Large Format Tree Portrait, Before They Cut it Down

Author: Todd Korol

The demise of Kodak has been especially hard on film photographers the past few years. It’s hard to believe a photographic company as grand as Kodak can be in the position they are today. (Nobody really knows what’s happening at Kodak). 

In Canada, it’s hard to get any Kodak film stocks, black and white or colour, and harder to find any Kodak black and white chemistry to keep us darkroom ghosts developing our film and making silver prints.

This at a time when film and analog photography have made a huge resurgence and photographers are taking more analog photos since the start of digital photography.

One could not be blamed if you would expect Kodak to be thriving again. They have a stable of great formulas, Tri-x, T-Max, D-76, Xtol, Portra, the list is long. They truly made some wonderful products and many historical photographs were taking on Kodak film and developed in Kodak chemistry.

I bought the last bags of Xtol chemistry at The Camera Store, all when they were having their manufacturing issues. Chemistry turning weird colours, one was never sure if it was working properly. But then again, I don’t think Kodak was actually making the stuff. 

So myself and many other film photographers I know around the world, turned to different brands. Ilford of course and lately I have been using Rodinal a lot, also a classic.

I like Rodinal for some things, but it can get grainy and contrasty on you very quickly. So you really have to watch what you are developing and from what kind of conditions you were taking photos in.

Ilford makes some great chemistry, but for some reason, I just didn’t like the look I got from Ilford chemistry. Probably because I was just so used to the look and prints I got from D-76 and Xtol.

Then came a born in Alberta solution, Flic Film. Dave Marshall from Flic decided he would take a shot at making a black and white film developer, called Classic MQ developer, the same formula of D-76. Could it be true? A classic black and white film developer made in of all places, Longview, Alberta.

Although it’s been now produced for more than a year, I finally had a chance to pick up a bag from The Camera Store and give it a proper test with some 4x5 Tri-x 320 iso sheet film.

In the crisp winter light, I went off to photograph Stampede Elm the beautiful American Elm tree that is 125 years old on the Stampede grounds. Unfortunately the city is going to cut the tree down to make room for the new splashy entertainment district.

First off the packaging is very solid. I like the bag this developer is packed in, dark black and very sturdy, meaning the contents would be very hard to contaminate.

The package makes up 4 litres of stock developer, and like D76 has to be mixed 50-55°C. The chemistry mixes up very well and very clear, which gives you the added confidence that the chemistry is good and not contaminated by some strange substance.

Although it does not say on the package, I let the chemistry sit for 24 hours and come down to a proper working temperature before I used the chemistry, like I would D76.

Lastly I mixed the chemistry at 1:1 and used Kodak D76 developing times. The results were perfect negatives. My negs turned out great with really nice contrast, details in the highlights which had snow in them and great shadow detail without the grain of other developers.

In short, the negatives I’ve been looking for ever since the loss of Kodak developers, and all of this at a cost of $13 for package of Flic Film chemistry. Consider me a convert to the new MC Classic film developer, available at The Camera Store, made in Canada!

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