View Full Version : Diagnose my negative?

9-Oct-2011, 20:26
So I'm new(ish) to large format, and I'm having some trouble diagnosing my problem. This is my second time shooting with my 8x10 camera, and my first time tray processing. My first batch of negatives (sent to a lab) turned out horribly fogged, and I thought I had fixed the issue but I still appear to be having a bit of a problem. I've attached a scan of the negative (and quick photoshop positive, I don't have a proper negative scanner so it's not great), and a couple of shots against light. I'm wondering if it's just my film carriers? I thought my problem last time was a safety light on a light switch I overlooked in the room I loaded my film in. I fixed that, and this batch is MUCH better but still not great. I just can't tell if it's a problem with loading or processing (I was also using HC-110 for the first time, dilution B). My camera is a used Orbit monorail (I haven't seen another one like it anywhere, it's pretty clunky but the price was right. I checked the bellows for leaks and they're light tight. The ground glass is cracked on the side but holding in there, but I don't think this would cause a light leak.)

The processing itself was obviously not as perfect as it could have been (not the fingerprints) and since this was just a test I didn't use photo flo after the wash. Most of the marks on the scan that look like scratches are actually just a result of my dirty scanner, so sorry about that. The sheet that served as the background had some embroidery on it, which I realize could be mistaken for a problem with the negative as well. Better subject matter next time: check.

I know this may be too vague to accurately diagnose, but any help would be greatly appreciated! Overlooking the incredibly dull subject matter of the image, any ideas? Also, if anyone knows of any 8x10 workshops in the NJ area I'd love to check them out, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to figure this all out on my own.

9-Oct-2011, 20:39
Looks underdeveloped to me. The negative looks thin, not enough density/black in the highlight areas.

Since you are just starting, consider doing a film test in your developer. You need a step wedge which you contact "print" onto your film under enlarger light exposure. You expose each sheet the same, then process each sheet for a different time, e.g. 4. 5.6, 8, 11, and 16 minutes. Then you send it off to Fred Newman at the View Camera Store. They will evaluate your negative step wedges with a densitometer and generate a lot of graphs and tables that you will eventually understand. In the meantime, you will learn your accurate film speed with the appropriate development times. Well worth the trouble.

Peter Spangenberg
9-Oct-2011, 20:40
Looks to me like it might be light leaks at both ends of your film holder. Also, denser area around edge of negatives (shows up as light perimeter around printed image) may be from using trays that are too small for 8x10 film processing. Try going up 1 size to 11x14. If your trays are 8x10, the film edges get more agitation/fresh developer than the rest of the sheet. I doubt it has anything to do with developer.

9-Oct-2011, 20:41
When you checked the bellows for leaks, did you also check the camera back? Might as well also check the holder at the same time -- remove the darkslide and see if any light comes up thru the holder's light trap. But suspect the camera back.


9-Oct-2011, 22:08
Looks like maybe the film holder was not seated causing a light leak between the film holder and the back. Could also be a bellows leak.

9-Oct-2011, 22:20
What are you guys looking at when you refer to the light leaks? Not questioning it, I just can't discern it myself.

9-Oct-2011, 22:48
In a completely dark room (letting my eyes dilate), with a film holder inserted and the lensboard removed, I take a small flashlight (a mini-maglite, the two AA battery model, with the head removed works great) and insert it into the bellows via the front. For the bellows, it is good to have the bellows extended as far as possible, but for the back, it is easier to have less bellows extension.

I move the flashlight around a lot. Then it is a matter of seeing if any light shows up anywhere from outside the camera. Like where the back mates to the camera, or perhaps sneaking out between the film holder and the back. And of course, one can remove the camera back, keep the lens on and check to see if any light is sneaking past the lensboard.

10-Oct-2011, 06:10
What are you guys looking at when you refer to the light leaks? Not questioning it, I just can't discern it myself.

The two pictures where he is showing the corners of the negative up against the computer monitor. Two of the corners are fogged up-to, and slightly under the edges of the film holder on the side where the dark slide goes in.

James Morris
10-Oct-2011, 08:35
Try shooting the same scene in portrait and landscape orientation, with the same side of the same holder each time. If the fogging moves 90 degrees, it's not the film holder.

10-Oct-2011, 09:12
Thanks for the help everyone. I didn't check the camera back for leaks, so I'll be doing that tonight. Any tips for checking film holders? I'm not sure where/how to aim the flashlight into such a tiny crevice.

Also, if it is the camera back, how would you go about fixing that? Black tape?

Jay DeFehr
10-Oct-2011, 09:34
I have a light fixture attached to a lens board for checking bellows/ camera light leaks. I just take the camera into the dark room, rack the bellows all the way out, and plug in the light. I use a compact fluorescent bulb so heat doesn't build up inside the camera while I'm looking for leaks. Move the focus back and forth, go through all your camera movements, etc. You'll need a film holder in place, or you'll just have a really cool camera-lamp. Good luck!

10-Oct-2011, 10:23
After further examination of your equipment, I'd suggest you go and shoot something that is evenly toned and evenly lit; rule out any splotchiness in your negs that you may have caused.
And for processing, dilution B can be a bit too harsh and contrasty; try dilution H (1:63 or dilution B with 2x the water), it will process more evenly and gently.
Do a pre-soak of about one minute before development.
You'll have to adjust your developing time, but as an example, TMax400 in HC-110 dilution B is 6 minutes; I use dilution H for 9 minutes, so about 50% more time.

10-Oct-2011, 17:59
Thanks so much for all your help! I was able to test the camera back tonight, and Vaughn was right, my film holders (I tried the one I used to make the example negative and also a spare) don't seem to sit flush against the camera back in the same two corners the light leaks appeared on the negative. I know that I could probably just leave the dark cloth over the camera when taking a picture, but the corners in question are on the side you pull the dark slide out from, which might make things difficult. Any other suggestions to remedy this?