Adventures in Caffenol (Part 2):

If you missed part one, catch up here.

This post is written in multiple parts, over multiple days. I hope to capture my thoughts and feelings through the whole process. -B


Truth be told I’m a little bit nervous about this process. Its been so long since I’ve been in a darkroom, or even shooting film for that matter. I’m afraid of wasting materials, afraid of messing up something during the development process. Afraid even of possibly restarting a new addiction and time killer.

I decided recently that I wanted my shoot with Nicolette Emanuelle to be in both digital and film. Why both? Mostly because since I haven’t shot film in so long I want something to be able to submit at the end of our time together. And honestly I am doing it to cheat a little bit. Being able to shoot digital will allow me to lock in exposure settings to my likings and be able to actually expose the image. Not that I don’t trust my skills as a photographer, I’m admittedly a little rusty when it comes to analog work.

By the time this post goes live, I should have gathered all of the needed supplies I need to make the development happen. I don’t remember off hand, but I will try to get all of the prices listed here in case you want to try this yourself.

Developing tanks and reels: $40.00 on Craigslist. I know they may be cheaper elsewhere, but it was a matter of shipping and not having them, or spending a little more.

(I ended up with 3, but only 2 are currently functional)

Misc darkroom supplies: $25.00. Thermometer, can opener, graduated cylinders, distilled water, etc.

Washing Soda: $?.??. Bought this a while ago, Next time I remember to look while I am grocery shopping I will be able to update the prices.

Instant Coffee: $?.??. See above.

Vitamin C: 8oz bottle $8.99: from

Photo Fixer: Photographers’ Formulary TF-5 $10.95: Also from

I have two practice rolls of 35mm that I can use as test rolls. I am not worried so much about messing things up too terribly. However, its just the idea of something I have spent time and effort doing being so fragile for a tense 30 minutes. That is what gets me. I think I am ready. I hope I am ready. I have been reading, re-reading, and watching every video I can about Caffenol. Each one gives a little different recipe, and a little different process. I just hope that I can get it done right.


I got up early this morning and made my way into Johns Creek to visit a photographer that was liquidating her entire dark room. Hoping to pick up a few last minute supplies at a steal. Then I headed into Buckhead to pick up my reels from a jaded former art student. Hopefully my contribution will help him eat tonight. 

After these little field trips I suppose I am ready to begin. I’m not working on too much of a time crunch, however I do want to get at least one roll processed before I go out with my girlfriend tonight. At least to get a test baseline done before shooting tomorrow for something that matters. 

Starting with a single roll of 100TX that I shot about 4 years ago, if not longer. There lies another problem. I know none of these rolls have been properly temperature controlled. So who even knows if the emulsion is any good, or if any images are going to be present. 

As I enter the darkroom I feel strangely confident. I have done this before. Its just like riding a bike. After fighting with the reel a little bit I had everything on and ready to go. I mixed my chemicals according to yet another recipe I found and even though I was told that the mixture smelled foul, it really wasn’t that bad. I did find however that I ended up with way too much after it was all said and done.

After a tense 17 minutes of developing and fixing I unloaded the reel and at first my heart dropped. I saw a lot of purple and white where it looked like the roll didn’t develop or perhaps everything stuck together. But upon closer look I saw we had images! After hanging them to dry I was able to get a better look.

After a little drying, scanning, and a little work in Aperture I was able to come up with one workable image on the first batch of negatives. I think that this could be the beginning of another way for me to destroy what little free time I have anymore.

Not too bad for a first effort eh?

Edit 11/05/2012: I completely forgot to post the recipe I was using.

5 tsp - Instant Coffee

2 tsp - Vitamin C Powder

4 tsp - Washing Soda

500 ml - Distilled Water

Develop 100TX for 11 minutes agitating for the first 30 seconds, and then for 30 seconds of each minute.

Fix for 4 minutes, agitating for the first 30 seconds, and then for 30 seconds of each minute. 

Makes enough for 2 rolls of 35mm film in a double tank. 


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