Wednesday, September 2, 2015

HC-110 is my favorite shirt

Dan had discussed his developer choices a week ago. Like most times, we were great minds treading over the same ground. I’d begun to think about developers because I’ve burned through my most recent liter of HC-110 syrup. Finding the bottom of the bottle has led me to a revelation.

I’ve never really experimented all that much with chemistry. When I learned to process film and print in a small dark room in a small town years ago, it was pretty rigid. There was but one developer in the whole building- D-76. It was used for film development and printing both. As far as the instructors were concerned, D-76 was the only developer in the world. In fact, when they said “developer” they meant D-76, and when they said “film” they meant Tri-X. There were no other options.

When I went back to developing at home some years ago, I actually thought outside the box. I went looking for a different developer. For the quantity of film I was developing, the traditional D-76 wasn’t all that handy. It’s cheap as anything, a quality that may have driven the old darkroom to buy it in the first place, but if I made up a gallon, it would go bad before I used it all. Since then I’ve found they make a packed that yields a liter of developer, but at the time the only packets I could find made too much. Even though it was cheap, wasting chemicals just sat wrong with me somehow.

shoot-431I thought about XTOL, just for the environmental aspects of it, but heard too many horror stories about it giving no warning before it goes bad and just suddenly quit working. I settled on HC-110.

Mostly I was enamored with the shelf life of the stuff. It will last almost forever. I’ve taken to decanting it from the liter bottle in to 8 ounce amber bottles for storage, and that helps elongate its lifespan as well.

I like contrasty images, and HC-110 gives me that. I use Dilution B almost exclusively. First, the math is easy. Dilution B is one part developer and 31 parts water, so it’s pretty easy to mix up in a 32 ounce bottle. When I shoot Rollei Retro 80s, I use Dilution E, which is basically Dilution B twice as dilute.

While I’m currently trying out some paper developers, since I’m going to start contact printing this winter, I’ve settled on HC-110 for film, and I don’t think that is going to change. I’m not choosing to ignore other options, like the place I learned in. I’m just treating it like a favorite shirt. I like how it looks and it’s nice and comfortable.

HC-110 is my favorite shirt

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