Going for the dDoOuUbBlLeE. Part 2 … and a schoolboy error!

Developing a film that’s been through the camera twice is no different to developing any other film … or is it?


In Going for the DoUuBbLlEe. Part 1 I exposed a roll of 35mm film which was then rewound back into the cassette and put into a film swap with friends who had similarly exposed films. We would each then put the swapped film through our cameras for a second time to produce random double exposures.

For my roll of Kentmere 400 I got a roll of Ilford Delta 400 in return. I was told that it had been exposed by Dan who I know to be a considered, careful, precise photographer and that he had underexposed by one stop, a series of textured, patterned backgrounds. And he’d marked the leader to help line up the frames when I loaded the film in my camera. Out of respect for Dan, I wanted to be sure to make my exposures on the film with the same degree of care and attention that he had for his part.

I decided to set up a table-top style of studio where I could control lighting and background and to take close-up shots of photography related and a couple of other objects. The closest focussing lens that I have for a 35mm camera is a Vivitar ‘macro’ zoom. Although described as ‘macro’ it is in fact a 1:4 close-focus lens rather than a true 1:1 macro, but that would be good enough for my purpose.

All done and as long as Dan’s textures and patterns weren’t too strong and the frames were in register, my second exposures should show up as subtle highlights against Dan’s backgrounds. I proceeded to the darkroom where I carefully loaded the film onto a spiral reel, secured it in a developing tank and then set about preparing the chemistry to develop the film.

I prepared all the chemistry fresh: developer, stop and fixer each in clearly marked bottles. I brought the chemistry and bottles containing the water I would use for rinsing up to temperature and placed them all in a water bath to maintain temperature from start to finish. Whatever could go wrong?

With everything ready, I checked the clock and poured the developer into the tank. As I did so I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the bottle marked ‘Developer’ still sitting in the water bath – what I was pouring into the tank was the fixer! Panic stations. I immediately poured out the fixer and rinsed out the tank. It had only been briefly in contact with the film and I reckoned that if I rinsed it out well enough there was a chance that something could be retrieved.

With my composure regained and the attitude that what’s done is done, I set about making fresh fixer to replace that which had been poured unceremoniously down the sink, replenishing the used rinse water and setting up the water bath for another attempt, this time with a somewhat greater degree of concentration.

The film developed with images but the emulsion side has a thick greenish appearance, rather like a film that’s been inadequately fixed. I’m not sure how well the negatives will print but I scanned them and with quite substantial tweaking of levels the files produced images not too far from what I was hoping for.

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They say there’s a first time for everything. That’s the first, and I hope the last, time that I’ll drop my guard and pour the wrong solution into the tank. I’m just gutted that it happened with a film that someone else, my friend Dan, had put time, thought and effort into. I’ll find out soon enough if he’s OK with the results!

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