Part of the Process is a series of posts that puts the spotlight on film photographers and DIY film developers. These features provide unique experiences and perspectives on shooting and developing film while also showcasing diverse talent and film photographers around the globe. If you are interested in being featured, feel free to contact me!
Name: Chris Moore
Location: Springfield, MO
What other websites or blogs do you keep up with to feed your photographic interests?
The Phoblographer, PetaPixel, Film Photographers group on Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.
What attracted you to film photography? How did you get started/introduced to shooting film? How soon after did you start developing?
Originally, my dad was into photography so as a child it seemed like there were always negatives and prints laying around, and there was always a camera somewhere. I didn’t really get too much into shooting myself until my early 20’s. After a while, film processing was starting to get a bit expensive, so I invested in a good scanner and decided to do it myself with black and white film (at the time, it was the cheapest and easiest thing to do).
What do you like to shoot on a regular basis?
Landscapes, flowers, street, and urban scenes, and also very unusual objects. To find beauty in the mundane is part of what makes photography such a blast of a hobby for me, personally.
What formats, cameras, and films do you shoot? What do you like about the formats, cameras, films you prefer?
I shoot a good mix of both 35mm film and digital. For 35mm, I have a Canon EOS Rebel 2000 that I have used since 1999 for both color and black and white. Not long ago, I inherited a Pentax Spotmatic with assorted lenses (50mm, 100mm, 28mm) purchased by my father while serving in the Marines in Japan in the early 60’s along with a newer Pentax MV with the standard prime 50mm SMC lens. For its historic value I have tried not to use the Spotmatic too much, but I got an adapter ring to use the M42 lenses with the newer K mount, so I am letting the MV be the workhorse camera between the two.
For film there is nothing like the faithful Canon. Although, as of late, I have really enjoyed the Pentax MV. So in terms of preference, it’s a toss up. Manual focusing has proven much more difficult than one might think, but the focusing screen helps a great deal.
What types of film do you develop?
Traditionally I have always developed Kodak TMax or Ilford films in liquid Kodak TMax developer concentrate, although as of late they charge so much extra shipping for liquids that I have switched to D-76 powder. Man, have I ever been missing out. D-76 is way better in my opinion, but to each their own. I have done that for many years.
Last night, for the first time ever, I developed a roll of C-41 using the most common Unicolor kit sold on several sites. The results were by no means perfect (a second blix may be in order) but still very encouraging and promising, and there is nothing like the feeling of pulling film off your reel and seeing color images. It was an experience that encourages me to try it again and keep going with it. As I told my wife – “that was the best 15 minutes of my photographic life.”
Tell us about your first experiences in developing your own film. How did you muster the courage to give it a shot? What resources did you use?
The first developing experience ever with any kind of film goes all the way back to 1999 when I did my first roll of black and white. There was so much I wanted to try and do and I wanted to be able to shoot my photos, bring them home and work with them without the hassle of making a trip to a lab to get them developed and part with perfectly good cash.
I had practiced loading the reel several times and that helped, though I got in the changing bag and I used a bottle opener to get the film can opened up and I must have fumbled around for an hour to just get it threaded. Lesson learned – cut the film tongue off, it’s much easier to load after that! I got my tank loaded and poured in clear developer mixed from Kodak TMax liquid (at the time I found powder to be very daunting). A few minutes later, I found myself pouring out amber-colored fluid and I was excited — the development must have worked. I went on and rinsed and fixed. The moment of truth came and I pulled the negative off the reel enough to look – and there was an image there! I had done it, and the development had worked flawlessly. I had but to rinse, dry and scan. That was all it took to get me hooked. Digital is nice and very convenient, but there’s still something very enjoyable about the physical aspect of film and chemistry. There’s something nice about having a tangible result of your efforts that can’t be had with digital.
The first experience with color film was actually very recent. For the longest time, I never thought color (C-41 or E-6) was very economical or practical to do at home due to chemistry cost and very short shelf life. More recently, I’ve seen on sites and blogs where people are doing C-41 at home and it actually doesn’t cost very much at all with a very decent shelf life.
I took the plunge and decided to try it on a roll of Fuji Superia ISO 200 film – a WalMart standard and a film that I have had good luck with in the past with pictures. I expected it to smell much worse, but actually there was very little odor left over. It was different working with hot liquids rather than room temperature liquids but it actually was not that much more difficult. My results were by no means perfect – a bit of a brown tinge on some frames and a slightly darker than normal orange mask make me think that a second blix may be in order. But still, the results were not bad at all and I yielded a few good looking positive images. Very promising results and good enough to encourage me to try again and keep going with this. There’s lots of fun and creativity yet to be tapped into with C-41 processing.
What is your development process like now?
1) In the case of film, shoot a roll of the stock of choice in the camera body of choice.
2) If using my Pentax MV, I rewind the film just until I can hear the tongue break away from the spool. Then opening the camera, I have an exposed film leader, so it’s easy to get my reel started in the light and then put it in the bag to get it loaded the rest of the way. In the case of Canon, I shoot it until there’s 1 frame left, then open it up for that same reason. Granted, that’s not the most efficient use of film because a couple of frames do get lost, but that’s a lot easier than doing it all in darkness. Aside from that with sites like ultra fine online there’s no excuse to pay high prices for film and chemistry.
3) After the negatives are dry, I scan in 16-bit TIFF format so I am left with the rough equivalent of a digital camera RAW file and then import it into GIMP, at which time I invert my negative, adjust exposure, fix up the color, desaturate for black and white images, and then export to a JPEG to be sent off to either my Pinterest page or the film photographers Facebook page.
What’s your processes regarding scanning, enlarging, and/or printing your work?
I primarily scan. I have a Pacific Imaging PrimeFilm 1800u scanner that I bought in 1999 that I still use and it still performs quite well. Astoundingly, it’s still available on Amazon. I can scan negatives as transparent images, the reason being that the software along with the scanner is quite old and it’s better to just scan it as is, than use newer software (in my case the latest GIMP version) to invert, color correct (or desaturate), and beautify.
What equipment are you using to develop your film and why?
I have a standard issue changing bag, Patterson universal development tank, D-76 developer and hardening fixer in the case of black and white. I use the Unicolor C-41 kit in the case of color. Additionally, I have some pyrex measuring cups, a graduated cylinder, and a bathroom where it all takes place.
Are you content with where you are now with your shooting and developing? Do you have any future plans or ambitions?
As mentioned, I just began my journey into color development and I really want to keep going with that. I also do not want to give up black and white film and I don’t want to replace film with digital by any means. I think both formats have their own value. I don’t really have business plans. And as far as publishing goes, I would just like my Pinterest board to be seen by anybody who wants to look at it.
What advice can you give to others who are interested in shooting and developing film but are apprehensive about getting started?
In this day and age it’s never been easier or cheaper to get into film photography. Film SLR cameras can be had amazingly cheap (in some cases free if you have older family members that embrace technology and happen to like you). Film, chemistry and development gear are also quite inexpensive and quite fulfilling as well. If you’re apprehensive, there’s really no reason to be!