“If it was good enough for Edward Weston…” – Developing Film by Inspection

Green SafelightLife during a pandemic does make you think about things.

It’s been a very long while since I did a post, and I recently ordered some sheet film to do some large format photography (4×5, 5×7 and 8×10). Or more correctly, to teach my 11 year old daughter large format photography. She has a much better eye for quirky subjects than me (she has been occasionally shooting Impossible now Polaroid films in various restored original Polaroid 600 type cameras). But I digress.

I was musing that I want to at least show her the technique of developing film by inspection. If you have never come across this, it’s fascinating. One of the top hits for a great article describing the process is from Michael A. Smith – Developing Film By Inspection. I love the line “If it was good enough for Edward Weston, it’s good enough for me.” Which I also lean to (more so than Ansel Adams techniques).

I met Michael on several occasions, and saw his work. He was a consummate photographer and a brilliant printer in the darkroom. I miss our occasional get togethers.

What I find most amusing about the comment is that I was taught development by inspection by Edward Weston’s grandson Kim Weston when he was instructing me on 8×10 large format photography, and platinum printing. So very long ago.

You probably need to use a pyro developer (“Kim, should I have worn gloves during the sheet film development in pyro?” “Probably.”) as the article states. I’ve not heard of development by inspection with developers other than pyro.

I’ll probably take a crack at this with my daughter. Looking for educational opportunities for her as we shelter in place. Luckily a great comet has come along, and we’re on the hunt.

Now, you’ll need a pyro developer – maybe you should make your own. A bigger problem may be getting the dark green safelight needed for this technique. I wish you luck. I bought mine easily 15 years ago.

Buy some 15 watt incandescent bulbs while you’re at it – and they’re still being manufactured.

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