Welcome to my lab
So that left the black and white (silver) photographs…what to do with those? Like E6 the prices for processing B&W film are usually pricey, unlike E6 there wasn’t a place that would do it at basic cost – cheapest was Peak at £4.44 and that had to be sent off, and probably postage extra. So I decided to get out the ol’ Paterson tank that I’d kept, and all the other gear which is still in serviceable nick. I used to regularly develop film, especially during my C&G days – I had a leaky old secondhand tank before then, but got a nice 2 roll tank when I was doing my C&G and needed to cheaply develop a lot of film, and a changing bag. Weirdly the newer spiral sticks, the older one is fine…
Problem was I accidentally smashed my thermometer years ago (no not in a fit of pique, just moving it) and so needed a new one…but it seems no-one actually sells mercury or spirit thermometers anymore. Yes you can get them online, but not actually in a shop…well you can pay £14-18 pounds for a gold-plated Paterson or ‘photographic’ one – why is it whenever the word ‘photography’ is added to anything the sellers eyes light up and wants to charge double for the same thing? Do they think all photogs are made of money? – but seriously unless you are doing colour developing you don’t need that sort of accuracy. For black and white all you need is a cooking or propagation thermometer with the scale around 20 degree (that’s the hard bit).
So eventually I got a ‘Milk/Latte’ thermometer from Nisbets catering shop in Shaftesbury Avenue…works fine and makes a damn fine cup of coffee! No not tried it with coffee but it measures just fine. And was about 8 quid – there was an even cheaper one at 4 quid but there was only one so couldn’t check if they were usually consistent. Online there are loads of thermometers, just remember that the scale needs to go down to 20 degrees C or whatever temperature you usually develop – a lot of the cooking thermometers I found started at 50 – and I didn’t trust the fridge thermometers to withstand the chemicals! Also the latter thermometer has a long ‘stalk’ which is really convenient for mostly empty bottles or poking into the tank to check the temperature where the film is – I saw a cheaper stubby traditional thermometer at West End Cameras for a fiver but obviously you’d have to hold it all the time.
So after the palaver of finding a cheaper (if not really cheap) thermometer, I needed chemicals…not of that sort, although after spending far too much time in Robert Dyas and hardware shops a little recreation would have not gone amiss…no I needed developing chemicals, and fixer. I’m used to Ilford ID11 developer, and see there’s a newer one called Ilfosol S obviously designed for the lomography/small batch home developer. It’s expensive though, ID11 was reasonable but even at 1:1 wouldn’t cover 5 films and it’s really not recommended to reuse it especially dilute. There are all kinds of fancy developers out there, Rodinal etc but they tend to be specifically suited for certain films and as I had a motley mixture of makes I needed a general purpose developer.
So I went with Kodak D76 which is almost chemically the same as ID11 and about as old a formula and Agefix, Agfa’s fixer which is discontinued at Process Supplies where I also get my storage stuff from (more later about that) – I think the D76 which was more than enough at 3.8 litres cost around 4 pounds, and the fixer which again was far more than I’d ever need was 7 pounds. Slightly cheaper than Silverprint or West End Cameras, but not massively different.
So after all that…time to develop some film. After wrestling with the film and the bottle opener (hmm Kodak seem to weld their cannisters shut!) and finding out conveniently that my shower head screws off making a handy power washer, I start to develop my first films in years.