Bits & Pieces

 Site Index 

Using Photographers' Formulary BW-65 Liquid Paper Developer for Paper and Film

I had intended to test the second half of my latest batch of emulsion with a number of different developers to see if I could get the contrast up for enlarging.  I started with BW-65, a developer I've never used before, and then stayed with it for the whole batch.  I'm very excited about its qualities.

More about paper development below, but first, a little about BW-65 as an artisan film developer.  The first print here is a 1.25 x 0.8 inch crop from a 3-1/4 x 2-1/4 inch negative ('TLF #1' on Melenex ).  I scanned the negative in a film scanner and cropped and enlarged in Photoshop.  The only tools used were an unsharp mask and a shallow curve.

Below is the negative and the uncropped print.  It was a very dark day and the hammock was tied under a tall, dense Western Red Cedar tree.  Still, the exposure was only 5 sec at f/11.  Even better, the development in BW-65 (1:1:1) was only 5 minutes.  The resulting negative has great contrast.  I'm particularly pleased with the outcome because this piece of film was made last July.  I set aside six loaded Baby Graphic holders to pull out periodically to test for age-related fog.  The film is as clear as when it was fresh, and maybe a tiny bit faster. 

BW-65 is very easy to use and if it is suitable for both film and paper, it will probably become my primary developer, for a while at least.  With my next batch of paper, I'll see how this negative enlarges.  It is considerably denser and higher contrast than the negative I used for my first enlarger experiment.

A Fun 'New' Tool to Test Paper

I love to root through bins of old photos in antique stores.  Last weekend I found this treasure.  I think the original intention of the film was just for visual comparison, but I contact printed it with a variety of exposures and developed the prints in both my standard Defender55Dwr (aka Def) here and BW-65.

I also learned a bit about scanning badly tarnished film.  If you look straight through this negative at a light, it looks fairly normal, but if you tilt it at an angle to the light, the tarnished areas look positive.  Below, left: The negative scanned on a flatbed, emulsion down.  The scanner saw the emulsion like I saw it when I tilted the negative to the light.  It recorded the little girl on the left in the top left frame as a positive image. The middle frame is the film scanned emulsion-side up (and then flipped).  The scanner light didn't pick up the tarnish and the scan inverted well, although considerable Photoshop work would be required to make a 'good' print.


Left and above: flatbed scans of prints made with different exposures; on 'I ' emulsion developed in Def.

The exposure for '1', in the upper left is correct, but in my opinion the image is a bit harsh.  '4', in the second print, above, is too soft.  I'll try this again with a developer designed for higher contrast.

Below left: exposed for '2' and developed in BW-65 (1:1:5).  Below right: exposed for '2'and developed in Def.

BW-65 rendered a softer, smoother density range.  I got the same result with prints of a step tablet.  The tablet developed in BW-65 picked up four more steps than the Def version, three of those steps on the shadow end. 

Straight computer crops of the above prints, upsized without additional work.

Beach Girl Comparison

The differences between the two developers is evident here.  I scanned the three strips together — 'I ' developed in Def on the left, the original Azo (unknown developer) in the middle and 'I ' developed in BW-65 on the right.

Taking into consideration the difference in surface texture (the Azo print is single weight glossy). I think the the Def version is more faithful to the original, but I think that I prefer the BW-65 rendition.


Note:  I do not have a financial relationship with Photographers' Formulary.  They have not asked me to test and/or endorse their products.  To my knowledge, they don't know that I am doing so.  I have paid for all products being tested.  I will be teaching workshops at their Montana headquarters this coming summer and I am trying out a variety of PF products for my own information and for the convenience of my students.  (dwr: March 3, 2010)

Copyright The Light Farm