Using C-41 Black and White Film

adventures in processing and printing black and white chromogenic film

 

 

 

Today I was printing some 35mm black and white negatives I processed this morning in the kitchen sink. Printing negatives in the afternoon that were processed in the morning is not that unusual; the kitchen sink part is.

 

I have a good supply of Kodak c-41 process black and white film, mostly 120 but a half dozen rolls as well of 35mm.  A couple years back a good friend gifted me with his refrigerated stash as he had gone digital in his portrait business.  I was my usual skeptical self and didn’t shoot any right away, and then when I did, sent it off to The Darkroom in San Clemente, CA.   It looked OK, pretty good, not bad.  Still, sending it off was a pain, and expensive for someone used to just going into his own darkroom and processing.  I found a video online from the Film Photography Project about using their kit to process C-41 at home and ordered a kit.  I was intimidated by the temperature requirements but, Heck, I have six or seven thermometers and the kitchen has hot running water so I tried it.

 

It works.

film

A chromogenic film, the image structure is made up of dye clouds rather than silver clumps, and the first thing I found out from the 120 rolls was that it scans very well.  The second thing I found out was that it requires long exposures when printing on variable contrast paper.  I have been using this film in 2 very different ways: the first is an ongoing portrait project, very informal, in which I photograph individuals or couples upstairs in our gallery during a once a month food and music party we host. So often enough the subject lugs up a guitar or fiddle. I have 2 cameras that I use for this, my Mamiya C220 and the baby Linhof, 2X3 with its 6X6 back.  I use one white lightning flash with a shoot through 42 inch umbrella aimed at the subject and within two and a half feet of the same. This light is very soft and the 400 ISO film gives me plenty of flexibility with f-stop and shutter speed if I need a little more depth of field.

joshnmnlisa
Josh and Monalisa

 

The Linhof is blessed with a 105 Xenotar.  It is a happy camera.

Kat2
Kat and the Xenotar

The second way I have been using this film is in the 35mm camera as I roam around public events.  I haven’t been using it exclusively but have been alternating it with traditional silver films like Delta 100 and TMY.  In the last month or so there have been several of these events in town and I finally got around to processing the C-41 films this week.  To be more accurate, I finally accumulated enough rolls to mix my batch of chemistry, a Unicolor kit that has developer, blix, which is a combined bleach and rapid fix, and stabilizer.  A friend who was in the business of custom color printing until the digital revolution told me that in the past there had been a Kodak process that divided up the bleach and fix and had some other differences that made it a superior process, but now we have what we have.  So I use it.

2bitches
Two “Bitches”?

 

 

 

westand together
At A march against school shootings

Some technical notes: I follow my thermometer to develop at 102 degrees, with the Blix about the same. I immerse the bottles in a hard rubber 8X10 developing tank in the kitchen sink, get the water bath at about 110 degrees and monitor the chemistry till it is just right.  My negatives are punchier than my commercially processed rolls and when wet make me wonder if I have burned out the highlights.  But no, they print easily with no filtration under a cold light head on Seagull VC or Ilford Cooltone multigrade paper.  The chemistry is reputed to be short lived so I will want to process some more film in the next week and after that call it good. The instructions say 3.5 minutes at 102 degrees.  For the second batch I do 4 minutes.  The Blix calls for 6.5 minutes and I stick with that but I have doubled the wash time to six minutes at about 90 degrees.  The reason I did this is that I had a persistent magenta runoff after the washing and the stabilizer, dripping down into a white tray, and I was getting ugly white splotches from the runoff.  The stabilizer is supposed to make the film more permanent I guess but I don’t understand the process it does for that.  The video showed these guys wiping down the wet roll with a folded paper towel and my friend the old film processor and printer about had a fit when I did that in front of him.  SO I stopped doing it and started getting these ugly splotches.  Hence, two changes I made; I doubled the washing time and then I made a photo flo final bath in distilled water.  Now they come out nice and clean.

 

When our garden is in full bloom I sometimes load up a roll of color print film and it is nice to be able to process that as well.  For printing however, we have to rely on our scanner and an ink jet printer, and it is hard for me  emotionally to wax enthusiastically about the chugging of the machine.

pjammersinrain
The PJammers at a protest against school shootings

A couple of days ago we had a nephew here with his old Miata, newly painted a light blue.  His Aunt visiting from back east was ironically wearing a matching light blue jacket.  The black and white C-41 film rendered both the car and the jacket white! I’ll try out the next roll with a K-2 filter and see what happens.

 

I also picked up some Kodak Portra 400 B&W 120 rolls and I look forward to trying that out.

 

Good shooting.

 

Bill Kostelec

July 3, 2018

https://thedarkroom.com/product/film-developing/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8Y-OrZ6J3AIVEJl-Ch1New71EAAYASAAEgIhpPD_BwE

https://filmphotographyproject.com

 

 

My Nobel Peace Prize Winners

TutuCarter

In the 1980’s I spent about 8 years in Atlanta at Emory University doing doctoral work in the Division of Religion. It’s where I got deeply involved in photography. I was using 35mm exclusively for awhile but then an old photographer suggested I get a Speed Graphic, a “real Camera”, and I found a 4X5 Crown at KEH, which still had a walk-in store.   As my photo work progressed I got some kind of reputation among some of the faculty, and when the Religion Department sponsored a small conference with former President Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu I was asked to make some photographs. The former President was in the library I worked in fairly often as his presidential library was located in the Special Collections area. I was teaching a religion class in the college at the time and had heard a couple students during a break talking about the “Bishop’s daughter”, another student in the class. I asked “Which bishop?” and they said, “You know, Tutu!” Well, I hadn’t known but when the department chair asked me to go fetch the Bishop across campus and bring him to the conference I did, and mentioned to him that I had taught his daughter in the now finished class. He got a bit excited and grabbed my hand. “She loved that class!” he said, which was kind of cool for me, as you can imagine.

 

So we went upstairs to the conference and Jimmy Carter was there with men in dark suits and wires in their ears and the two Nobel Prize winners embraced with big smiles and chatted like old school roommates. That’s how this photo came to be. I was using a Minolta 101 if I recall. Tutu had been a warm and funny companion as we walked across campus. The President though, at one point, gave me a cross look as he sat at the conference table. Being a strict amateur I think I was taking too many photos and so I backed off and sat with the faculty and he relaxed his next gaze in my direction.

 

The negatives turned out well and I made a contact print and some 8X10s for the Religion department and kept a contact print for myself. After getting the doctorate I moved to the Pacific Northwest where the air is dry and it is cool at night in the Summertime. And the first Winter my cabin in the woods burned down and destroyed my entire stash of 35mm negatives plus all my equipment and everything else the family owned except what we had put into a storage unit. Later on I found I still had the contact print.

 

Nearly thirty years later, while working at Gonzaga University, I learned that Desmond Tutu was coming to do the commencement address and I told the story of my photo to some colleagues who spread it around and I was invited to photograph him again, in a meeting with students. Kathy had previously dug out the contact sheet and scanned it, and got a nice copy of the photo from the scan, which we framed. Later on I found one 8X10 print from the original negative. Kathy went with me to the event as a second photographer and I was invited to present the Bishop with the framed photo. He had never seen it. He was excited again, and again warm and funny. He noted that he looked a bit different now and that I didn’t look the same either. He told me that he had driven Jimmy Carter to an emergency room in South Africa when the President broke his leg on a house project. They were still fast friends. The Bishop treasured the photograph, and took it home in his carry on luggage because he didn’t want anything to happen to it. And that’s my story of photographing  2 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

 

Bill Kostelec

 

January 24, 2018

 

Processing Film and the Good Life

The Good Life of Processing Film

 

The other evening, Kathy processed her first 8X10 negs in my BTZS tubes. She had processed 8 X 10 in a tray before but I was the only one using the tubes. It was also her first time shooting the 8X10 Eastman Commercial View Camera that I spent a lot of hours getting into shooting condition last year.

She was amazed at her negatives. We did the first two at 6 minutes in Xtol at 72 degrees, thinking that we could alter the time for the duplicate negs if necessary. It wasn’t. The next afternoon she made contact prints on a Foma contact printing paper and now apparently, I am going to have to find a hiding place to stash at least some of our 8X10 film!

My favorite format for sheet film negatives is 5X7. As I have always enjoyed framing and shooting 35mm film, the aspect ratio of 5X7 seems ideal to me. It is a lot like 35mm in that way. Having a working Beseler 5X7 enlarger with a cold light head also helps to add value to that format. Still, when we want to produce a large body of work, as in last Fall’s trip to the Eastern Sierra, we both shoot a lot of 4X5 and medium format. Film processing, as well as cost, contributes to that choice. We both process 4X5 in restaurant trays, used for, I suppose keeping food hot, a brilliant innovation that Alan Ross showed us a year or so ago. We used to use hangars in Kodak rubber tanks. It is an easy and nearly foolproof method and being very hands on, also satisfying.  8X10 and 5X7 film has been more problematic and the acquisition of the BTZS tubes was, and Kathy will now allow me to say this, a rather good move on my part.

I enjoy processing film more than I enjoy printing. The moment a negative first comes into the light is like (well not quite) when the newborn baby first is wheeled into the room. There it is, full of potential, full of promise and hope! (I’m not sure if I’m talking about the baby or the negative. Sometimes I get carried away!)

In any case, whenever I use the digital camera to make an image, the act seems so prematurely done, and so incomplete in a way that I find very unsatisfying. Sitting at a computer just doesn’t feel like a photographic activity to me, partly because of too many years in a sedentary sitting at the computer job. Processing film, on the other hand, makes me smile and hanging negatives to dry and going into the house, where Kathy inevitably asks, “How do they look?” is what I call, “the good life.”

Bill Kostelec