Caffenol

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It’s been a long while since my last post. Let me assure you that I am still making photos. Almost everyday. Of course there’s my usual dawn shoot session every Saturday aside from my side trips during lunch breaks.

My photography has made a bit of a detour from the usual. I have come to realize that to be successful in landscape photography you need to be in various locations at the right time. Sadly, I don’t travel that much anymore. I used to roam around Australia for more than three years and that’s what got me started in this hobby. Now, I’m just confined in (beautiful) Brisvegas where it’s quite a challenge to create landscape photos. I have practically photographed every beach within a 120km radius from the CBD…and then some.

And so I decided to try something different. I want to do street photography, photojournalism, documentary type of thing. Well basically anything that I have not tried before.

The latest of these attempts was developing my own film which is the subject of this post. I’m lucky to have a friend at work who has done this for some time and he showed me how to develop my own film using ordinary household chemicals, namely coffee, vitamin C and washing soda in a process they call Caffenol.

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The whole process is quite easy. Using 350ml of tap water (about 20C) we mixed 6 teaspoons of instant coffee, 3 teaspoons of washing soda and half a teaspoon of vitamin C. We let it settle for a few minutes. Our film was already spooled inside a light tight Patterson developing tank. We poured the solution into the tank and waited for 7 minutes while agitating for 15 seconds every minute. We then poured out the solution from the tank and rinsed the film (still inside the tank) with tap water until the color of coffee was no longer visible. Next step was the fixer. We used an Ilford Rapid Fixer for black and white film. We poured it into the tank and let it do its job for 5 minutes, this time agitating for 10 seconds every minute. Then we rinsed again with tap water — more thoroughly this time. Rinsing was a lot easier since we could now safely take the spool of film out from the developing tank. We then wiped the excess water from film strip and let it dry for about 30 minutes.

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To be honest, I did not expect much from what we did. To my surprise the scans from my Epson V500 flatbed scanner came out quite good. By the way, the film I used here is a Fuji Superia 400. Those who are familiar with this film will know that this emulsion is meant to be processed in C-41 (color negative). Yes, caffenol will result in monochrome with a hint of sepia tone as can be seen from the photos above.

Here are more shots from the same 24-roll Fuji Superia 400 that I took during my lunch break:

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Not bad for a first attempt considering that I spent $15 for my black and white film to be commercially processed (no prints) — which turned out to be muddy. Caffenol is also very easy to do. There is no risk of getting scald by hot (almost boiling) water like those required for C-41 or E6 and you don’t have to be very exact with the developing temperature either. Aside from the fixer, the rest of the chemicals can be purchased from anywhere. Coffee need not be expensive. All you need is instant coffee and they say that the cheaper ones are better.

I can’t wait to do more of this. I just need to finish my roll of Kodak Gold 100 that I have just loaded into my Nikon FM3A. It will take me a while to do that. I tend to be very precise when shooting film. The snaps above were meant for the test roll because I did not expect anything from my first attempt at film developing anyway.

If you want to learn more about the process, please visit http://caffenol.org.

Until then.

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