Bio-Eco film developments for black & white photographic film and paper

Gabriele Coassin shares his experiments in the ecological-biological development of black-white films, the results of a two-year long experiment.

Writer and photography / Gabriele Coassin


Developing with Coffee Grounds, Dried Sage and Laurel

Bio-Eco film developments - short guide text for black & white photograhic film and paper

The new millennium offers us the rebirth of ecological and popular photography, which today I am recovering, years later from my youthful experiments, thanks to the rediscovery of old formulas and alchemies found in a booklet published by Progresso Fotografico in 1913. I have dedicated particular attention to antitype and cyanotype of which I published the first edition of the book Anto & Ciano Lab, but now I really enjoy messing around in the kitchen to get good photographic negatives starting from what I find in the pantry.

The well-established formulas of CAFFANOL, the development of the B/W film based on soluble coffee, are known and easily available on the WEB. I won’t go into detail, except to confirm that they work, with due caution and an unenviable smell: they have the advantage of being relatively stable, if you always use the same product, but they certainly aren’t free. And above all, they must be thrown away immediately after use.
So I asked myself… why not use something else, putting together my scarce chemical knowledge (for which I risked failing high school) and a free-range method of a medieval alchemist?

I do not report the detailed results of each individual test, of which I claim authorship and which I continue to perfect. I use vegetable ingredients containing good quantities of polyphenols, such as chestnut flour, olive leaves, magnolia, various tubers, oregano, basil and other secret ingredients for now, because otherwise a real treatise would be needed; I admit successes and defeats with other kitchen products of which I discovered late that the photographic use was not my invention, but already experimented by others, limiting myself then to verifying their effectiveness and constancy over time. Some soups are unacceptable, due to the eternal times of treatment or excessive variability of yield, others are more effective. Among these, the use of rosemary, richer in polyphenols than coffee, and moreover more fragrant when it reacts in the blend useful to us, was not my invention, but already published elsewhere. Only… I perfected it. After all, even those who don’t have a vegetable garden can put a nice vase of aromatic plants on the balcony and leaf through them in the right season to ensure good developments, with few qualitative compromises compared to commercial products.

Regarding these, the various manufacturers have become aware of a significant market demand for non-polluting and easy to dispose of products for domestic or semi-professional use, in quantities that are not critical for the environment. So the various price lists have been enriched with proposals for soluble powders or baths with low environmental impact.

In truth, I well remember a Kodak leaflet from the 70s which suggested mixing the used baths in a bin and using them to fertilize the garden! Maybe I could think about it for some flowering plants, but certainly not for peas, salads or courgettes that I would then have to eat… The fact is that there are two possible interpretations: one is the low ecological sensitivity and high pollutant tolerance that the Americans could have in those years, the other is that really, for domestic development in small quantities, these commercial products are not as polluting as some would have us believe.

I can only say that the most ecological fixing is based on sodium thiosulphate, but the treatment times are more than double compared to quick fixings based on ammonium thiosulphate. Which, I guarantee, are also offered in low environmental impact formulas, so the most popular, which is ILFORD RAPID FIXER, at the end of its work can really be mixed with development and stop residues and thrown without scruples in the waste toilet bowl (not in the sink). Is there a completely harmless solution?
Let’s look at an alternative.

I tried fixing a film in water completely saturated with table salt. 24 hours of bath with some stirring every now and then. The fixing works, even if the negative remains a little less transparent than normal. After six months of exposing the film to a window, I haven’t seen any degradation, but it’s really inconvenient to wait 24 hours to see the outcome of your development. No thank you! Possibly I can use it for scholastic use where certain teachers or managers make me die of impediments if I want to use any chemical product, while for a few spoonfuls of salt no one has anything to object to. But the result of the development will be seen only the next day.

FIXING IN SALT SATURATED WATER Incrustations on the tank after 24 hours semi-stand, with occasional agitation during the day… Just one rinse and everything is like new again.
FIXING IN SALT SATURATED WATER Incrustations on the tank after 24 hours semi-stand, with occasional agitation during the day…
Just one rinse and everything is like new again.
This is one of the negatives after 6 months of exposure hanging from a window. The pink-browning is due to the pure coffee used for the development (Formula MOKA-Caffenol-C-Hs©G_Coassin *, not proposed in the following tables). The fixing, although uncomfortable, proves to be perfectly successful. * “H” because it is a resized formula that starts from the classic Caffenol-C-H; “s” because I use Iodised Salt instead of Potassium Bromide
This is one of the negatives after 6 months of exposure hanging from a window. The pink-browning is due to the pure coffee used for the development (Formula MOKA-Caffenol-C-Hs©G_Coassin *, not proposed in the following tables). The fixing, although uncomfortable, proves to be perfectly successful.
* “H” because it is a resized formula that starts from the classic
Caffenol-C-H; “s” because I use Iodised Salt instead of Potassium Bromide

Returning to the liquid compound that will act as a developer, it’s nice to make it yourself, with natural products, especially derived from normal kitchen waste.
The idea dates back to childhood memories, when grandmother Nene boiled coffee grounds, finding that they weren’t so bad instead of coffee obtained directly from traditional roasted and ground coffee. This stopgap solution was born during the war when coffee was scarce. She taught me that the grounds of two coffee mokas, boiled for 5 minutes and left to infuse for 10 minutes, in the same amount of water as a single moka, could still make a good coffee.
So, leaving the basic formula of Caffenol unchanged, why not replace the expensive soluble coffee with a soup of boiled coffee grounds? Not only does it work, but it even allows you to reduce the amount of sodium carbonate (Soda Solvay) and Ascorbic Acid (pure Vitamin C) contained in the classic formulas of Caffenol, simply by adding a little iodized sodium chloride (table salt). That’s all you need, folks!

From here started all the chaos of intuitions, defeats, unexpected successes, seemingly uncontrollable variables and methods, accurate enough to be within your reach, without being a professional chemist.
And therefore I report here only some of the first formulas that have obtained – finally – repeatable results, reserving the others for the next workshops shared with those who want to register.
As of the current state of testing, I have dispatched about 20 informal trials in 2022 and 47 better-noted trials in spring 2023.
Among these I also tried the excellent ECO-SVILUPPO of Conservatorio Fotochimica, a quality Italian artisan laboratory that offers convenient re-editions of traditional products well described on the mini-site ac-photos.art/conservatorio-fotochimica.

In this journey, the collaboration of Nicola Mattarollo and Alberto Ciprian was invaluable to me; they fortunately do not live very far from my studio and have always made themselves available for any type of first aid.

And now some basic indications.

In this case one 135 and one 620 black and white film, found in cameras of 50 and 60 years ago, were developed with the semi-stand BIO-ECO technique.
In this case one 135 and one 620 black and white film, found in cameras of 50 and 60 years ago, were developed with the semi-stand BIO-ECO technique.

See pictures below

Part A: 4 cups of espresso, part B half the doses compared to those indicated in the following tables for 500ml of ISO 100/125 films (except for the salt, which remains the same) with the addition of water for a total of 800ml of developer; simultaneous treatment of the two films 70' at 22°.
Part A: 4 cups of espresso, part B half the doses compared to those indicated in the following tables for 500ml of ISO 100/125 films (except for the salt, which remains the same) with the addition of water for a total of 800ml of developer; simultaneous treatment of the two films 70′ at 22°.
The result is encouraging (film 135 anonymous and 620 Ferrania Pancro).
The result is encouraging (film 135 anonymous and 620 Ferrania Pancro).
The first informal tests of alternative developments were made during a workshop at the Fondazione Mazzotti, in Treviso, Italy, shooting with cameras that belonged to the person who gave the Foundation its name.
The first informal tests of alternative developments were made during a workshop at the Fondazione Mazzotti, in Treviso, Italy, shooting with cameras that belonged to the person who gave the Foundation its name.
Some flattering results on the first tests of BIO-ECO developments have given impetus to continue, between intuitions, attempts, unknowns, failures, successes.
Some flattering results on the first tests of BIO-ECO developments have given impetus to continue, between intuitions, attempts, unknowns, failures, successes.

1WARNING: Here I take for granted the knowledge of the entire traditional development process, so I do not describe known details and go to the essentials.

2Always experiment the ECO-BIO development on pieces of film to be sacrificed, before facing the development of important films.

3The preparation is divided into two parts A and B to be combined at the time of use. For medium-high sensitivity films I also suggest the application of PART C.

4Warnings about natural products for part A of the revealing bath. Like the many species of apples, the other natural products mentioned here, including coffee, also have variations depending on seasonal, territorial, type of storage, ripening, etc. In herbal practice, the optimal harvesting period for each essence is indicated in order to benefit from the maximum maturation of the active ingredients. This also applies to the formulas I suggest below. I have observed – for example in sage and laurel – a different yield between the harvest of the various seasons and also the state of drying, when the fresh leaf is not used. Therefore an average treatment timing is given here from which you can get valid references only as a starting point.

5 Warnings about commercial products for part B. Many different solutions may work, also suggested by foreign experimenters, but some of these are based on products not available everywhere in Europe. This is why my tests only suggest what you can easily find in central and southern Europe, but probably also in other countries of the world. Here is a mini-guide:

  1. Sodium carbonate, not to be confused with bicarbonate, is more easily found in hardware stores or in those better stocked with detergents in the widespread packaging of Soda Solvay. One kilo costs 3-4 euros and is enough to treat about 80 135 format films. Product efficiency tends to change if it gets wet, so the weights indicated below in the formulas refer to a perfectly dry product. The packaging is made of cardboard and easily absorbs ambient humidity. So, it is advisable to immediately pour the contents into a glass jar, put the original label inside to remember that it is neither salt nor sugar and close well.
  2. Very pure ascorbic acid, is nothing but Vitamin C, but NOT in effervescent capsules or tablets, because they cost much more and contain other excipient products that alter the dosages and effectiveness. I use the common effervescent tablets of 1000mg each only for school use, to facilitate popular awareness of the medium; the negative is printable, but very good and consistent results cannot be expected. The most practical package of very pure ascorbic acid in powder is the 100 gram one. I find it in the pharmacy for € 6.90 and that is enough to treat more than 20 films. If you want to buy larger quantities, you can find them online for 20 euros a kilo. Important note: ascorbic acid remains fully effective if it does not oxidize, therefore it must be white like sugar and must not take in air except the bare minimum during weighing. Then the jar must be tightly closed, placing inside a ball of toilet paper placed on food film, both to absorb the humidity and to eliminate the volume of air inside the package. If powder starts to turn yellow, the dosage should be slightly increased; if it turns really amber yellow it should be used to make energy drinks… (One gram is already a bomb).
  3. Iodized sodium chloride, or fine cooking salt: the iodized one is more effective. It is the only optional ingredient, in the sense that it could also be omitted, but it has such a function that in any case I recommend it for high sensitivity films, as it performs an anti-fog function, i.e. it reduces that inevitable veiling or dullness of support that cannot be completely eliminated in do-it-yourself ecological developments. The proposed formulas indicate the opportunity to double the dose of salt for 200/400 ISO films compared to 50/100 ISO.

6 These tests confirm that it is important to be accurate in weights and temperature measurements throughout the treatment process. As an archaic whim, I use a pharmacist’s scale with small weights, but in any low-cost electronics store, a little scale, accurate to the tenth of a gram, can be found for 10-12 euros.

Goldsmith or pharmacist scale: requires a little patience, but returns measurements of absolute precision, despite the age. Glass measuring cups (laboratory borosilicate ones) are fragile and expensive, but easy to clean and transparent for assessing the solubility of powders and for reading the immersion thermometer. In the picture: Gabriele Coassin
Goldsmith or pharmacist scale: requires a little patience, but returns measurements of absolute precision, despite the age.
Glass measuring cups (laboratory borosilicate ones) are fragile and expensive, but easy to clean and transparent for assessing the solubility of powders and for reading the immersion thermometer. In the picture: Gabriele Coassin
Check the temperature of the baths often. If it is different from the ambient one, you can always keep the tank in a bain-marie for the entire treatment time, adjusting the external water temperature. Or measure the temperature at the beginning, check mid-treatment to see the trend to adjust the time in proportion. In the picture: Elisa Tiella
Check the temperature of the baths often.
If it is different from the ambient one, you can always keep the tank in a bain-marie for the entire treatment time, adjusting the external water temperature.
Or measure the temperature at the beginning, check mid-treatment to see the trend to adjust the time in proportion. In the picture: Elisa Tiella

7THE TIMES INDICATED HEREIN FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FILM ARE INTENDED TO OBTAIN GOOD RESULTS IN DIRECT PRINTING WITH PHOTO-SENSITIVE PAPER IN A DARKROOM. Those who use negatives for digital scanning may prefer to decrease the times by 5-10% to obtain a softer starting point, suitable for subsequent post-processing, but with a certain weakening of the nuances in the low lights (the areas tending dark in a particularly contrasty scene). Which is why – personally – I find that the best performance can be obtained by overexposing the negatives by 2/3 (two thirds) of a stop. For example, AGFA APX 100 exposed to ISO 64 instead of 100, Ilford HP5+ exposed to ISO 250 instead of 400 etc.

8 The choice of films to be tested here is limited – with some exceptions – to a few products: mine is not Harman’s scientific laboratory, nor what I would do in any university research group. It is simply an amateur darkroom in which I experiment and share the main results. Here we are not dealing with processes resulting from perfect science, but pure fun, for the pleasure of obtaining good results with cheap and easily available materials. I’ve also read about development experiments carried out with a number of other products, sometimes even extravagant or expensive, but here I propose the most effective, original and cheapest ever tried before: coffee grounds, sage and laurel.

9 The tests of the latest 400 ISO films are made with a Nikon FM2n camera; I used a Micro-Nikkor 55mm/3.5 AI-S lens for shooting the test signs; for environmental shooting, 35mm/2.8 AI-S lens.

10 Tests with ISO 100/125 film are made with Nikon FM 10 and Micro-Nikkor 60mm/2.8 for test sign shots and 35mm/2 AI-S for environmental shots. All exposure measurements are taken with an external photometer.

11 The environmental shots were taken over a four-month period, from February to May 2023, with fairly constant, but not strictly identical, sunlight between 10 and 11 in the morning.

12 Some shots of the test signs made in artificial tungsten light confirm that – with a few variations – the films are less sensitive to light at low color-temperature: an important fact for which it is prudent to open half a stop with respect to the exposure reading indicated by most exposure meters.

Here is a series of annotated tables from recent tests, following an equally dense one from the previous ones, just to share the madness of the tests I attempted, before settling on the advice I venture to share…


PICTURE 7: The notes

NOTES and LEGEND of the following tables

*1 Preparation of PART A – infusion (suitable for sage leaves, rosemary, bay leaves, etc.)

  1. Each water mains or artesian well sends very different water to your tap, so the results can also depend a lot on this: before developing important material, do a test with a few frames to sacrifice. The use of demineralised water returns constant results and costs 2 euros for 5 liters (and the tank can be reused).
  2. Put in a saucepan the indicated quantity of cold water and the right weight of the natural product indicated in the tables below.
  3. With the fire lit, stir often, until all the natural product enters the water; especially if dry, it tends to float, but keep the saucepan covered as much as possible – even with a saucer. Watch out, it’s hot!
  4. Bring to the full boil and turn off immediately, otherwise the developer activating polyphenols will evaporate.
  5. Turn off and leave to infuse for another 10 minutes, with the saucepan covered.
  6. To filter, prepare a double layer of a clean rag, a piece of fine cotton to throw away. Wet it with a little water before using it, to limit the absorption of the active ingredients. Other filters with gauze or fine sieve are not sufficient to guarantee the complete elimination of potentially harmful residues.
  7. Filter by placing the moistened rag inside the funnel and/or strainer; pour everything into a small glass bottle or jar and wait for the complete passage of the liquid.
  8. This infusion constitutes PART A of the developer bath.
  9. Close the bottle or jar well, trying to have as little air as possible inside. Put a label or masking tape clearly indicating the contents.
  10. Once cooled, you can keep the product at room temperature for one day or keep it in the fridge for three days, provided it is not mixed with the other components of part B.
  11. For the formula with coffee grounds, at point “d” keep boiling for 5′, no more, always with the saucepan covered, then turn off, make the infusion for 10′ and continue as above from point “e”.
Large darkroom with three enlargers for ecological analogue photography workshops
Large darkroom with three enlargers for ecological analogue photography workshops

*2 Preparation of PART B.

Dilute this and the following products preferably in warm water (30-35 °C) to speed up the solution of the powders (better to use demineralised water if the tap water is too hard or chlorinated). The quantities of water indicated in the tables may be approximate, because at the end, after mixing the two liquids, water must be added to bring A+B to the total volume indicated. In some tutorials – to simplify the procedure – it is even recommended to add the powder products directly to the still hot infusion Part A. It can be done, but the vitamin C would rapidly react by losing effectiveness and I don’t know what weight changes would be necessary. With cold liquids, at room temperature, it will just take a little patience, stir for a long time, for the complete dissolution of all the products. In any case, filter everything again before using. For a quick mix I use a manual kitchen whisk, but an electric milk frother mixer, or mini-whip, which costs 3-9 euros, is perfectly fine.

Caution! When mixing A+B, the temperature of the liquid could increase due to the chemical reaction.

Typical filter insufficient to block micro-particles, especially from coffee or coffee grounds, but also from all part B chemicals. Despite having crossed the plots of the hydrophilic gauze (which must be moistened before starting the filtering) the surface is insufficient for any splashes of liquid around the center and in any case it is not thick enough to eliminate the finest residues. The typical disposable surgical mask, of which we probably still have useless stocks at home, may already prove to be a little more effective.
Typical filter insufficient to block micro-particles, especially from coffee or coffee grounds, but also from all part B chemicals.
Despite having crossed the plots of the hydrophilic gauze (which must be moistened before starting the filtering) the surface is insufficient for any splashes of liquid around the center and in any case it is not thick enough to eliminate the finest residues.
The typical disposable surgical mask, of which we probably still have useless stocks at home, may already prove to be a little more effective.
Two errors visible on the enlarged negative. The black little dots are micro-particles of the natural product, not adequately filtered and fixed on the emulsion also due to insufficient stirring during the whole process. The stains are due to mini-bubbles, formed by excessively vigorous agitation at the beginning, which was not followed by the simple foresight of slamming the tank several times on the support surface or sink, to let the air come to the surface. Another element that can stain the film is the introduction of the mixture into the tank before the slightly frothy chemical reaction has finished when joining A and B.
Two errors visible on the enlarged negative.
The black little dots are micro-particles of the natural product, not adequately filtered and fixed on the emulsion also due to insufficient stirring during the whole process.
The stains are due to mini-bubbles, formed by excessively vigorous agitation at the beginning, which was not followed by the simple foresight of slamming the tank several times on the support surface or sink, to let the air come to the surface.
Another element that can stain the film is the introduction of the mixture into the tank before the slightly frothy chemical reaction has finished when joining A and B.

*3 Ecological developers work best at temperatures of 22 or 24° Celsius, never below 20°.

See the tables available online by searching for DEVELOPMENT TIMES-TEMPERATURES TABLE to adapt the recommended times to the actual treatment times; pay attention to particular environmental situations in which the temperature could vary from the beginning to the end of development.

*4 It depends on the brand/model of the mocha

*5 Wash with Ilford method to save water:

Fill the tank with water at the same temperature as the process solution and invert it 5 times.
Drain the water and refill, then flip 10 times.
Finally, drain and refill, then flip 20 times before emptying.

*6 To reduce the risk of limescale stains on the film, which are truly impossible to remove on the emulsion side, at the end of the wash use a commercial wetting liquid, in the proportions indicated by the manufacturer, or do-it-yourself:

  1. put 10% alcohol (preferably isopropyl) in a bottle
  2. 40% ecological colorless dishwashing detergent e.g. Baby Shampoo Johnson
  3. 50% water
  4. this concoction has no storage limits and serves as a base called STOCK to prepare tens of liters of diluted product; if the alcohol tends to float to the surface, stir gently (so as not to foam) before taking the required amount
  5. to get the bath ready for use, prepare half a liter of demineralised water in a small bottle, and add your wetting agent by taking 1.5ml with a syringe from your concentrated stock and mix; you can use it a dozen times or more, until it loses effectiveness
  6. Gently put (so as not to make bubbles) about a cup of your diluted and ready-to-use wetting agent into a bowl or deep plate
  7. remove the film from the spiral and immerse it in the diluted wetting agent, swinging it briefly from top to bottom, being careful to keep the emulsion (the opaque part) facing upwards, to avoid any risk of rubbing on the plate
  8. absolutely avoid drying the film with rubber clamps or chamois cloth; hang the film to dry in a place free from dust and draughts
  9. recover the diluted wetting agent to reuse it.
Typical mocha for six cups of Italian coffee. You can safely drink your coffee and reuse waste, or coffee grounds, to create your own personal eco-developer.
Typical mocha for six cups of Italian coffee. You can safely drink your coffee and reuse waste, or coffee grounds, to create your own personal eco-developer.
Having obtained the film negative, the moment of truth comes under the enlarger, when your printing skills will enhance all the work done before.
Having obtained the film negative, the moment of truth comes under the enlarger, when your printing skills will enhance all the work done before.

Tables – Film Bio-Ecological development

Three formulas for part A – medium-low sensitivity films

WATCH OUT! the evaluation of the photographic performance of the single concoctions is subjective, that is to say “as I like it”.
Do you like it different? Try, experiment, learn and do as you like: that’s the beauty of the game, between technique and creativity.

FORMULA NAME
and miscellaneous notes

ECO-PRODUCT
FILM and ISO

300ml
for 1
135 film

500ml
for 1
120 film

To make a litre
(1000cc)

FONDI-Caffenol-C-Hs©G_Coassin

medium-low sensitivity film formula

A1 –  Coffee grounds

     
PREPARATION PART A

Robusta-type ground coffee grounds left over from a typical Italian mocha (I try Splendid, Lavazza Suerte, etc.)

DO NOT use quality Arabica coffee (it’s more expensive and requires nearly double the doses).

See details*1

TWO portions of 3-cup mocha grounds

§ 1

TWO portions of 5/6 cup mocha grounds

FOUR portions of 5/6 cup mocha grounds

PREPARATION PART B – See details *2 and also look at the end of the Part A formulas.Add Part B just before starting the developing process, but re-check the working temperature.      

Recommended starting test

Attention! Variable time +/- 15% depending on the quality of the Robusta coffee.

Time/temperature °C

Very good
Medium-fine grain, very good tonal modulation.

Ilford FP4+ @ 80 ISO

11’30”/22°

Limited grain, high acuteness.

Ilford FP4+ @ 125 ISO
Ilford Delta 100 @ 80 ISO
Agfa APX 100 @80 ISO (Good tonal range)
Kodak TMax 100 @ 100 ISO
Foma Pan 200 @ 125 ISO with variable results

12’30”/22°

§1it depends on the type of mocha: there are about 50 g of wet grounds, weight measured shortly after cooling; or as many grounds recovered from 6 espresso coffee capsules, always of the Robusta variety, are used to develop one 135 film. If the coffee grounds are set aside and stored in the fridge, in a closed jar, for subsequent use (maximum one week) the weight could decrease, but the active ingredient remains unchanged.
Filter both part A and part B carefully in separate phases, and then filter again after mixing them, because any residue in suspension could stick to the soft wet gelatin of the film and remain in the form of an indelible black dot.
After various tests, the best filter is always the disposable paper for coffee or tea, but not the easiest to find.
If you want to reuse the cotton remnant as a filter, wash it carefully to avoid residues that are easily trapped between the fibers.

FORMULA NAME

and miscellaneous notes

ECO-PRODUCT

FILM and ISO

300ml

for 1

135 film

500ml

for 1

120 film

To make a litre

(1000cc)

ALLORO-C-Hs©G_Coassin

medium-low sensitivity film

A2 – LAUREL

§ 2

     

Plant / essence

Dried bay leaves

4g

6,7g

13,4g

PREPARATION PART A 

See details * 1

water

150ml

250ml

500ml

During this time prepare everything you need and PART B.

See details * 2 and below.

After mixing with part A, filter again.

     

Good overall performance

for direct printing in the darkroom

Medium grain, clean and good acuteness.

Balanced contrast.

Ilford FP4+ @ 80 ISO

time/temperature °C

12’/22°

Agfa APX 100 @ 80 ISO

13’/22°

§2The best harvest for drying is mainly in winter or the selection of the fully ripe dark green leaves in spring, before flowering. But with some loss of intensity in the richness of polyphenols, evergreen aromatic plants can be harvested all year round.

FORMULA NAME

and miscellaneous notes

ECO-PRODUCT

FILM and ISO

300ml

for 1

135 film

500ml

for 1

120 film

To make a litre

(1000cc)

SALVIA-C-Hs©G_Coassin

medium-low sensitivity film

A3 – Sage

§ 3

     

Plant / essence

fresh sage leaves

or else

10g

16,7g

33,3g

dried sage leaves

6g

10g

20g

PREPARATION PART A 

See details * 1

water

150ml

250ml

500ml

BETTER PERFORMANCE

Ilford FP4+ @ 80 ISO

Agfa APX 100 @ 64 ISO

time/temperature °C

9‘45“/22°

10‘15“/22°

 

Ilford FP4+ @ 125 ISO

Agfa APX 100 @ 100 ISO

Ilford Delta 100 @ 100 ISO

Kodak TMax 100 @ 100 ISO

Foma Pan 200 @ 125 ISO

10‘45“/22°

§3 The sage leaves to be dried (and the rosemary sprigs, similar formula, but different doses) must be removed from the plant after the second year of life.
They are harvested, well developed, from April (central-south Europe) May (north and mountainous areas of central-south Europe) until July, at any time before flowering.
As per tradition, let it dry for 8/10 days in the shade in a ventilated environment, then store in a closed dark glass jar in the shade, or in clear glass, closed in a cabinet until the following year.
The doses are variable +/- 20% depending on the variety or harvesting season and the residual humidity contained in the dry sage.

 

Three formulas for part A – high sensitivity films

Coffee Miracle

It seems that the base brew (coffee grounds, sage, laurel, rosemary, chestnuts, magnolia, olive leaves, etc.) enhances the chiaroscuro nuances of the highlights, while the addition of ready-to-drink espresso coffee improves readability in the low light of less sensitive films, as well as significantly reducing treatment times, an interesting fact to avoid high temperatures or long times in the photographic revealing process.
I have obtained good results even without adding coffee, but with treatment times of the natural developer alone exceeding 20 minutes at 22°C.
So, I decided to offer this “+MOKA” version only for 200/400 ISO films thanks to its greater efficiency.
Look above the dosages in the preparation table of part B.

Supplementary procedure common to all variants for 200/400 ISO film.

Follow the previous description for each of the three formulas, with the following modifications to Part B necessary to speed up treatment times with a booster effect and at the same time to reduce fog on the support.

    1. – for films exposed to 200/400 ISO double the dose of iodized salt compared to what was indicated above for films with low sensitivity
    2. – add a little ready-to-drink espresso coffee (10ml for every 100ml of finished product)

Even if you don’t like bitter coffee, remember NOT to put sugar here!
Then proceed to mix with Part B, filter and proceed to the normal treatment steps.

Films, times and comments

FONDI+MOKA-Caffenol-C-Hs ©G_Coassin

formula for high sensitivity film

A1+ Mocha – coffee grounds

See A1 to prepare part A

+ Part B

variant for 200/400 ISO

time/temperature °C

Good yield

Clear grain, well designed,

invisible on 18x24cm print with diffused light head of the color enlarger and RC paper at 1.5 gradation.

Ilford HP5+ @ 250 ISO

14’30”/22° or else

12’30”/24°

Agfa APX 400 @ 250 ISO

16’/22° or else

13’30”/24°

Other Films @ 400 ISO

(Average Time)

17’/22° or else

14’30”/24°

 

ALLORO+MOKA-C-Hs©G_Coassin

formula for high sensitivity film

A2 + Mocha – bay leaf

See A2 to prepare part A

+ Part B variant for 200/400 ISO

time/temperature °C

One of the best results obtained on medium-high sensitivity film exposed to 250 ISO

Ilford HP5+ @ 250 ISO

16’/22° or else

13’30”/24°

Agfa APX 400 @ 250 ISO

17’30/22° or else

15’/24°

 

Other Films @ 400 ISO

(Average Time)

18’30”/22°  or else

15’45”/24°

 

SALVIA+MOKA-C-Hs©G_Coassin

formula per film alta sensibilità

A3 + Mocha – sage

See A3 to prepare part A

+ Part B variant for 200/400 ISO

time/temperature °C

BETTER PERFORMANCE

Ilford HP5+ @ 250 ISO

14’30”/22°

or else

12’30”/24°

Ilford HP5+ @ 400 ISO

15‘45“/22°

or else

13’20”/24°

Agfa APX 400 @ 250 ISO

15‘45“/22°

or else

13’20”/24°

 

Agfa APX 400 @ 400 ISO

17’/22°

or else

14’30”/24°

 

Other films @ 400 ISO

untested

 

 

Part B preparation

 

Also see *2

300ml

for 1

135 film

500ml

for 1

120 film

To make a litre

(1000cc)

prepare just before

mixing with part A

dissolve the following products in water

(preferably lukewarm 30/35°C)

100ml

150ml

300ml

FOR ALL FORMULAS

SODA SOLVAY

(sodium carbonate)

12g

20g

40g

FOR ALL FORMULAS

C vitamin

(ascorbic acid)

4,5g

7,5g

15g

only for 50/125 ISO film

Fine iodized salt

for 50/125 ISO exposed films

2,4g

4g

8g

only for 200/400 ISO film

Fine iodized salt

for 200/400 ISO exposed films

4,8g

8g

16g

only for 200/400 ISO film

Espresso coffee ready to drink

(The dose of a cup of Italian espresso coffee is about 50/60ml)

30ml

(+/-half a cup)

50ml

(one cup)

100ml

(two cups)

Final mix

add PART A, filter WELL and supplement the evaporated part with water to make ->

300ml

500ml

1000ml

PART C – OTHER STAGES OF THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

The following steps (after film development) are common to all treatments  
After carefully draining the developer, a water wash follows: mandatory for all coffee-based treatments, optional for the others 20”/20-24°C

continuous stirring + dripping

stop bath with white vinegar

(preferably alcohol vinegar) 1+19

or another stop bath based on citric acid

20”/20-24°C

continuous stirring + dripping

Ilford Rapid Fix – quick fixing bath 1+4

or else

BELLINI FX 100 Ecological Fixing diluted 1+9 instead of the suggested 1+4

3’/22°

continuous stirring 30”

then 5-6” every minutes

or else

ECO-FIX, ecological Branco Ottico fixer, bag of granules based on sodium thiosulphate: prepare a stock bottle to be diluted 1+1

7’/22°C

or else

6’/24°C

Ilford method final washing (5+10+20) *5 
remove the film and immerse it by gently rocking it in a tray with a wetting bath *6  
hang to dry in a clean environment free from draughts which could bring dust onto the negative  
once the drying is complete, cut and insert the film into the transparent negative holder sheets, write down all the steps done  

NOTE VALID FOR ALL FORMULAS

In case of a single immediate reuse of the developer bath, add the same amount of Vitamin C again and increase the time by 20%, otherwise discard.

In each case the result might turn out slightly different.

CONSERVATORIO FOTOCHIMICA

First group of printing tests of ecological developments on Multigrade paper. To compare the negatives, the first print was made at gradation 2 and setting an average exposure time that was the same for all. Only later tests were done with contrast and brightness correction.
First group of printing tests of ecological developments on Multigrade paper. To compare the negatives, the first print was made at gradation 2 and setting an average exposure time that was the same for all.
Only later tests were done with contrast and brightness correction.
The warm tone prints are obtained with the first tests of the ECO-SVILUPPO of Italian Conservatorio Fotochimica (5-6 minutes at 24°). Later the product was improved to reduce the times. Above a perfect print obtained by Alberto Ciprian with the new product.
The warm tone prints are obtained with the first tests of the ECO-SVILUPPO of Italian Conservatorio Fotochimica (5-6 minutes at 24°).
Later the product was improved to reduce the times.
Above a perfect print obtained by Alberto Ciprian with the new product.

Laboratorio Fotochimica is a new reality in the Italian panorama of research for darkrooms alternative products.
Their ECO-SVILUPPO represents a revolution in analogue photography, both for the mission of achieving zero environmental impact and for the arduous quest to arrive at a resistant and stable production over time, even if starting from the extraction of natural products, usually perishable, especially from coffee. The developer for films is now convenient and consolidated, while in the current state of the tests we carried out at the beginning of 2023 with the product for developing paper, the results are excellent, but the high density of active components required still makes the times/temperatures rather high treatment and non-competitive cost compared to traditional products. Therefore, the ecological developer for paper will be mainly used by those who feel the ethical need to cancel the even minimal environmental impact of a developer for commercial paper.
In this case, however, among the offers on the market I found the Bellini BW D100 convenient and sufficiently eco-friendly: with a 15 euro bottle you can develop almost 100 18×24 sheets of poly-coated paper or 60 of baryta paper.
Here follows a couple of tests made with ECO-SVILUPPO for films from Conservatorio Fotochimica, but for a complete treatment table for other films, I invite you to consult info and related examples on Instagram or the technical data sheets in ac-photos.art/conservatorio-fotochimica

CONSERVATORIO FOTOCHIMICA

ECO- DEVELOPER

Secret formula

to make 500ml

Reusable twice consecutively within a short time.

For the second treatment, increase the time by 20%

Two envelopes,

concentrated liquid

A + B

Add demineralised water to make up to 500ml

time/temperature °C

*3

wide tonal range

low contrast

very fine grain

for digital scanning

    

Ilford FP4+ @ 125 ISO

Foma Pan 100 @ 100 ISO

Rollei RPX 100 @ 100 ISO

8’30”/22°

normal contrast

for darkroom printing

9’30”/22°

wide tonal range

for digital scanning

Ilford HP5+ @ 400 ISO

Kodak Trix 400 @ 400 ISO

Foma Pan 400 @ 250 ISO

11’30”/22°

normal contrast

for darkroom printing

13’30”/22°

for all other steps in the development process,

follow the standard procedure

   

To develop two 135 films at the same time it is possible to dilute envelopes A and B in 600ml instead of 500ml, increasing the development times by about 20%,

or alternatively, same time, but raise the temperature by 2 degrees (Celsius)

 

dilution in 600ml

time/temperature °C

*3

 

for digital scanning

Ilford FP4+ @ 80 ISO

Foma Pan 100 @ 100 ISO

Rollei RPX 100 @ 100 ISO

10’/22°

or else

8’30”/24°

 

for darkroom printing

11’30”/22°

or else

9’30”/24°

 

for digital scanning

Ilford HP5+ @ 400 ISO

Kodak Trix 400 @ 400 ISO

Foma Pan 400 @ 250 ISO

14’30/22°

or else

11’30”/24°

 

for darkroom printing

16’/22°

or else

13’30”/24°

central portion of the frame from which the magnification under the microscope was obtained
central portion of the frame from which the magnification under the microscope was obtained
grain and contrast test, CONSERVATORIO ECO-SVILUPPO, HP5+ @ 250 ISO 13’30/22°
grain and contrast test, CONSERVATORIO ECO-SVILUPPO, HP5+ @ 250 ISO 13’30/22°
grain and contrast test, SAGE+MOCHA - HP5+ @ 250 ISO, SALVIA+MOKA-C-Hs ©G_Coassin
grain and contrast test, SAGE+MOCHA – HP5+ @ 250 ISO, SALVIA+MOKA-C-Hs ©G_Coassin
grain and contrast test, BAY LEAF+MOCHA - FP4+ @ 80 ISO, ALLORO+MOKA-C-Hs ©G_Coassin
grain and contrast test, BAY LEAF+MOCHA – FP4+ @ 80 ISO, ALLORO+MOKA-C-Hs ©G_Coassin

Notes:

  • the lower apparent sharpness in the detail on the FP4+ film is due to the Nikkor AI-S 35mm/2.8 first series shooting optics while in the HP5+ shots Nikkor AI-S 35mm/2 second series was used
  • the less grain visible in the HP5+ film developed in ECO-SVILUPPO of CONSERVATORIO FOTOCHIMICA is due to the lower contrast, an intelligent choice by the producer, aware that most of these negatives are destined for scanning and subsequent digital processing, rather than direct printing in the darkroom, while my soups are designed for an all-analogue process, with printing on chemical paper, preferably baryta with a fixed gradation.

Laurel leaves have proven to be particularly efficient and balanced as a basic product for the preparation of bio-eco developments of black-white photographic films. The period between the end of winter and the first weeks of spring, is the best of the year for harvesting bay leaves, because they develop the maximum content of polyphenols, the active ingredient responsible for the development of good quality.
Let me know and see the results of your tests.

 

Italian visitors may also read the article in the September, number 117 of the periodical Classic Camera B&W published by Progresso Fotografico. The article can be downloaded in Italian here.

Gabriele Coassin: Artisan photographer and reporter in his youth, he was included in the first Bolaffi volume/catalogue of Italian photographers; then awarded video maker and author of professional texts, professor in Italian universities and academies. Now, in retirement, he has returned to his old photographic passion, a tireless experimenter of alchemies to be re-proposed in targeted workshops or in educational-experiential digital detox courses for the new generations, leading to the rediscovery of the slow manual processes of proto-photography and ancient pre-cinema practices.

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