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Thread: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

  1. #1

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    Unhappy How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    Hello,

    What I thought would be a simple enough task turned out to be rather a pain. Its my first time tray developing, but I've done 4x5 daylight tank (JOBO) developing without any problems.

    So this is the film that came out...

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The background was supposed to be pure or close to white, and its got these weird ghostly artifacts around the shoulders. Upon closer inspection of the negative, there is a yellow spot / stain that may be from a fixer problem??

    The film is HP5+, developed in F76+, 7 minutes, 3 minutes in fixer. I agitated by rocking the corner of the tray up and down, constantly for 7 minutes. I was very gentle with the rocking because the developer would splash and spill. The tray i was using is a 5x7 tray, I wonder if a bigger tray and more developer would help? Or should I try a new agitation method?

    As for the condition of the developer I cannot say how old it is, because I am using a school lab, but I haven't had this problem with my 35 or 120 rolls in the past.

    Edit// Also to note, I only developed one sheet at a time in one tray thinking that it would avoid problems like this.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Yes, but why? David R Munson's Avatar
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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    Usually for me it's a stack of sheets. Pull one from the bottom, put it on top of the stack, repeat.
    So apparently my signature was full of dead links after a few years away...

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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    If you always lifted the same corner, you may have set up eddy currents that contributed to uneven development.

    I believe Todd-Zakia, that 12 rocks a minute is optimum.

    And I would lift different sides or corners of the tray every time (8 different ways to lift). Try to get a random flow of developer.

  4. #4
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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    Tray development is the technique I use to get perfectly even negatives.

    As-such, I do not agitate the negatives at all. I gently shuffle sheets from the bottom to the top of the stack. I rotate the stack 90 degrees every couple minutes. This is all out of Ansel's book.

    It's also important to use a big tray and plenty of developer. I use an 8x10 tray and 1 liter of developer for 4x5.
    Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
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  5. #5

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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    I'm not a big fan of tray rocking for agitation. First, it means that you can only develop one sheet at a time. Second, it's easy to not agitate sufficiently when using tray rocking and end up with uneven development, like you have.

    I use staining developers, mostly PMK, which need careful agitation to achieve even development. I have refined my agitation so that I have very even development all the time. I have a routine that works from one to eight sheets in a batch, although my preferred number is six.

    Here's what I do (sorry for the long, detailed explanation, but I just can't seem to shorten it much more):

    I use deep (Paterson) 5x7 trays for 4x5 film. I use a minimum of 500ml solution in each tray. I agitate by shuffling along the short axis of the film, pulling a sheet from bottom and returning it to the top of the stack (more below). I process film emulsion-side up; although others have success emulsion-side down, I get uneven development that way.

    First, I believe a pre-soak is necessary to promote even development and to keep sheets from sticking together when developing more than one at a time. I unload my holders, making sure that the bottom sheet is turned 180° to all the rest so the code notches are on the opposite end, making this sheet, my number one sheet, easy to identify. I fan the stack carefully in my hands like a hand of cards and, starting with the bottom sheet (number one) I submerge them gently, emulsion side up, in the water bath and lift a corner of the sheet up and down for a while. I leave 10-15 seconds before submerging the next one to keep the sheets from sticking together (if sheets do stick together, let them soak and work them gently apart - it's only the pre-soak, you've got plenty of time). I agitate the film (more below) by shuffling for a minimum of three minutes to make sure the emulsion is saturated. I finish agitating with sheet number one on the bottom of the stack (you can feel the code notches).

    I then lift the entire stack from the water bath being careful to keep all the sheets together and drain. I fan the stack again so that sheet one is on the bottom right (I'm right-handed and work from left-to-right when processing). I start the developing clock and begin submerging the sheets into the developer. I submerge one at a time, starting with sheet number one, in even intervals over 30 seconds (more later) with a bit of lifting the corner of the sheet before the next one is added. After all sheets are added, I continue shuffling in the same interval by taking a sheet from the bottom and replacing it on the top of the stack. I go through the stack once every 30 seconds. Now for the important part...

    Agitation technique - valid for all steps:
    When shuffling, gently pull a sheet from the bottom of the stack; slide it out horizontally; don't lift it and drag it against the other sheets on top of it. Lift the sheet completely out of the solution, turn it 180° and then lay it gently onto the surface of the liquid, making sure it lands flat. Keep the stack lined up with one hand and guide the top sheet gently down on to the stack. Don't push the sheet down quickly, let it gently float down; pushing too fast will give you surge marks of extra density along the edges of the negative where the developer swirls.

    In the developer, the agitation rate is critical; less so for the other steps. I immerse the stack in equal intervals over 30 seconds and then shuffle through the stack once every 30 seconds after that till development is complete. That means that the interval between shuffles (and immersion) will vary depending on the number of sheets developed in a batch. For two sheets, the interval is 15 seconds. For three sheets, shuffle every 10 seconds, for four sheets every 7.5 seconds (I usually alternate 7 and 8 seconds for four sheets), for 5 sheets, every six seconds, for six sheets, every 5 seconds. When developing just one sheet, I lift it, turn it and re-immerse it once every 15 seconds.

    It's not really that important that you are exact; more important is that you average once through the stack every 30 seconds. If I get behind, I'll speed up the shuffling for the next 30 seconds to catch up. I keep track of sheet one by feeling the code notches every now and then and make sure it starts the shuffling cycle. As I approach the end of developing, I speed up my agitation so that I can end with sheet one on the bottom of the stack with 15 seconds left on the clock. At this point I lift the stack, drain, fan it as before and, when the developing time is up, immerse the sheets, starting with sheet one, one at a time into the stop over 30 seconds, again using the same interval as I did developing. This makes sure all sheets get the same developing time.

    Shuffling interval is now less critical. I shuffle twice through the stack in the stop, for about a minute and then transfer entire stack, after draining, into the fix and shuffle comfortably for the fixing time. I'll often stop shuffling halfway through the fix and turn on the white light, then resume shuffling. When done fixing, rinse, and continue on to the wash sequence.

    Some notes: If you use a staining developer like I do, do wear nitrile gloves to protect yourself. When using other developers, I'll often use my bare hands, but many have developed skin allergies to Metol, so I'll be PC and recommend gloves whenever you have your hands in the developer. One advantage of tray developing is that you can develop films for different times in one batch. Just have more than one pre-soak tray and add films to the developer at the appropriate times.

    Shuffling effectively without scratching film takes some practice and skill. Practice with a few scrap sheets with the lights on, then with your eyes closed till you become proficient. Don't develop big batches to begin with; I recommend starting with two or three sheets till you get the feel of it. If something goes wrong when developing, don't panic; it's less important that you keep the shuffling regime than not scratching a neg. Take the time you need to get everything straightened out and then resume shuffling. If sheet one is no longer identifiable, no matter; it will only be a small error in developing time.

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus

  6. #6

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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    I've had similar problems this past year (some of which I eventually linked to my developer, but thats another story) and have tried several different development methods trying to solve it. I ended up with a slosher tray, I pre-soak the film, agitate it continuously for the first minute of development, then for 15 seconds every two minutes after that(my development time runs around 10 minutes). Developing one sheet at a time is probably like a mini slosher-hope this helps.
    WHen I tray develop 8x10 I agitate it lifting tray corners, so I think you're fine that way.

  7. #7
    Lost mike rosenlof's Avatar
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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    I'll use a tray if I have a single sheet of film to develop. Like the OP, I use small lifts of a corner to rock it. Iwatch the timer and rotate the tray every thirty seconds or so (rotate 90 degrees), that way the little waves move across the film differently.

    You want to get plenty of solution moving across the front *and back* of your film. Some films have the anti-halation layer on the back of the support material and that layer is removed in different steps depending on the film type.

  8. #8

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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    Quote Originally Posted by mike rosenlof View Post
    I'll use a tray if I have a single sheet of film to develop. Like the OP, I use small lifts of a corner to rock it. Iwatch the timer and rotate the tray every thirty seconds or so (rotate 90 degrees), that way the little waves move across the film differently.

    You want to get plenty of solution moving across the front *and back* of your film. Some films have the anti-halation layer on the back of the support material and that layer is removed in different steps depending on the film type.
    Schoolboy question here. You say you watch the timer - what timer are you using that you're able to watch it in the dark?

  9. #9
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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    Hi Welly,

    I watch the luminous dial on my GraLab 300 timer. Sometimes the luminous dial of my wrist watch.

    How do you time time development in total darkness?

  10. #10
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: How do you agitate your film in tray developing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    ...Shuffling effectively without scratching film takes some practice and skill. Practice with a few scrap sheets with the lights on, then with your eyes closed till you become proficient.
    I think “shuffling practice” is the most forgotten type of practice in film photography – at least among tray users.

    Beginners who use scrap sheets in the light to learn how to load holders, can use the same sheets to learn how to shuffle through stacks.

    That’s a lot of mileage from just a few sacrificed sheets...

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