Film development woes: edge overdevelopment?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Scruff McGruff, May 13, 2009.

  1. Scruff McGruff

    Scruff McGruff Member

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    I've been lurking for quite some time and though I've posted once before, I feel like I should say hello! Thank you all for making this forum such a great resource for newbies like myself.

    My problem:
    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the film edges are far more developed than the center. It is more obvious when there is something light enough to be blown out by the difference at the edge, but it is always there. I have fiddled with nearly every variable I can think of (ceteris paribus, of course) but my negs always display this result. The only time they do not is when a lab does my processing. I have tried replacing my camera's light seals (needed to be done anyway) with no improvement, and the bands show up in both prints and scans (even when completely flattened, as my film is often curled), so I am led to believe it is a development issue.

    I have tried different chemicals; first new dilutions, then completely different brands. I have tried different tanks (both SS), thinking my single-roll tank could have caused the problem, as well as different reels. I have tried filling the tank part-way (so the film leaves the chemicals when inverted) and to-the-brim with developer. I have used different methods of agitation; inversion (with all sorts of agitation schedules and movements save stand development), figure-8, and plain 'ol shaking. Changing film makes no difference, though I have been limited to 35mm. I have tried changing the temperature of my chemicals, if that is relevant. I have even developed film in different climates. None of these changes has yielded any improvement in my negatives. :mad:

    I am completely dumbfounded, so any solutions/ideas/musings would be greatly appreciated. I have some important rolls to be developed and I would like to avoid using the lab if possible. :smile:

    Thanks again,
    Brent
     
  2. cinefane

    cinefane Member

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    How/Where do you load the reels?
     
  3. Mark Antony

    Mark Antony Member

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    can you take a picture of the negs with a digicam and upload them? I could only guess with the negs....
     
  4. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Is your film format 35mm? Looks like edge surge - over development as you suspect. Usually caused by inadequate, or too vigorous, agitation.

    I had this with 35mm years ago from too vigorous an agitation technique, which seems to cause a "drag" from the edges, but usually you can see the sprocket hole pattern in the overdeveloped areas. A more gentle inverted swirl motion solved it for me.

    With 120 film, I seem to need more vigorous agitation to make sure the middle portions of the frame receive the same chemical exchange as the edges, but only with some developers.
     
  5. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Brent,

    First of all, if anything the negatives are far more developed at the edges (the edges of the negative must be darker to produce the lighter positive). It really looks like light leaks but that would be evident in the film beyond the image area.

    As suggested above, a post of the entire film width would be helpful.

    Neal Wydra
     
  6. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Brent,

    This really looks light a light leak to me. You would have to have a real strange turbulence situation to overdevelop small sections of the negative that much. Also, the upper left of the image you uploaded is just fine, with a bit of black rebate showing, while the bottom left is blown out. That is not edge overdevelopment. Check you equipment.

    If you are using 120 film, you are likely not spooling it tight enough when unloading; otherwise, it is a camera/camera back issue.

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  7. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    And what sort of reels are they: SS, plastic? What brand: Patterson, Jobo, Hewes, generic?

    How tightly do the reels fit the tank, do they slide when the tank is inverted?

    At a guess it looks like over-agitation.
     
  8. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Is there fogging at the edge of the film?
     
  9. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    do you put your reels in photo Flo?
    photo Flo will build up on the reels and begin to act as a catalyst. If you've been doing this, wash in very hot water and scrub with a toothbrush. This solved our problem at the college several years ago.
     
  10. Thomas Wilson

    Thomas Wilson Member

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    Brent, 20 years ago I handed a set of contact sheets of some black & white film I developed for my "Mentor." They looked exactly like your example.

    He very gently explained that my inversion technique (too much of it) had caused edge-surge. I explained naively that I had been developing film for years and had never seen this.

    He explained that when using short (1 &2 reel) tanks, this would not be an issue, but the long tanks will cause the chemistry to rush through the reels during inversions, over-developing the edges.

    I cut back on the frequency and rigor of my tank inversions and never had the problem again.
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Like others have suggested I think you're over-agitating.

    1. When you fill your tank, make sure you have a lot of chemistry, but leaving just a little bit of room for the liquid to move around.
    2. When you agitate - slow down, it shouldn't be vigorous. One inversion could take 2-3 seconds. When you agitate the liquid should not rush through the tank.
    3. I don't know your agitation intervals, but I keep them modest between 1 and 3 minutes. 1 minute when I need some more contrast from flat lighting, and longer intervals when I need to keep the highlights from blocking up.

    I had exactly your problem a while back, and changing my agitation technique solved it. Use a single (120) / dual (35mm) tank and do some tests with unimportant film.

    I'm not sure about the Photo-Flo issues (I never let Photo-Flo into my tank, and I had the problem you describe anyway), and light leaks (never had one).
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've seen this advice before, but I've also seen very different advice. Here's what Kodak says about agitation in their Color Darkroom Dataguide (1996 edition, p. 20): "rotate [the tank] upside down and then back to the upright position at the rate of one cycle per second for 30 seconds as the initial agitation." (Subsequent interleaved standing and agitation is then described, without explicitly mentioning rate of inversions.) I believe Kodak gives the same advice for B&W development, but I don't have a reference handy.

    That said, agitation seems to be a very personal thing. I use the ~1-cycle-per-second agitation speed with no problems, but when combined with other variables, some of them perhaps quite subtle, that speed might be too much. It's quite possible that cutting back the rate of agitation will have good results for the OP -- but that speed is definitely not excessive in an absolute sense.
     
  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    At least we're in the same realm. When you 'shake' the tank, you're at fractions of seconds. 1s for an inversion is pretty slow.
     
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  15. Bertil

    Bertil Subscriber

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    Brent, you say "The only time they do not [have this edge problem] is when a lab does my processing." In view of that your own conclusion seems reasonable: that it is your developing process that is the problem.

    I had problems with overdeveloped edges for years! Particularly with 120 film; and it is not at all uncommon to see prints with this problem (I can show you pictures in printed books by professional photographers, using for example Hasselblad or Rollieflex, with light left and right edges, perhaps not that obvious as in your picture, but the tendency quite obvious when you are alert to it!)

    My diagnosis: problem with proper agitation during the development process.
    My general idea about agitation: each time you agitate the substitution of fresh developer for the more or less used chemicals, which contains some bad substances, must be thoroughly performed over the whole surface of the emulsion. You need not agitate very often: It’s often quite enough with: agitation the first minute, then agitation 15 second each second minute (or each minute if you prefer that), if the developing time is around, say, 10 minutes. But in each agitation session the substitution of the chemicals must be as complete as possible (very little development is performed during the agitation period, it’s more a question of fully substituting god for bad chemicals).
    How to do that? Well, I do it like this (and have now hundreds of developed 120 and 35 mm film with no edge problems): I use a 1 liter developing tank and with 1 120 film reel or 2 35 mm reel, such that the reel(s) are staying at the bottom of the tank and not jumping around when you invert it; roughly 500 cl developer such that it covers the reels with a reasonable marginal, not more. You rotate and invert the tank, up and down back and forth, during the agitation period, not violent but not very smooth either. If your tank is filled up with the developer, the movement of the developer over the film surface when you invert and move the tank will not be enough for fully substituting the chemicals, and the substitution will quite probably be more complete around the edges of the reel (where the movement is more turbulent) compared to the middle of the film.
    I use stainless reels and tanks, but I guess that the problem will be less with a Paterson tank with this huge “mouth” where a lot of the developer goes into the “mouth” when you turn the tank up side down, but I have less experience with this Paterson tank (but no problems with some 120 rolls in C-41 developing using a Paterson tank recently).
    At least this procedure have solved my edge problem, and using my general idea (complete substitution of chemicals... each agitation period, even if in few periods) works as good for developing 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 film, which I had some problems with at the beginning. Some people seem to solve their problems with uneven development by making their agitation softer. It hasn't worked for me, at least not always!
    Nothing has irritated me as much as my uneven developed negatives, particularly when the labs do it perfect!
    Good luck with more tries, and wait with the important rolls!
    //Bertil
     
  16. Scruff McGruff

    Scruff McGruff Member

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    Wow, thank you all for the prompt and thorough responses! This is fantastic!

    I load my SS reels in a changing bag. AFAIK my reel loading technique is fine, but I've been wrong before!

    On this particular roll, I did inversion cycles for the first 30 seconds (about one per 3 seconds) and did three inversion cycles in 10 seconds every minute. I guess I'll have to do more thorough testing with slower and faster inversions.

    I wish it were a light leak, but lab-developed film (color and B&W) comes out fine, both before and after I replaced the light seals.

    I use 135 format film, but I wonder if not loading the reels tight enough could have the same effect on 135 as it does on 120?

    I have one generic SS reel and one Hewes. I use a two-roll (135) tank. The reels slide a bit inside the tank, but there isn't all that much space for them to move around in.

    As far as I can tell, there is no fogging of the film except for a bit near the leader end. There are some odd dark marks occasionally, but I chalked those up to contact with the reel. I could be wrong though, hopefully the pictures clear this up.

    I do put my reels in photo-flo; I will definitely try to clean them up as you suggested. I hadn't thought of this before, thank you!

    Here is a whole film (not the one with the above photo, but this roll has the same problem). The digital camera method wasn't working so well so I just scanned it on platen mode. There seems to be a bit of ghosting, but hopefully it is still helpful.

    [​IMG]

    Zoomed in on the top-left:

    [​IMG]

    Again, thank you for all the great feedback!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2009
  17. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    I have had this problem with some 120 in the past. If there is a half inch or so of air space the reel will slide that far when the tank is turned upside-down. Some of my 35mm tanks hold the reel almost snug, while others allow a lot of movement. Anyway, I now add a small piece of rubber on top of the loaded reel inside the tank to limit movement. This solved uneven edge density with my 120 film.
     
  18. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    This is really good advice.

    And, by the way, nice name Bertil! My grandfather and father are both named Bertil, and you can see where I got my last name from.

    Heja Sverige!

    - Thomas

     
  19. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I'm going to make a radical suggestion: Switch to a plastic tank. Although I personally prefer SS tanks, I also know that agitation -- and agitation problems like this -- is 90% science and 10% voodoo. Given all the tests you've already tried, I think you're in voodoo territory, and given that, the best approach may be to simply try something as different as you can find. That means a plastic tank. Making that switch will change a lot of little variables all at once, with any luck fixing the problem more quickly than it would take you to track it down and fix it by experimenting with all the little things one by one. It'll probably be cheaper, too -- you're wasting a certain amount of money every time you process a roll and get suboptimal results. OTOH, if switching to plastic doesn't help, then you'll have wasted the money on the plastic tank and reel(s).
     
  20. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I think I detect surge marks coming from the sprocket area of your enlarged contact. I may be wrong.

    And even over-development along film edges is, very often, from rotary processors. If you are "rolling" your tank as well as inverting it, that might be the cause.

    With SS tank and reels, inversion should be so gentle that the movement of the reels in the tank should make a "click" sound about half the volume of the gentle opening of a snap-open beverage can. Any louder and one is agitating with too much vigor, in my experience.

    And if you are souping fewer rolls than the max the tank can hold, be sure to place an empty reel(s) in the tank to keep the reel with the film loaded in it from sloshing back and forth, which leads to over agitation.

    Good luck.
     
  21. Scruff McGruff

    Scruff McGruff Member

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    jmcd - Thanks for the tip, I'll see if I can find a shim.

    srs5694 - Voodoo, haha. If things don't get better soon, I may just switch over. The price of a new tank system would be undoubtedly worth it if it gives results.

    Anscojohn - FWIW, I can't really see the same sprocket surge marks on the actual negatives; maybe the plastic negative sleeves refracted some light when scanning. Hmm, I do twist my tank when I invert it, I'll try without the twist on my next test roll. I do add the empty reel when just developing one roll.

    I just shot/developed a test roll today. I tried a number of the suggestions posted in this thread, so hopefully this comes out well. If not... must be voodoo. :D I'll post more details and the results when the negs are done drying.
     
  22. Scruff McGruff

    Scruff McGruff Member

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    Success! Well, some anyway. The film edges are still ever-so-slightly overdeveloped, but nothing like before. It isn't even noticeable on some frames.

    [​IMG]

    If I were smart I would have done some portrait-orientation shots with the sky in them, but I think this one does a good job of showing how edge highlights aren't completely blown out. Yes, it's a little underdeveloped (stupid math error on my part, I got the time wrong), but probably not enough to invalidate the test.

    I gave my reels a good scrub-down with hot water and a toothbrush, I loaded my reel tightly, left a bit of airspace in the tank, and I increased my agitation (thinking I just wasn't getting any fresh developer to most of the film). Ideally I should have done a few test rolls changing one thing at a time so I could single-out the problem, but patience isn't one of my virtues! I'll keep experimenting, especially with agitation, but I've at least made some progress thanks to all your help.
     
  23. Bertil

    Bertil Subscriber

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    Hej Thomas, and thank you for some nice words!

    There really seems to be "two schools" about even/uneven development and smooth/not that smooth agitation. I think there is some voodoo in the smooth line; a lot of people have, no doubt, found a certain interval and a way of moving the tank that works – it works for them and that's good; but there is in this line I think, if not voodoo, at least some amount of luck. What I called "my general idea (complete substitution of chemicals... each agitation period, even if in few periods)" is, honestly, not very much my own, it is based on long discussions with a professional on surfaces and liquids. Just moving around the film in the developer, slowly or quickly, for example doesn't produce sufficient substitution of fresh development agents for the bad substances. And if the developing time is, say 10 minutes, the unevenness is not, as far as I understand, caused by the accelerated activity of the fresh development agents at different parts of the film surface during the agitation period (10 to 15 seconds), but by the fact that fresh developer is substituted at some part of the surface but not at other parts, and then, in the interval between the agitation sessions, developing is proceeding more effectively at some part compared to others.
    In view of this, the trick seems to be to arrange reels, tanks and liquids such that each time you agitate the substitution of the good for the bad is as complete as possible, then there will be an even substitution all over the film surface (I think!).
    Hej Då och Good luck Scruff McGruff!
    //Bertil
     
  24. Scruff McGruff

    Scruff McGruff Member

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    Ugh.

    I was excited and hopeful until I developed the next roll which turned out to be a complete disaster. I did notice something that I hadn't before though:

    [​IMG]

    Can anyone explain why there is a gap in the overdeveloped edges? The only explanation I can come up with is that the reel is affecting development somehow despite the good scrub-down I gave it. This is incredibly frustrating, enough to make me consider throwing in the towel. It's just not worth it if I can't produce a decent negative.
     
  25. trhull

    trhull Member

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    Thanks for the info on this thread. I am also dealing with 10% voodoo, and maybe another 10% macumba) but my problem is the opposite. I get quite even darker edges on my prints, and if my understanding is correct I am under agitating?
     
  26. Bertil

    Bertil Subscriber

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    Scruff McGruff! No needs for towels!
    First, you say "I loaded my reel tightly"; I don't know exactly what you mean, but by looking at your earlier filmstrips you have marks at the edges that show not 100% proper fixing. The whole film should be totally transparent. Now, the emulsion seems to have been very tight attached to the reel rings, making it impossible, it seems, for the fix to reach the whole film surface. When you load the film try to push the film back such that the BACK side of the film is as tight as possible to the real, leaving the emulsion as free as possible for the chemicals to the their job – nothing is going on during the process at the back of the film, EVERYTHING happens at the emulsion side. Loocking at your picture your edge problem is a little bit special: very sharp and also VERY narrow, normally bad agitation will not be that sharp and narrow, according to my experience. Maybe you should try to refix the filmstrip above! If the edges are nor properly fixed (as I judge from your film that you show earlier), then the edges are less transparent and perhaps will show up as these lighter edges when scanning (or printing). Just one new suggestion!

    Second, if this is not your problem, try the method suggested earlier: double size of the tank compared to the reel with the covering chemicals (not just a little bit of airspace), fix the reel such that they don't jump around when you invert the tank; try control with dilution or temperature to have a developing time around 10 minutes (not less), agitate gently by inverting and rotating back and forth the tank for the first minute, roughly the interval 8-10 times during 15 seconds, agitate in a similar way 10-15 seconds every minute (or every second minute); make sure proper fixing (at least 2-3 times clearing the base, use the piece you normally cut away when loading the film to make sure the fixing time).

    Third! If this doesn't work, try the plastic line suggested above! I would suggest a Paterson 1 liter tank with the “big mouth”: when inverting that tank the chemicals will leave the reel when upside down, making the movements of the liquids penetrating the surface properly when turning back, doing this several times (that is more important, I think, with these tanks compared to quick filling etc!); the film has more space in these reels than in the SS reels, and they don't jump around when moving the tank - I think these tanks are quite good.
    Give it a new try before you cry in your towels! I'm quite sure you will solve it!

    trhull, can only say what I have said above, it should, I think, give you clean and even developed and fixed negatives.

    Best wishes
    /Bertil