Strange experience while developing prints

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by edcculus, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    After a long hiatus, I finally got back in the darkroom last night. In my previous darkroom experience in college, we had a print processor. Feed the print in one end, and a developed dried print comes out of the other. Now, at home, I've never tray developed before.

    The first 2 prints I developed were perfect. I slid the exposed paper in, agitated, and after probably 20 or less seconds, the print began to appear. As I got into my printing session, it took longer for the print to appear. Finally, it just stopped showing up until I increased my exposure time from about 5 seconds to 25 seconds.

    I'm using Ilford Multigrade Developer, and some somewhat old Ilford MG IV RC Pearl paper. Its been sealed in the plastic and box under normal indoor conditions. Enlarger is a Beseler 23C XL with a variable contrast head. I was using the VC filter set to Ilford and a grade 2.


    Any advice? I'm thinking the most likely thing that went wrong is the developer got colder through my session. The first test print I did was more than dark enough at a 2-5 second exposure. 2 hours later, I had to bump it up to 25 seconds to even get an image to appear at all. Its fairly cold here, and I'm pringing upstairs, which we keep cooler than the rest of the house since we dont go up there regularly.

    The only other thing that could have happened is me changing the apeture. I intended to start with an f8, but I was focusing and positioning everything fully open. I very well could have printed the first few fully open, the stopped down to f8 later on thinking thats what I had been doing the whole time.
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    What developer are you using? More than likely, what's happening is the developer exhausting although it is unusual to show that quickly.

    The processing does slow when temperature goes down but you are reporting some extreme changes.

    Start diagnosing this problem by finding out what developer datasheet says how many prints you can produce per given amount of stock solution. Then eliminate the variables such as temperature variance. No need to go crazy with temp accuracy. Several degree variance won't cause drastic changes.

    To me, it sounds like your developer has deteriorated in storage. Then as yo printed, it reached the exhaustion state. most developers degrade fairly quickly when exposed to oxygen in air. So that may be a factor as well.
     
  3. sly

    sly Subscriber

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    Also, were you printing the same or a different negative? Unless you have mastered exposure and development, they probably vary in density. Films have different base fog, as well.

    Not being sure if you were printing at the same aperture, could easily account for it as well. A 5 second exposure at f4, would be 10 at f5.6, and 20 at f8.

    I usually aim for more than a 10 second exposure, it makes burning and dodging easier.

    Keep notes!! I write down the paper, the height of the enlarger, the f stop, exposure time, burning and dodging (with a diagram), and notes about development, if anything other than Ilford MG for 2 min, for each print.
     
  4. Jerry Thirsty

    Jerry Thirsty Member

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    If you mixed your chemicals downstairs at 70F and took them upstairs where they slowly cooled down to 60F (for example), you might see the time for the image to appear get longer over the course of the session. But I wouldn't think you'd need to increase your light exposure time (assuming you don't have a lot of variation in the negatives you are printing from).

    Does the Beseler use a halogen bulb? I once had an extremely frustrating session where it turned out the output of my enlarger bulb was dropping as it was on the verge of dying, but it was still putting out some light and at f/8 I couldn't really see the problem with my eyes.
     
  5. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Thanks for all of the fast replies. I'm using Ilford multi grade developer. This was a brand new bottle I opened last night.

    Another member pm'd me saying maybe I got some stop bath in the developer. I suppose it is possible, though I was being very careful.

    They were different negatives, but the problem came up between two different shots on the same roll of FP5+. I noticed the same highly increased exposure when I switched to a negative on Acros.

    I'm going to give it another go tonight. I'm going to mix a new batch of developer and go from there. Maybe spend some more time on one negative.
     
  6. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    It's unclear, but from your first post it sounds like you're pulling them from the developer once the image is fully visible. The better way to do it is always use the same amount of time in the developer (test strips and prints) - 1 minute for RC and 2 minutes for fiber in that developer. That doesn't fix the issue of them taking longer each time, but you do need to start with a consistent process in order to figure out what is actually "wrong". The temp getting colder could well be it because that developer isn't likely to go off that fast. Also, if you'd used f4 for the earlier prints and f8 for later ones, as well as pulling them when they looked ok, then the later ones would appear to take longer.
     
  7. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    I'm keeping them in the developer for 60 seconds despite when I see the image appear. I did a lot of research and reading on here, and I saw that as a common mistake.
     
  8. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi edcculus,

    I agree with your first assessment, and with Winger et al; it sounds as though your developer is cooling down during your sessions. There's no need to extent your print exposure times. You should extend development time as the temperature of the dev decreases; the packaging may tell you to develop for two minutes at 20 degrees but at (say) 10 degrees you might need (say) four minutes development time. Unlike film developers, print developer times are a rough guideline. Extra development time won't adversely affect prints because you should develop prints to completion - until the print no longer darkens. If you 'pull' the print (remove from the dev before fully developed) you'll have insipid blacks and poor gradation in the mid-tones.

    The other possibility is developer exhaustion; if you're diluting as per instructions you should be fine. If you do long sessions with lots of prints, replacing half the dev with fresh solution should fix that problem.

    Be patient and slow down in the darkroom - your prints will improve no end. There's no race to produce prints quickly. Print processor machines are a convenience and can produce really lousy prints with poor contrast when they want (been there...), especially when the developer gets exhausted, so don't use your machine-processed results as a benchmark.

    Good luck,
    kevs
     
  9. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Since you just restarted your darkroom experience, I assume that the developer was purchased recently. That suggests freshness, but developer does age on the shelf, and it may be old. With the current lack of darkroom activity, some stores have stock that is years old. When mixed, that could go bad quickly.

    I echo the comments about developing fully. I mix up Defender 54-D, and it takes one minute and fifty seconds to fully develop Multigrade RC. Check the instructions for the developer you are using, and develop at least as long as recommended. To determine exposure, you should make a test strip and develop it for the recommended time; then choose your initial guess for an exposure based on what looks good on the test strip. Five seconds is a pretty short exposure. Stop down one or two notches and give yourself time for some dodging and burning, if necessary.
     
  10. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Just to check the obvious . . . You have three trays, in the dev tray is a pair of tongs which doesn't go in any other tray, and then one (or two) pair for stop and fix, which never go near the dev?

    In other words be very sure you are not accidentally putting a drip of stop-bath in to the developer by not washing a single pair of tongs, or by using a gloved hand which is not cleaned only wiped on a paper-towel, or a splash of stop-bath is made in to the adjacent dev tray when you drain the print prior to moving it to the fix . . . and so on!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2012
  11. cepwin

    cepwin Member

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    I generally do 2 min developer (might increase now that it's colder in my house) 30 sec stop and 1 min fixer and that seems to work pretty well. I do test strips and the exposure time can vary a bit depending on the specific image. The exposure time is the main thing I very.
     
  12. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    This seems more likely than attributing it to temperature change. A 5-10 times increase in exposure time is probably from an aperture error.
    If you're printing in a cold room, start with your chems at the proper temperature, but place your trays in larger trays, which you can fill with warm/hot water to maintain the proper temperature. The warming water can be changed as it cools, and refilled to keep you at the proper temp.
     
  13. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Yes, I have 3 pairs of tongs. I was keeping each one in their own tray. Transferring the print from dev to stop bath, I was careful not to dip the tongs in stop bath. I slid it in from the front end, then let it finish sliding in. They are color coded, not that matters under red light though.
     
  14. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    I'm thinking it may be just that. The problem happened so suddenly. I was getting good results based on a test strip I initially did. I worked on one more neg, and got good results with a slight adjustment in time. On the third neg, the print didn't develop...at all. That probably makes sense, because 2-5 seconds at f8 is probably barely enough to register. I did think it was odd that my exposures were so fast too. I didn't remember them being so fast in my classes years ago.
     
  15. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    ha, well I pretty much calibrate wide format inkjet printers for press proofing for a living...I get to play with $10,000 RIPS though since I work for a large packaging printer.
     
  16. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Are you, by any chance, started printing with no MG filters (contrast filters) then started using them for later prints? While no filter will produce the same result as grade 2 filter, the exposure time will be like 1/3 of the time.

    Using 75 watts light bulbs in the enlarger, at f/8, typical exposure times for 8x10 prints are 10 to 20 seconds for most negatives.
     
  17. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    You print developer is going bad. Try "factorial development" it really works.
     
  18. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I don't think it's bad developer, or cross contamination. Neither would account for the drastic change in exposure times.
     
  19. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Nest time, use a thermometer to watch your dev temp. Evaporation in a large tray can cool it off pretty fast in the humidity is low.
     
  20. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Well I'm going back into the darkroom once the baby is asleep. I'll let you know how it goes
     
  21. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    Print developing: I always measure the time when the first gray tones begin to apperar. I take the 6-fold of that time, always. This gives fairly even results and compensates coolling/warming of the solution and higher bromide level as well.
     
  22. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Things went much better last night. I'm going to chalk this up to a aperture error. I made sure I was set at f8 and had the multigrade filter flipped on and was consistently getting 30ish second exposure times after running a test strip. Some highlights had to burn in longer etc, but I had no drastic jumps or prints that came out blank.