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09-03-2008, 06:15 AM   #1
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Waterless developing?

I'm very tempted to get a secondhand film camera (Pentax, of course) and shoot some B&W again. What's holding me back is water. I live in a small coastal village in South Australia, commonly known as "the driest state in the driest continent on Earth." We rely on rainwater tanks year round and I just can't justify using the amount of water required for developing film. Yes, I could send my film off to the mainland and get some camera shop in Adelaide to develop them, but that's just shifting the water issue on to someone else - all of southern Australia is dry, with summer coming on. There's plenty of ocean at the bottom of my street, but I don't suppose that's any use.
So my question is, does anyone know of a waterless method for developing B&W negs? Preferably not too toxic, either. (The Frugal Photographer website - The Frugal Photographer - has a recipe using vitamin C powder and coffee, but it still needs gallons of water).
Anyone?

09-03-2008, 06:34 AM   #2
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How about home desalination? Might be pricey, in which case you could likely just boil and distill it instead of one of those fancy electric reverse osmosis thingies.
09-03-2008, 07:38 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by jamonation Quote
How about home desalination? Might be pricey, in which case you could likely just boil and distill it instead of one of those fancy electric reverse osmosis thingies.
There are domestic reverse osmosis units available for $200-$300, but they use a fair bit of electricity for a small output. I could maybe try the boiling/distilling trick. Then the problem is how to dispose of the chemicals. We can't empty them down our septic system - it would kill off all the bacteria. Then again, that's where the coffee and vitamin C comes in, I guess. Hmm. Something to sleep on (it's past midnight).
09-03-2008, 08:22 AM   #4
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You can use diafine, in which 1l of solution A and B goes a looooooonnnnnggggg way because you reuse the solutions until they evaporate (if you cannot buy diafine sent me a pm and I'll send you a recipe)
Stop bath, use water+vinegar or water+citric acid and reuse it, but with diafine it is not necessary
Alkaline fixer TF4 or similar work well, and does not need a stop bath. Washed quickly afterwards.
Fixer can be reused, and after it soaks up silver enough you can either let the water evaporate to make a solid sludge or dump some steel wool in there to have a solid steel-sliver sludge and not harm your septic tank..

The main problem is washing after fixing, which uses quite a lot of water if you let it run.
In the best case you would need 5x300ml for 1 roll of 35mm (1,5 l) and yes you can dump that to the septic system or use it to flush a toilet later.

So in total you would need 2-3l to develop a roll of film being wasteful. Being thrifty maybe 1.5-2

PS. This is called the "Ilford" Method for whatever reason but was proposed eons ago by AGFA (before the war)


Last edited by titrisol; 09-04-2008 at 12:30 AM. Reason: Ilford/Agfa Method comment
09-03-2008, 09:26 AM   #5
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Welcome to one of the motivating factors to the development of digital cameras. Water usage and disposal of chemicals.
09-03-2008, 11:31 AM   #6
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That's not helpful, raz.

If you figure out how to replenish developers, that'll help.

"Ilford Washing" helps to conserve water.

Stuff that crap about rinsing film with a constant flow of water for 30 minutes.

Ilford Washing, or whatever it's called (Ilford came up with this technique) which is fill the tank with water, dump it, fill again, agitate, let sit for a few minutes. Repeat three times.

A stop bath removes the need to intensely wash film between developing and fixing, by neutralising the developer (as opposed to diluting it to the point where it no longer acts on the film.) I generally fill the tank about 3/4 full, then add 1/2 cup of ordinary white vinegar. The Home Brand stuff works well.
09-03-2008, 06:17 PM   #7
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I have two suggestions for you - 1)do not use a hardening fixer - it takes a lot longer to wash, 2) use a wash aid - again it cuts down significantly on washing time.

You also might think about getting a dehumidifier and using the "waste" water that it produces for photography purposes if you are really that hard up for water.
09-03-2008, 06:35 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithos Quote
That's not helpful, raz.
Look, if a multi-million dollar industry decided that this was a problem, and their best answer was digital, there might not be any other choice given the circumstances.

A lot of the motivation was the chemicals part, not even water being in short supply. But if the OP has water issues, and by association disposal issues, what he would like to do, and what is reasonably possible may not be one and the same.

If you want to do some old fashioned, get your hands dirty type of picture taking, perhaps you can look all the way back to tin type. It was used by traveling photographers back before there was much public utility infrastructure available, so I suspect it lends itself to low resource photography. Some contemporary pros are shooting with that chemistry and getting some very nice results as long as you prefer a "look" rather than technial perfection.

09-03-2008, 07:23 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wombat Quote
There are domestic reverse osmosis units available for $200-$300, but they use a fair bit of electricity for a small output. I could maybe try the boiling/distilling trick. Then the problem is how to dispose of the chemicals. We can't empty them down our septic system - it would kill off all the bacteria. Then again, that's where the coffee and vitamin C comes in, I guess. Hmm. Something to sleep on (it's past midnight).

I've used the coffee and vit C developer a few times now. And it actually works!

The most water that gets used is the stop bath and the final rinse. Even though I am in an area that does not have water use restrictions, I do try to use less water so I have been using the Ilford rinse method.

Eric.
09-03-2008, 07:40 PM   #10
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If you are close to the ocean, you can get distilled water by digging a slight pit into the sand (until you get to the water table or close), then cover it with a plastic sheet, with a weight in the middle. Place a container under the weight to capture the condensate that drips off.

I think a 1 meter square sheet can generate enough water to keep a person alive (that is about 1 leter per day) with no work for you to do and no energy spent
09-03-2008, 08:23 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by raz-0 Quote
Look, if a multi-million dollar industry decided that this was a problem, and their best answer was digital, there might not be any other choice given the circumstances.
Are you talking about the same multi-million industry that gave us such genius as face detection, smile detection, and cameras in mobile phones? Or is it you just let everything you do be dictated by "industry"?

QuoteQuote:
A lot of the motivation was the chemicals part, not even water being in short supply. But if the OP has water issues, and by association disposal issues, what he would like to do, and what is reasonably possible may not be one and the same.
But he also mentioned he wants to do gelatin silver black and white again. I believe Wombat was asking for information on minimising water usage, not asking if he/she should shoot digital or film.

QuoteQuote:
If you want to do some old fashioned, get your hands dirty type of picture taking, perhaps you can look all the way back to tin type. It was used by traveling photographers back before there was much public utility infrastructure available, so I suspect it lends itself to low resource photography. Some contemporary pros are shooting with that chemistry and getting some very nice results as long as you prefer a "look" rather than technial perfection.
Again...didn't Wombat say black and white with a Pentax camera? In the film forum? This isn't someone just wanting to be as "old-school" as possible.

Wait...are you saying you let your photos be dictated by "technical perfection"? What are you even doing in a Pentax forum? Why aren't you on a forum dedicated to Hasselblads with a 50MP back?

That says it all, really.
09-03-2008, 10:18 PM   #12
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Wombat, first of all I commend you on being concerned about your water usage. I know you don't have much choice where you are but I'm sure everyone isn't like you.
I'm afraid I haven't had much developing experience, did some thirty years ago at school. I used to have a girlfriend back in Hastings, England who was a photographer for the local newspaper and I used to go in the dark room with her at the weekends (yes some film did get developed) and I remember that by using stop baths, water usage was minimal.
Over here in California, we have water restrictions and my wife have managed to save a lot of water by simple methods - a brick in the toilet cistern, bucket in the shower to catch the water until it heats up, keeping a bucket in the kitchen sink for the same reason. In the toilet it's "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down".

You could try things like that or find another way to offset the water usage. Develop a film and don't shower that day for example.

Another thought, does the local school or a youth club have a darkroom? Or is there a local camera club? Several people developing film together will use less water than several developing film independently.

Just thinking out loud, don't know if I've been of help.

Cheers
09-04-2008, 07:15 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
If you are close to the ocean, you can get distilled water by digging a slight pit into the sand (until you get to the water table or close), then cover it with a plastic sheet, with a weight in the middle. Place a container under the weight to capture the condensate that drips off.

I think a 1 meter square sheet can generate enough water to keep a person alive (that is about 1 leter per day) with no work for you to do and no energy spent
Heh, I've done that camping and it works very well, albeit in a freshwater setting only. You can leave the same setup out overnight and it will capture dew/condensation too, though I can't imagine there being much of that where wombat lives.
09-04-2008, 08:18 AM   #14
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Wo lithos, you really are kind of a jerk.

Adding you to my ignore.
09-04-2008, 10:31 PM   #15
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Gentlemen, as always, your responses have been enormously helpful, with lots of practical suggestions. Thank you. I feel encouraged enough to give it a go. The real sticking point for me was the half-hour rinse - I hadn't heard of the Ilford method. So, next time I visit the mainland I'll be checking out all the camera shops. Last time I saw a K1000 going for about $200AUS. Hmmm. Now I'm salivating like a Pavlov dog - can you rinse negs in saliva?
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