October Update

Pre-project tests

As a backdrop to this project, let me show you a few early examples of film developed with coffee and other beverages. I first learned of this technique back in February of 2012. I found I could develop the silver in black and white film using coffee and all kinds of other beverages, like pomegranate juice, apple juice, even beer! Now, I didn’t do anything new with this technique for a lot of years, so when I made the choice to apply for the SEMAC grant, I thought this would be a cool thing to include in my project proposal.

Here are some images of roses, developed with various beverages. You can see that they each produce an image with unique tones, contrast, and sharpness. This is what first fascinated me about the technique, namely, that the silver in film responds differently to different developers.

PreProject Examples
PreProject Examples

October 2018

Test #1

It’s been a few years since I last developed film with coffee, so I proceeded somewhat cautiously by using expired film. A gambler’s psychology is at play when you shoot with film, because one never knows the outcome in advance. You have to trust the settings on your camera regarding proper exposure. Then, you have to choose the right chemistry to develop the film, and trust in that process, too. And of course you can’t preview your results right after snapping the shutter. We’ve all become spoiled in the age of the digital camera with instant results.

I took this first series of images using Kentmere 100 film during a visit to relatives in Brainerd, MN. The negatives themselves are dark, with a lot of silver development. This could signify the film was overexposed at the time of shooting, or overprocessed at developing, or both.

 

The “orthodox” recipe for coffee developing calls for using coffee crystals dissolved in water. I’m terrible at following a recipe, and part of my commitment in this project is to contribute new knowledge to the community of photographers who develop film with coffee. So, I deviated from the script and used fresh-brewed coffee from grounds. That meant, of course, that I was venturing into uncharted territory, and all mistakes were therefore my own.

All in all, I consider this test to be a good outcome, even though it is clear I am going to refine my technique in order to get more satisfying results.

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water

Film: Kentmere 100, 35mm, expired 2015

Camera: Olympus OM1-n                                  Development: Process 1

Image analysis: Negatives are dark. Scanned images have an acceptable graininess.

==

Test #2 – no images

This roll resulted in no images at all. I failed to develop any silver, so there are no images to present

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water

Film: Lomography 100, medium format (120), expired

Camera: Yashica Mat 124G                                Development: Process 1

Image analysis: Negatives are highly grainy, yet no particular image is present. Expired film.

==

Test #3

These early experiments serve the purpose of exploring different film types as much as exploring the processes for development. These images come from a visit to the Crow Wing County Fair in Brainerd. The negative was “thin”, so the resulting “positive” images are dark. It was a cloudy cold day for the fair, so there wasn’t a lot of light contrast. The image below looks acceptable due to being “rescued” by the software used to scan the negative.

Test03 County Fair
Test03 County Fair

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water       Film: AgfaPan, 35mm, expired 1985

Camera: Olympus OM1-n                                    Development: Process 1

Image analysis:  Negatives are very thin. Could be a consequence of age of the film.

==

Test #4

With the “orthodox” recipe for coffee developing you use 45 grams of coffee crystals dissolved into water to make one liter of finished solution – plus some other dry ingredients to regulate pH. In my recipe, I brew 12 cups of coffee with four tablespoons of grounds. With the orthodox recipe, development time ranges from 7 minutes up to 13 minutes, depending on the specific film type. The knowledge of developing times comes from the trials and errors of other photographers. Since I am not following the orthodoxy, I start with that information as a guide, but have to refine further according to the new recipes I am creating.

In this test, I used fresh film, and high-speed film at that (ISO 400), as one measure to try to get more silver development. The subject matter was farm-themed, at the home of one of my relatives near Milaca, MN, featuring barns and tractors. I started to see some crispness in the scanned images as corrected by the software, but still I thought the negatives were a little thin.

Test04 Farm Sights
Test04 Farm Sights

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water

Film: Kodak400TX, 35mm, fresh

Camera: Olympus OM1-n                                        Development: Process 1

Image analysis:  Negatives were thin

==

Test #5

Here’s another roll of Kodak 400TX, this time developed at 13 minutes of developing time, hoping to get more silver development, compared to 11 minutes as in the previous tests. It’s another farm scene, this time at one of my wife’s relative’s home in northwestern Minnesota. The earthy tones of barnwood and rusty farm equipment are well-suited to the graininess of the film.

I made a slight change in my coffee recipe at this test. Previously, I used Vitamin C tablets, ground up, in the recipe. The challenge with doing this is that there are starches and binders in the pill formula, and those starches make a sticky mess. In this test, I used a pure vitamin C powder that I ordered online. I don’t think this affected the outcome of the silver development, but it did save me a step of filtering off the sticky residue that comes from the tablets.

Test05 Shed
Test05 Shed

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water

Film: Kodak400TX, 35mm, fresh

Camera: Olympus OM1-n                                Development: Process 2

Image analysis:   Negatives show a little more silver development, but still thin.

==

Test #6

I deviated from my own script for a little bit and developed a roll of film using coffee mixed with apple juice. The tannins in apple juice fulfill the same role as the tannins in brewed coffee, and are responsible for developing the silver in film. I was curious to see if the apple juice would bolster the coffee.

The subject matter is the stones and buildings at Kinstone, in western Wisconsin. I also switched to a slower speed film, Kodak TMax 100.

Test06 Chapel
Test06 Chapel

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water

Film: KodakTMax100, 35mm, fresh

Camera: Olympus OM1-n                              Development: Process 2

Image analysis: Negatives are very thin.

==

November 2018, Test #7

The first series of tests were intended to get my feet wet, so to speak, with the process of film development. Now it is time to get more focused and start down a path that is not so random in nature.

I wasn’t entirely pleased with the first test rolls, in that they were all underdeveloped, meaning, there wasn’t a lot of silver in them. I was always rescuing the images through scanning and software techniques.

I turned to a second type of developing process I was familiar with called “stand developing”. With the conventional process I had been using, the coffee goes into the developing tank, and then to bring fresh chemical in contact with the film you do a slight tank agitation periodically, say, once per minute.

With stand developing, you take a different approach. You typically use a developer concentration that is one-tenth (or even less) of what you use in the conventional method, and then you let the film “stand” in the chemical for a much longer time, and without agitation. Some photographers won’t touch this method, because they think it is too risky not to agitate the tank periodically.

I did not adjust the concentration of my coffee when I first tried this, since I was already experiencing underdevelopment of the silver. However, I did set up a test where I would expose a 36-frame roll of film, taking the same shot at the same exposure for all 36 frames. Then I cut the film into four (approximately) equal lengths, and developed each film segment in its own tank, for different amounts of stand time. I chose 14 minutes, 35 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minutes.

Test07 Stand Developing
Test07 Stand Developing

 

Test Summary:

Coffee: Folgers, 4 tbsp grounds in 12 cups of water

Film: KodakTMax100, 35mm, fresh

Camera: Olympus OM1-n                                                    Development: Process 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d

Image analysis: The results were insightful. As expected, the longer development time produced more silver, and shorter time produced less. I also introduced a new phenomenon I was not familiar with previously, something I found out has the name “bromide drift” (see upper left image). Bromide drift introduces a streaking artifact into the negative, generally consider an undesirable outcome. In any case, I determined that 35 minutes of stand developing seemed to have the right amount of silver development with my home-brewed coffee.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund.

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