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.
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