Who’s a Goofy Bunny?
Processing your own film certainly has its advantages. For one, it’s a small fraction of the cost of paying someone to do it for you (that was the biggest sell for me). And for another, it’s just enjoyable. You kind of feel like a chemist and it just adds something to the whole experience. C-41, which is the formula used by most color film, makes developing easy as pie. All of the times and temps are exact. If you stay on that path, your photos will always turn out fine.
The downside, as I found out here, is that if you don’t stay on that narrow path, bad things happen. To get the temps just right, I’ve been using a digital cooking thermometer. It works great! I can’t even dream of how I used to use that glass, analog thermometer. I was basically amish. The upside to digital is that it’s precise. The downside to the thermometer that I selected is that it’s not waterproof. They make waterproof models, of course, but I decided to opt for the cheaper version.
For C-41 processing, the chemicals need to be at 102 degrees. The film needs to be in that temp for 3.5 minutes. This has never before been a problem. I’ve processed thirty or so rolls with no issues. The last time, however, the thermometer started to freak out. It would give obviously inaccurate readings, which would then flash to accurate ones. This was fine, since I could simply ignore the crazy ones. But then it started giving temps of 110 and 115. It would then drop to 100, then 102. I tried my best to get it close, but at this point, there was nothing I could do. I went for it and it pretty well failed.
Clearly, the temp was too hot. I left the film in the tank for 3.5 minutes and when I was finished, it was way over developed. The heat “pushed” it several stops over where it should have been. Using typical C-41 film, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue. However, I was using slide film that expired nearly twenty years ago. It’s touchy on a good day. With this roll of expired slide film, I also processed Sarah’s 35mm C-41 film. Her film turned out slightly pushed, but not nearly as pushed as mine.
For my film, the shots that I knew would be dark were normal, even perfect. I was kind of shocked. The shots that I figured would be lighter were blown out – especially the double exposures.
Through a bit of digital editing, I was able to pull in some of the brightness and the results are actually kind of fun. I certainly wouldn’t want to work like this all the time, but “happy accidents” are bound to happen.
So all this week (probably) I’m going to focus on making something out of my failure and the failure of my obviously not waterproof thermometer. Also, I’ll be getting a waterproof thermometer shortly.
To see the larger version of this one, go here.