View Full Version : Tray Processing Newbie Questions

22-Apr-2011, 08:31
I have been shooting 4x5 many years now, and I have a refined workflow that involves tank processing or rotary processing. I just recently purchased an 8x10" camera w/ a 5x7" reducing back. This is my first foray into anything bigger than 4x5", and I don't have the ability to process the 5x7 in my daylight tank or my rotary processor. Therefore I am back to when I first got a 4x5" -- tray processing. To complicate the matter, I am using a film that I have never used before. I only tray processed 4x5 once or twice and wound up with scratched negs, so I quickly moved on. After reading AA's the negative, I now have some technique that has helped me avoid scratching the negs. However, I am having some unexpected results as far as contrast is concerned.

I am using Arista.EDU 100. This is rebranded Fomapan 100. The developing data gives 3.5' for 1:25 Rodinal. The MDC recommended the same time for 1:25 and 8-9' for 1:50. I had in my notes 7.5' @ 1:50 from others that have used fomapan 100 on Flickr. I adjusted my time down for a temperature of 74 degF and came up with 5.75'. This technique (or formula) that I use for adjusting dev time has always worked perfect for me.

The neg came out WAY flat (N-2 at least), so I decided to use the 9' recommended for 1:50 in the MDC. Adjusted to 72 deg yesterday gave 7.5'. This was a little better, but still looked thin, so I went another +30% development by going to 1:25 and souping for 5'. This one almost hit the mark. My contact print on polycontrast paper with no filter looked almost there. However the black point was not quite where I would like it, and if I printed down more the highlights would start to look dull. I have to more test sheets shot of a five zone test scene, so I am thinking of going +%15 with the first, and +15% more with the next.

I am wondering if tray times are significantly different than tank times. Because I have never had my times been too far away from the manufacturer recommendations. It makes me wonder if I am doing something wrong. I am now going to be processing at twice the recommended time on the data sheet that came with the box.

Here are some potential issues:

1. I use the restroom to load the holders. It is 99% light tight, but there is a TINY leak that comes from around the door jamb. I turn my back to it, and hold the anti-halo side away from me (two more stops of protection). I have never had an issue with it fogging my TMAX 100. It is so dark that I cannot see the film and the film holder right in front of me even after my eyes have dark adjusted.

2. DARK green safelight. I have a little safelight that has three filters in a rotating box. There is one amber and two green filters. One is dark but you can still see that it is green, and another green that is opaque with the lights on, you can't even tell it is on when the regular light is on. It is so dim that the glow-in-the-dark paint on my Graylab timer gives off more light than it. I don't think this is an issue because my trays are no where near the light, and the area where the trays are are it is recessed away from the light. Again, I can't even see my hands in the trays when my eyes are dark adapted. I don't see any evidence of an uneven fog on the negative. I read the article on developing by inspection and it states that one should keep the negative at least 4' away from the light and read the back of the film by reflection. I don't think I would even be able to see the negative four feet away from this light.

I am thinking this filter is to be used up close by transmission, and the other green filter is to measure by reflection at a further distance. The translucent green filter would have to be used with a switch because it is just a little dimmer than an amber light used for ortho film or wet printing.

The obvious solution would be to turn it off, but the next film I had planned on giving 15% more time without changing any other variables. I also posed this question as I have no experience with these green safelights, and maybe someone could chime in here, and give me some useful information about the two different density green filters. How can the be used effectively. Does it really need to be turned off if it is no brighter than the glow paint on the timer.

Thanks for reading this marathon post, but I would like to learn as much as possible from the old hands out there.

Chris Maness

22-Apr-2011, 20:52
Well I have eliminated the fogging issue. I gaffer's taped up the door, and did not have the safe light on the whole time. The negative looks a prints exactly the same. I guess I will just have to go another 15% past where I am now as far as developing time. This will be exactly double the manufacturers recommendation. I have never had to adjust my time more than 15% of the manufacturer's recommendation. Wow. That is 100% difference from the box time.


Doremus Scudder
23-Apr-2011, 04:14

I used to hang strips of opaque plastic or cloth over the cracks in the door to keep out stray light when I had your light-leak problem years ago. Worked fine and doesn't leave adhesive remnants...

My advice: turn you safelights off and develop in total darkness. You don't need safelights on at all unless you are developing by inspection, and, if so, you should only use them for a few seconds to check the progress of development. Having them on the whole time is a sure-fire way to fog your film! This will increase FB+F density and reduce contrast, and may be a part of your contrast problem.

To your contrast problem (thinking out loud here...). If your 5x7 lenses are significantly different in terms of coating and contrast from your 4x5 lenses, then there's a possible cause of less contrast. If you are using the same lenses, then... you're simply not developing long enough (assuming your negs are thin as you say and not exhibiting lack of contrast due to safelight fog!). Tray processing is significantly different from rotary processing in terms of agitation and, hence, developing time (you don't mention how you agitate in the trays...).

At any rate, you should determine your own tray-processing times based on your results. Times from the manufacturer and MDC are just starting points and often way off. Don't expect your tray-processing times to be the same or even close to your other processing times for other methods. Once you ditch those expectations and just develop as long as you need to get the contrast you need, you'll be fine. It takes as long as it takes.

A word about agitation in trays. I shuffle; once through the stack every 30 seconds. (If you are tray rocking, your times will be different than if you shuffle.) Shuffling requires some practice to get to the point where you don't scratch films, especially unhardened emulsions like Fomapan (I used to lose about 2% of my BPF negs when I used that film due to processing damage). It may be worth it to you to use a different film; Kodak and Ilford products have hardened emulsions and are much more resistant to processing damage. I never scratch a Tri-X neg anymore.

Best and good luck,

Doremus Scudder

Bruce Barlow
23-Apr-2011, 04:25
Sacrifice two negatives and practice shuffling in the light until you feel comfortable. I'll develop as many as ten 5x7s at a time. 8 8x10s, or 16 4x5s. 2 are plenty for practice. I have scratched exactly three negatives in 27 years of tray developing. It can be done. I hook my middle finger underneath the negative and pull it out, than then make sure that I drop it flat on the top of the stack, and press it down with my other thumb. If they land flat, the top one won't gouge (and scratch) the one below. You can hear the splat.

Shuffle in the light, close your eyes and shuffle, turn off the lights and shuffle. When you feel comfortable, you'll know it for life. Devote 30 minutes, and you'll be stunningly bored, but know it cold.

5x7 contact prints are lovely. Good for you!

23-Apr-2011, 07:03
Thanks guys. Yea, I ditched the safelight even though it was not a fogging issue. I am more like A. Adams than E. Weston. I have a science background, so I don't really need the touchy feely darkroom. ;o)

I think I have shuffling down now. I just need to cut my long fingernails.


24-Apr-2011, 06:13
I am now getting nice contact prints. I took a maternity photos of a couple at the beach yesterday, and my contact prints came out AWESOME. I have found 7' to be N-1 and 8' to be N.

If I use N-1 to control total scene contrast how do I bump up local contrast? Can I dodge and burn with two different contrasts?

Chris Maness

Kevin J. Kolosky
24-Apr-2011, 19:56
If you are using a new film it might be best to do a film speed test first before attempting to nail down contrast.

Shoot a black card in shade, develop it for the recommended time, and also develop a blank piece of film. Read them in a densitometer (if you don't have one I do) and see where you are with regard to film speed. Then do your "contrast" test.