A while ago I wrote a post about the film/developer combinations that I favour. I’ve had quite a bit of darkroom experience in the last 18 months during the lock-down here in England and I’m now in a position to revise my default combinations.

For 35mm work, I favour a combination of HP5/ID 11 or Rodinal. Most of my 35mm work is walk-about photography, and mostly travel, town or street work. I like grain and this kind of work is not destined for large prints. I tend to use ID 11 in a 1:1 dilution and Rodinal in a 1:30 dilution.

For high contrast situations (where I know most of the film will be used under these conditions) I tend to increase the dilution of ID 11 to 1:2 or 1:3 and increase the exposure. Some care is required in having the right development times. When increasing the exposure from ASA 400 to 200, I think the development times in some of the charts do not reduce the times sufficiently. For example, when increasing exposure from 400 to 200, a 23% reduction in development time is recommended by MassiveDev for a 1:1 dilution . For 1:3 dilution, the recommended reduction is 30%, but I tend to go for 35-40% for better results.

In my last post I extolled the virtues of Ilford XP2 Super. I still really like its characteristics. The problem I’ve found is that I don’t use 35mm film regularly enough to warrant the quite expensive development chemicals required, which do not have a long shelf-life. Quite a bit of developer chemicals were going to waste. If I was going on a trip where I intended to use 6 or more rolls of film, I would use XP2. It’s partial self-compensation is very helpful for controlling high contrast.

For what I shall call ‘fine print’ work, for want of a better name, I use one of: my Mamiya-Six 120 folder, the Hasselblad 503 or my Walker 7×5 LF. Here, I don’t normally want much grain. So I tend to use a combination of HP5/ID 11 in a 1:2 dilution, or HP5 with Pyrocat HD using extended development/reduced agitation if I want the adjacency effects.

And that’s it!

I have found that limiting myself to a small range of combinations is helping me to improve as a printer. Within these limits there is enough to be getting on with. That theme of simplicity cropping up again!

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