When it comes to developing film, I’ve made every mistake possible: dev time too short, dev time too long, too little developer, top of the tank popping off, putting the fixer in before the developer, throwing re-useable developer away after one shot, and so on.
Fortunately the frequency of such mistakes has reduced over time (I hope that statement is not tempting fate) so now I’m getting round to solving the problem of half-a-dozen films which were not fixed properly because the fixer had been re-used to many times.
The images below are from a roll of Tri-X I put through a Yashicamat 124G in 2012, on holiday in Wales. The first mistake was that I thought I had put T-Max 100 in the camera, so the shots metered at ISO 400 were two shots overexposed. The second mistake was when I realised the first mistake, and I reset the meter to 400; it would have been better to shoot the whole roll at 100 and adjust the development time.
So to overcome the exposure problem I decided to stand-develop with Rodinal, diluted 1:100, for one hour, which is a good stand-by method if the exposures have been doubtful. Now Tri-X in Rodinal can give enormous grain in 35mm but in this case, with medium format, the grain isn’t obtrusive – perhaps helped by the absence of sky which is where the grain shows up most.
The problem with the exhausted fixer was not apparent until I’d cut the film up for scanning, and the results weren’t suitable for on-line sharing until I finally got round to re-fixing the film, nearly 4 years later.
The process of refixing is simple enough – just the fixing and washing stages are required – but it is fiddly when the film has already been cut up. It’s a faff to put four or more short strips onto a reel, although at least you don’t have to do it in the dark. The biggest problem is drying the film, because (a) you need more clips than you might have, and (b) there is less spare film at each end for attaching the clips.
So the lessons I take away are:
- try to change the fixer before it’s exhausted
- if the problem is apparent immediately, mix some fresh fixer and refix the film BEFORE cutting it up.
One film down, five or so to go.