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Thread: Dealing with dust

  1. #1

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    Dealing with dust

    I'm slowly coming to the recognition that I have a dust problem.

    My time with LF is up to about a year now, and I've learned better routines for loading and unloading film, developing, and using movements thanks to many of the fine folks here (and big shout out to Rod Klukas who's also provided a lot of great info). It's a lot of fun, but there are so many things that can (and do) go wrong compared to medium format, which I've used for decades with never any problems.

    As I sit and study my negatives I'm shocked at how many tiny, minuscule squiggles, hairs, lines and dots that appear on each and every one of my photographs. At least the B&W ones. Most of the E6 I have a lab do actually looks pretty clean.

    Which leads me to 2 questions:

    1. Is dust inevitable? Should I simply accept it as part of the LF lifestyle, and retouch it in post?

    2. What can I do to minimize/eliminate dust specks on my negatives? I don't have a darkroom, only a changing bag. But I do own a vacuum, and know how to operate it. How do you keep dust away, or at least to a minimum?

    Thanks for the advice and suggestions!

  2. #2

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    Buy a Noritzu bag which you have to raise up with a frame in bottom and hang from the velcro, or a tent, Harrison-type. A changing box will also work.

    Big Wehman, Toyo 5x7" and a small Chamonix

  3. #3

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    I don't use a changing bag, but it's not a difficult leap to figure dust could be an issue here. With film holders, I pull the dark slides and vacuum the entire holder (including using a wand to suck air through the slot) and both sides of the dark slides. Then, I carefully and slowly insert the slides part way to load the film. Once loaded, the holders go into Zip lock bags and are removed only for exposure. Negatives are hit with an electric static brush before printing. All that and I still get some dust and other "buggers." If making analog prints, spotting dyes will be your friend; on the desktop, we have the spot healing brush.

  4. #4

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    It depends on where the dust is coming from. Are you giving your film a final bath in distilled water with a wetting agent? Instead, are you wiping it with a squeegee, special sponge or chamois, or other lint-free wiper?
    Where are you drying your film? The standard non-darkroom technique is to hang it in a pre-steamed-up (with the shower) bathroom, door closed, no fan on. This can take a while, but the results may dramatically reduce your dust problem.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
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  5. #5
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Dealing with dust

    There are lots of threads on this.

    Make your film loading and storage space as dust free as possible. Use a Hepa filter. Keep the air from being too dry. Go over holders and surfaces with one of those de-lint tape things, or something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Record-Cleani...7136153&sr=8-4. Do the inside of holder and dark slide before loading them. Keep holders in a dust proof cloth bag. Plastic bags will likely increase static. Make sure that problems aren't from reusing processing chemicals. Before printing or scanning, make sure everything is clean. I use the silicone rollers on the scanner platen, as well on on the film.
    Please stop feeding the trolls.

  6. #6

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    Before I load film I up the humidity in the darkroom. It is usually in the 20s and I try to get it at least to 45%. Then after I load a holder, in the dark of course, I pull the darkslide back and let the film get a blast of the output from an Honeywell air filter machine. This has made a huge difference for me. It also helped when I made sure to really clean out the inside of used cameras.

  7. #7

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    Thanks for all the replies. Many good ideas and suggestions. Let me address them one by one.

    This last batch of developing was done last weekend, it was raining here in Los Angeles (i.e. humid), and I hang the films in the bathroom in the shower. No fan or anything like that. All sheets are dunked in a photo-flo bath after rinsing and before being hung up. I don't squeegee or touch the film at all, just a gentle dip and bath in the wetting agent and then straight to hanging to dry, I handle the sheets by the edges and corners only. The developer and fixer were freshly mixed just for that batch, the stop bath was from a previous session but still pretty fresh.

    I don't have a darkroom, or even a room I can make dark, nor a changing tent, only a bag. Before I buy a tent ($250 and up), I will thoroughly vacuum the changing bag as well as each film holder and darskslide. Will also look into an anti static brush, and I know I have a few travel sized mini lint rollers I can use for the film holders. Ziplocks sound like a good idea, I'll start putting film holders in them once loaded. What kind of dust-proof cloth bags are recommended?

    Nor do I have a scanner (yet), I had a Canon 9950F with Vuescan in Europe that I gave away when I moved to the USA. My son has been taking pictures of the negatives on a light table with a DSLR just so I can get a rough impression, I then inspect them on the light table with a loupe on their own before filing them away. I do try and keep everything clean and dust free.

    Hope that covers everything. I'm not sure what a Honeywell Air Filter machine is (I mean, the name does kind of give a big clue, but still), but it needs to fit inside a changing bag (or tent) as I have limited space and no darkroom.

  8. #8

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    Are the "spots" clear on the film or stuff stuck to it???

    Clear means that debris was on the film before exposure (which leaves a clear "shadow" spot behind it), but if you see the debris directly on the dried film, that happened post exposure during processing or drying...

  9. #9

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    Are the "spots" clear on the film or stuff stuck to it???

    Clear means that debris was on the film before exposure (which leaves a clear "shadow" spot behind it), but if you see the debris directly on the dried film, that happened post exposure during processing or drying...
    Most of the "spots" are what look like tiny motes of dust at random places on the film. Like tiny particles commonly floating around a room seen in a sunbeam. I would guess that they stuck to the film when I loaded, or were in the holder, and blocked light from hitting the emulsion. The outlines are sharp and crisp, but tiny. All random shapes, mostly lines and squiggles. They have left clear marks in the film. I.e. no exposure where the speck of dust was.

    I do not see any debris stuck to the film, no. I did have an issue when two sheets were hanging slightly too close to each other and ended up sticking together, which left a mark even when re-rinsed and separated. I'm still learning, and it was nothing critical. That's why I'm using this film to test and learn before going back to Velvia and Tri-X, having burned off far too many sheets already. That said, I have also gotten some really nice shots.

    A few of the previous batch had mottled skies, which I believe was slightly too little developer in the tank. I've since increased the amount to 1200ml and it seems to have taken care of the issue. There are another 12 sheets awaiting development for this weekend.

    I also just discovered that Foma/Arista EDU 100 and 200 puts their notch codes on backwards, so that when the notch is upper right in the film holder, the emulsion is actually facing down towards the holders, not up towards the camera lens. I don't know if this is consistent across all batches, or only on the one I have now. I plan on loading a few holders "backwards" to compare and see how things look.

    I was wrong about this part.
    Last edited by 6x6TLL; 18-Apr-2020 at 14:35.

  10. #10

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    Re: Dealing with dust

    Debris on film pre-exposure leaves clear spots under the debris, because they don't allow light to hit the film there...

    Debris on film happen during processing, and stick on the film...

    Steve K

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