Film and Processing

 

For those of you interested in exploring large format photography and curious about the chemical development process, here's the approach I formerly used.  I've since sold all my large format equipment and use a Nikon D600 exclusively.

My favorite films during my large format period were Fuji Velvia 50, Fuji Astia 100f (both color reversal ['slide'] films), and Ilford Delta 100 (black and white negative film).  Color reversal film was sent to A&I Photo Labs in Los Angeles and Ivey Imaging in Seattle.  Ivey, I believe, is now closed.  In any case, I never attempted to self-process reversal film and never had any interest in color negative film.  I learned to develop black and white film at home, as described below.

JOBO ROTARY PROCESSING TANK #2521

I purchased this tank as part of Jobo's #4341 Sheet Film Tank System Kit.  The kit contains the tank (a 6-sheet, single reel daylight tank), one reel #2509n, and a loader base and guide.  I considered many of the other tanks on the market as well as trays, but when I was working in YNP I didn't have access to a well laid-out and completely dark place to screw around with development, so a daylight tank was a must, and the Jobo worked great.  The tank is made to fit onto one of Jobo's rotary processors, but they cost WAY more than what I was prepared to spend.  Jobo doesn't recommend hand inversion with this tank as it takes about 1.4 liters of developer (at capacity).  The developer I used (Pyrocat HD from Photographer's Formulary) costs $0.59/L, so I would've used hand inversion anyway.

THE PROCESSING:

I used Pyrocat HD because of its ability to separate fine tonal gradations in the highlights and because it was very inexpensive. And not in that order.  The staining action of pyro was rumored to have little effect on tabular grained films compared with traditional emulsions like Tri-X, Bergger, and Efke 100, but I didn't have the comparative experience to know.  Even if true, however, Pyrocat's low cost was enough to offset whatever staining benefits I'm failing to realize with Delta 100.  TF-4 Fixer is an alkaline fixer and was recommended by others for the fixing of staining developers such as Pyrocat.  I used Ilford's Ilfostop citric acid stop bath at 1/3 strength.

Pyrocat HD comes as a collection of pre-measured dry chemicals.  These are mixed in distilled or deionized water to form stock solutions A and B (or in propylene glycol in the case of solution A), which are then further diluted with water to form the working developer solution.  Though various dilutions are available to increase activity and to slow things down for stand development, I used the standard 1:1:100 (1 part A, 1 part B, 100 parts water).  The following development times are for Ilford 100 Delta; the post-development times (fix, wash) should work well for most other films too.  A 5 minute presoak, recommended for use w/ Pyrocat, is omitted as Ilford's Delta films have an incorporated wetting agent in the emulsion.  I tried both ways, and the results were equally good.

  • DEVELOPMENT: 11 minutes - continuous hand inversion for the first 60 seconds, followed by inversion every minute thereafter for 10 seconds each.
  • STOP BATH: 30 seconds or so – Ilfostop (Ilford's citric acid stop bath) mixed to 1/3 normal strength. 
  • FIXER:  6 minutes - TF-4 alkaline fixer: 30 seconds of inversion every minute.
  • WASHING: Three complete changes of water according to Ilford's washing scheme:
    • fill (tap water)
    • 5 inversions
    • 5 minutes of stand time
    • refill (tap water)
    • 10 inversions
    • 5 minutes of stand time
    • refill (distilled water + small amount of Ilfotol Wetting Agent)
    • 20 inversions
    • empty
    • 5 minutes of stand time
  • REMOVE FILM; hang to dry.

The Jobo tank's capacity is roughly 1.4 liters which, when slowly hand inverted, allows for sufficient agitation.  The book that explains most of this, by the way, is Anchell and Troop's The Film Developing Cookbook.  Another one to try (I haven't) is Gordon Hutching's The Book of Pyro.  To my knowledge, neither book has been updated since the debut of Pyrocat by Sandy King in 1999.  My last recommendation is John Schaefer's Basic Techniques of Photography, Book 1.  It's the best general photography book I've found, and I've flipped through quite a few.  For current info on Pyrocat HD, check out Sandy King's articles on Unblinking Eye, the Azo forum, and at his personal website.