Back to Square One

Or maybe back to semester one? It very much felt like that today when I was in the darkroom in college with A___. The LF experiments are moving nicely. In the past two weeks we have shot 16 sheets. As the processing costs for sheet film is just astronomically high, we had to get into the darkroom and do it ourselves. Thankfully there is a colour darkroom in college – which up until now was completely unbeknownst to me – that has a Paterson Orbital Developing Tank.  A brilliant device that makes the whole developing slightly less scary. Or so we thought…
But not having been developing myself for about two years meant starting from scratch. Sure, the general process is unforgettable easypeasy. Develop – Stop – Fix – Wash. And yet the whole manual process is predictably unpredictable. There are always issues – whether it is the temperature of the solution (not helped by the fact that there was no running hot water in the darkroom), the to-the-second timing of the various baths. Or even pre-processing variables that have an influence on the outcome.
Processing is not quite as magic as printing – you do not see the image slowly appearing before your eyes because it happens either in total darkness or inside a light-tight tank. And yet the satisfaction of making all of the image yourself is so big, I gladly take all the risky business of ruined negatives into account.
Here’s the negatives in the wash. The blueish tint I had never come across before – that is the developer being washed off even after the negs had been fixed in the tank. You never stop learning – and mistakes are probably better lessons than everything going swimmingly.
I have to keep telling myself that this is essentially back to the beginning. Do not get ahead of yourself, Sonja, and don’t expect so much! Sure, manual processing can deliver perfect results. But for that you need to be processing every day and have the experience that comes with that. 50 more sheets and I’ll be pro…

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