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An Unexpected Image

03rd August 2022

A Miscue Turns a Photo Into a Favorite

During the 60’s my favorite pastime was photography.

Having only an after school part time job, I used used many techniques to make an expensive hobby more affordable.

I remember buying 100-foot long “bulk film” to reload 35mm cartridges into shorter five foot 36-exposure lengths. This was enough for 18 cartridges of film – enough for the summer season for about the same cost as buying 6 individual rolls of Kodak or Ansco film.

Next I learned how to develop my own film. I constructed a small darkroom in my parents’ basement where I would hang the still-wet film on a clothesline to dry. Not long after I earned enough to buy an enlarger. Wow, I was in photo heaven. The enlarger let me make my own prints and I would patiently watch the image slowly appear (under a safelight) in the developing solution. I was having all of this fun for a fraction of the cost of sending the spent film to my local photofinisher.

Mine was a hobby was like that of many others where you just seem to keep spending your earning for the latest gadgets – easel for holding photographic paper, new developing trays for bigger enlargements, paper dryers for drying prints, color drum for making color prints, etc. 

Perhaps you can now see that my association with photography goes back a very long time.

From all of those years spent in the darkroom in the 60s and 70’s there is one event that I remember well. It was a darkroom miscue that had a happy result.

But first a quick intro to how to develop a roll of 35mm black and white film:

In a dark, lightproof room, you remove the exposed film from its cartridge and slide it onto a metal reel. The reel is placed into a stainless steel tank with a specially designed top which lets you complete the development in normal room light. Pour the  developer solution into the tank for a designated time – usually 6 to 8 minutes and then pour the developer solution out of the tank . Next pour plain water into the tank for one minute to halt the film development and discard the water. Then pour in the final solution called fixer for 5 minutes. This desensitizes the film from light and makes the image permanent. Now it’s safe to remove the film from the tank and give it a final rinse wash in water for ten minutes.

These operations are done with all of the liquids – developer, water and fixer – at a temperature of 68 degrees F. On one occasion, I inadvertently washed a developed roll at a colder temperature. I wasn’t paying attention and unknown to me at the time the final rinse water must have been a lot colder. 

I removed the film from the reel and hung it on a line to dry. But when I finally looked, several of the frames looked very weird

The meshlike pattern that was imbedded into the film surface is called reticulation. Although this was result of an error in development I think that the resulting image of our first dog Candy is a winner.

Sometimes a mistake turns into a favorite.

Written by: Arnie Lee