It’s funny, there seems to be a kind of “collective unconscious” in the photo community… All the buzz about film lately, from discussions on strobist to Brian Auer’s fantastic “build a film developing kit for <$50” Of course it just so happens that’s I’ve been rekindling my lost love affair with film as well…I started out developing film (from my 1967 Pentax spotmatic) and printing it in a wet darkroom. Once I moved to digital, my 35mm film kind of fell by the wayside…
I picked up a Holga a while back with the intention of just messing around, running some 120 film etc… At the time, I still had access to a pro darkroom, and intended to do my own processing and printing… Of course, that never happened. With 99% of my work being digital, my poor rolls of 120 sat un-developed for <ahem> quite some time.
Of course that was before I discovered Diafine. (for those who don’t know, Diafine is what is known as a “Compensating developer” It comes in 2 parts, solution A, and solution B. You pour in A, the film absorbs as much as it’s emulsion can hold, you then pour it out, and pour in B. B reacts with A, doing the developing until A is all used up – then it stops (as there is no more A left to react.) essentially it is a “self terminating” development process. What this means in practice is that it is just about the fastest, easiest way to develop black and white film that I have ever seen. No carefully controlling temperatures of solutions (it works just fine anywhere from 68-80F), no exact timing down to the second (because it is self terminating, it doesn’t matter how long your film in). You can load your film, pour in A, walk away and eat a sandwich, come back pour in B, go grab a beer, come back a half hour later, and your film will be done. Just like that.
There are a couple of other cool features as well (eg it gives an effective “speed boost” of a stop or more to many films – my preferred HP5+ becomes effectively 800ISO when souped in diafine) and a few downsides. It’s definitely not the developer to choose if you demand exacting precision & control over each step of the development process. But for a low-fi neg like the holga produces it’s a match made in heaven.
Say what you will about film v. digital. I love them both, I think they both have their place, and I think that every photographer should use both to at least some extent. Even if you are die-hard 100% “digital is superiour to film in every way”, the “creative experience” of film is very different than digital. It makes you shoot in a different way, think in a different way, see in a different way. Not better, not worse, just different. And that in my opinion is one of the great “creativity juicers” that we get. So if you are in a creative rut, try it out. Grab a holga and a few rolls of black and white 120 film ($30-40 bucks) and some diafine, and shoot some blurry, light-leaky, distorted, streaky, vignetted, *beautiful* frames. Guaranteed to cure what ails ya!
All shot with the holga, Ilford HP5+ film, processed in Diafine: