Spring has sprung in Melbourne and we find our thoughts turning once again to outdoorsy type activities. A traditional indicator that the weather has fined up is when the Melbourne Flickr group’s regular monthly meet goes BBQ. This year, the silver mine gave the October meet a touch of old school analogue spice with a DIY developing sausage sizzle in the park.
The idea itself seemed rather simple, a social event with an analogue twist. A traditional sausage sizzle get-together with the twist being giving the usually digital snappers in the Melbourne group the opportunity to handle some film cameras and to then develop the film right there in the park beside the sizzling snags. and as if that was exciting enough we would also produce some prints from those same negatives. Pass the sauce!
The mavericks amongst us were gung ho with the idea, with”yeah ripper” being the general concensus. The more learned of the group pointed out that there were some hurdles to overcome in order to meet the day’s objectives. Some comments about unknown temperature range, access to clean water, airborne particles, and having swans run off with your roll of 120 were raised.”These sorts of things can happen anywhere” the mavericks chimed and so the idea became a reality.
Fortunately, mama nature played her part and October 5th turned out to be a rather “massive dev chart” friendly day weatherwise, although several people noted that it was either “hot” in the sun or “freezing” in the shade, in actual fact the temperature tended to vary from about 23 degrees C to about 17 degrees C between the sun and shadows, which averaged out quite nicely.
The wind which occasionally whipped across Albert Park Lake also helped cut film drying times right down to about 15 minutes, and i must say, having since scanned some of the negatives that the amount of crap, debris, hair, bugs and other unidentifiable matter that the negatives collected didn’t seem very different to the carefully hung in a steamy bathroom negs I develop at home.
The decision to use a single type of film at the same speed also meant the development process would work much more efficiently. The initial temptation was of course to do a whole lot of pushing and pulling and different developing techniques, but wiser heads prevailed (whilst the mavericks were out to lunch) and we decided to shoot 3 rolls of Kodak Trix at 400, 3 being the magic number of 120 rolls that can be crammed into a paterson tank.
These three rolls were shot with a variety of 6×6 medium format cameras, Roberts Birze’s Bronica SQAi, Rhys Allen’s Agfa Isolette, and my Hasselbad 500c.
The sun was shining down upon us by the time we got to snapping, so it certainly wasn’t a bokeh fest, most of the shots taken with my blad were at F11 500, but several people shot in the shadows as well, which gave us a nice mix of styles.
Rob then souped the negs, giving us all an opportunity to behold his dark bag face for a few minutes as he wrangled the 3 rolls of medium format onto the spools. The whole lot was immersed into 1:50 Rodinal for 13 minutes with some agitation every 30 seconds. And thanks to the wonders of modern science, and beer, and snags, once the lid of the paterson tank was removed some nice dense negatives were unrolled.
Once dried, the negs were handed over to the darkroom specialists Zaeem Burq and Rhys Allen, who had a plan, Rhys describes the process they employed.
As we were working 120 film, the larger sized negatives made it possible to make some contact prints on to photo paper. Of course all that had to happen in the dark bag – so we brought along a small light table – 5″x7″ – and away we went. Pretty simple process – put the negative on the light, put the paper on the negative, expose for a few seconds, then stuff the paper into a film developing tank. From there we did all the chemistry in the open with the paper safely in the tank. About 2 mins later we were holding a slightly blurry but perfectly visible print.
Thanks to everyone who made the day such a success, in particular thanks to Jodie Noonan and Peter Fritze for handling the snag flipping responsibilities and keeping us fuelled up.
There are more photos from the day, taken with a wide range of cameras, both analogue and otherwise, you can see them all here.
This event is fairly typical of how the Silver Mine seeks to meet our objectives. Taking the beauty of analogue photography to the people and showing them how it can be fun and doesn’t require some secret set of skills.
We plan to hold more events like this and would love your support, either by attending or if possible by becoming a financial member of the Melbourne Silver Mine.
Cameron Stephen has blogged about the day over on theplasticlens.com and has some shots of the key moments as they happened.