Black & White Film Processing Week 3

Well week 3 of processing our black & white film images is here and what can I say – everyone had a successful evening in the darkroom and only one of us managed to get into trouble!
Yes we were very pleased to see Sarah this week after her somewhat unscheduled absence last week – she was VERY hungry, it would seem. Anyway after this evenings session she is unlikely to forget what the word strip really means…………………………..but more of that later ūüôā
After a swift demonstration of how to go about producing a contact or proof sheet and the subsequent (artistic – signed copies will be available on E Bay very soon) print by Marc, thanks very much, we were let loose on our own in the darkroom, so what did we do I hear you ask, listen very carefully and I will begin.

A major advantage of developing your own film is that it allows you to examine your images and decide on which negatives are worth printing.
In order to help you select which negs you want to print we can first make a contact print.¬† A contact print gives you a “positive” image which¬†whilst they are quite¬†small (the same size as the negative), they are the¬†‘right way round’ – that is, the shades of light to dark are those of the original scene and not the reverse image¬†that the¬†negative gave. It helps to use a Linen Tester or indeed¬†a simple household magnifier in order to view the contact images in detail.

The contact prints can also serve as a record or filing system of your work. It allows you to fit an entire 36 exposure roll of 35mm film on a single sheet of 8″ x 10″ enlarging paper. Which is why we cut our 35mm negatives into strips of 6 frames each last week.

There are six steps to the process of making a contact print: exposure, development, stop bath, fixing, washing and drying.

Once we began the process the dark room had to be lit only by a safelights and the normal lights can only be turned back on again once your print has been processed through the fixer step .

But before mixing our chemicals and having to switch to safelights we carefully placed our negatives into a Contact Frame, in order to produce a contact print you need something to hold the negatives flat against the printing paper this is what the contact printer does, along with guides which hold the negative strips in position. This part can be carried out with the room light on.  
We secured our negatives into the Contact printing frame ensuring the glossy side was against the glass so that when the frame is closed the emulsion side of the negative would be in contact with the face of the print paper.

At this point we were ready to mix our chemicals.

First off, as always, we checked the manufacturers instructions regarding mixing ratios, temperature and health & safety advice for the chemicals we were about to use.
Ilford Bromophen  
mix ratio 4:1 (in our case 24fl oz water/6fl oz developer) @ 20deg C
Stop Bath:
Ilford Ilfostop
mix ratio 19:1 (in our case 19fl oz water/1fl oz developer) @ 20deg C
Ilford Hypam
mix ratio 4:1 (in our case 24fl oz water/6fl oz developer) @ 20deg C

We then layed out 3 developing trays, and 3 pairs of tongs whilst Susan filled a large graduated jug with 24fl oz of mixed hot & cold water to the required 20 degree C. and added 6fl oz of developer mixed it well and decanted this into the first tray. She carried out the same procedure with both the stop bath and fixer so that we then had 30fl oz of developer on the left, 20fl oz of stop bath in the middle and 30fl oz of fixer on the right, nearest the sink.

The Exposure Process
Having adjusted the height of the enlarger head so that the illumination covers the entire paper area of the contact printing frame I adjusted the aperture two stops down from wide open so around f/4-f/5.6.
At this point it was off with the white lights and on with the safelights, I got a sheet of printing paper from the storage box and placed this into the Contact Frame and then closed the frame securing the negatives against the paper. 

Placing a sheet of opaque card over approx 80% of the Contact Frame I exposed the paper in 3 second increments, sliding the card off the frame by approx 35mm each time. Thereby creating a test image with the following range of exposures 3/6/9/12/15secs.

I then removed the exposed paper from the Contact Frame and slide this into the developer tray, ensuring a smooth wave of developer swept over the entire surface as quickly as possible and gently agitated the tray whilst the image developed for 1 minute.
After developing I removed it from the developer using the first set of tongs, allowed it to drain before placing face down in the stop bath for 30 secs, then using the next set of tongs I remove the paper from the stop bath then straight into the fixer tray.

Note: we use seperate tongs to prevent cross contamination of chemicals, thus preserving their longevity, with care it may be possible to process up to 36 10 x 8 prints before the developer expires.

After fixing for approx 15 minutes, or longer, I rinsed the print quickly and took it out of the darkroom to inspect the images, from this test image I selected 9 seconds as giving the most suitable exposure with the best tonal range and contrast.

So back into the darkroom and, with safelighting on, I placed a new sheet of paper in the Contact Frame and re-closed it. Set the enlarger timer to 9 seconds and pressed go. After exposing the paper I once again developed it for 1 minute, rinsed in stop bath, fixed, washed and put through the print dryer. I now carefully checked over the proof images using my linen tester and selected one or two images that showed a good contrast & tonal range one of which was chosen as my “proper” print I made a note of the image number on the side of the film carrier.

Having selected the correct negative I placed this into the enlargers negative carrier tray, ensuring it was glossy side up.  Opening up the aperture fully I switched on the enlarger`s lamp and adjusted the size and focus of the image on the easel mask.

This was all carried out with safelighting on, after double checking the focus I stepped down the shutter by two stops and switched off the enlarger lamp.
I then took a 1″ strip of photographic paper from the paper stock and positioned this across the masking easel. I then carried out the same test exposure process I had used on the Contact sheet, masking the test strip and exposing it in 3 sec increments just as before.
Then following the same 1 minute developing time, stop bath and quick fix & rinse and switching on white lights I checked the test strip exposures in order to select the best exposure time which in this case appeared to be under 12 secs but a little more than 9 secs based on this I switched off the white lights and once back on safelighting only I placed a full sheet of paper onto the masking easel and exposed this for 10.5 secs.

This was then developed for 1 minute, run through the stop bath and leaving under safelight conditions for 15 minutes before placing in the print washer for about 15 minutes also. Then a quick run through the print dryer and my print was done.

Unfortunately due to the fact that I do not currently have a flatbed scanner I have no way of uploading this image to the computer at this time.

Until next week guys and gals

I have`nt forgotten about Sarahs strip issue but for the sake of modesty and in fear of moderation I better leave her to post the details on her own blog.¬† ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

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Black & White Film Processing Week 2

Tuesday 9th March
 Tonight we develop!
And not before time some Anthropologists might claim.

To Boldly Go......

Despite yet another Fire Drill spent trapped in the car park, still without an escape exit we did manage to get into the darkroom eventually.

After an initial briefing by Marc as to how to go about developing the rolls of 35mm we shot last week and had left stored in their respective development tanks,

Exploded view of development tank

 we trooped off to the darkroom, donned our safety goggles and protective aprons Рyou cant be too safe!




Health & Safety Notes:-
Photographic chemicals should be handled with reasonable care.
Try to avoid getting chemicals onto and/or into your body.

If at any point, you get chemicals on you, into your body or there is a chemical spill, it is important to take of the incident immediately, including washing the chemical off, and letting the instructor and/or lab instructor know to assist immediately for the safety of yourself and others in the lab.
If you do get chemicals on your skin, wash immediately.
Avoid Getting Chemicals Into Eyes.
If you do get chemicals in your eye, wash immediately with cool running water from the nearest source, faucet or eyewash station for 15 minutes.
Get immediate medical attention after washing eye.
Avoid Getting Chemicals Into Mouth
Wash hands after working with chemicals in both the film processing rooms and darkrooms, especially before eating.
Clean up any chemical spills as soon as possible.
If a spill occurs it is important to contain the spill and notify the instructor and/or lab technician immediately to determine how the spill should be cleaned up.
Clean your clothing and shoes if they come into contact with the chemical.

Disposal of photographic chemicals
With the exception of the fixer, it is environmentally safe to dispose the film developing chemistry down the sink.
As per college and local environmental regulations, you are required to dispose of the fixer in the provided recycling container.

Developing Our Films
Firstly it might be worth looking into why we need to develop these films Рwell once you have taken your shots and the image has been exposed in the camera onto the film, the picture has been made, but nothing shows on the film.
The image is there, but it is what is referred to as a latent image.

This latent image is formed by the changes to the silver halide crystals within the film’s emulsion upon exposure to light.
This image will only become visible after chemical development takes place.

In this instance we were using Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer and Ilford Hypam Fixer.

We checked out the manufacturers specification sheets for the Developer and Fixer we were using in order to obtain the correct development time and mixing ratio`s which for the developer in this case was 6 minutes 30 sec @ 20degree C. developing time and mixed at 9:1 (18 fl. oz. water / 2 fl. oz. developer).
The fixer needed to be mixed at a ratio of 4:1 (16 fl. oz. water / 4 fl. oz. fix) and should remain in the tank for 3 X the developing time (18 minutes).

We filled one graduated measuring cylinder to the 18fl oz mark with a mixture of hot & cold (to get the temperature to 20 deg. C) and added the required 2 fl. oz. of  developer. Taking another graduate we filled this with 16 fl. oz. of water and added 4 fl. oz. of Hypam.

Try to be consistent in the darkroom

(note: If you consistantly use 2 differing sized graduated cylinders for your developer and fixer it will reduce the risk of mixing them up and possibly ruining your film by adding fixer first! – This is NOT A GOOD THING!)

We were now ready to begin so ensuring the clock was set to 6 + 1/2 minutes the developer was swiftly added to the developing tank and with the lid swiftly replaced I agitated the tank for the first full minute and then for 10 seconds on every minute thereafter. This is needed to ensure a consistent covering of all the film and to try to prevent bubbles or streaks forming on the emulsion.

Regular Agitation Is Crucial

After the required developing time you must remove the lid and drain the developer rapidly from the tank before rinsing thoughroughly with water and then swiftly pouring in the fixer and agitating the tank again Рas per the previous timings.

It was whilst we were in the process of draining the developer from one of the two tanks we were developing on this particular evening when this weeks disaster struck, upon inverting one of the tanks the light tight funnel fell out into the sink!
Without panicking the funnel was very swiftly re-inserted into the tank but everyone feared the worst, the 2 rolls of film were probably ruined, having been fogged by the darkroom lights. Without much hope we continued to fix both tanks and then after draining out the fixer (back into the storage tank as it can be re-used) we left the two tanks rinsing under running cold water taps for 15 minutes or so.

After rinsing thoughroughly we removed the funnels from our two tanks and removed the spirals to inspect the films and by some miracle all four rolls of film had been developed perfectly! Even the two which had the funnel fall out! This was amazing, and good news indeed.

All that was left to do was hang the rolls up in the drying cabinet and, after drying, cut the negs into strips of 6 and put them into neg storage files.


Next week – contact printing

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Black & White Film Processing Week 1

Tuesday 2nd MarchTonight we all practiced loading developming tank spirals before getting down and very dark in the college darkroom.

Loading A Developing Tank Spiral


But first we were given a Vivitar SLR film camera and shown the controls, how to set the ISO (in our case 400 as we were using rolls of some new black and white film from a manufacturer I have never heard of, Kentmere? Anyone come across this before?

Vivitar SLR Camera


Anyway it was a joy to see and hear the comments from certain (younger members who had never seen a film camera before!) whilst Marc ran through the controls and theory behind using a film camera. We were shown how to adjust both aperture size and shutter speeds in order to get the built in exposure meter to give us the nod that we had managed to get a combination of speed and aperture that would give us the correct exposure – keep looking for the green light Susan.

Then it was off into the studio where we all tried desperately, and somewhat chaotically, to shoot 24 exposures each. All semblance of photographic discipline seemed to go out the window and a free for all portrait shoot of each other seemed to evolve, still no one asked for prize winning images!

Finally we all went into the darkroom and tried to load our dev tank spirals, remove the film cannister and place 2 loaded spirals in each development tank correctly befor fitting the light fast funnel and finally light tight lids. As we had run out of time we labelled these tanks with what was loaded and put them away to be developed next week. WATCH THIS SPACE FOR THE RESULTS!

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Photographic Assignment Editorial – Part 7

Some of those that got away!

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Photographic Assignment Editorial – Part 6

Double Page Spread Infill Images

This is a series of 3 images that are superimposed over the right hand edge of the main image.

Image 1 – Berries & Balls was shot in the studio using 2 Red Head continuous tungsten lights both set some distance back from the left and right of the subject at approx 45 degree angles both with their barn doors closed down in an attempt to create just a small but bright light source to add a “sparkle” and small highlights to the¬† highly reflective items in the composition, my main aim was to get a colourful, high contrast image by setting the lighting almost at the same level as the subject. My main difficulty was getting the right amount of light on the left to fill in the petals on the stainless steel flower without blowing it out, and despite trying I didnt manage to light this as well as I would have liked, in retrospect I think a large softbox brought closer to that side might well have been a solution as the diffused light might have lifted the shadows without burning out the highlights, more to experiment with there. Despite this I really liked the way the side lighting was refracted by the fluid filled spheres and created their own little pools of brightness and shadow against which the bright red berries stand out well – maybe the flower was an item too far but I knew it would create a lighting problem which is why I included it.







Image 2 – The Coconut Shoot¬† another “movement” shot. However¬†this ended up as two seperate sessions at home, the first attempt was carried out at the same time as my page one Wine & Rose shoot¬†however I was never really satisfied with the lighting on this attempt, the problem¬†seemed to be I either got good lighting but missed the¬†movement or caught the movement but was underexposed! Using a single flash, and dropping desicated coconut flakes is obviously a job that requires better timing or possibly two people I guess, or maybe a better photographer or more practice.






 Not one to admit defeat I had a second attempt at this image, I was determined to get a better image so, reasoning more diffused ambient light was required I cut open the coconut to reveal the inner white flesh Рthis reduced the amount of darkness in the main image hence permitting a faster shutter speed at any given aperature, thereby increasing the chance of capturing the movement! And this was the result, I think you`ll agree a much better outcome than the 1st attempt.








Image 3 РRed Chillies Pickled chillies in a jar simply lit by daylight from behind in an attempt to get a warm, Christmas style feeling to the picture. Not entirely convinced it works, the problem I had was if lit from in front or the side the hand made glass of the bottle threw wild highlights all over the place so in the end I settled for just a matt finished white reflector held above and forward of the jar which gave a flat even distribution across the front face, so you cannot see the glass, but I feel it needs more light.

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Photographic Assignment – Editorial Part 5

Double Page Spread Images – Main Image

Having poured over food websites and food photography sites in particular I decided to try and create an image that expressed that “bright start of the day” feeling so beloved of the advertising industry when trying to sell us breakfast cereals and such like.
As you know I was experimenting with the use of a mirror as a base board for my cover shot from which efforts I discovered that the mirror seems to generate high levels of ambient light within the image background, this was further explored in this shoot (see Editorial Part 1 РPiece Of Cake) so set about creating a suitable arrangement based upon those earlier efforts.

My first decision was what item of food to shoot, I wanted something breakfast orientated and with some real colour, preferably contrasting primary colours to stand out against the bright lighting. Having searched our local Sainsbury supermarket for inspiration I elected to go with a ripe watermelon as I felt the contrast of bright red flesh against the green of the skin would give me a good colour composition against the bright white background. Also being a large item it would give me greater scope for creating the shallow depth of field I wanted in order to create that “1st thing in the morning¬†feeling”.

I decided to use flash and to set up a large mirror directly against a North facing window in the early morning, to try and capture that crisp bright high incidence light we get at the begining of the day to backlight my composition. Before taking my actual magazine shots I firstly experimented with the whole watermelon against a very blue sky to see if there was an interesting shot to be had, perhaps for inclusion in a surreal photomontage later.

Surreal Watermelon










Whilst this was an interesting diversion and may be something to explore at a later date it was time to get on with the shoot proper so cutting a few slices of melon I set about creating a suitable composition and getting my camera angle low, almost level with the mirror I took a few test shots using the cameras meter 1/640th @ f4.5 was indicated as the correct exposure the result of which was this. 



1/640th @ f4.5






These initial test shots were taken without flash just to get a feel for the composition, angles and depth of field right. As a consequence they were underexposed as can be seen here.    
After settling on an basic arrangement I liked I fitted my cameras Speedlight flash and aimed this to the left where I had a white reflector set up to try and bounce some fill in light onto the front of the melon and adjusted the exposure to try and over expose the reflected light from the mirror whilst “holding” the¬†exposure of the melons.¬†1/100th @ f4.5.

1/100th @ f4.5







Whilst I was quite happy with the result but it just seemed to be lacking something. I felt that as a composition it was not well balanced and needed something to draw the eye into the image, after rummaging in the cutlery drawer I settled on the stainless steel zester seen below.


Melon With Zester


I particularly like the way in which its lines intersect the reflected image and its general shape, colour and reflective qualities seemed to be exactly what the image needed to bring it together. 

At this point it was just a case of adding the fill-in flash and fine tuning the exposure to acheive my final image.

Final Image 1/8th sec @ f7.1 with bounced fill in flash



¬†I expect you have already spotted the deliberate mistake with my picture………………………….¬† yes in order for this picture to¬†best suit the page layout it is in fact the wrong way round! I had realised this before shooting the final image but with the window and other kitchen fixtures being immovable objects I could only shoot it this way round to obtain the lighting as I wanted it within these restrictions and I knew it was a simple matter to flip the final image in Photoshop, which was all the post production I did, with the exception of text and borders etc.¬†

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Photographic Assignment – Editorial Part 4

Drinks images

As this page was predominantly about drink with my next photographs I decided to try and capture some movement by using both slow shutter speeds (to create blurring) and flash (to freeze the action), I was also trying to capture a feeling of indulgence and excess by using wide apertures in order to create a shallow depth of field to try and add a bit of dreamlike quality to the pictures.

I set up a cut glass tumbler on a shallow tray (to catch the overspill, well some of it!) against a black backdrop. I set up my camera on a tripod and tried a few test shots to get a feel for the composition but found that close in with my wide angle lens was not giving me the very tight cropped image I wanted so switched to my 300mm telephoto which has a macro facility. After re-positioning the tripod to a distance that would permit correct focusing I was ready to go.
I placed a quantity of ice in the glass and a stainless steel corkscrew followed by a slice of lemon and partially filled it with coloured carbonated water and after turning off the lights I again took a couple of test shots to get an idea of the exposure needed and to see what sort of depth of field I was getting. After checking the ISO (100) and white balance (flash) I ensured that the image was sharp and took a series of images whilst pouring more carbonated water into the glass from a height.

Despite several litres of Malverns finest engulfing the kitchen floor I eventually obtained several usable images, all via flash. It proved impossible to obtain a decent blurred effect by using slow shutter speeds as either I missed the water altogether or the backdrop was too light rendering the image indistinct.

Drinks Images

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Final Small Drinks Image 1Final Small Drinks Image 2

Final Large Drinks Image

Final Small Drinks Image 2




Whilst I am happy with the results of this shoot I could of obtained a for controlled series of shots had I had a larger glass and pouring vessel, not to mention overspill tray, and an assistant to pour whilst I shot the frames, as it was I had to use the cameras self-timer whilst I tried to time the pouring, not altogether easy in a blacked out room! I feel I might of benefitted from using two seperate studio flash units either side of the subject as these would have given a more even distribution of light and I could also adjust the power output of individual lamps independantly to create a highlighted side and a shadowside, as it was I only had my Speedlite to hand and had to make do with that mounted on the camera. It might well of been better mounted off camera and moved slightly away from the dead ahead position to better light the centre of the glass, but without a remote flash & shutter control I feel I got the best I could in the circumstances.

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