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Thread: Back to basics - newbie developing help

  1. #1

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    Question Back to basics - newbie developing help

    Hi,

    I'm a year or so into 4x5 and am still getting problems on my negatives, and am not sure what the problem is. I've been developing my own B&W for 20+ years and have never had an issue getting good results.

    Previously I used a Jobo ATL1500, but it was stolen last December. Luckily the tanks and reels weren't. I've developed 4 sheets on each reel (there's space for 3 sheets on each side of the reel for 6 sheets in total, but I'm not convinced that they won't stick to each other and end up being ruined, so I've been loading 2 on each side, one in the inner and one in the outer groove, leaving the middle groove open) in the smallest tank, everything seemed to work fine and the negatives looked ok. That was a few days ago. So far so good, but that's been a trend here, things look great and then they don't, then everything looks ok again, and I can't seem to identify where I'm changing my routines or causing the problems I'm seeing.

    Tonight I loaded up 2 4x5 reels into a large tank (MultiTank 2553) and developed some test shots - Arista EDU Ultra 100 and 200 of the same subject, both at EI100 (wanted to compare the two directly with the same exposure and development). I used a 4 minute pre-wash (turquoise blue water came out), 8 minutes in Rodinal 1+50 @ 20C, 1 minute stop bath, and 5 minute Agfa RapidFix with a 10 minute rinse in water at the end. A quick dunk in photoflo solution and hung up to dry.

    2 of the 8 sheets look normal, all of the others have major issues. Some look almost like double exposure, or as if some of one negative has "rubbed off" on another. I'm 99.9% certain they aren't double exposures, the shots are only from a few days ago, I don't recall making any mistakes (and I've made most of them by now, lol!) and was very careful and methodical in my approach. Others look like maybe they did stick to each other, but appear darker in spots - if developer wasn't able to get to a spot on the film I would expect it to be clear, not dark. One of the shots looks like the dark slide wasn't all the way out when I took the picture, as 1/3 of the frame is black. But I remove the slide completely before firing the shutter in order to turn it around when I replace it.

    All of the holders are brand new Toyos, I load/unload film in a black double layered cloth changing bag, the Jobo tanks are light-tight, I'm really at a loss to see where I'm messing up. But I must be, somewhere. At least I can see that my film loading is improving, almost all sheets have a perfect symmetrical border around them.

    While I'm enjoying more and more the slower pace and contemplative approach LF offers as well as seeing more opportunities and learning to use movements for more creative control, I'm also getting more and more frustrated by so many ruined shots (at least this particular film is cheap, which I why I'm practicing on it before I go back to Velvia and other more pricey ones).

    I'd post a few scans, but the negatives are hanging to dry now. If anyone has any initial advice or thoughts about what may be the problem (or more info is needed), please reply.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    You're using the center column in the tanks, right? It's part of the light trap and essential as such.
    Also do you store the loaded film holders for an extended period of time? If so, store them in the dark. The dark slides are not 100% light tight but will let through a minimal amount of light over an extended period of time (days-weeks).

    Are you using the 4x5 reels with the black 'wings' you have to insert after loading the film? These are essential for even development, although the problems caused by not having them (i.e. the older style reels) are not as severe as what you seem to be experiencing.

    I never do a prewash but it shouldn't cause the kind of issues you describe. Lots of debate about this, but in any case, it doesn't seem to be the cause of your problems.

  3. #3
    Huub
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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    Reading your post i don't see any obvious mistakes at first hand, but some pictures of the negatives (the good ones and those with issues) might help identifying the problems.

    What i also would like to know is how much chemicals you used and if you developed by rotation or by inversion. And do you remember where the good negatives were located on the reels? That also might give some clues.

  4. #4

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    Koraks, I am indeed using the center column for the reason you state. I've been storing holders on my desk (in a pretty dim room), although the ones I developed last night were from a weekend shoot, so pretty fresh. I loaded them into the tank on Sunday but didn't get a chance to develop until yesterday. No wings that I can see on the reels, they are multi-size Jobo reels that have 3 slots on each side, for 6 sheets in total. I only use 4 per reel so far.

    Huub, I mixed up 1/2l of chemicals for this job, and the development looks good, I filled a sink with water at 20C and did "manual rotation", mimicking the movement of the Jobo by floating the tank in the sink and turning it around and around, changing directions every minute or so. The good/problem negatives were randomly positioned when I stripped them from the reels. No clue there.

    Let me see what I can scan and post. Looking at them in the light of day, it looks to me like they were exposed to light when they weren't supposed to be, i.e. beyond my exposure. But the way the light has hit the film looks unusual to me.

  5. #5

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    OK, center column = good.
    The reels you speak of I'm familiar with. They don't work perfectly for me. With some developers, I get uneven density particularly along the long edges of the film (where the film touches the reels). This extends quite a bit (half an inch or more) into the image area. The newer reels with the wings completely solved the issue for me. But again, this is likely not the (only) problem you are having.

    As to your development approach: I think it's very hard to keep the tank perfectly level during development in the setup you're using. The 500ml developer volume assumes horizontal mounting on a Jobo processor. Maybe part of the problem is that your tank bobs in all kinds of directions in the water-filled sink but in doing so fails to submerge parts of some negatives consistently. To see if this is part of the problem, I would recommend doing a test run with a few sheets and in normal standing-up development (as you'd use e.g. a Paterson or Nikor tank), also with much more developer so that the film is covered when the tank is standing. If you get good development this way, it's a cue that you may have to invest in a roller base.

    If you could post some examples I'm sure it will make things a bit more tangible for all of us.

  6. #6
    Huub
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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    When you are using the large Jobo tanks that take two 4x5 spools, 500ml fluid is probably not enough. If i remember correctly they need 600ml to cover the films, at least my newer 2551 ones do. When using manual rotation in a sink i would use even a bit more as the rotation of the tank will not be perfectly horizontal as a processor would do. Also half a liter of 1+50 Rodinal is on the limit of the amount of concentrate that is needed to develop the film. Going by memory i think Agfa recommends using at least 6ml or 8 ml per 4 sheets of 4x5, so it is barely enough. I second Koraks advise and try to do a test with inversion developement, using 2500 ml of liquid to fill the tank. A second test could using at least 1 L of fluid and do a rotation development again in your water filled sink.

    But when your negatives look like they have been struck by light, the cause is probably something completely different. A lens board not seated correctly, pulling the darkslide out of the cassette and moving the cassette at the same time, a bellows not correctly attached to the camera, pinholes in the bellows and probably half a dozen more issues can cause light leaks. And don't ask how i know this.....

  7. #7

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    If you are using a 2553 tank, then 500ml of chemistry is not enough. Close, but not close enough. From memory, they require around 550ml or 560ml, but I always used 600ml for safety.

    The reels you have without the wings, will in most cases work pretty good with 6 sheets, but every now and again I ended up with two sheets touching each other. My fix was to only use the inner and outer slots, as you have done. Eventually I got the wings and things are certainly better, but I still only ever developed 4 sheets at a time.

    Mick.

  8. #8

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    Maybe your shutter blades are sticking? Did you use a different lens on the good one compared to the bad ones?

  9. #9

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    I doubt it. Both lenses I've bought have been sent to Rod at Arca Swiss USA for a thorough check, shutter speed test, and mounting on a lens board. They both look and work as new.

    Quote Originally Posted by jtomasella View Post
    Maybe your shutter blades are sticking? Did you use a different lens on the good one compared to the bad ones?

  10. #10

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    Re: Back to basics - newbie developing help

    Ok, I have a few quick scans (a digital snapshot inverted, changed to B&W, did a quick level adjust in PS and exported for web) that illustrate the problem. I'm getting light leaking in somehow, but am not sure where. I think it may be either when loading/unloading film, or loading the reels and tanks for developing, as the film holders are all new (Toyo) and I've seen the same holders produce perfect negatives.

    I also notice that this emulsion seems to have a lot of specks, dimples, marks and unevenness in general. Maybe I will go back to Kodak after I've completed the boxes I've bought. It's a bit muddy and disappointing so far. I'll have to experiment more with it, and won't know for sure until I get my developing down properly. Another really bizzarre thing is that the notch codes for 100 and 200 ISO are the same. Quite unhelpful, I'm not sure who thought that was a good idea!

    Notice the bands and stripes on similar/same subject and exposure, taken over several days:

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