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The Silver Eye : Jacques Revon : The alternative ecological developer made with 3 aromatic herbs : Sage, Peppermint and Thyme


In this chapter, Jacques Revon explores the use of an ecological alternative developer made with 3 aromatic herbs: Sage, Peppermint and Thyme.

 “Film photography is initially authentic because the negative remains, even if one day it is scanned and therefore becomes digital at the risk, as we know, of being later manipulated.”JR


Sheet 8. Making an alternative developer in a quantity of 1 liter ready to use, with 3 aromatic herbs: Sage, Peppermint and Thyme.
A development test was also carried out in a developer composed this time of Sage, Mint and Rosemary.

Development of 24X36 / 36 views / 125 ISO films and 120 / 6X6 format films with 12 views / 100 ISO.

1 First operation

The aromatic herbs picked from our garden were first dried, then the first action consists of weighing each herb chosen for the decoction operation.

6 grams of thyme,

4 grams of peppermint leaves

5 grams of sage including the previously crushed stems.


2 Second operation

Once weighed, the herbs are then placed in a saucepan of 700 ml of cold water, preferably distilled, in order to soak for around ten minutes. Then the actual decoction operation will begin.

With the herbs, the water is brought to boil, then simmered for another ten minutes.

At the end of the decoction, let the liquid obtained cool for a few minutes, then filter it. Be careful, you may have lost a little liquid due to evaporation due to boiling.


3 Third preparation

Dissolution of the products below in 300 ml of distilled water at 22°

32 grams of Sodium Carbonate, 8 grams of vitamin C and 8 grams of iodized salt.


And finally 2 drops of photo-flo to facilitate the action of your developer on the emulsion.

  1. Mix your two liquids well in the same container (in a bottle for example). 900 to 1000 ml of developer are thus obtained.
  2. Filter the mixture again, this time using a paper filter, such as a coffee filter, so as not to leave any fine particles. I also advise you, before using your developer, to shake it well in the bottle before pouring it into your developing tank.
  3. Before developing and while preparing the emulsion for development, always pre-wet the film for five minutes in temperate distilled water, then proceed to development.

In the use of this developer with three aromatic herbs, several development tests to obtain different contrasts were carried out,  stirring the tank every minute, for 5 to 10 seconds.

At 22° for a development time of 30 minutes, 24X36 film.

At 25° for a duration of 16 minutes when using rosemary instead of thyme. Observed lack of development time.

At 25° for a development time of 22 minutes, 24X36 film.

At 26° for a development time of 26 minutes in order to obtain high contrast for here the use of 120 format film, 6X6 negatives.

  1. Fixation duration 3 minutes here in HYPAM Ilford 1+4 at 20°.
  2. Washing. To save water, when washing your film, I still suggest the method recommended by Jost j. Marchesi in the book “Ilford Procédé Négatif” published in 1980 by Editions Jean Spinatsch in Geneva, on the condition that you have carried out, as here, the operation of fixing your film with the Hypam fixer.

-1 Empty the tank well to wash and rinse the spiral which contains your film or film.

– 2 Fill the tank with water then slowly tip it over 5 times.

– 3 Empty the tank again, then fill it, and this time tip it 10 times.

– 4 Empty the tank again then fill it a third time and tip it over 20 times.

– 5 If you want your film to last as long as possible, then do tip number 4 twice more.

  1. Drying. The film or film is then dipped in a wetting agent for 30 seconds, which, I remind you again, helps reduce the surface tension of the water and thus promotes the regular runoff of water adhering to the surface of the film, or Soak your film, still in the coil, in demineralized water for one minute, before hanging it weighted so that it dries in the open air.


Observations, recommendations and reminders of use:

1 When we increase the temperature or the time during an alternative development with aromatic herbs, the transparency of the support of the film or film tends to turn light brown or slightly orange.

2 I used distilled water for the development of 6X6 format films in the developer with three aromatic herbs, in order to best avoid reactions caused by the limescale contained in the water. Depending on our regions, the limestone contained in fresh water is more or less important. I therefore recommend, whatever the film format to be developed, to favor distilled water for making your processing and also during the various operations during development such as pre-wetting the film and at the end of washing.

3 The test carried out with rosemary instead of thyme has not given me complete satisfaction to date because the development time that I had chosen was not, in my opinion, sufficiently long (16 minutes instead of 26 min for the other tests). To be checked.

4 I have again found that it is preferable to use an alternative developer only once, although it is true that you can successfully develop a second time in the developer already used but in my opinion it is taking an unnecessary risk because the cost of an alternative developer is really very cheap, when we take into account the unit price of all the products used here.

5 Do not hesitate, during the manufacture of your developer (from the end of the decoction) and during development, to filter the product several times before use, it is important.

6 Check the temperature carefully to maintain it during development and to do this, use a bain-marie to make it easier to maintain the temperature you have chosen.

7 During development, regularly stir your tank well by successive inversions of 5 to 10 seconds every minute. At the end of each stirring, remember to lightly tap the bottom of your tank to bring up any air bubbles that may form and attach to the coil that supports your film.

Jacques Revon
Journaliste honoraire, auteur, photographe.

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