Fomapan 400 in Caffenol-STD – Experiments and Results. And Large Format

This is an article of fine art figure photographer Scott Nichol from Allentown, PA, USA. You can visit his blog at http://www.silverystars.com/somanystars/. The Original article can be found here.

I wanted to experiment with the recipe for a coffee-based film developer commonly called Caffenol. Dirk Essl at caffenol.org does an excellent job of keeping track of development times for lots of different films that can be developed with Caffenol. However, most of the films that have been developed using this unique developer were films like Ilford HP5+ and Delta 400, neither of which I had any 4×5 stock at the moment. I did, however, have a good supply of Fomapan 400 and seeing as how development times for Fomapan and the Ilford films were similar, I decided to have a go at it. Initially, I decided just to follow the recommendation for Ilford Delta 400 of 9 minutes at 68°F.

I made 3 bracketed exposures at the old Bethlehem Steel site and developed the sheets with continuous agitation for the first minute, then 8 inversions in 10 seconds every 30 seconds. This is my typical 4×5 sheet development agitation method. In my experience it produces negatives with even development and good contrast.

When I pulled the negatives out of the developer, I was pleasantly surprised to see a well-defined image. The negatives were a little thinner than I would want, but there was most likely a usable image. I let the negatives dry and then scanned them with my Epson V700 scanner. The histogram for each of these scans shows that the densest parts of the negative are right around middle grey.  The under-exposed negative had a white point of almost 150 and a good amount of detail in the shadow areas. I think that the shortest exposure in the bracket (1/500 sec) just didn’t capture enough information for this particular development formula.  This negative lacks contrast and would prove a difficult negative to manage.

Original Scan Data

Original Scan Data

Original Scan Data

Ultimately I chose to use the under exposed shot (1/125 sec) from the bracket. After I pulled the scan into Photoshop, adjusted the contrast and did some light dodging and burning, I was left with a quite usable image.

Bethlehem Steel - Fomapan 400 developed in Caffenol-STD

However, I still wasn’t satisfied with the density of the negatives and wanted to try again with an extended development time. I shot two more sets of images bracketing two shots each with one exposed as metered and another exposed one stop down. Development this time was to be 12 minutes at 68°F and the same agitation method (continuous for the first minute, then 8 inversions every 30 seconds).

Original Scan Data

Original Scan Data

The resulting negatives were a bit more dense and gave a white point of 179 in the scanner’s histogram. So, additional development did help in building up the negative’s density. Next time, I might go as long as 14 minutes or maybe try the developer at 70°F to try and get some more negative density. But otherwise, I would say this was a very successful experiment!

Haines Mill - Fomapan 400 developed in Caffenol-STD

Stars and Stripes - Fomapan 400 developed in Caffenol-STD

Formula/Ingredients:
Folger’s Instant Coffe (45g)
Solgar Vitamin C Crystals (20g)
Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (24g)

Mixing Instructions:
First dissolved the washing soda in 750ml distilled water, then added the coffee.  Finally added the vitamin C very slowly with constant, vigorous stirring. In my first attempt, I warmed the water a bit before mixing. Second attempt was mixed at room temperature.

About Scott:
Schooled as a photographer and practiced in traditional printmaking, his work is at once cinematic and somewhat lyrical, a story left to the imagination of the viewer.  Working in both landscapes and studio, he studies the figure and its purposeful place and within an ideal frame.  Within this frame lies the emotion and the contemplative nature of the solitary figure.

When asked to describe his style, Scott says, “I tend to approach my work with a simple pre-visualization, an image that I see in my mind that serves as a rough sketch of what I’d like to accomplish with my subject.  This vision often changes once the model and I meet face to face.  Most models are highly creative and I tend to feed off of their energy, allowing ideas to flow and form freely.  It’s truly a wonderful collaboration and I owe a debt of thanks to all of the women who have helped me to create these beautiful photos.”

Scott has published one Book and two more are in the works.