local jungle – C41 development

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Yesterday I finally overcame my fears and developed my first roll of C41 colour film at home. The process was surprisingly easy and I’m actually happy with the results which is surprising too, since I’m quite picky when it comes to colour! The stuff that digital sensors produce always seems somewhat off to me and colour correcting that is a real nightmare. Scanning these pictures was actually easier than I thought and needed much less fiddling than when I battle with digital colour. All I did on these was a little white balance correction selecting the neutral point when scanning in SilverFast and then minor corrections in Lightroom followed by fixing chromatic aberrations. The latter seemed quite pronounced with the XA as you can see in one of the shots where I left the aberrations.

The colour development itself was just like I expected it to be. A little annoying, a little stressful, but definitely not very complicated.

First of course I had to mix all the chemicals which was a little crazy, because there are a ton of little bottles that all look quite similar. The Developer has 3 parts, the Blix 2 and the Stabiliser one, so better not to mix the wrong ones together! And all of those chemicals look weird. The final Developer mix looks orange, the Blix is between dark red and magenta and the Stabiliser foams like crazy. Pretty obvious that one should wear gloves while handling this stuff. The mixing can also get a little messy, so glasses might also help to protect the eyes from stray droplets!

Once the chemicals are mixed the actual process can start. It goes as follows with the Tetenal C41 Kit I was using:

 

  1. Pre-soak (38°C +/- 0.3°C) – 5 min.
  2. Colour Developer – CD (38°C +/- 0.5°C) – 3:15 min for the first 4 rolls, then longer.
  3. Bleach and Fix – Blix (38°C +/- 5°C) – 4 min for the first 4 rolls, then longer.
  4. Wash (30-40°C) – 5 min.
  5. Stabiliser – STAB (20-40°C) – 1 min.

The Blix is actually a combined Bleach and Fix stage that other kits have separate, so this is rather convenient. People disagree on the question whether this is sensible or not, but I’m a little lazy and don’t mind a step less when the results measure up. As you can see, the temperatures are a bit mad and especially during the developer stage the temperature needs to be kept steady within one degree. Keeping the temperatures level is the main difficulty of the whole process. And of course first I had to wait for ages for the developer to reach the correct temperature and then everything had to happen way too quickly somehow.

What I did to keep the temperature level was to use the kitchen sink as a water bath. Our kitchen tap maxes out at about 41°C, so to heat up the developer I kept the temperature that high until the developer reached the correct temperature. This was a bit annoying because I had to open the drain when the sink got too full and therefore keep my hand in the hot water. Even with gloves this does get uncomfortable after a while in 41°C water, so maybe next time I’ll use a bigger pot in the sink and let it flow over. The temperature of the developer needs to reach 38.5°C actually to account for a loss of temperature while pouring. After the developer reached the right temperature I let the temperature of the water bath drop so that the temperature of the developer wouldn’t keep on rising. By the time I finished the developer stage of 3:15 minutes it had 39.5°C and after that I didn’t monitor it anymore because the water wouldn’t drop 5 degrees that fast. For agitation I used the swirly stick of my AP tank rotating back and forth which meant that I didn’t have to lift the tank out of the water bath. I agitated for 10 seconds every 30 seconds during all stages apart from pre-soak and wash and this seemed to work well.

With short development times – 3:15 min for the first 4 rolls – it all became a bit hectic. When to start pouring? When to stop swirling? When to pour the stuff out again? When to measure temperatures? And wait, did I rinse the funnel already? Argh! Nevertheless everything worked well and the negatives came out just fine. All in all no reason to panic! By the way you can also do the development at lower temperatures which is actually recommended for 120 film, but then it takes longer. I think I will try to develop a roll of 120 in 30°C next and see what happens.

All pictures taken with: Olympus XA, F.Zuiko 35mm f/2.8.
Rossmann 400 developed in Tetenal Colortec C41 Negative Processing Kit.

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

Funny, I never noticed before that the XA produces diamond shaped bokeh!

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

This is the shot where I left the chromatic aberrations. (I already posted it yesterday as a preview in case it seems familiar.)

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

© Lilly Schwartz 2014

Comments

  • Lucy

    Oh yes! Very nice 🙂

    • Lilly Schwartz

      Thanks Lucy 🙂 Yay, colour!

  • very cool! sounds like a lot of work and fun 🙂

    • Lilly Schwartz

      Oh, it totally was a lot of fun and I felt very proud of myself too! Work? Well, yes. All the development takes some time and effort, BW as well. For the colour process it’s about 20-45 min actual work per batch, standing there, watching the thermometer, agitating, pouring out, pouring in. The cool thing is that I’m actually in control though. And the trick is to do bigger batches. I definitely need a bigger development tank at some point.

      • Harry

        Hello Lilly, Nice work but could you tell me the life of the chemicals once opened and bottled, I have this thought that I would have to save up a batch of 8-12 colour rolls to get best value out of this kit.

        Regards Harry.

  • Roger

    Well done on cracking the C41. Great results! My first colour developing was with E6, so when it came to C41 it was easy! As for how long the chemicals last, I think Tetenal say that the opened but unmixed chemicals should last 6 months. I have a Tetenal kit that has been open since last January and it’s been fine so far. I might have to revise that after my next roll though…

  • When I read all the above I just feel like 5 years ago when I first started reading about photography and manuel control on the right exposure ! I feel like a beginner again when I see all the information about developing negatives and trying to keep up ! 😐 but from what I understood that the BW developing is easier and less complex then the color developing, right ? keep up the good work !

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