First attempt at 35mm development

This isn’t my first attempt at film development, that was at the beginning of this year with trying out the 4x5 camera. I’ve been meaning to write about that for 9 months, maybe I’ll get to it soon… This was my first attempt at 35mm film though (black and white, obviously). Up to now I’ve just sent them away to as they do a good job and are competitively priced. Although prices have gone up this year, so not quite as cheap as it used to be. I have thought of using them just for development and then scanning myself to save some money, but why not do the whole thing!

tl;dr: It went badly.

I’ve had all the stuff since last Christmas when I asked for it from family members - as no-one ever knows what to get for me. Although I don’t have a film canister opener. I did try using a bottle opener but it didn’t really work. I ended up just ripping the canister apart from the film leader gap. That worked quite well as I could hold the coiled film.

Let’s do this!Let’s do this!

I don’t have a dark room, just a dark bag - as you can see - and loading the film into the spool was interesting. I was wearing some gloves to try and stop getting too much finger grease on the film but it was impossible to feel the film and the entrance to the spool. I ended up taking off one glove and then I could feel it better and feed it on to the spool. Once on, it’s easy to roll as you just turn the spool back and forth and it loads. It was surprisingly easy to do. I put it into the developing tank. The one I have can hold two spools but I thought I’d just try wrecking one film first (a good choice). I should’ve put it on the bottom of the tank and the blank on top to minimise the amount of chemicals I need, but I didn’t think about it at the time and just put it on the top to make it easier to load.

Need some tea after that strenuous workNeed some tea after that strenuous work

All ready to develop! It’s been 9 months since I last did it, and I realised I had forgotten most of what I needed to do. Some googling and I was all set. I had made some notes on what I did but I have no idea where I saved those as I couldn’t find them. I’ve since made a cheatsheet page on this site so I can find it in the future!

Chemicals a-readyChemicals a-ready

At this stage I should’ve realised something wasn’t quite right. See that dark red solution? That’s the developer. I need to find my photo of my first development efforts, but as I was pouring it I did think it looked awfully dark. However, I did nothing and carried on regardless. My sister was staying at the time and she came to see what I was up to. She walked in to me saying 1 to 9; 450 ml” as I was trying to figure out the dilution ratios. Maybe it’s me but I dislike ratios. Just make it a decimal. 🤓

I assume the issue was dodgy developer but perhaps there was something else too?

I use the Dev It app on my phone to manage the stages and times. I works pretty well and you can look up what others have used for the same film and solutions. After the developing, stopping, fixing, washing, agitating and timing, I was ready…

Well this doesn’t look good.Well this doesn’t look good.

My sister looks at it and says: is that what it’s supposed to be like?”. COMPLETELY BLANK. lolnope. We laugh a lot. 😂 Then I sighed. None of the pictures were anything special or particular, just the kids and us playing and out and about, but I was looking forward to seeing them. Well another lesson taught with brutal honesty by film

Side story:

At university, I did natural sciences in the first year and one of those was physics. We had labs each week and at some stage we were doing optics, and the lab involved taking photos with a film camera. This was back when I had no idea about anything and just used a point and shoot the whole time. Anyway, I spent 3 hours doing the lab. Setting up things to photograph, changing the distance and aperture etc. I took the whole roll and went into the darkroom. Thinking about it now it seems wild we were just left to get on with the film development with just a piece of paper to explain. After all of that I take out my film and it looks remarkably like the blank one above. Turns out I hadn’t loaded it properly and it never wound on. 😢 The moment I took out this film I was reminded of that lab, one afternoon nearly 20 years ago. This time I know the film wound on, as the M2 has the rewind knob with the two red dots that turn and I reached the end as I couldn’t advance the film.

Compared to a properly developed roll of HP5+Compared to a properly developed roll of HP5+

As part of my investigation into why, I got out another roll of HP5 that had been developed. I noticed the leader was perfectly black and the edges have some darkness on it. My film was perfectly clear the whole way. So that can’t be right as the leader had also been expose to the daylight. This suggested chemicals was the problem not the camera or loading etc. I get on the signal chat and ask my film development support team. Dodgy developer was the main suspect.

I then take a look at the bottle of developer:

Read the instructionsRead the instructions

This bottle was opened New Year’s Day 2022. Further forum reading suggests darkening is another symptom, particularly bad if it looks like strong tea.

Now strong tea is something I can recognise.

I’ve ordered some new chemical. Going with Kodak HC-110 this time. It keeps longer and is more economical per roll too, so that’s a bonus. I need to take some pictures and then give it another go. Hopefully third time’s the charm. Then I can enjoy the other eight rolls of HP5+ I’ve got waiting.

September 21, 2022 Photography Film

A brief visit to the Leica Store London Mayfair


A few weeks ago I was passing through London and thought I’d take the opportunity to visit the flagship Leica store of the UK - London Mayfair. If you’ve played Monopoly, you’ll know this is the expensive part of town!

It was quite the store. Display cabinets with all the cameras and lenses - M, SL, Q. There was a gallery and various display cabinets. I could’ve spent hours there, but unfortunately I only had about 20 minutes between trains.

I wanted to try out the M10, and I asked the white T-shirt’d hipster looking attendant if they had any I could try out. They only had a display M10-R as supposedly everything else was back at Wetzlar being looked over. I tried it with the 35mm summilux that was attached to it when he brought it out and then with the 90mm tele-elmarit I had with me. It felt exactly like holding the M2, it was unreal. The viewfinder was so bright and clear. It was lovely, and at that moment I was convinced I needed to get one.

But when I got home, and looked at the prices, that certainty started to dissolve.

Duke Street, W1Duke Street, W1

September 17, 2022 Leica

Seeing the Queen’s cortège

The Queen is travelling from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh, and goes along the main road that’s a 10 minute walk from our house. Couldn’t really be easier to go.

A big crowdA big crowd

There were, unsurprisingly, a lot of people. There were also a lot of police stationed every 100 metres or so just to keep people on the pavements. The road wasn’t closed the whole time, and so people were still trying to drive around but it would’ve been a nightmare.

A big escortA big escort

We could see the TV helicopter in the air and used that to guess when they were getting near. A whole procession of police bikes, vans, and cars all came by first. Then the Queen, and then the Royal Bentley with the Princess Royal and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence. They weren’t going that slowly at our section and it was over in a flash. If you’d turned away you’d have missed it! A huge number of Range Rovers and other vehicles, police, ambulance and others all followed.

Her last journey from ScotlandHer last journey from Scotland

September 11, 2022 Events

Kosmos Foto 35mm Film Thoughts

Old school soviet box designOld school soviet box design

I was going to call this a review but it’s not that official. Kosmo Foto Mono is a 100-ISO panchromatic black-and-white film. I think I bought it as I liked the box design more than any meticulous research that I undertook. I think it’s made by Fomapan, but I think it’s quite different to the Fomapan line. They suggest you can pull it to 50 and push it to 400, which I think is unusal for a panchromatic film. I’ve not pushed it myself, and I shot it at the box 100 speed.

The photo that attracts the most remarksThe photo that attracts the most remarks

As I said, I bought it mostly on a whim, I think I was just picking a random selection of things to try out. It might’ve been on sale too. I took it with me in the M2 when we went out to Drum Castle - a historic family castle with woods and walled gardens to explore. Being ISO 100, it’s always a bit of a risk here in Scotland. A sunny day can quickly turn cloudy and then all of a sudden f/4 is starting to be a push, and then going into the woods means I’m down to f/1.4-2.8. However, I managed to get quite a few nice shots of the kids playing. I didn’t really study the photos too much, as I tend to get multiple films developed at once there’s more to look at.

What caused me to go back and really look at them was that numerous people commented on how much they liked the photo above. My wife had used it in our family calendar for this year and so when it came to that month, everyone commented on it.

Woods + B&W is a favouriteWoods + B&W is a favourite

It’s not a single thing that makes up a photo, but a combination of everything. I do think this particular B&W film stock looks good and compliments the scenes.


It’s a bit of a niche stock and probably not all that available but if you do come across a roll, I’d suggest giving it a try. I think if you can shoot it at ISO 50, the internet tells me your results will be even better! 🌞

September 10, 2022 Photography Film

M6 prototype for Queen ElizabethM6 prototype for Queen Elizabeth

September 9, 2022 Leica Gear

Happy 60th Birthday! 🎂📷

60 years of rewinding60 years of rewinding

My Leica M2 was made in 1962, according to the serial number, and it works just as well today as it did when it was first made.

It’s my most favourite camera. I love the rangefinder focusing, and the feel and quality of it are outstanding. With a little care and maintenance this camera will last me another 60 years and beyond. My grandfather was a keen photographer and took many photos in his life. Unfortunately not many survived, and certainly none of his cameras. I don’t know if he ever had a Leica, I suspect not, but if he did then this could’ve been his. Even though it has no sentimental value, being from 1962 is the era of the few slide photos I do have from my grandfather, so it reminds me of him that way.

It is just a box, and it’s the lenses and film emulsion that truly make the photos, but it’s a box that makes you want to keep coming back to take more. I just hope film doesn’t become such an expensive luxury that the camera gets used less and less.

With Voigtlander NoktonWith Voigtlander Nokton

September 7, 2022 Photography Gear Leica