Monday, August 24, 2015

One roll, eight pictures

When using a 6x9 camera, like Agfa Clack, we have to be spared for not repent having spent one shot with nothing interesting. This is totally different when shooting with a digital camera. Recently I erased a card of a digital camera and I realized that in «quality» mode I still had about 1000 pictures to shoot. With so many shots it becomes difficult to choose afterwards what to keep and what is rubbish. And this is the only reason that maybe will limit our shooting digital addiction.

If I know that I have only a few shots, automatically I make a selection of what is worth and what is not much. And this will perhaps play an important role in the results. Of course you may not agree with me, I hope!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Good news for caffenolics?

When I started this blog, I intended to find a C-41 developer using common household products like coffee, lemon juice, aspirin or whatsoever.

Of course I was open to several failures before something interesting appeared by chance or by searching. And, at that time, I knew very little about processes and my experiments were more or less dictated by trial-and-error.

But one of the first C-41 alternative developers I tried was this one:
1 tsp sodium carbonate, aka washing soda
4 tsp soluble coffee
10 ml of a 5% solution of CD4, CAS number 25646-77-9
water to make 500 ml
Yes, it worked like regular developer at about 40ºC but 30 minutes time. This is because maybe I used very little CD4, about 1g/l  instead  of the standard 5g/l. Never mind, but I remember the results were not so bad and this stayed in my memory until now.

Then I discovered the room temperature process Dignan 2-bath developer that was promising but it has been a long way until I found a way to improve it in order to get better colors, grain and sharpness. My latest improvement lead to:

Bath A
500 ml water
9 g Sodium Sulfite
1 g Potassium Metabisulfite
11 g CD4
Water to make 1 liter
Bath B
500 ml water
25 g Potassium Carbonate
0,6g Potassium Bromide
Water to make 1 liter.
10 minutes bath A and 15 minutes bath B stirring frequently but gently and it will produce stunning colors and acceptable grain.

But, recently I was discussing C-41 with Reinhold G. and he showed me that one-bath developers also develop at room temperature, it's only a question of more time, I do not need to complicate it with a 2-bath developer. So, I started making one-bath at room temperature. Searching for recipes at the internet I found these:

One special stuff used in C-41 developers is HAS (hydroxilamine sulfate) and it is said to be a stabilizer for the developer. Well, investigating about the paper of HAS in the developer, the most complete answer I found was this one at APUG. It is acidic, a weak B&W developer and a preservative.

Considering that COFFEE is acidic too and a weak B&W developer, adding a preservative like metabisulfte to the formula, could make HAS unnecessary. I would prefer that CD4 could also be replaced with something else but by now, I found no substitute.

Resuming, I prepared following developer:
3 g Potassium Metabisulfite
1,2 g Potassium Bromide
5 g CD4
10 g Coffee
25 g Potassium Carbonate
Water to make 1 liter
 I tried this formula with coffee and without and the formula without is very flat, low saturation, low contrast, unsharp. With coffee I had much better results. Besides, much less post treatment, just accepting automatic adjustments of scanner/software. Without coffee I had to adjust saturation and contrast until a certain point. To get more was almost impossible.

Without coffee

With coffee

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Film Photography, B&W or color, have reached a very high quality. Lens, shutters, films, chemicals, papers, scanners, all parts of the process are pushed to the highest levels. But still we miss old looking pictures, watercolors and pictures on canvas.

Digital was supposed to replace all those ancient imperfect reproductions of reality. But, surprisingly, every image software offers the possibility of distorting the perfect pictures in a number of ways. And here are some examples that I produced using the free software FotoSketcher.

Vintage look

Watercolor look w/ frame

Watercolor with texture

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mixed fixer, Potassium & Sodium Thiosulfates


100 g Potassium Metabisulfite
36 g Sodium Hydroxide
29 g Sulfur


First dissolve separately the Metabisulfite and Hydroxide, each in about 500 ml water. Then pour the Hydroxide solution on the Metabisulfite. In this step you are preparing a mix of Potassium and Sodium Sulfites, according to:

K2S2O5 + 2 NaOH = K2SO3 + Na2SO3 + H2O

Bring this 1 liter solution to the fire and when it starts boiling lower the flame and add the 29 g of Sulfur. Let it boil slowly and stir. At a certain point the Sulfur sinks to the bottom. Wait some more minutes and then switch off the fire. Let it cool and filter the solution with coffee filter. Not all Sulfur reacts, but you will end with Potassium and Sodium Thiosulfate and the remaining unreacted Sulfites.

If all Sulfites had reacted the overall reaction would be:

K2S2O5 + 2 NaOH + 2 S = K2S2O3 + Na2S2O3 + H2O


Use the solution you got, about 700-800 ml, undiluted. It takes 5 minutes to fix the normal grain films and 15 minutes the T grain films.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Agfa Clack is gold!

While most of the 6x9 cameras use a 105 mm lens, Agfa Clack uses a meniscus single lens of 72 mm. This makes it a wide angle camera. And I am quite surprised about its quality. Just a few sunset captures...

Thursday, August 13, 2015


First of all, let me tell you how I prepare my salt fixer solution:
I use 300 g salt per liter of water. But, for one single bath, I don't need to prepare one liter, 500 ml is enough.
  1. Weight 150 g of kitchen salt, yes, the grainy one. it's cheaper than table salt.
  2. Put the salt in a heat resistent beaker and add hot water until you reach 550 ml.
  3. Stir for several minutes, 10-20, until most of the salt is dissolved
  4. Filter the solution with coffee filter and you will have about 500 ml of a concentrated salt solution. Filtering is important to avoid impurities but also to filter very small salt grains that will induce recrystalization of salt that may harm the film to be fixed.

This salt solution may be used as fixer but takes some 24 hours to fix at room temperature for common films and 48 hours or more for T grain films like TMax.

I challenged myself to find some additive that could make salt a better fixer, working faster. 

The first additive I discovered by trial and error was Potassium Bromide. Small amounts like 3 g/l will prevent recrystallization of salt and speed up the solution to some hours less.

Next stuff that went under my tests was Sodium Hypochlorite, common household bleach, less than a 5% solution of Sodium Hypochlorite. I knew, because already tried that a small amount of this bleach in water would eat the silver completely. But I thought that, maybe in a very small concentration, it could help salt to fix better.

Tests with stripes of film showed me that the idea was not silly, the film was cleared faster when I added some ml/l to the salt solution. At 5ml/l of bleach I could clear a stripe of TMax in 1 hour. So, maybe in 2 hours it fixs completely.

First result:

5ml/liter, fixed in 2 hours
I didn't count on this side effect, some white (in positive) spots that were produced by some deposits of some unknown material. On the other hand, the silver started to be dissolved too and the spots may be of silver 'condensate'. The film base was completely clear, with a yellow/brown stain that came out by washing for more than half an hour.

In my last experiment I reduced the amount of bleach to only 2 ml/liter and the fixing time to 4 hours. Waiting for the film to wash and dry. I will post in some hours... Be patient. I don't know how it will scan but looks better.

... waiting!

A little more time because refixing for more 2 hours was needed. Some typical vertical marks showed bad fixing in 4 hours. But for normal films could be more than sufficient, perhaps 2 or 3 hours would be enough.

... and waiting!

Here is the result, after 6 hours fixing of TMax400, expired 1991. The next I will experiment with Ilford FP4 or similar. I think that even after 6 hours TMax is not completely fixed. But I was affraid that the image could be eaten like the one before. This time no artifacts like stars in the sky and I will see how long I may fix to have a total fix. The film base was still slightly cloudy. The stripe will return to the fixer for some hours more. Maybe 10-12 hours in total which represents 4 times less than with salt alone. 

Fixer used:
150 g salt
Hot Water to make 500 ml
2 g Potassium Bromide
1 ml of 5% solution of Sodium Hypochlorite

Friday, August 7, 2015

Still about using salt as fixer for films

Although salt has been used in the past to fix daguerreotypes, it became then a myth among photography hobbyists. People who tried it, didn't know were to start when preparing a salt bath that possibly could fix the films used today.

I like testing if myths are true or false. So, and because at the time I was experimenting with daguerreotypes too and reading how it worked, I decided to try whether salt was able to fix modern films.

I was using at the time Fomapan and Shangai GP3, the cheapest on the markt.

Intuitively, and after I tried a randomly dissolved salt solution, some grams per liter (don't know anymore), and this didn't work in a reasonable time span, I decided to make the more concentrated solution I could and wait the longest time I could consider reasonable, the whole night. If we develop films at night, this is a time that will not affect our patience because we are sleeping.

So, after some time shaking a PET bottle full with salt and water, I putted a stripe of virgin film in a bowl and poured the salt water on it and went to sleep.

Next day, the stripe of film was completely transparent, what showed me that salt as fixer is not a myth, but it does make the job.

Further investigation showed me that if the salt solution is enough concentrated and warm it will take less time to work. For films like Fomapan, Shangai GP3, Ilford FP4 or HP5, it is possible to completely fix with salt in 3 hours, using 300 g/l of salt and temperature above 30ºC.

All my tests and results were made publicly, at Flickr. This all happened 3 years ago, in 2012. Since then, nobody spoke about, as far as I know. Recently, at the forum of there was a discussion about it were salt as fixer was not a myth anymore, meanwhile my results were spread, thanks to Reinhold and trough his fine blog Caffenol

Some days ago, someone wanted to see pictures I made and fixed with salt. But because these pictures were at Flickr, where I closed my account, but I found this information at ipernity were I have an account now:

Cloud festival
Fixed with salt
Well, but the introduction took too long and what I wanted to bring you today are some more information on how to better use salt as fixer and this is particularly interesting for countries were travelling with chemical stuff is very illegal and old fashion photographers will have troubles with the law.

When preparing salt fixer, be aware to dissolve as much salt you can. 300 g/l, if you succeed, will do the job. Use warm water and try to get it all dissolved.

The next, pass the solution through a coffee filter. This step is important, as I found recently. Not only to retain some impurities of the salt but to prevent that small and invisible undissolved salt stay in the solution. These salt particles are, I think, responsible for the rapid formation of salt crystals that may affect your emulsion during fixing. They may produce holes in the emulsion. A filtered solution will not produce crystals for more than 24 hours, the time you may need to fix the film.

Another improvement is adding to the salt fixer some grams of Potassium Bromide which is a veterinary medicine easy to get. 5g/liter are enough. Potassium Bromide will speed up the fixer and it will also delay the crystallization of the salt as I observed now.

24 hours fixing

48 hours fixing

Testing with drops of pure Rodinal 

Kodak TMax-400 stripes «fixed» with salt.

On the left side I used only salt, in the middle salt+potassium bromide and on the right salt+potassium metabisulfite.

I didn't use temperature in this experiment.


The bowl with just salt already started crystallizing. The others not. The stripe on right acquired a brownish stain and is not better fixed than with just salt, but metabisulfite also prevented crystallization. Maybe other salts will also do it.
It is clear that the stripe in the middle, with Potassium Bromide, is better fixed than the others, after 48 hours. But not completely fixed yet!!! If so, no stain would appear after droping Rodinal pure on it.


Kodak TMax and similar films (T grain), multicoated films, are more difficult to fix. Even using regular Rapid Fixer, you would better let it for 30 minutes instead of just 2 minutes. Once I had some drag marks with Rapid Fixer and refixing for 30 minutes solved the problem. The fixer was not that new.

I might try to improve the results. making it possible to fix completely TMax films with salt.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I think I have it now...

Since I found Dignan's 2.bath C-41 developing method I am using it but always trying to improve it in order to get better results. Well, my last but maybe not the ultimate and superb adjustment to the method lead to the following recipe for the 2 baths:

Bath A:

1 g/l Potassium Metabisulfite
9 g/l Sodium Sulfite
11 g/l CD4

Bath B:

25 g/l Potassium Carbonate
0,6 g/l Potassium Bromide

Bath A should be kept  in a dark bottle with little air volume. If it gets pink it is oxidized and will work very slow, it should be discarded then. But if kept in a dark bottle with little air volume it will last for months. This first bath is to be used as first and because of this it will decrease with time, some 10 ml each time. If you need 500 ml of it to fill the tank for 120 films, you should prepare 1000 ml and use it until you reach your minimum. And if the bath is still good (no color), prepare more 500 ml and mix with the remaining and so on.

Bath B is, IMMO, the key for good results. Trial and error showed me that 53 g/l of Carbonate is too much and will give green negatives, magenta positives, and you have to tweak a lot in software. A slight increase in Potassium Bromide from 0,5 to 0,6 g/l and a reduction of Carbonate to the half, from 53 to 25 g/l, gave me the best results. Even so, too much or too less agitation may produce spots and drag marks. Frequent and soft agitation is needed. I am using now 5 gentle rotations with the axe of the tank inclined each minute, after the first 30 seconds of constant agitation.

Generally I develop my C-41 films as follows:

Bath A - 10 minutes or more at room temperature
Bath B - 10 minutes or more at room temperature
Wash - I wash for several minutes, maybe 10 minutes too
Fix - I fix for 5 minutes with rapid fixer, the same I use for B&W
Bleach - until the base is clear and double the time.
Rinse 3 times
Refix for other 5 minutes
Wash very well for 30 minutes
Hang to dry

Normally I use Blix instead of the 3 steps bleach, rinse and refix.

After the first Fix you may open the tank and follow the process at light. This is the reason why I fix first, Exhausted Blix or not properly aerated may produce surge marks and it is annoying to rebleach and refix and wash and wait for drying.

Do not hesitate to ask me for more details. I do not use Stabilizer because modern film s already have it in emulsion. A drop of dish washer in the last washing water will help to avoid water spots.

Some pictures using the last improvements: