Untitled photo

The data imprint between the frames gives away that this film was put through my Nikon F6 – their original retro camera design. This is the first roll I've developed from a camera with a meter since I started doing my own film over nine months ago. So after forty or fifty rolls from unmetered, toy, and pinhole cameras I finally know if I'm doing it right.

It turns out I have been. Yay me.

There's always a lull in blog content here as my photography pauses around the end of June, and it's been a long time since I've done a gear post. So here's what I use for developing film.

Untitled photo

The chemistry set.

I use Ilford's powdered developers, which I can special-order in large quantities from my local camera store and then keep in a cupboard indefinitely. I currently still have five boxes each of Perceptol and Microphen on hand; the bottle for ID-11 (D76) is empty because I haven't actually started using that one yet. The store does keep packs of it in stock, so I'll add it in as I run down my inventory of the others a bit.

Perceptol is for special occasions, getting only four rolls from a $10 box, but it's awesome with Fujifilm Acros or Ilford Pan F shot at EI 25. Microphen gets 10 rolls from a $10 box, and I like its slight push, so I use it for everything else, including Pan F at EI 64. But who am I kidding – I mostly use it to develop Ortho Plus 80, which is why its label is yellow and Perceptol's is orange/red. Ortho can't see red, making it easier to remember which is which.

Putting fixer in an orange bottle, and the developers in green, seems obvious. But those orange bottles are tougher to find and cost a bit more, so that's a recent upgrade. All of these bottles are 1L, which is enough to fill a three-roll tank.

Untitled photo

Most of everything else.

My immortal bottle of photo-flo – the only Kodak product I use – fits neatly in my 600ml graduated cylinder, which I only use to measure hot water for mixing up the powdered developers. I used to need it all the time, since I'd do one-shot developing with diluted solution, but switched to reusing stock strength months ago. Now I barely measure anything.

The metal Kleen Kanteen bottle has about a 1.2L capacity, so it's what I use when I'm mixing powder or straining an older bottle of developer using the cheapest coffee filters that I could find at Whole Frills. It's also handy because I can run water over it to change the temperature of the developer inside it. I know they say "room temperature" is fine, but my storage room temperature ranges from 18 degrees in the winter to 24 degrees in the summer.

My cold water tap is just as variable, so I do get a lot of use out of the thermometer that's sitting in the metal mug along with my special mixing tool (an old table knife), squeegee, and marker for keeping track of how many rolls of film each bottle of developer has done. Those HDPE Nalgene bottles have strips of painter's tape with the mixed date and count marked down, but somehow none of them show in that photo. (You know what they say: oh, well.) I used to use the mug for holding and measuring temperature for the water that I'd mix in when diluting one-shot solutions, but that was just more work that I really needed.

Also important are the vinyl gloves that I'll wear every single time I'm handing the chemistry without fail ever, honest, and the printouts of the developing times and time-temperature charts from Ilford's website. Even the fabric that's acting as a table cloth here is part of the kit – I have a pair of these towels that I only use for drying tanks and bottles. They're washed regularly because they end up smelling like fixer.

Untitled photo

The bin, ready for transport between the storage room and the work room.

The binder clips are what I use to hang the film, and the smaller orange ones are useful for weighting the bottom of a 35mm strip or for holding a coffee filter in place if I'm straining the developer. And the orange rubberized tie with the two clips attached is my drying line. It spans from the shower head to the curtain rod with enough room for two or three rolls, which is as much as I can mentally handle at a time.

One of the best things I've done – second only to figuring out how to load 35mm film onto the reels in daylight – is putting those large silver magnets onto the drying line. The binder clips just snick into place, no fuss or fumbling when I have a wet roll of film dangling from them. (Okay, a slightly damp roll of film. I really enjoy using the squeegee.) I have other magnets beside my desk to hold the film strip as I cut it down for scanning, too.

And that's about everything. The only things not shown here are the dark bag and the haircutting scissors that I only use for film. (They're extremely sharp, have blunt tips for when I'm loading film by feel, and thin blades for precision with developed negatives. Snipping between the frames without cutting into the data imprint is no easy task.) I use the meditation app "Enso" on my phone as a darkroom timer, since it can be set for any time and can have a chime sound every minute to remind me to agitate the tanks.

If there's one thing that developing my own film has taught me, it's that I really have no concept of how long anything actually takes.