Developing Times by Nigel Rumsey

Field Notes for film developing

In this notebook, I write all my notes related to film developing. “Why are you showing us this Nigel?” you might be saying. Well despite having this great little book with all my notes and despite having been developing film on & off for 30 years, careless people can still f**k it up.

Field Notes notebook for film photography

This morning I grabbed my gear and the roll of Agfa APX100 I finished shooting yesterday, and I set off developing. I’d pushed it two stops so I looked in my book, Agfa APX100, at ISO400 x HC-110 = 6.30 mins! Those of you experienced at such things are now thinking, pushed film, 6.5 minutes that doesn’t sound right and, dear reader, you’d be correct. However, the dumb arses amongst us didn’t have that thought. They’re too busy listening to a podcast.

So the result, one severely under-developed film. I should have read 15.5 minutes, not 6.5. The only consolation being it has been 30 years, and I hope it’s 30 years until the next one.

That podcast I was listening to: We Believe in Film by Timothy Ditzler, although it’d hardly be fair to blame him!

I tried. by Nigel Rumsey

The National Theatre, London

This image represents a lesson. Not a new lesson but something I needed to be reminded of: just try.

About eight years ago I went to a wedding as a guest, I wasn’t the photographer but I was hoping to get a few good shots for the happy couple (they’ve since divorced, but we’ll gloss over that). I knew the venue was going to be dark so I took a few rolls of Neopan 1600. In the end I only shot one roll, but I truly hated the results, big ugly lumpy grain. I disliked it so much l’ve not shot it since, I still have the remaining rolls of in my refrigerator.

So from then to about four weeks ago I've avoided shooting film at iso1600, because I ‘knew’ it was going to look terrible. Even though I may be shooting a different film, processing it in a different developer, shooting it in different light, in a different camera and in different circumstances. I knew it was going to be crap. So convinced was I, on the evidence of that one roll of film I haven’t tried again. Until about four weeks ago.

Roof Terrace, National Theatre. London

For a private project I had to push Kodak Tri-x, not to 1600, but 3200. WTF was that going to look like! I’d researched it online and seen some ‘not bad’ results, I still wasn’t comfortable but I went ahead anyway - I tried. What did it look like? It looked bloody brilliant, that's what it looked like! I love it! The grain wasn’t bad, the shadows still had some detail, it had the contrast I like in black and white. Just think if I’d been open minded enough to give it a go before, I could have used it countless times in the last few years.

Next time I'm being such a negative twat please remind me of this moment.

Tri-x at 1600: the best thing since sliced bread!

For photography geeks out there: The above shots were exposed at iso1600 and developed in HC-110B, 16 minutes, inversions 10 secs every 2 mins.

Have a great week.  

Blogging and (not) Sleeping by Nigel Rumsey

Pen and Notebook, Tate Modern, London

For some time I’ve wanted to blog more. I used to write regularly, and although I don’t find it easy, I do enjoy it. Like everything it needs to become a habit, if you fall out of the habit, it’s tough to restart.

Bizarrely the impetus I need may have come in my difficulty sleeping. Apparently, one of the keys to getting a good night's sleep is 'sleep hygiene' - going to bed at the same time each night, no reading in bed, then getting up at the same time in the morning.

During the week I get up just before 6 am to take my wife to the local station. My new hygienic approach to sleep means I need to be up by 6 am every day - although weekends may be tough! I usually go for a walk after I’ve dropped my wife off, but after that, until I need to do some work my time is my own.

The plan is to write a little each day and to publish at least one blog post each week, so watch this space. You can be the judge of how that goes.

Have a great week.

Summer at Batemans by Nigel Rumsey

I don't make the effort to get out with my Hasselblad as often as I would like, but when I do I'm very rarely disappointed with the results. If you've ever used one you'll know it's not a camera to be rushed, but that guides the type of shot you take. So inevitably they're more contemplative than they might be with a smaller, lighter, camera. Just to emphasise the scale of the backlog in my film developing, scanning and posting, this shot which I scanned last week is not from this summer, it's not even from this year, it's sometime during the balmy days of last summer.

A young boy sitting under a tree at National Trust property Batemans,

This is the former home of Rudyard Kipling, now a National Trust property, Bateman's.


Testing Orwo N74+ by Nigel Rumsey

I posted before a sample of Orwo N74+ developed using Kodak HC-110, the sample below was developed using Rodinal diluted at 1+50. A christmas cake shot in NT Ightham Moat

For those not familiar with it Rodinal is one of the earliest developers and a favourite of many photographers for its low cost, ease of use and incredibly long shelf life. One of the features of Rodinal, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the look you're after, is it gives pronounced grain on faster speed films. As in all things 'too grainy' is entirely subjective, for me the cut-off with Rodinal is iso400. Having said all that I like the look that N74+ gives in Rodinal, you get the acutance you expect from Rodinal but the grain isn't too distracting.

The question that inevitably comes up whenever I look at different films is "would it take the place of my favourite film Kodak TRI-X?" At the moment I have to say N74+ is closer than anything else I've tried, but my heart still lies with TRI-X. I've come to realise, and it's somewhat embarrassing that it's taken me so long, is that probably in my eyes nothing will ever beat TRI-X. This begs the question why do I feel the need to keep looking, why can't I be happy with the film I really like? Maybe that is a reflection of our time.

I've noticed in all the best pixel peeping blogs they always show a crop of the image at 100% so here, just for you my friends, Orwo N74+ in HC-110 and Rodinal at 100%.

Orwo N74+ & HC-110 100% crop

Orwo N74+ & Rodinal 100% crop

If you have experience of using Orwo films I'd love to hear about it please let me know in the comments below.


Testing a new film: Orwo N74+ by Nigel Rumsey

This is a shot of Robin Hood Gardens in East London, it's a test from my first roll of Orwo N74+. Orwo film manufactured by FilmoTec GmbH based in the former East Germany. The company in various forms has been making film, mainly for the motion picture industry, since 1910. (more from Wikipedia).

This roll was developed in Kodak HC-110 'B' for 6.5 minutes. I'm very pleased with the results. The grain looks like a tabular film - very similar to T-Max 400 - which I'm generally not too fond of, but in this instance I quit like it. I've since developed a roll in Rodinal, but that's caught in the huge scanned backlog, so it'll be interesting to compare the two.

Robin Hood Gardens