Barry Thornton's Two Bath Developer question Part 2

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by MrBrowning, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    I've been using the standard BTTB with very good results for almost 2 months. I typically use Rollei Superpan 200 and have a dev time of 4m15s in each bath. I recently shot a roll in some pretty harsh light and it had very blown highlights which got me thinking about N- and N+ development with BTTB. My question is do i need to adjust my developing time with the N- or N+ recipes he suggested. I have search online and have read in several places that time isn't a major concern with this developer. However i haven't read anything that gives much information about the + & - development (including his website).

    Can anyone shed some light on this?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    If you blew the highlights shouldn't you have exposed differently? Further maybe try again with two rolls: one you expose the same under similar lighting but pull your development time by 15%, the other expose more carefully to try not to blow the highlights and develop normally. That will answer for yourself which would be for effective for what you want way more than anyone speculating here without us knowing more of your scene and how you personally exposed it.
     
  3. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    I exposed the way I had to for the shot. The subject is properly exposed however the surrounding area in the frame was far to overexposed (imo). I believe the saying is expose for the shadows develop for the highlights. As i said in the original post everything I can find says that time isn't a major factor with BTTB so from my understanding cutting development time by 15% or even 20% would not have enough effect. Barry Thornton suggests using different mixes of his developer for - and + development rather than adjusting time (again assuming that I'm understand correctly).
     
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  4. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    I would happily post the photo but it is of a child (not mine) and my wife's family have requested that their child's pictures not be put online.

    The picture is of an infant in the shade of the tree at mid day. The sun was very bright and the area just outside of the shade is the part that I feel is far to overexposed.

    I'm still trying to learn this developer and am looking for information on the N- & N+ development. My exposure is what it had to be for the situation (and what the camera would allow).
     
  5. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    I had a thread going a while back in which I tried to debunk all sorts of crap about how two-solution Metol/sulfite/alkali development works and what the controls are. To make a long story short, control of contrast is essentially by varying the time in solution A.

    Note however, I always have to ask the question - were there really "blown" highlights? Or were they simply too dense for a straight print? The latter is nearly always the case. People mistake dense highlights for blown highlights. Not correct.
     
  6. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    May we know when to consider it is a dense highlights and blown highlights in stops from shadow?
     
  7. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    Again, BTTB is no magic recipe and so are other 2-bath developers.
     
  8. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    The highlights are very dense. I'd say they aren't unprintable but it would take a good amount of messing with to get a good print (however this roll is to be scanned). I'm just trying to understand how in the future to deal with this problem while using this developer.


    I know that if I was using HC110 or Xtol I could simply cut development time. However Barry Thornton in Edge of Darkness suggests changing the amount of Sodium sulfite (if memory serves) for N- or N+ development. If I do this do I simply simply use my normal developing time or do I have to cut the time? This is where my confusion is coming in.


    If I do as you suggest how much would I cut bath A by? Would 20% be a good starting point or would I need more / less of a cut?

    This is the first time in the ~20 rolls of film I've shot and used this developer with that I've had this issue. Typically I'm very pleased with it.
     
  9. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    I know there is not such thing as a magic recipe, or combination.
     
  10. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    Maybe I should have asked the question this way. Using BTTB how do I use the zone system idea of N- and N+ development. Barry Thornton suggest changing the amount of Sodium Sulfite. If I do this do I also have to change development times or do I use my standard times that I have already set? or do I have to do testing to find new times for -/+ development.
     
  11. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    Well, while Thornton's heart may have been in the right place, when I tested a lot of these things I found the chemistry logic to be flawed, or at the very least, overcomplicated for no reason. I'm picking on Thornton here because that was the topic, but it's really two-solution Metol-sulfite-alkali development in general where there is much confusion and conflicting information on everything from which alkali to use, to agitation etc, etc. As Grant Haist points out, scientific studies on true two-bath development are scarce, and the situation is even more nebulous when it comes to two-solution Metol-sulfite-alkali development. I've seen virtually no good data, testing, or even sound theory for what most people say.

    Suffice it to say before changing the formula, I would first start by reducing the amount of time in solution A. You'll have to experiment to see what gets you the right contrast/speed balance.

    Also, another flaw I've found in the vague instructions regarding solution B in general, is that frequently the time is too short, and the effects of agitation are not well documented. This depends on the pH and buffering of solution B, as well as the film type.

    My view on this type of development from a sensitometric perspective is this: the aim in most cases should be to develop is little as possible in solution A, but for enough time that the emulsion becomes saturated with developer, and then to develop in solution B until exhaustion. This maximizes the benefits of this type of process: (a) a long, straight curve, (b) lower than normal contrast, (c) retention of film speed.
     
  12. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    Thank you very much this is very helpful. This weekend I'll go out and shoot a few rolls and try experimenting with the time in Bath A.
     
  13. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    It isn't a matter of stops. It is a matter of local contrast. Local contrast = detail. A blown highlight means there is no detail in the negative, meaning there is no contrast in the highlight. This can be an issue with severe contractions or compensating procedures. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but excessive contrast reduction can result in more blown/blocked highlights than when developing to normal contrast.

    A dense highlight may not print straight, but there might still be good local contrast (detail) in the negative. So you use printing controls to bring those dense highlights onto the paper.
     
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  15. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    I believe rather than sulfite, he suggested varying the concentration of sodium metaborate within a range. Varying the alkali concentration is a fairly common recommendation for changes in contrast and speed. I have not found this to be a very effective control.
     
  16. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    ...thats 8g, 12g and 20g of sodium metaborate for -N, N, +N
     
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  17. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    Thank you for the correction. I'm at work and apparently I had it switched in my head.

    Thanks for that. :smile:
     
  18. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    For me it was not so much of fun with two bath, in-fact it was a pain. Life became much easier after I switch to D-23 1+1. Just my story...

    Other experiment that my be interesting is Divided D-23. Either use borax or sodium metaborate or sodium carbonate in second bath for varying contrast and grain.
     
  19. MrBrowning

    MrBrowning Subscriber

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    DD-23 is something that I plan on trying but haven't yet. It's on my to do list after I have a better understanding of BTTB.

    I find that I like using the two bath more than I did using a single bath developer. I'm not sure why maybe I just like the results better than what i was using before.
     
  20. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    It tends to give a different curve shape. Image structure characteristics can also be different. My guess is you won't find a difference between DD-23 and Thornton's, which is just a slight modification of Dalzell's version of the Stoeckler A bath (which is nearly D-23).
     
  21. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    One reason I stay away from 2-bath is that I find that I always need to bring the developer temps to 20°C which is rather boring to do.
     
  22. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    D-23 1+1 is rather good but slightly uneconomical.
     
  23. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    For your information, the levels of Sodium Metaborate suggested by Thornton are:

    N+1 = 20g
    N = 12g
    N-1 + 7g

    However, I am very surprised that you have got blown out highlights. I have used BTTB developer for many years as my only film developer and have never had this problem. I am very often shooting images that have extremely bright contrast ranges and it has never been a problem for me. Indeed, all of the images on my website are with Delta 400 rated at 200 and developed for 5 minutes in each bath. All my negatives print straight on Grade 3 using a Multigrade 500 diffusion head. However, I frequently print on a harder grade to get the particular look that I like but, even this only requires a couple of seconds burning in the very brightest highlights (hence my confusion that you are getting blown out highlights).

    In this first example photograph I metered the shadow at the bottom of the chimney and placed it on Zone III - the white etched wall read ten zones more but there is detail throughout:

    2013_Pfefferberg_GREY.jpg

    In this second photograph I metered the base of the tree to the centre right and placed it on Zone III - the area surrounding the street light was completely off the scale. Nevertheless, and although it might not show in this scan, there is tonality throughout except for the actual street light itself:

    night01.jpg

    If you are having problems, I would suggest you look at the following areas:
    Developer temperature
    Frequency of agitation
    Time

    People regularly state that time, temperature and agitation is not critical with two-bath developers. This is plain WRONG. Two-bath developers should be treated with just the same care and attention to detail as any other developer. I have also read frequently that one should use stand development with the second bath when using two-bath developers. I tried this once and got negatives with uneven development - so never again.

    Over vigorous development, as with most developers, may cause problems but, in my experience, the usual cause of problems is not taking care to ensure that every stage of the development process is constant from film to film. This really is the key to development irrespective of your choice of developer.

    Perhaps the most useful information, is for me to outline my processing sequence and then you might be able to identify where your way of working is very different from mine.

    Firstly, I do not use metal tanks - so this should be taken into consideration.

    The processing sequence that works for me (using Paterson plastic tanks and ALL chemicals always at 20C) is as follows:

    00:00 pre-soak with constant agitation
    01:45 drain pre-soak out of the tank
    02:00 Pour Bath A in and gently invert 4 times in the first 30 seconds followed by a sharp tap on the bottom of the tank to dislodge any possible air bubbles. Then one gentle inversion every 30 seconds always followed by a sharp tap on the bottom of the tank to dislodge any possible air bubbles.
    06:45 Pour Bath A out of tank into a jug.
    07:00 Pour Bath B in and invert 4 times in the first 30 seconds followed by a sharp tap on the bottom of the tank to dislodge any possible air bubbles. Then one gentle inversion every 30 seconds always followed by a sharp tap on the bottom of the tank to dislodge any possible air bubbles.
    11:45 Pour Bath B out of tank into a jug.
    12:00 Pour in water stop bath and agitate constantly
    12:45 Pour water stop bath out into the drain.
    13:00 Pour in fix and agitate constantly
    15:00 Remove films from tank and place into a large jug of water and leave until all of the pink dye is removed from the film then return the film to the fix for a further 2 minutes.
    Finally, wash using the Ilford method.

    A note on mixing the chemicals and use
    ◦ I mix up 1 litre of Bath A (my tank is the 1 litre version that can accommodate up to 4 films) and store in a 1 litre dark brown glass bottle. This one litre is sufficient for 24 films (but note the following point about Bath B).
    ◦ I mix up two litres of Bath B at the normal 12g of Sodium Metaborate (which are stored in two 1 litre dark brown glass bottles) and use each bottle of Bath B for 12 films and then discard.
    ◦ I mix up one litre of Bath B at the N+ dilution of 20g of Sodium Metaborate (which is stored in a 1 litre dark brown glass bottles) and use rarely when needed.


    A note on the N-, N and N+ dilutions
    ◦ 99% of all my photographs are developed with the N version of Bath B. I have never had any negative where I felt that it should have been developed using the N- version of Bath B.
    ◦ The N+ version of Bath B is useful but not in the sense of a strict +1 stop expansion (which can be much better achieved by selenium toning the negative). If I photograph something that has dark shadows and bright highlights but also a significant part of the scene is relatively lacking in mid-tone separation then I use the N+ version of Bath B. This has a significant effect on expanding the mid-tones of a scene that was lacking such a mid-tone separation.

    Having just quickly looked through the 100 odd images on my website, there are 6 photographs where I used the N+ Bath B and all of the rest were developed using the normal Bath B.

    Best of luck finding your own best way of using Thornton's two-bath developer - it is a great, reliable and cheap developer.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
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  24. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    You can adjust the pH of the second bath with the amount of alkali, but it won't change contrast that much. Two bath developers are easy to use, but I don't think they live up to their promise. If you have a wide tonal range to squeeze into a negative, staining developers like Pyrocat are the way to go. I am sometimes just amazed at what gets recorded with Pyrocat.

    I did make a two bath developer with metol and glycin once, and it was nice from a tonal standpoint due to the glycin, but again, it didn't offer anything that I couldn't get another way.

    Just for reference, my favorite three developers (which all offer a different and distinct quality) are Rodinal, Pyrocat P, and Edwal 12.

    Maybe that will help you (hope it does).
     
  25. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    I agree with Michael. I too am uneasy with developers concocted by photographers who have little or no understanding of photographic chemistry. The classic example is Harry Champlin and his book "On Fine Grain." One reviewer commented that it "Read like a fairy tale where the hero tracked the dragon Fog to its lair and smothered it with clouds of nickel ammonium sulfate." Champlin was a prominent photographer but a bad chemist. For anyone with a bit of knowledge the book is a hoot to read.

    But seriously, if you are interested in getting the very best negatives, then stick with a conventional developer. Preferably one recommended by the film manufacturer. Just my personal preference tempered with over 60 years in the darkroom. If there really is a "holy grail" of developers then it is a commercial product where the manufacturer has invested large amounts of R&D money to create the very best product. The problem with the various brews mentioned on APUG is that they are essentially untested.

    There is the perception that two bath developers are easier to use than a conventional one. Years ago the manufacturer of Diafine published a pamphlet on how to use their product. They stressed all the things that must be controlled to get the best results. There was more to it than plopping the film in bath B and going to get coffee.
     
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  26. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    True. Some time ago PE also expressed his opinion on two-bath and recommended to use fresh second bath every time.