Tragedy (narrowly) averted in the Darkroom!

So I had these 3 4×5 film holders loaded with exposed film. I hadn’t shot 4×5 in years and had no idea what was on them. They were probably shot around 2008-ish. One night I decided to get adventurous and develop them in a dip-and-dunk session.

For those that don’t know dip-and-dunk is when you place the sheets of film in hangers (or rolls on reels) and place them in containers of chemicals. It gets it’s name because agitation is achieved by, you guessed it, dipping and dunking them up and down in the containers. This is NOT a daylight safe process and must be done in complete darkness. Here’s what the setup looked like:

4x5 large format dip and dunk setup
4×5 large format dip and dunk setup

In order to achieve as much darkness as possible I did this at night and turned off all the lights in my basement. Loading up the film holders is relatively easy compared to reels and went quickly. I left markers to help me identify the first container containing developer. I slid the six hangers loaded with film in and instantly realized something terrible. I never added the R09 (rodinal) developer to the developer, which essentially makes it developer and not just water. I hadn’t even measured it out!

After a brief second of panic I formulated a plan. The film was wet, it was too late to take it out. In total darkness I searched in a corner for a light tight plastic bag that 16×20 paper had been in. I found it and carefully placed the entire tank in the bag. I sealed it up y folding the remainder up under the tank so its weight kept it closed.

With the film as safe as I could make it in the makeshift dark bag, I turned on the light and measured out the developer. Turned the light back off, got the tank out, pulled the hangers out, poured in the developer, stirred it, replaced the sheet film and started the timer.

I had no idea if this was going to work, if I had sealed the bag adequately, etc. For the next nearly 30 minutes I developed, stopped, and fixed the film. Halfway through the fix I turned the light on and was thrilled to see my makeshift contingency plan had worked! Four of the sheets looked excellent and two looked like either camera or user error during exposure.

After fixing completed and a 20 minute wash I hung the sheet up to dry in their holders.

4x5 Sheet film hanging up to dry
4×5 Sheet film hanging up to dry

I was super happy with how they looked on my lightbox and I look forward to printing them:

4x5 negatives of Saginaw Grain Elevator
4×5 negatives of Saginaw Grain Elevator

I haven’t had a developing session that “eventful” in years. I think next time I’ll try stand development in my light tight Yankee/Doran tank!