The teacher had us practice on already exposed film, and made us close our eyes while we practiced clipping the end and spooling it up. This prepared us to do the following in a light-sealed closet:
1. Pry the film canister open with a bottle opener.
2. Clip the end of the film between the sprocket holes, in a straight line.
3. Feed the end of the film strip into the developing reel and ratchet the film the rest of the way on.
4. Drop the film into the developing can, and screw on the light-tight top.
Once we had a canister with film inside, we were able to begin the…well…this is where the hold-up occurred. The freshly-mixed Dektol was still too warm for developing, so we eventually made an ice bath in a garbage can and floated the tub of developer until it cooled sufficiently to use. This ate up a bit of time, but provided space for everybody to socialize a little bit.
We rinsed the film for a few minutes (there’s a spout that allows liquid but not light to enter), and once the solution reached an appropriate temperature, it was poured into each developing container. After much waiting and agitating, the developer was poured out, and the stop bath came next to halt the developing process. Next came the fixer to keep the image from degrading, then a cleanser, rinse, and we could open the containers for the final element – a few drops of a drying agent. By the end of the class we had developed strips of negatives, and seeing those images held up to the light was a pure form of thrill resulting from hands-on learning and understanding. We hung the strips to dry in the drying closet, and we’ll work with them next week. I can’t freaking wait.
The big take-away from developing negatives, though, was to understand the methodology and process. Because most of the intriguing work of the darkroom is in the printing, we’re not likely to process much of our own film. This is fine by me – I’d rather have the precision processing from a commercial lab for my negatives. It’s the prints I want to control, and I think we’ll have plenty of opportunity for that sort of work in class. Besides, if I have my rolls processed by Richmond Camera, I’ll have more pics scanned to CD allowing for further comparison to my prints.
Our assignment for this week:
1. Shoot one roll, 24 exposures, of portraits. The catch? One subject only. Same 400 speed film.
2. One more roll, same film as above, but any subjects we wish. Both rolls are to be processed ahead of time.
This will give us four rolls total for contact sheets next week. More pictures to come!