Developing expired large format black and white film
If you are old enough, you will remember a time when expired film was like kryptonite to a photographer. Stores would put film that was within a month of expiration on sale and if a photographer found expired film in his or her possession it almost immediately went in the trash bin. It was sacrilege to shoot with expired film. Or if you did, the chances of admitting to it were quite slim.
Hmm, now that I mention it I wonder what condition that film would be in if we could get to the bottom of 30 years of landfill. Ok, enough daydreaming…
Not too long ago I ordered a couple of boxes of expired Kodak T-MAX 400 4×5 film off of eBay. I took the seller’s word that it had been in a freezer, and the price was right for anything Kodak related.
This last weekend I finally had the opportunity to go out and shoot. I don’t know about you but if you have ever looked up shooting with and/or developing expired film the information is all over the place. “When shooting push xx stops for every 10 years that it is expired” “Just push xx stops…” “When you develop push xxx stops…” “Develop normally just don’t agitate…”
You get the idea; there really aren’t any hard fast rules.
A bit of methodology
Being the type of guy I am where I am no longer afraid to ask for help when I need it, (trust me: I am a “man” and there was a time where I would die before I asked for assistance), I turned to my go-to film guru on Twitter, Craig Pindell for some assistance. Simply put, Craig told me to shoot and develop it like any other film. Here is the thing. I have been shooting film for 40 years but I still question myself. Craig has been shooting film just as long but has the confidence we should all hope for. Short version: I went for it.
While shooting I exposed doubles. Meaning I shot two negatives of the same subject. The sole purpose was so I could develop one set “normally” and the other set I wanted to try a stand development. Just to make things more interesting, I decided to use Kodak HC-110 which I haven’t used in around 30 years. What could go wrong, right?
I am including several different images for comparison. In this article you will find images shot on current (fresh) ILFORD FP4 PLUS developed in ILFORD ILFSOL 3, expired (2002) Kodak T-MAX 400 developed in ILFORD ILFSOL 3 (at 1:3 for 10 minutes) and then expired (2002) Kodak T-MAX 400 images developed with HC-110 at 8.5 minutes and at stand development for 1.5 hours.
I am using an SP-445 Compact 4×5 Film Processing System. If you shoot sheet film; consider this system. It is incredibly easy to use, a time saver and easy on chemicals and holds up to 4 sheets of film…
*** Since these negatives were obviously scanned and I used Photoshop to bring them out a little, I made sure that each one had the exact same enhancement levels. No negative received any special attention nor were they harmed in the making of this article.
Here are the results.
Set one – ILFORD FP4 PLUS (fresh film)
These first two images were shot early in the morning using (current/fresh) ILFORD FP4 PLUS rated at EI 100 with a Fujinon 270mm lens at F/22 and 1/30th of a second. The camera was an Intrepid 4×5. Both sheets were developed in 1:3 ILFORD ILFSOL 3 for 20 minutes. Agitated for 1 minute at the beginning, then 15 seconds on the minute with a 3 minute rest period in the middle. I use ILFORD Stop as well as ILFORD Rapid Fixer.
You can view full screen versions of the images below by giving them a click ot a tap – the same goes with the images found later in this article.
Set two – KODAK T-MAX 400 (expired)
The next two images are from the expired Kodak T-MAX (expired 2002). Shot with a Fujinon 150mm lens set on the Intrepid 4×5. These Kodak films were also developed in ILFORD ILFOSOL 3, ILFORD Stop and ILFORD Rapid Fixer. The developer was 1:1 with a time of 10 minutes, agitated for an initial 30 seconds, 15 seconds on the minute with a 3 minute rest period in the middle.
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Here is the “experiment” portion of the article. I used Kodak HC-110 for both sets of negatives.
As with the two above, the two images which follow were shot with the Intrepid 4×5 and a Fujinon 150mm lens. The expired Kodak T-MAX 400 was shot at 400. I developed one negative as the directions indicate for T-MAX 400. No pushing. The other negative was completed with stand developing.
If you are familiar with HC-110, “Dilution B” is considered to be the standard mix. It is a 1:7 mix. If you are preparing 300ml of overall solution, you mix 38ml of HC-110 to 262ml of water. This is the mix that I used for the first negative.
Per the directions for T-MAX 400, it recommends an 8.5 minute development time with 1 minute intervals when using manual agitation at 68 F or 20 C. So I went with that.
For the second negative I used the stand method and went with the “Dilution F” directions. They don’t give the total breakdown for a 300ml shot however the overall ratio is 1:79. Hey, it’s an experiment. I’m thinking worst case scenario is I have two negatives turn out and I completely destroy two…
Since there isn’t any real industry standard for stand developing: I went with 68 F (20 C), agitated for 1 minute and let these negatives sit for an hour and a half without touching it again. As long as I could stay awake, I was good.
The image on the left in the gallery below was my HC-110 B test: 8.5 minutes, 68F (20C), 1 agitation every 10 seconds for a minute, rest one minute, repeat.
The image on the right is HC-110 F: 1.5 hours, 68F (20C), 1 minute agitation at the beginning none after.
Although the stand development has slightly more grain I personally prefer the results in the contrast. I realize it is hard to see the grain in these images but it is most noticeable with the snow in the foreground. Past that, it is not quite as noticeable. In printing these images on an inkjet with a bamboo paper, the grain is barely noticeable. (Anything I am shooting with the 4×5 I am having to scan and print on the inkjet as I do not have a 4×5 enlarger at this time.)
For my own purposes, I will definitely attempt stand development again on the expired film as well as non-expired film. The only thing I found was I have spent so many years agitating film during the development process: it was a challenge to NOT pick up the tank and give it a shake.
If nothing else; I hope this article will give you the courage to experiment in your developing if you aren’t already. You might try it with images that you aren’t overly concerned with. After I started the stand development with this particular image I started to fear that neither negative was going to turn out.
Have a great time in the darkroom and don’t be afraid to experiment with different developers, times, agitation periods and anything else you can think of. You might just surprise yourself.
Read the full article here
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