View Full Version : B&W Developing - Large dark areas on all negatives

25-Jun-2018, 20:15
Hello forum!

I am very new to large format photography, and I'd first like to thank the people on this site; it has really been a huge help in me taking the leap into large format, which is something that I've wanted to try for some time now.

This evening I set out to develop film for the second time in my life. I am shooting with a brand new Intrepid 4x5 and I am using what appear to be very good condition Caltar 90mm and 150mm lenses. So far I have only shot with Arista EDU 100 sheet film. I am using a Paterson two reel tank, employing the "taco" method of fitting four sheets into the tank. I previously mixed Ilford ID-11 in a 1+1 ratio. I am using Ilford Rapid Fixer, with water as a stop bath and no wetting agent.

I used the Massive Dev time/temperature chart to adjust my developing time down from 9 minutes (Arista says 8-10 minutes with ID-11) down to 7 minutes based on my temperature of 72-73 degrees.

All that being said, I believe that, in general, my negatives were developed fairly well, considering my total lack of experience. However, all four negatives have the same large, dark blotch in the same location (this same issue happened with my first attempt as well), as you can see in the attached pictures.

My hunch is that I'm perhaps not getting all of the developer washed off, resulting in those areas being overdeveloped, but it seems odd that the exact same pattern has now happened twice. It seemed to me that the four sheets were stuffed in the tank rather tightly, and maybe those sections were pressed against the wall, which prevented the developer from being washed off.

Can anybody please offer me some guidance on what I could do differently next time to avoid this? If I didn't provide enough information, let me know and I'll tell you whatever it is you need to know about my process.

Thank you,


Graeme Hamilton
25-Jun-2018, 21:19
So I’m still new at this too, but 3 things come to mind for me. The most obvious is that it’s a light leak from somewhere. Are your film holders in good shape? You mentioned the camera is new (I would check it anyway with a flashlight in a closet), but sometimes used film holders can have faults that are easily missed. Second is that you may have accidentally fogged your box of film. I feel like the stripe down the center suggests this, as something may have been laying on top and blocked some of the light. Third is uneven development as you have suggested. The taco method has mixed reviews in this regard.
Since the issue could be occurring at any of the stages, I would first check your changing bag in a dark closet with a flashlight. Then if that checks out I would inspect then load up whichever film holder you’ve been using and “expose” an image outside in the sun but with the lens covered. The bright light should help reveal any light leaks in the holder. I would take this and a completely unexposed sheet (in a different holder) to a local lab that does 45, since it could be the dev technique you’re using. If the mark appears on both sheets, the box of film has been fogged, if it appears only on the “exposed” sheet, then it’s the holder or the camera. If the mark appears on none, it’s lkely the taco processing method, or the tank itself ( are you remembering to locate the center column?).

26-Jun-2018, 04:43
Graeme, thank you for taking the time to reply to my question.

I bought a set of 5 Riteway film holders - used, of course - and they seem to be in good condition. I'll check them more closely, but out of the first two sets of four negatives, all eight have the same pattern in the same place, but I would've used four different film holders, so I don't think that's the concern here.

In my apartment I have an interior closet in an interior bathroom that, as far as I can tell, is completely dark. It's dark enough that I haven't used my changing bag in there yet. I guess it is possible that a small amount of light does exist, but wouldn't that fog the entire sheet instead of just one small area - especially when it's the same issue with all eight negatives, which were loaded at different times.

Below I have attached images of the negatives after I photographed them and inverted the colors in Lightroom - I think the issue is easier to see in these examples. In all of them you can see a not-messed-up stripe going through the fogged area, and that corresponds with where I had the hair tie for the "taco" method. This leads me to believe more so that something is going wrong with my development process - what that may be, I'm unsure of.

I have the center column inserted, but it could be that it was inserted incorrectly. Now that I'm thinking more about it, the layout of the sheets in the tank is such that those bad regions are nearest the center column. Out of everything you mentioned I believe this is the most likely culprit. This would also explain why the area under the hair tie wasn't affected - the light was being blocked in those spots.


Andrew Tymon
26-Jun-2018, 06:14
It looks like a light leak to me. Check the back is holding the holder firmly against the camera. You can check this by shining a light through the front of the camera without out the lens on and a film holder in the back. You could be pulling the holder away from the camera when you're removing the dark slide.

26-Jun-2018, 06:27
It looks like a light leak to me. Check the back is holding the holder firmly against the camera. You can check this by shining a light through the front of the camera without out the lens on and a film holder in the back. You could be pulling the holder away from the camera when you're removing the dark slide.

Also looks like a light leak to me to. Once had a similar light leak that showed up intermittently. After checking the bellows several times, I found nothing. Then finally found a small crack in the front wooden standard (was an old camera) that piped light through it only when the sun hit it at a certain angle. For checking the bellows for light leaks, I extend the bellows and remove the front and back standards. In a dark room I use a small flat multi LED flashlight inside the bellows running it flush to the inside sides of the bellows. Have had some used bellows that worked fine in the field, but when checking them for light leaks this way found pinholes that I'm sure would have cause light leaks to appear over time.

Graeme Hamilton
26-Jun-2018, 07:18
After seeing those scanned images, it does really look like a light leak in the tank. Look at that stripe in the last one, thatís a hair tie for sure

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26-Jun-2018, 08:51
After seeing those scanned images, it does really look like a light leak in the tank. Look at that stripe in the last one, that’s a hair tie for sure

Check if you have the center column of the paterson tank installed properly. It's part of the light seal. Odds are you forgot the center column because you're not using the reels, but as shown here, you don't get away with that ;)

26-Jun-2018, 09:08
Its a light leak, absolutely. Either its the camera itself or your processing tank. Its NOT the film holders because it would be virtually impossible to have the same leak shape on each film holder.

26-Jun-2018, 14:41

Thank you for your replies.

I just got home and immediately checked something out... as it turns out, the twisty rod thing is NOT the same as the center column... so, yeah, I didn't have the center column in place. I was wondering why the twisty rod was so loose. Oh boy. :rolleyes:

I will be giving it another go in the next day or so, so thanks again for your help.

26-Jun-2018, 15:24
Get a copy of this book: By Henry Horenstein Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual (3rd Rev)

It will help you with your processing and printing.

No one started out knowing what to do or aware of all that can go wrong. You learn as you go. One basic that will help you the rest of your career is to learn to tell underdeveloped from underexposed/overdeveloped from overexposed negatives. That will help with immediate feedback when you see your negatives. Will make it easier to know where a problem may lie and much easier to get improvements as you move forward.

Now you know what a light leak can look like. Double check the bellows as well as how you insert film holders into the camera. Your problem is probably found, as you say. But occasionally checking bellows is good practice.

If you are not sure about the tank for developing you can always try using trays. A good experience if nothing else.

Maris Rusis
26-Jun-2018, 17:18
Also note that a light leak that extends over the rebate around the edge of the film means that light strike didn't happen in the camera. The film must have seen light before or after it was in the film holder.