Dark smudges on skies in negatives and other marks

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by h.v., May 29, 2013.

  1. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    This may seem like a silly question, so apologies in advance. I've been getting all sorts of different markings on my B&W since I've began home processing...considering switching back to lab processing for consistency. One marking I notice that occurs from time to time are dark blobs on the skies in photos. I can't tell if it is just a gradient of the normal sky, or if it is a marking of some sort. It appears on the negs and scans. The rest of the sky is usually a flat overcast, which is why the darker pigment throws me off.

    DASimg074.jpg

    Another thing (this one happening more often) are random lines and markings. I'm assuming these are scratches, but would like to confirm so I can pinpoint the issue and prevent it. Here's a somewhat obvious example of it.

    img057.jpg

    The odd thing is, I always read how liberating home processing can be and how much better your photos end up after you've gotten the hang of things. It's been the exact opposite for me; my photos technically aren't worse, but they're more annoying to edit and there seem to be endless frustrations. The benefit of getting the processed negatives back is negated by the fact that I tend to put off processing as I hate getting into the groove and setting everything up. I want to enjoy home processing and be happy with my negatives, but nearly 6 months in and nay. I've got some important stuff coming up this summer and am wondering if it's worth the hassle anymore. But, if you've read my previous threads, you will probably already be familiar with this thought of mine (although I did take a bit of a hiatus from apug).
     

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  2. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I never had film developing problems. Looks like insufficient agitation to me, possibly.
     
  3. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    Maybe. I agitate 1x over 10 seconds every minute. When I started, the Ilford beginners PDF stated to that 4x (I think) over 10 seconds every minute. I found my negs too grainy, and read somewhere (can't remember where) that I could try agitating less. I think I tried 2x before settling on 1x. I was planning on processing some HP5 tonight, I could try agitating more if that might be the issue (how much?).
     
  4. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I don't know what kind of developer you're using. Most of my stuff was always either in D-76, 1:1 or Microdol 1:3. And I did 2 or 3 inversions every 30 seconds. Overdevelopment makes for more grain--not agitation, at least with the standard packaged developers like these.
     
  5. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    I use DD-X. Everything is 1:4 I believe.

    Maybe it wasn't grain, but contrast. One of those two. I had issues with both at first, so tried a variety of techniques to quell both and clearly which one was for what got messed up in a jumble. I never said anything as far as 10 seconds a minute not giving me dark splotches. On the contrary, that first image with the splotches was developed using that very technique. I don't photograph serene landscapes that you can go back to exactly and re-photograph. I do street photography, which is constantly changing. I don't really have the means to waste two rolls of film, either.
     
  6. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    We don't know the film you're using
     
  7. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    HP5.
     
  8. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    HP5--fast grainy film in the first place. Maybe you'd like Perceptol 1:3 better, with a 30-sec agitation.
     
  9. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    No, I'm fine with HP5. Grain with the film is normally fine. I don't mind a little grain, I just don't like excessive grain. Whenever I've had HP5 lab processed, it's been fine; most of the time when it's home processed, it's been fine. It was more an issue earlier on in my home development stage, although lately it has been creeping back in...
     
  10. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Perceptol is a developer, like Microdol. Very fine grain with 400 film, lower contrast, tolerates 30 sec agitation well. Problem solved.
     
  11. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    I don't want lower contrast, though. And like I said, I don't mind some grain, just so long as it isn't over the top. I know some people like fine grained films, but if it were my thing, I'd probably shoot Delta or Tmax instead. Besides, I have a near full bottle of DD-X that I'd rather not waste :wink:.

    If agitation is the problem, then how often should I do? 4x in 10 seconds every minute like I was doing at the very beginning?
     
  12. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    why not 2 x 30 sec?
     
  13. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    Ok, I can try that tonight and report back. Thanks. I'll check back in about 1/2 hr in case anyone else has any suggestions, but otherwise, I'll try that.
     
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  15. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Keep reading--lots of smart people here, smarter than me. All I know is I saw unwven developmet in both your pictures, and agitation is the first obvious culprit, especially with short development times.
     
  16. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    This is a tough one. I can't offer much advice on how to solve it, but if I were you, I would shoot a throwaway roll or two and cut it up in 2 or 3 pieces to develop one at a time. Trying to solve the problem by working on photos you want to keep only adds to the frustration and anxiety. Leave your keepers undeveloped until you solve this.

    Oddly enough, my nemesis is digital. I have been trying to scan colour negs and print them for several years now, with only marginal success. I can hear your frustration.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I too see uneven development.

    A couple of suggestions:

    1) try pre-soaking the film in water for two minutes prior to development. Make sure that the water is the same temperature as your mixed developer; and
    2) start your development with 30 seconds of continuous, gentle, rotating, randomized agitation. After that, you can transition to two gentle, rotating, randomized agitation cycles in 5 seconds each 30 seconds.

    Adjust your times if the contrast isn't to taste.
     
  18. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Perfect answer.
     
  19. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    Alright, I just processed 2 rolls using of HP5 that I put through my Konica Hexar using Tom's suggestion. I'll scan them tomorrow after they've dried and see if the issue is resolved or at least mitigated somewhat. Matt, can always count on you for great suggestions. Thanks again for the advice. I'll try that out too even if Tom's suggestion works, just to be sure. I have two FP4 rolls needing to be processed, anyway. Just a couple questions for clarification: rotating how? The normal inversion agitation or something like holding it upright and turning it in clockwise and counterclockwise motions? Something else? If the contrast isn't up to par, adjust my times in what direction? More agitation or less?
     
  20. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Which way you turn doesn't mean anything. If you want more contrast, develop longer. Be sure your exposure meter is accurate before moving on to underexposure and overdevelopment experiments to gain contrast. Also, watch your enlarger bulb for ageing to avoid going too yellow on VC paper. But ignore all this for now. Just listen to Matt King for now. You're probably all fixed up already.
     
  21. heterolysis

    heterolysis Member

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    Most spots/blobs are uneven development and/or drying. A good pre-wash will help the development issue, and a good pre-dry squeegee can help reduce water spots. I find 35mm is especially problematic when drying. When I started doing colour processing, in which a pre-wash is a necessary step, I really started to notice the difference it can make.

    Careful how you handle the film when loading it onto reels, and what it comes in contact with in the process, so as to reduce finger prints/dust. However, I find dust on the scanner is generally a bigger problem than on the film itself.

    I agitate for the first 30, then once a minute. If you're not using a stock developer solution, make sure the working solution is mixed well or else the concentrate may be mostly sitting at the bottom of your graduated cylinder when you start to pour.
     
  22. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Boy, is this a lot harder to describe then to show!

    To induce rotation, add it as you invert.

    Your wrist(s) can turn in two different ways. One will turn a tank in the same way as a turntable would, while the other will cause the tank to invert and then return to vertical. You need to combine the two types as you agitate, and you need to randomize the directions of the turn and the inversion.

    If you use two hands to hold the tank for the agitation (one on top, and the other on the bottom) and invert the tank, most likely you will see the rotation happen automatically.

    And as for contrast, increasing the time will increase the contrast, while decreasing the time will decrease the contrast.

    If you need to experiment with adjusting the time, try adjusting it 10% at a time.
     
  23. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I also can't quite tell from what you've said whether you agitate for the first 30 seconds or not. That's very important.
    I'm not quite sure what you consider dark blobs in the shot with the sky. I see grain that could be in the pattern of light and dark areas of sky - clouds on a blue sky aren't hugely different in B&W. If you're printing with an enlarger, how does it look? If you're only scanning, it could be something from that.
    In the shot with the guy sitting in front of the billboard, I also see a darker stripe running through the middle third that looks like a drying mark to me. Is your last rinse with distilled water and a few drops of photo-flo? That can help. The white spots by the guy's head on the billboard look like dust. That could be on the negative or on the scanner, tough to tell. Hanging film to dry in a very clean place is important, too.
     
  24. Noble

    Noble Member

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    What stop bath do you use?

    You need to tell us everything you do in your developing process. As others have suggested good random agitation for at least the first 30 seconds is key. I found I got uneven development when I used a water stop bath. I switched to a regular acid stop and it got the issue under control.

    I've had mottled looking negatives when I went in and out of a warm house in winter into sub zero temperatures. I believe water condensed on the negative in the camera. There are all sorts of reasons you can have uneven skies that is why it is imperative you tell use everything you have done.

    I wouldn't believe the hype about home developing. Yes it is the way to get the best negatives but commercial developed negatives can get you 90% of the way there providing you use a fairly conventional film and shoot it in a conventional manner. If you get some niche B&W film and shoot it at your own personal EI and then try and print it in the darkroom after commercial processing then yes this can be noticeably sub par.

    There were three things that really improved my negatives, avoiding "stand" developing, figuring out a good agitation method (not too fast and not too slow), and using an acid stop bath.

    The way I see it a good commercal lab will give you evenly developed, dirt and scratch free negatives. Developing at home gets you slightly better tonality and things like shadow detail once you've tweaked your process. Now tell me what would you have a bit better shadow detail or evenly developed skies? The problem with home developing is it deals in subtleties. Starting off with home developing is rough if you don't follow the manufactures instructions to the letter and are careful. It isn't rocket science but just about every corner I cut in the beginning I lived to regret.

    The question you have to ask yourself is what are you going to notice more a lack of shadow detail because you didn't get to shoot and develop for your personal EI or a massive patch of unevenly developed sky. If I could go back in a time machine and send my first 30 home developed rolls out for commercial processing I would, but I wouldn't learn anything.

    In the end once you get your process down you will save tons of money processing at home. It also expands the realm of films you can try out. And of course you can tweak your whole process to get prints that have an amazing amount of tonality. I shoot digital as well and it really is amazing what you can get from a properly exposed and developed roll of film.
     
  25. Noble

    Noble Member

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    While I usually tell people to start off by following the manufacturers directions to the letter I have to say this advice about photo-flo is dead on. You only need a few drops in 500mL of DISTILLED water for your final rinse. Too little and it is ineffective. Too much and it leaves a visible residue.
     
  26. mesantacruz

    mesantacruz Member

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    I know this may sound a little far off, but I had trouble loading film onto a steel reel, originally learning on a plastic patterson... I found myself handling the film so much more with the steel reel, and switched to the patterson. I don't know, some people have a similar problem with the patterson, etc.

    My point: the scratches seem to be a handling problem, and so therefore, maybe, so are the blobs/smudges, too much handling before the development process.


    I personally like how the grain looks, it adds to the atmosphere of the photos and gives them a journalistic look.

    Also, i guess i think you're using a metal tank, since you're not using the little stick to rotate the reel, which when you rotate it, it helps release any air bubbles that may be on the film, at which points no development occurs. If you are not presoaking, you may try slamming/hitting the tank, on a surface to release these air bubbles.

    also, here's a link you'll really like

    http://www.aregeebee.net/negs/eneg.htm