A Little Tri-X in XTOL 1:1 Assistance Por Favor!

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by sunshinesketches11, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Like some others, I've worked backwards in a way and have come to analog from digital. It's been quite a lot of fun, but I'm having a bit of a problem dialing in my Tri-X development time. I shot a few test rolls, and tried times in XTOL 1:1 ranging from 8:30 to 9:30 (all at 20C), wherein I agitated from the pour (into a two reel Kaiser tank) until the first 30 second mark, and then performed three inversions (taking roughly 5 seconds) at every 30 second mark thereafter. The 9:00 time (I begin pouring the developer out at 9:00) looked the best to me as I still had details in my highlights and in my shadows.
    Enter the frustration: I shot a couple of rolls yesterday, and followed my tested time. I scanned the results (with an Epson V700, and don't even get me started on its focus issues) and found myself a bit stumped as to whether I was looking at underdeveloped negs or underexposed ones. I know it's an issue that's arisen before, just as I know I did underexpose a couple of frames by about 1/2-2/3 stop. Still, the images look duller than I thought, and I'm not sure whether my issue is with my development time, my exposure, or my scanner.
    So here are three examples, and I look forward to your collective analysis. Incidentally, for the sake of thoroughness, the remainder of my development process is a 30 second stop bath followed by 3:00 in Ilford Rapid Fixer, then a lot of washing and a final dip in photo flo. All images shot with a Leica M6 and at an EI of 400.
    Thanks ever so for any insight.
     

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  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    The proof is always in the printing, not the scanning. I've only ever scanned finished prints into my computer, but everyone I have ever talked to has issues with scanning negatives. Send me your negatives, and I'll demonstrate.
     
  3. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Scanning negatives is easy... converting scans to decent images is not. The problem is that there is way more dynamic range in the negative than in your final image, so you have to have to discard some of it, fiddle with curves or finish with a flat-looking image because there is insufficient local contrast. If you cram 10 stops of DR (pretty typical from a B&W neg) into an 8 bit image (jpeg), you will end up with a contrast index about 4x too low, i.e. it will look terribly flat.
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I stand corrected, somewhat. I dont know where you live sunshine, but my offer still stands. PM me and I'll give you my snail mail address.
     
  5. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Rick, that's a supremely nice offer, and thanks. I don't have the time to start printing (digital processing demands still dominate, I'm afraid), so even if your system works, and I'm sure it will, I won't be able to replicate it on my own. Aside from that, do you reckon I've given the negs enough development time? I know it's a bit tricky to tell from the scans, but what do you suppose?
     
  6. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    My experience with scanning B&W is that it works kinda-ok for 4x5 LF negatives and works best for scanning prints. Results with scanning 35mm have always been pretty dismal. Scanners are designed and optimized for scanning color materials and it seems silver grains and the HD curve of B&W film gives them the fits.

    The hybrid photo forum may have folks who can be more help http://www.dpug.org/forums/home.php
     
  7. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Thanks, Nicholas. I'm more or less resigned to frustration with regard to scanning. It looks like I'm going to have to resort to a lot of fudging in post to get something even close to the look I was hoping for. And where's that nice silvery grain in the highlights?? I know people have had better luck with drum scanning, but with the amount I shoot I'd have to start selling body parts (not necessarily my own) on the black market to pay for it. As for the above results, I think I'll fiddle with my EI a bit and leave the dev time where it is. I'm used to the M9's meter, which has led to exposures with the M6 that are pretty consistently 1/2 stop dark. Makes life a bit tricky since the M6's shutter dial only moves in full-stop increments. Maybe rate Tri-X at EI 250 and see where that gets me. Thanks for the DPUG tip.
     
  8. OMU

    OMU Member

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    Hi
    To me the negs look OK. You have details in the shadows and the highlights looks OK at least the skies.
    I can see that you have long shadows. Perhaps the light was becoming a bit flat and that is what you see in your scan.
    It seems that it would be possible to get a decent print from this negative.

    I have an M6ttl and to me the metering has been consistent and I relay on it when exposing my film.
    I have used Tri-X at EI 400 with good result, but I used Caffenol as developer.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum189/81194-caffenol-norsk-resept-47.html
     
  9. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    I didn't mean to say that the metering isn't consistent in the M6, just that it's a little bit different than the M9. I assume Leica changed their matrix a bit, but it doesn't really matter. The only reason I think I might rate the Tri-X to 250 is to save myself the hassle of adding exposure to what I'd normally do based on the reading. It's tricky enough to have one shutter dial that spins one way and another that spins in the opposite direction...
     
  10. lns

    lns Member

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    I think your negatives look fine, with both whites and blacks. They certainly don't look underexposed. And I personally like the detail in the shadows. My X-tol 1:1 time with Tri-X at 20 degrees C is 9 minutes, with similar agitation. A little extra time would perhaps give you a bit more sparkle in the whites, if that's what you are seeking.

    It kind of looks like London, which can have flatter light. Perhaps run a roll of HP5+ or even T-Max or Delta 400. I find those can be more contrasty in X-Tol. One of the neat things about film is that each type will give you a different look.

    I'm guessing these negatives just need a little post-processing. I don't know much about it, and this isn't the place to talk about it. But there's a DPUG.org; see the link at the very top of the page. You might just have to increase the black point and increase the contrast, which you can do in software with a digital image just as you can do with filters or paper choice when printing traditionally.

    -Laura
     
  11. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Laura, you're quite right about it being London, and I might give HP5+ a whirl before long. I figured I'd stick with one film until I got the details dialed in, but once that happens it might be time to let my hair down a bit. As for the above images, I selected the ones I was least happy with and posted them without any post-processing to give people a feel for the raw material, so to speak. I tend to shoot more 'street photography' (I really hate that term), which means grass, and swans and water play a fairly minimal role in the proceedings. It also means a lot of stone, skin and concrete feature in my photos, and those substances tend to respond better to contrast boosts than do trees and grass...fortunately. And by better, I mean more believably (assuming the changes are made with restraint). I find post a complete bore, and accordingly try to get things right in camera to the greatest extent possible, which probably explains why I find this scanning business a bit odious at the moment.
    Thanks for the suggestions!
     
  12. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    As has been mentioned, the best way to see what your negatives are capable of, is to print them. I would take Rick up on his kind offer to print them so you will have a better idea example of what can be produced from a negative. I was taught that to look for under development you should examine the film markings, ie film type and frame numbers. Under development makes them look grey instead of black.

    Looking at your screen name, can I assume you are a Stephen Leacock fan?
     
  13. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Ha! Now it's not every day one comes across a person who's heard of Leacock, let alone is able to recognise his touch in a screen name. Well done. It goes to show that Canada has the most clever citizenry in the world. Not to mention the best looking, most amusing and most virile. (Excepting, of course, those poor Newfies.) Did I mention I'm Canadian m'self? :wink:
    The film markings are fine, nice and black, so I guess it all boils down to my being a fussbudget who's relying on a questionable scanner to remedy his lack of time for proper printing. The scanned Tri-X images I've seen and liked have all been scanned with Nikon Coolscans, Hassy Flextights and other such things that do more justice to the diminutive 35mm negs. I've considered switching to MF, but I've been shooting with Leica Ms for a few years now, and their size/quality ratio is a damn hard thing to give up. The chief advantage of the M6 over other, larger analog options was that I could use my Leica glass, and that's a pretty big advantage!
     
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  15. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Negatives look fine to me. I can see scene 1 was an extremely bright scene and on scene 2, you had a back lit condition evident by some flare at the top. When you print this, you will see higher contrast as there is no way paper can express this much dynamic range. In scenes like this, I don't think under-exposing by a stop or so makes any difference since there isn't that much shadow detail to show anyhow.

    My suggestion is to print them (with your choice of media) and then worry about contrast.
     
  16. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    Thank you! But it's not just Canuks, you'll find that there's a great bunch of people here! I got heavily into Leacock when I was in junior high - and read everything. Comic Lorne Elliot has stolen from him too - the title of his CBC radio show 'Madly Off in all Directions.' If I remember the bit correctly from Leacock, it was about a prince looking for his love: He flung himself out of the room, flung himself out of the castle, flung himself onto his horse. And rode madly off in all directions at once.

    Make sure you stock up on film - the most common mantra here is 'get out and shoot!' lol
     
  17. herb

    herb Member

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    TRIX IN XTOL HELP

    I read the posts with interest. I have used xtol stock/replenished on Delta 400 and other Ilford films, find the contrast etc much to my liking. That in 35mm (also Leica). I do mostly scanning and ink printing but do have a darkroom for wet printing.
    As my experience with xtol is pretty new, all I can say is you might try stock at 7 minutes with your agitation regimen, and see how you like the negs from that.

    Sandy King is the resident guru on developing negatives for scanning, so you might ask him.
     
  18. totalmotard

    totalmotard Member

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    Your negs are fine. Use curves in Photoshop or Gimp to set your white point, black point and adjust the curve. I usually click in the middle to hold the middle tones and then click on the left and pull down to deepen shadows and increase contrast.
     
  19. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Thanks for the feedback everyone. Curves adjustments definitely improve the images, but they can only do so much given the dynamic range conundrum. There comes a point when the contrast overwhelms the frame and makes the image look too artificial for my tastes. I'll check out what Sandy King has said on the matter, and maybe the best thing to do is just use my scanner to give myself an approximation of what the pictures I made look like, then hire a more powerful machine for a couple of hours to scan the greatest hits. Gosh, everyone here's so nice...
     
  20. totalmotard

    totalmotard Member

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    Did you scan to rbg color or grayscale? Rgb color will give you more latitude when manipulating curves.
     
  21. sunshinesketches11

    sunshinesketches11 Member

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    Steve, I scanned to grayscale, but I'll try rgb. That's good advice, thanks!
    Anyhow, the negatives are all I care about, and general consensus has it that they're fine. I'll leave the scanning issues to a different, non-analog forum. I really appreciate the feedback everyone.
     
  22. H. James Wolf

    H. James Wolf Member

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    I recently went back to Xtol from homemade brews and did a couple of tanks of TriX 1:1. The first one used 10 minutes at 20 degrees C and was too flat for me, but I used the large tank agitation - first 30 sec constant and then 10 sec/minute. The second time I used the large tank time and agitation - 11 minutes at same agitation - and was much more pleased. I'm still not sure I prefer it to D76H, but time will tell.
     
  23. stormbytes

    stormbytes Member

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    I doubt this is relevant anymore, seeing as this thread kind of died about a year ago. Still, I thought I'd leave my mark in hieroglyphs so future generations visiting might pick something up.

    The images you posted are super-high dynamic range, with ratios in excess of 128:1. If you were to open up the shadows beyond where they are now (a bit dark for my taste) you'd blow your highs into the stratosphere, and those highs I speak of would probably start somewhere mid-curve. For scanning purposes (and yes - I know this is taboo here, I'll be brief!) you'll need to drop development times to something like N-3 or even 4 (not really doable with Xtol) which would require a compensating developer, so you maintain texture in those tones and then apply your curves to pick up the highs to where you're satisfied with overall contrast. My suggestion is that you consider Diafine, which will get you in the general ballpark. Also, see Steven Schaub's many articles on Tri-X & Diafine on FigitalRevolution.com (now defunct, but the info is still there).

    As for my own feelings on the matter -

    I can't stand digital imaging. Notice I said 'imaging', not photography, because that's what it is. Any process that requires a person sit in front of a computer for hours on end, using a calibrated screen, working with color profiles, watching his/her viewing angles and tweaking an organically formed image with boxy, pixel tools is not a photographer. Photography should be, at its core, an organic process. Digital imaging overcomplicates something that is otherwise remarkably simple.

    Here's what I think your image might look like

    retouch.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 14, 2012
  24. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Bit depth has nothing to do with dynamic range.
     
  25. Dr.Pain-MD

    Dr.Pain-MD Member

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    Blah blah blah, scanners are evil and it's impossible, etc etc etc. Here we go:

    February 14 Roll B 27-tweaked.jpg

    I took one of your shots and did a two second tweak by bringing the midtones down in the levels menu. You can clearly see that they're much too high in the originals. There is no problem with the scanning, it's your editing that needs a little work. Scanners are perfectly fine, you bunch of luddites! :tongue:
     
  26. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    The entire history of signal processing would like to disagree with you.