nikon FE (probably) / Kosmo Foto Mono / Semi-Stand developed with HC-110 1:160

My dear friend Ella

Ah, double exposure. That’s Charles James Fox ( 1749 to 1806). Onetime local resident and the first ever British Foreign Secretary. Much like a more recent Foreign Secretary, he was an Old Etonian who had a reputation for being lazy, a womaniser, and having ridiculous hair. However, Fox was a passionate campaigner for abolishing the slave trade, which is not something I can imagine Boris Johnson wanting to waste his precious time on.


2018 is the year that racism has gone mainstream again. Apparently it’s now acceptable for senior British government members to have secret strategy meetings with a white nationalist like Steve Bannon. And nobody seems to bat an eyelid. I’m talking about you Jacob Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson. And yes, that’s the same Steve Bannon who says his supporters should wear the term racism as a badge of honour. The same guy who co-founded racist, misogynist blog Breitbart (I’m not going to call it a news site), a site that helpfully has a black crime section and headlines like ‘Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy’.

I’m not proud of my country at the moment.

Coco the levitating cocker enjoying the beach at Camber Sands

Waston S T R E T C H E S

I thought it’d be interesting to see how this process handled a 400 speed film, and as it happened I had a roll of exposed Tri-X kicking around. These were shot on the Nikon F90X, and developed in exactly the same way: 4ml of HC-110 in 636ml of water to make a working solution of 640ml. That’s a ratio of 1:160. For a single roll of 35mm you only need 300ml of solution to cover the film in the tank, so I could probably have halved the amount. On the other hand, sometimes you need a minimum amount of developer per roll so any less than 4ml might not have been enough. To be honest, I can’t exactly remember how I hit upon these figures. Nevertheless, I’ve got the best part of a litre of HC-110 left, so at 4ml per roll that’s 250 films; I’m not running out anytime soon.

Camera: Nikon F90X / Kodak Tri-X / Semi-Stand developed with HC-110 1:160

My beautiful 1950s Franka Solida IIIe, with fantastic uncoupled rangefinder. This is the best implementation of an uncoupled rangefinder I’ve seen on an old folding camera. It’s bright and accurate, and you read the distance off a very large and clear scale on the top plate.

You get some weird looks photographing shopping trollies

The grain in the sky in these shots is very well controlled for Tri-X. This is the gym I go to, which is just 5 minutes walk from home. Because It’s important not to over-exercise.

These are the streets surrounding my home. When there’s blue sky they’ll always be an orange filter on my lens. It’s essential accessory for darkening skies and I have one for every single camera and lens I own. A step up ring is handy for cameras with obscure lens sizes, like the 43.5mm diameter of the Olympus Trip.

Daisy was dead chuffed to find out what great tonality she has when developed this way


So there you go. I’m happy with these. The price of D76 in 1 litre packs has shot up over the last year, so it looks like I might use up that bottle under the sink after all.

Useful links:

She Shoots Film: How To Develop Black & White Film The Lazy Way
J B Hildebrand Photography: Stand Development with Rodinal
HJLPHOTOS: An Introduction to Stand Development with HC-110

Mixing It Up With Caffenol

Run out of your usual black and white developer? No longer have a traditional film store in your local high street? Annoyed by people asking you rhetorical questions? Then pop in to town and pick up a jar of cheap instant coffee, some soda crystals, and a dash of powdered vitamin C. Mix with water and voilà : you have caffenol.

Here’s What You’ll Need

Instant Coffee: Coffee contains caffeic acid, which acts as the developing agent. Any old cheap rubbish will do by all accounts. I bought the cheapest and nastiest stuff I could find.

Soda Crystals: A developer needs to be alkaline to work, but coffee is fairly acidic. That’s where soda crystals come in. Adding them to the mix raises the PH and allows the development process to kick in.

One thing I found from my research that you don’t often see mentioned, is the different types of soda crystals. Most recipes you find online assume the soda crystals are anhydrous (i.e. water free). However, here in the UK the most common brand you’re likely to come across is Dri-Pack Crystals. These are not anhydrous, and people who are smarter and have more time on their hands than me have worked out you should multiply the amount by 2.7 to compensate for this.

Powdered Vitamin C: This considerably speeds up the developing time, making the process more practical. You should be able to pick this up from a pharmacist or health food store like Holland & Bollocks. Strictly speaking what I’m making here is known as caffenol-C. You can make plain old vanilla caffenol without the vitamin C – the only difference is you’ll be hanging around for a lot longer.

The Quantities

To make 1 litre:

  • 150g Dri-Pak Soda Crystals
  • 16g Vitamin-C powder
  • 40g Instant Coffee
  • Water to make 1000ml of solution

I don’t think this stuff really keeps, so it’s best to mix only what you need. Here are the minimum amounts to process a single roll of 35mm and 120 in a paterson tank:

35mm

  • 45g Dri-Pak Soda Crystals
  • 4.8g Vitamin-C powder
  • 12g Instant Coffee
  • Water to make 300ml of solution

120

  • 90g Dri-Pak Soda Crystals
  • 9.6g Vitamin-C powder
  • 24g Instant Coffee
  • Water to make 600ml of solution

The Method

  • Fill the beaker with half the target amount of water. In other words, 300ml if you want to create 600ml of developer.
  • Add in the soda crystals and stir for a good few minutes until dissolved. This seems to quickly lower the temperature by about 10℃. If I had a clue about chemistry I might be able to tell you why.
  • Vitamin C next; make sure it’s properly stirred-in.
  • Repeat as above with the coffee. Things don’t look or smell too good at this stage.
  • Top up with water to the desired level; 600ml in this example. Mix.
  • It’s probably a good idea to let it rest for 5 minutes or so, just to let the bubbles settle. You can use this time to get it to the pre-requiste 20℃ whilst you’re waiting. Putting the beaker in a bowl of hot water is good for raising the temperature. To lower the temperature of my developer I always use the genius invention that is plastic ice cubes.
  • From here on you can develop as normal, at the usual temperature of 20℃. For this roll of Tri-X 12 minutes worked well for me. After emptying the developer down the sink, give the tank a good rinse with water rather than using stop (I rarely use stop these days), and fix and rinse as normal.

In was really surprised how well these pictures came out. I thought they’d be some compromise; that they wouldn’t be particularly sharp or perhaps too grainy. But this seems to work as well as any other developer. I don’t know how often I’ll be using Caffenol in the future, but I’ll certainly keep the ingredients handy in the cupboard in case of emergencies.

All photos taken with Yashica Mat on Kodak Tri-X. Developed in Caffenol-C for 12 minutes