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Thread: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

  1. #1

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    Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    Hello All,

    I'm a long time photographer but brand new to the exciting world of Large Format! I've shot about 25 sheets of film in my new (old) Calumet 4x5 and am beginning to get the hang of things, but I have two concerns:

    1. I spend a LOT of time digitally spot-toning in Photoshop, as my negatives have a lot of dust spots, and whats worse, often have large areas which look like they've been scraped (see attached photo #2). I have a fairly clean DIY darkroom set up, and have minimal dust on the 120 negatives which I frequently process, and am wondering if this looks like something to do with my film holders or processing tanks? I'm particularly mystified by the scrapes. If this is a film holder issue, is there a standard cleaning procedure, or is it best to scrap them and buy new ones?

    2. The first attached image is the first shot with a film back I just purchased at a used camera store -- is this a familiar light leak pattern? Does it look like something reparable, or do I toss the holder in the trash?

    The scratched image is Delta 100 in D76 and the light leak is Tri-X in D76.

    Thank you all in advance for any advice you can offer an excited but ignorant new Large Format fan!!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails LightLeak.jpg   ScrapedImage.jpg  

  2. #2
    Indiana, USA chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    Can you post a full negative frame image of the problems you are seeing? It will help to diagnose the root cause of problems. The white dots look to me like foreign material in the system. Possibly it happened when loading the film in the film holder, or during the film drying step. It also looks like particles of dry chemistry that could somehow have landed on the film. It doesn't look like scratches to me because they do not appear to be stripes or longer than wide.

    I need more information to be more helpful.

  3. #3

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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    If your dust spots occurred when exposing the film they would be clear pin holes and prints or scans would appear as black spots. Make sure your film holders are meticulously cleaned before loading film.
    White spots occur when your processed negative is printed or scanned and dust is present on the negative during printing or scanning. Make sure the scanning glass is dust free.

    Hope that helps.

    Rick

  4. #4
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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    All those clear specs shown on your negative are consistent with dust and debris on the negative during exposure.

  5. #5

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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    Quote Originally Posted by chassis View Post
    Can you post a full negative frame image of the problems you are seeing? It will help to diagnose the root cause of problems. The white dots look to me like foreign material in the system. Possibly it happened when loading the film in the film holder, or during the film drying step. It also looks like particles of dry chemistry that could somehow have landed on the film. It doesn't look like scratches to me because they do not appear to be stripes or longer than wide.

    I need more information to be more helpful.
    Thanks so much for the advice! Attached is an entire image from the same batch of negatives which gives a more pronounced example of the exasperating phenomenon.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ScratchedNeg.jpg  

  6. #6
    Indiana, USA chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    Can you please describe your film processing process in detail? White marks in the positive image means density on the negative. Density on the negative could actually be dirt or dust, or a wet process problem.

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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    Quote Originally Posted by chassis View Post
    Can you please describe your film processing process in detail? White marks in the positive image means density on the negative. Density on the negative could actually be dirt or dust, or a wet process problem.
    I'm using D76 and Kodak Fixer, both from powder, in a "cut film pack developing tank" (or so it says on the exterior of the tank) -- basically a 12 slot, black plastic tank made for 4x5. I do the Delta 100 in D76 at 68 degrees for 12 minutes with 20 seconds of agitation for each minute. I then do a 30 second water wash, followed by 5 minutes of fixer at 68 degrees, with constant agitation for the first minute.

    Again -- so grateful for your advice!

  8. #8

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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    One thing to do, if you haven't, is to go to a gas station and ask if you can borrow their air hose with a blowgun on it, and blow out the inside of the camera really well, then all of your holders, inside and out. That's assuming the holders are clean to start with. If they aren't clean them with windex and paper towels, again, inside and out, too.

    The white specks are NOT consistent with dust during exposure, though: that type of spots will show as black in prints. What I'm seeing are marks from dust and crud that's dried on your negatives from the final wash. There are a couple of ways to stop that:
    1/ make the final rinse with distilled water, no PhotoFlo or any other additive.
    2/ hang film in a completely dust free place.

    This is going to catch some flack, but I've been doing this successfully for 40 years*, so here goes: after a pure water rinse, if you are still having trouble, make a pad of three really cheap (they'll be lint-free if they're cheap) paper towels. Lay your neg on this pile, fold the towels over the neg, and blot them--no rubbing. Then open the sandwich, take one corner of the neg and drag it off the towels (which are then hanging over the edge of your counter) and slightly down, to wipe them off on the edge of the counter-towel. Flip and repeat. Then hang them up. Sometimes crud anchors itself to the film and won't just run off with water (the x-ray film I've been using lately is good at doing this) and wiping the film off is the only way to get the crud unstuck. Even with the very tender x-ray film I have not had scratches. The key is to let the weight of the film do the work--don't push the towels and film together and then slide, just slide. Your only objective in doing this is to wipe off crud AND the pattern of the towels in the water. Then hang to dry. Since I have been doing this to x-ray film I am getting zero scratches AND zero dust.

    For tougher strip films, 35mm and 120, I fold the towels over both sides of the film and gently squeegee the whole strip from end to end. Again, I have never had a scratch from doing this. I'm assuming this process will catch a lot of criticism from people who have never actually tried it, though. Don't listen to them. :-)


    *I started doing this as a news photog, finishing with a hair dryer to get prints out before my 9AM deadline, but when I discovered how well it worked, I decided to make the process permanent.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  9. #9
    Indiana, USA chassis's Avatar
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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    I also agree something is happening in the wet process. The suggestions above are a good place to start, and see if improvements can be found.

  10. #10

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    Re: Negative Quality Questions From a Novice

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    One thing to do, if you haven't, is to go to a gas station and ask if you can borrow their air hose with a blowgun on it, and blow out the inside of the camera really well, then all of your holders, inside and out. That's assuming the holders are clean to start with.
    I hate disagreeing with someone who may have more experience behind the camera than I do walking on this planet, But Please Do Not Follow this little bit of advice.

    Compressors in 100% of all shops have oils, water, and rust inside of them.
    Compressing air forms condensation (water), which never completely dries, causing rust. Plus oil is used right in the factory to keep things moving freely.
    Unless they have a Good air filter system in them all this crud comes right out the air hose. I would rather not have it in my camera or film holders.

    Special compressors are also used in the medical field, and even some camera shops.
    If you know someone working with one they may be willing to help you out.
    Those compressors are even usually filtered.

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