Beeronol: Developing Ilford FP4 film in beer

I’m experimenting with different ways of developing film, e.g. stand development. This weekend I developed black and white film using beer. The mix I used was from Peta Pixel and is called beeronol.

The ingredients for the beeronol I made are:

  • 50cl of Guinness stout,
  • 12g of Vitamin C crushed into powder, and
  • 50g of washing soda (I baked baking soda at 400F for one hour to turn it into washing soda).

Develop the film in this soup at 86F for 15 minutes. Agitate for the first 30 seconds and 5 seconds every minute until done. Stop & fix as you’d normally do.

I found the results to be interesting. The beer turned the grain in Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 into irregular shapes, and the grain was larger. Some frames became foggy. Many frames displayed some sort of bromide drag. Some frames were flat and others super contrasty.

In the example below you can see 8 bands of bromide drag.

8 bands of bromide drag (Leica M-A, Summicron 50mm, f/16, 1/125, Ilford FP4+ ISO 125)

Here’s an example of fogging with bromide drag, too.

Fogging and bromide drag

Here’s an example that came out okay. If you zoom in, the grains are highly irregular, large and spotty. I suspect this might have something to do with the beer bubbles. There’s bromide drag in the bottom left.

Some bromide drag, irregular and big grains

Beeronol is expensive to make. 2 bottles of Guinness Stout (25cl) is already $4 versus sixteen cents ($0.16) per teaspoon of Rodinal per roll of film. If I wanted to make a photo look like it was from long ago, the irregularities with bromide drag, fog, and graininess make this a good choice.

Stand Developing Ilford FP4+ in Rodinal 1:100

I stand developed Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal for an hour. I was expecting a very fine grain, and high amount of accutance but was slightly disappointed. The highlighting and gradient effect you expect from stand development still blew me away. In the highlights the grain was fine, but the midtones and shadow areas gave medium grain that one would find in pushed film. With all this said, when looking at a magnifier, these were the sharpest negatives I had ever seen. The quirkiness of the results will make me think twice before using it as a film for landscapes, but the detail I got from the close up shots with bokeh make me see the potential for portraits.

Unfortunately, the low-end Epson V600 scanner I had wasn’t able to capture the subtleties in highlights that I could see in the negative. I’m pretty sure that as a print the highlights will be there, and if not, a little dodging should fix that.

Here’s a photo shot with Ilford HP5+ 400 pushed to ISO 1600 stand developed in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal for 2 hours. This shot is exceedingly sharp thanks to the lens, and stand development process. However, the grain prevails everywhere. Some like this; others don’t. I am a fan of grain, but also understand the need for fine or undetectable grain for portraits.

Leica M-A, 50mm Summicron, f/2, 1/500, Ilford HP5+ ISO 1600

Here’s a photo shot with Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal stand developed for an hour. You can see the fine detail and sharpness, but the bokeh area has a bit of grain.

Leica M-A, 50mm Summicron, f/2, 1/500, Ilford FP4+ ISO 125

If you compare the first two photos carefully, you can see that the Ilford FP4+ definitely has the finer grain, but not as fine as one would expect. I know I’m not comparing apples and oranges, but Portra 160 when well or slightly over-exposed exhibits no detectable grain.

Here’s another photo shot with Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal stand developed for an hour. This is a photo of a very popular spot for photographers, Sutro Baths in San Francisco. There were at least 2 couple photography sessions happening while I was here.

Leica M-A, 50mm Summicron, f/16, 1/125, Ilford FP4+ ISO 125

So I’m really not sold on Ilford FP4+ for landscapes, but close ups and portraiture would seem to be its strength. I was surprised by the amount of grain, too. I am not sure I would buy this film again.

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