Here’s something I’ve noticed as I work my way through this Project365. I’m much more aware of the variables and leeway I have as I develop my negatives. For the most part, my shooting habits haven’t changed much. I’m shooting Tri-X 400 at ISO 200 and processing with ISO 400 developing times although for this last roll I went to ISO 800 with developing times for ISO 1600. Same principles apply, just with longer developing times.
Water temperatures are important for developing times. Going through our colder months the water temperature out of the tap varies a bit. Right now, in the middle of a Southern California winter the water temperature is about 67 degrees Fahrenheit or about 19 degrees Celsius out of the tap. The massive development app on the iPhone tells me that the time in the developer is 6:30 minutes. I’m using Kodak HC-110 with a 1:31 dilution.
Up till a few weeks ago, I’d go to the trouble of adding a bit of warm water to get the temperature up to 20 degrees Celsius. In the summer, I’d try to cool the water down to 20 degrees Celsius by adding ice cubes. It was always a bit of a pain. I didn’t worry as much about the temperature of my stop bath or fixer since I reuse both of those till they’re exhausted but I would try to adjust those liquid temperatures too. Sometimes I’ll also do a pre-soak in the tank using tap water directly. I think that unmonitored variation in water temperatures was having an effect on the film emulsion.
Now, I’m just accepting the temperature of the water out of the tap and adjusting my developing times to accommodate whatever water temperature I’m seeing. I’m not entirely sure but I think the variances in the temperatures as I moved through my develop/stop/fix process were creating some problems with my negatives because now that I’ve adjusted developing times to the water temperature the quality of my negatives is greatly improved. The amount of artifacts, spiders and white spots is down significantly than before. I think it’s because the water temperature variation through the entire process is much more consistent.
I’ve also experimented with my developing times. My mantra is traditional, expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. I saw the impact of reduced development times, my negatives didn’t capture all the highlight areas. Now I’m much more sensitive to giving the negatives enough but not too much time in the tank. The trick is enough developing time to bring out as much highlight detail as possible without compromising the shadows with too much time in the developer.
Now, a disclaimer, I’m still a relative newbie at this even after a few years doing it. So much to learn. Up till now, I’ve never really felt confident enough to wander from the recommended times. Now, I’m seeing that there is so much leeway in this process that even if I under or over develop (within reason), the results are good enough. At this stage I’m trying to tweak my process for the very best results I think I can achieve.