Film Photography

Further adventures in home film developing: documenting a day of errands

As I continue to build skill in developing my own black-and-white film, I need film to develop. So a few Saturdays ago I loaded my circa-1914 Kodak No. 2 Brownie, Model D (review here) with Kodak T-Max 100, and took it along as I ran my weekend errands. I photographed every place I stopped, and a few places I didn’t stop along the way. I finally made the time to develop and scan the film last weekend. As usual, I used Rodinal diluted 1+50, and scanned on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II.

I started the day by climbing into my VW. This may well be the most competent automobile I’ve ever owned. Its five-cylinder engine delivers gobs of power, its stiff chassis and tight suspension yield confident handling, its brakes are outstanding, it has plenty of interior room (especially rear-seat legroom), its trunk is enormous, and to my surprise and delight it gets way better gas mileage than the economy car it replaced. It’s not perfect — interior trim bits break easily, the driver’s door easily freezes shut, and I didn’t figure out that the gas door won’t open when the doors are locked until I broke it trying to open it one day. Argh.

My Vee Dub

My first stop was Costco. It’s hard to hold a box camera level, especially one with viewfinders as tiny as these. This image was probably 20 degrees off level until I fixed it in Photoshop.


Next I drove over to Walmart to do the weekly shopping. I usually shop at a Meijer that’s across the road from my subdivision, but this Walmart is right by the Costco so it was convenient.

Wally World

I needed to stop by the bank, but on the way I passed this Big Lots. If you’re a student of the history of commercial architecture, you might recognize this as a former Cub Foods. That’s where my family always used to shop before the chain pulled out of Indiana, which is going on 25 years ago now. Big Lots moved in after a few years.

Big Lots

The day grew gloomier and dimmer as I kept on with my errands. The less light there was, the more difficult it was to see anything through the Brownie’s viewfinders. For this photo, I pulled up in my car, rolled down the window, leveled the Brownie on the sill, aimed it as best I could, and flipped the shutter lever.

Fifth Third

Walmart didn’t have a couple things my family needed, so on the way home I swung by the Kroger nearest my house. This True Value store is next door to Kroger. I have no idea what caused that light leak or ghosting or whatever it is on the image.

True Value

Here’s the Kroger, or some of it, anyway. It used to be a Marsh supermarket until that local chain went out of business. Kroger scooped up this property. By this time, it was nearly impossible to see through the viewfinders. I aimed the camera in the general direction of my subject and hoped it turned out okay.


Finally, I picked up our mail. In our neighborhood all mail is delivered to this central mail station and we all have locked mailboxes here. We forget to pick up the mail for days at a time, and they just cram it all in there. We’re used to crumpled mail now. I never, ever want to live in a neighborhood with a central mail station ever again.


The darker images I got toward the end of my trip speak to the diminishing quality and quantity of available light.

I had pretty good luck developing this roll. I had less trouble than usual getting the film to take up onto the reel. My brother called while I was doing these tasks and I managed to talk to him and do all the processing steps, so I must be building good muscle memory. The results are decent, with the exception of the True Value Hardware shot.

I’m grateful for Photoshop, which let me correct a lot of challenges with these images. Nearly every image needed some level of straightening, and I increased exposure on the last few. I also, of course, had to spot-remove specks from the scans. That’s just a fact of scanner life.

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23 thoughts on “Further adventures in home film developing: documenting a day of errands

  1. Wow, a central mail drop point for the entire neighborhood? And I thought I experienced a major downgrade when I moved from a 1920s neighborhood where my mailbox was next to my front door to a 1950s neighborhood where I had to walk to the end of my long driveway for mail. Waddya mean I have to get dressed to get the morning paper?!?!

    • There is no greater symbol of the degradation of American society than the central mail station!!!!!!!1!

      (I had a similar WTF moment when I got my first house with a mailbox at the street. And then one with the mailbox ACROSS the street.)

        • DougD says:

          Heh heh, I still have delivery to my porch. When the Liberals got elected in 2015 they cancelled the central mail station project, but if you already had one you were out of luck. Our station was installed but we hadn’t switched to it yet, so we got to keep home delivery :)

          Since our son’s been at university we don’t shop at Costco near as much, everything is too big! A brownie box camera is one thing you can’t get at Walmart or Costco!

  2. P says:

    Nice work, Jim. I’m glad to see you’re back working on your developing skills, and that the routine is becoming easier. How are you liking working with T-MAX 100?

    • Life’s been quite full with family and work, so I haven’t had much time for photography lately. I shot this some weeks ago and only managed to make time to develop it last weekend. I hope that things settle down in the new year and I can make more time for this.

      The TMax is fine. A clean developing reel takes it up easily enough. It dries flat for easy scanning. From that perspective, what more can you want? I’m not thrilled with how it looks through the lens of the Brownie, though. I liked it better in my Yashica-12, which I think does a nice job of taking advantage of this film’s better qualities.

      • P says:

        Yeah, for TMX to really shine and show off, a very sharp lens with high resolving power is a must. Even in 35mm, a well exposed and developed frame of TMX shot with high quality optics is rather amazing. Huge enlargements can be made from medium format negatives and still be almost grainless. I can only imagine what’s possible with it in sheet film sizes. And I’ll probably be left having to imagine as large format is way beyond my budget. At the moment I don’t even have a medium format camera, outside of my Holga (if that even counts). They all just got too expensive, too quickly, before I was able to pick up anything worthwhile. So I’m shooting 35mm pretty much exclusively right now. I like T-MAX 100, as well as 400, a lot in 135. I actually prefer T-MAX 400 to TRI-X, I think. For budget reasons I’m mostly using Fomapan these days, however.

        I hope that after the new year begins you’ll have more time to pursue developing. These are some of my favorite posts.

        Take care, and merry Christmas to you and your family if I don’t talk to you again beforehand, as well as a happy New Years!

        • P says:

          Yep, T-MAX 400 is good stuff, and you captured some wonderful shots in Ireland with it. I’m always amazed how fine-grained it is for a 400 ASA film. If bulk rolls were actually affordable it would be one of my go-to stocks also.

  3. jon campo says:

    Jim, I knew you would be souping film like a pro in no time, well done. You got some nice shots with that Kodak. I ordered some Rodinal from Freestyle and it arrived this week, after the Holidays I will try it out.

    • Thanks Jon! I want this to be a fully automatic activity, one where muscle memory just takes over. I believe that will be my key to consistent results.

  4. I like the anachronism of the old-look photos of obviously new subjects. The Brownie holds up well in the center of the images, but a bit fuzzy towards the edges. It’ll never win prizes, but the old cameras have a certain quality that is unique to them – probably due to the lack of colour-coating affect on the contrast.

      • Usually the non-colour lenses cast magenta on everything, to one degree or another. If the film leans towards cyan a bit they’ll “cancel each other out”. I also suspect that later lenses had different glass formulas which were more “colour-friendly” than the real early ones, and even some of those may have been closer by mere chance. I shot some Kodacolor on an old 116 folder from the 1910s once and it was dreadful, but similar experience with a “B&W” camera from the 1930s was not so bad. Perhaps by then the manufacture of colour movie film influenced the glass for all lenses coming from the Great Yellow Father.

    • Little by little, bit by bit!

      I remember the one contact print I made, back in 1984, and that was probably my favorite part of the whole process. But that requires a dedicated darkroom and space to store the equipment, and I just don’t have either. Maybe someday. But I also like traveling light and so I generally don’t print my work anyway as it’s one more thing I have to keep.

  5. I had a few very British moments reading this. First, I was all…a gas powered door on a car, how odd.
    No excuses, it is early and I wasn’t thinking.
    Second, a central mail station. Wow, can’t even imagine how annoying that is. I love getting mail through the door.
    I lived in Qatar for a while and we had to drive for ages to collect any mail. We tended to only go when we knew we might have a parcel. Or we asked others to pick it up if they were going. Love my postman.

    • This central mail station thing is new. Most new housing subdivisions are getting them. It simplifies things for the Postal Service. For many years before, in the suburbs it was mailboxes on posts at the curb so the carrier could just drive by and drop your mail in. As a kid I lived in a city where a mailman walked the neighborhood and left mail in a box attached to the house. I’d love to have that again someday.

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