For the past few months, photographer Theo McInnes has been working on a project that documents how, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, London’s outdoor spaces have transformed and adapted.
He started working on the series during the height of lockdown in the city, meaning that he wasn’t able to access a darkroom when it came to developing. Luckily, this doesn’t prove too much of an issue: restrictions or not, McInnes always tends to develop his black and white work at home – because it’s cheaper, and he enjoys the process.
In the latest edition of Skill-Up, a series of tutorial videos with a twist, he shares exactly how he’s able to do this without leaving the house. Watch the video – and follow the instructions – below.
Kit list: Developer, stop, fixer, wetting agent, dark bag, thermometer, pipette, measuring cylinders, film tank. Total cost: £100. We recommend buying in-store from your local photography shop. If shopping online, try Mr Cad or Parallax Photographic.
STAGE ONE: SPOOLING THE FILM
– It’s important that you don’t expose the film to any light. Once you’re inside your dark bag with your film and your tank, remove the backing paper from the film.
– Take your spool. Locate and line-up the two grooves on each side – you’ll feel two little ball bearings – and begin to feed your film underneath them. With a hand on each side of the spool, slowly turn it so that the film continues to feed through. Do this until it is completely fixed. (Tip: Patience is key here – if the film gets stuck, or kinks, just go back and delicately amend.)
– When you’re finished, place the spool in your film tank and secure the lid. (As this is light-sealed, you can now bring everything out of your dark bag.)
STAGE TWO: DEVELOPING
– Set up camp at your sink and water to a measuring cylinder. To cover medium format negatives you need around 500ml – though we recommend going up to 600ml to be safe.
– Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your water. For medium format negatives you need it to be around 20 C, but this will vary depending on the type of film you use, so remember to look up your times online. Use the tap to run hot/cold water until you’re at the desired temperature.
– Time to add the developer. When it comes to this, we recommend using Rodinal. You need 1ml of Rodinal for every 100ml of water. So, if you’re working with 600ml of water, add 6ml of Rodinal. Add the mix to your film tank.
– Now that everything is in, we can begin what we call agitating. The process is simple: take the film tank, holding it at the lid, and rotate it 180 degrees, then back again. Do this for 30 seconds.
– Once you’re done, give it a quick tap to remove any air bubbles. Then leave everything to sit for 30 minutes. After this time has passed, do a small agitation – two 180 degree rotations – and leave it to sit for another 30 minutes.
STAGE THREE: STOPPING & FIXING
– The film should now be developed. Pour the developer out into the sink.
– The next chemical we’re using is the stop, which will halt the developer from working on the film for any longer. Make sure it’s diluted as per the instructions on the bottle, as this will vary depending on which stop you use. In terms of measurement, match it to the amount of water you used originally: so, for 600ml of water, roughly 600ml of stop should ensure that all the negatives are covered.
– Pour your stop into the film tank. Slowly agitate for 30 seconds. Once completed, leave to sit for 30 seconds. Then pour the stop away. (Tip: Stop and fixer will last for about a week after you’ve first used it. So if you’re planning on developing more in the next seven days, use a funnel to pour it back into the container for a rainy day, rather than straight down the plug.)
– Now we’re onto our third chemical: the fixer. Once again, dilute in line with the instructions on the bottle and match to the amount of water you used originally.
– Begin the agitation process. Agitate for 30 seconds. Leave for 30 seconds. Give it another two agitations – two 180 degree rotations – then for another 30 seconds. Give it another two agitations. Leave for another 30 seconds. Repeat this process until you reach the five-minute mark.
STAGE FOUR: WASHING & DRYING
– All of the main chemistry should now be completed, which means we need to wash the negatives with water. Place the film tank under the tap under lukewarm water. Leave it here, with the tap running, for 20 minutes.
– After this time has passed, put a small amount of wetting agent into a pipette (around 2mls should do it). Remove the film tank lid, pour out around half of the water, then squirt in the wetting agent.
– Begin shaking the spool. The water should begin to foam and froth, a bit like soap. When this happens, you’re ready to remove your negatives. Take your fingers and run them down the film a couple of times to remove any excess water.
– Hang them up and wait for them to dry. Check out the results.