View Full Version : First image from 4x5 and also first time in the dark room

30-Aug-2012, 08:11
I figured I would share my experience with my first 4x5 image and my first development. I took a "quick" first shot with the 4x5 of my son standing in the back yard so that I could see if I could do it and to make sure the whole process worked without potentially sacrificing a real keeper. I blocked as much door light in our upstairs windowless bathroom as I could went into the tub with the bath curtain drawn and then went underneath a big towel to do the actual film loading, so I don't think I let any light leak onto the film pre-exposure. I settled on HP5, D76 powder, Water Stop, Kodak powder fixer, photo flo in trays. I made a lot of mistakes but I was so excited to actually produce a hand-made negative. I later scanned with a regular "all in one" scanner and inverted into a positive followed by lowering the exposure by a stop in Lightroom. Due to my errors I believe the over exposure was a result of my development process.


My development plan was d76 stock for 7.5 minutes agitating for 5 seconds every 30 seconds, 1 minute constant agitation with two water changes for stop, 5 minutes agitating for 5 seconds every 30 seconds for fixer, 10 minute rinse (I left the water slowly running into the tray and agitated occasionally), 30 seconds in photo flo water, hang to dry. I'm positive my actual development deviated from this plan significantly due to my fumbling in the darkroom.

Mistakes I made:
-When mixing the D76 I failed to realize I was supposed to heat up the water to 50C. So when it wasn't dissolving I realized why, so I had to microwave it carefully to get it up to temperature before doing more stirring. No idea if this messed up the batch, but it developed the negative and everything is dissolved now. I think going forward at some point I may switch to a liquid concentrate to make this easier.
-I know my temperature wasn't 20C for the developer. Before beginning I measured 22C roughly after it had been in the fridge for awhile to cool down. I know this should be compensated for but I was too excited to just do it and it was already getting late at night.
-My iPod "Talking Timer" app decided to go to sleep in my pocket around 4 minutes into development, so that caused some fumbling and I'm sure I got my times wrong by some margin. I was able to get it going again in my pocket but now I know to use something else.

-My scanner does 9600dpi, though I set it to 2400dpi for this scan. Is there anything special I need to do to scan properly? I just scanned it as a 24bit color image. The scanner has a light from underneath the glass and a white reflective "roof". The negative seemed to come out ok scanned, but I have nothing to compare the results with really.
-What might cause the streaks etc on the image?
-Is there a good resource that discusses common problems caused in the dark room and their source?
-Is there a simple way to get water off the negative? I hung the image with a clip. Can I use a hair dryer or will that just cause other issues? I thought photo flo was supposed to do a better job but maybe I was expecting too much.
-Can a negative be cleaned after the fact? Meaning, can I put it in some water with a pinch of photo flo and wash it again without ruining it?
-I poured my d76 stock and fixer back into their jars for reuse. From what I understand for such a small development (one sheet) this shouldn't be an issue initially.

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing my first negative, such as it is. It was a really exciting process for me haha

David de Gruyl
30-Aug-2012, 09:00
I'm assuming you were developing in a tray. One thing you might be seeing is the initial wetting of the negative: if it is not even, it can leave disjointed mottling (paper is more forgiving). A couple of things can help. First, you can pre-soak your film in water. Second, you can lift up one side of the tray, put the negative down, and put the tray down. The developer will cascade over the film, and you won't have non-wetted surface.

It is also possible that there was insufficient time for fixing your film. I doubt this based on the 5 minutes of fixing, but I don't know what fixer you are using. Incomplete fixing can look like a milky mottling of the negative.

Negatives are normally scanned with light going through the negative. Usually that light is built into the scanner. For a quick / cheap solution, you can use a lightbox (or a computer monitor which is all white) and digital camera, or contact print the negative and scan that (which is a whole other can of darkroom worms).

Negatives can be re-washed (and also re-fixed, if necessary) without any harm to the image.

Hang drying (from one corner, ideally) is the normal way to dry sheet film. I generally just let the water run off, and then hang it to dry. Some people squeegee or sponging the film, but that runs the risk of scratching the negative. Hair driers are a bad idea because of heat and dust concerns.

It is possible that you used too much photo-flo. Kodak's recommended concentration is about twice what is generally best, as far as I can tell. I understand that this depends on water quality.

Check out the massive dev chart app (since you have an ipod). It includes time and temperature charts for various film and developer combinations as well as temperature compensation and a timer. It has a lit screen with three modes (daylight, red and green). All of these will fog your film, but the green (if it is taken from your pocket only at the end of the developing) won't be too bad. I tend to leave it in my pocket (facing in, on dark green) until after I have the film in the stop bath. It has sounds for agitation reminders, and an alarm at the end of each stage of processing.

All in all, you seem to have done a fine job. I also think the negative will look much better backlit.

David Schaller
30-Aug-2012, 09:50
David has answered your questions well in the previous post. I would just add that the next time you might want to try D76 diluted, either 1:1 or, as I do, 1:3. A more dilute developer does increase development time, of course, but is more forgiving in the sense that a little bit more or less time, or the use of a water stop bath, is less consequential. Also diluting usually means that you use the d76 as a one shot developer and dump it after you're done. This also avoids the issue of " is my developer exhausted from reuse?". Using more dilute D76 will give you more room to make adjustments in your development times for N-1, N-2 and so forth, so that you might subtract a minute or two rather than having to be very accurate in measuring seconds.
Keep at it!

30-Aug-2012, 09:59
I very quickly discovered there was a BIG difference between "Fixer" and "Rapid Fixer". After my first couple rounds of film developing, I changed to Ilford Rapid Fixer (there are many others too) and will never use standard fixer again.

For Developer - I happen to use Kodak XTOL - I mix the 5 liter pack at working strength (in ~30C water, my summertime normal "cold" temp in Dallas) and strore in 1L or 500mL Nalgene chemical bottles. I normally dilute WS XTOL to 1:1 (sometimes 1:3) when I'm ready to develop film. I use a pitcher for the correct amount, and use ice cubes to get the temp to 20C exactly during the dilution process. Never had any issue doing this and I have very predictable developing times.

Stop and Fix are not quite as crucial for temp stability, but I add an ice cube or two to the trays anyway. I have a "prewash" tray too, always set to exactly 20C with ice and soak film for about 1 minute before going into the developer. It helps with overall temp stability and gets rid of the blue antihalation dye, which would otherwise go in your developer. I usually can do 12 4x5 sheets in two back-to-back rounds with 1L of XTOL 1:1. You can also do the math on developer capacity and maybe get more. Some film / dev combinations recommend against prewashing, as does HP5+/XTOL, but I've always done it and I've never had a problem with uneven development.

Scratches during tray development are another matter and it takes a little practice to get your method down pat to avoid this. Personally and IMHO, I think you're on the right track with what you've said above.

The only thing I'd do different is use Rapid Fix instead of Fix and use ice cubes to get your temps under control prior to processing. Water bath method to me is too much trouble, too much time and too much hassle.

30-Aug-2012, 10:09
If only developing one sheet wouldn't I waste a ton of developer (even at 1+1 or maybe 1+3) if I dumped it afterwards because I need to be able to submerge the negative in the tray with a baseline water level? I have fairly small trays, but it seems like I'd need like 200+ml to cover it.

30-Aug-2012, 12:07
Developer in a tray oxidizes and becomes less potent, in addition to it's change from developing film. A dilute developer meant to be discarded (one shot) makes this a non issue. I used to use d76 1+2. HC110 can also be used quite dilute. Pyrocat HD, PMK I also use which are naturally dilute. Temperature is important. Not critical, but important.

If your camera equipment is old, it's highly possible the shutter is out of calibration and is overexposing the film as well. They get gummed up over the decades and this slows them down. A CLA brings them back closer to their intended speeds. Too high a develop temp will also over cook your negatives and make them a little too dark.

Your scanner should be made for scanning transparencies/negatives. If it's not (perhaps yours isnt), it's not gonna look good.

You may find a cheap gralab 300 (for example) countdown timer which is a traditional timer for this purpose. These are often in yardsale/c-list darkroom cleanout lots with other useful items.

Most people use a longer rinse than 10 minutes unless hypo-remover is used. Some people use photoflo mix to prevent water spots. Some people use soap. I use rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy section at walmart. It dries clean and fast compared to normal water. Just poke a pinhole in the safety seal, and spray the negative with a few ml, and hang it up to dry.

30-Aug-2012, 18:42
Congratulations! Looks great, keep going and you will be amazed at what you can produce.