Tried my first Tray Development

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Pfiltz, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Pfiltz

    Pfiltz Member

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    today.... not sure it wen't ok. I'm still not good at looking at negatives, but it seems thin.

    I'm pretty sure my exposure is ok. I'm used to metering in the studio and shooting. Shot a piece of Arista and rated it 64, as I usually do outside. I wanted to shoot something in the studio.

    Since I have my DR up and running, I thought I would try a tray development. I'm not 100% sure the developer was healthy to be honest, so it's been dumped, and a new batch has been made.

    I'm going to shoot one more image, and do my usual patterson tank development. The only 2 things different today, was I didn't pre-wash my film, and I was running my safe light. I developed it for my usual 7 minutes. Film is drying right now. I want to scan it, to see what I get...

    Oh well, no biggie but it did surprise me.

    Just shot my 2nd neg. Same settings on the exposure side of course. Patterson tank development BUT with fresh developer... Didn't pre-wash as I usually do. The Neg looks great.

    Now I'm not sure if it was the developer or the way I did tray development... Is there a certain way for tray over tank? I did agitate the tray ever 30 seconds, as I do with the tank.....

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated...
     
  2. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Well, you can't develop film with your safe light on, if that's what you did...
     
  3. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    I am not familiar with Arista films, but how you agitate in the tray, and how you agitate in the tank—depending how long the development stage is—can have a major impact on your results, especially with short durations. Rapid inversions of the tank are pretty intense, and if all you did was a gentle rocking of the tray, then I'd say you would have a reason for the difference, especially if the overall dev time was as short as 4-5 min. With 7 minutes, I would think this would amount to something like a 1 min relative difference. Would that matter? If you were constantly leafing through the sheets in the tray, on the other hand, it would give a similar agitation to the tank.

    Was the number of sheets you processed, and the quantity of developer used, and the temperature, similar in both methods? After you dissect the issues, perhaps have another go, if you wish to do trays, to make sure it was not just a fluke.

    Personally, I avoid trays, to which I am a relative newcomer, because I do not trust myself not to scratch my sheets, while CombiPlan has served me well for 12 years. I use trays for tests, seconds, or negatives that I can easily retake, if I do not have a full batch waiting. In both cases, however, I get similar results, with similar development times, although I have only calibrated for CombiPlan.

    PS. Nothing beats doing a film developing time test and getting your own, reliable time. But that is another can of fun.
     
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  4. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    1. You can't expose your developing negatives to light during development (unless you develop by inspection, and then you use a very, very dim green safelight for just a few seconds to assess development progress). Tray develop in complete darkness.

    2. Tray rocking is totally inadequate for agitation. Lift the negative(s) out of the developer, turn them 180° and then re-submerge them in the developer. Most of us tray developers develop several sheets at a time, shuffling the film from the bottom to the top. I go through my stack once every 30 seconds. That means shuffling once every five seconds for six sheets of film, once every 10 seconds for three sheets, once every 15 seconds for two. If I'm only developing one sheet, I lift it out and re-submerge it once every 15 seconds.

    You negatives are thin because 1) you did not agitate adequately and 2) you may not have the correct developing time and 3) as you said, your developer might have been exhausted. Test for your correct developing time after you have mastered the agitation scheme. I recommend practicing with the lights on with a few scrap sheets, then with your eyes closed (or the lights out) till you get the hang of it.

    The big danger with tray developing more than one sheet at a time is scratching the negatives. It takes some practice and some skill to be able to tray develop consistently without damaging the film. Some never get it and switch to more expensive and more automated developing methods.

    For me, however, tray developing remains my basic method. Once mastered it is quick, low-tech, requires little equipment and is extremely flexible.

    Oh yes, if you are tray developing more than one sheet at a time, you need to pre-soak to ensure that the negatives won't stick together in the developer (they will if you don't!). I submerge my batch of negatives into the pre-soak tray one at a time in 15 second intervals to keep them from adhering to each other in the water bath. If they do, you have to gently, gently and slowly, slowly work them apart (they'll come apart by themselves after a while, but you can speed up the process by helping the water soak in between the stuck negs). Don't pull hard or you'll damage one.

    Best,

    Doremus

    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  5. Pfiltz

    Pfiltz Member

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    Appreciate all the great info folks. I was only working with 1 sheet BTW.

    I think it was 2 fold. Not enough agitation, safe light on, and exhausted developer or "weak" developer.

    I may try one more just for giggles. I would like to do tray -vs- tank if it's possible. I'm working in a DR without a sink so pre-wash wasn't to much of an option per se.
     
  6. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    If you had your safelight on, they should be quite fogged, too, unless this was ortho film.
     
  7. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    interesting stuff.
    I'm also a complete beginner with tray development of sheet film, developing them singly and - knowing no better - using only rocking for agitation.
    I've done about a dozen or so now and they are all quite adequately dense.

    (Not trying to deny what you're saying Rafal, just offering a different experience)
     
  8. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    There is a marked difference between rocking a tray rhythmically back and forth relatively quickly so that there is little meaningful agitation on the one hand compared to proper lift-and-flow agitation of the tray that allows the developer to run down the tray to the low point to achieve a homogenous mixture of fresh and exhausted developer on the other. Once mixed by the turbulence of the flowing liquid into the low end of the tray the mixture is mostly fresh developer, which flows back over the film or plate as the tray is lowered back to horrizontal.

    You can achieve good agitation by lifting the near end of the tray about 1.5” (38mm) in about 3 seconds, wait about 3 seconds for the solution to run down into the low end and mix uniformly. Then lower back to horizontal in 3 seconds. Then do the same thing from side-to-side.

    This works well to carry the thin layer of exhausted developer away from the surface of the emulsion and thoroughly mix it with the fresh developer to form a uniform mixture. Darkroom workers have been successfully tray processing sheet films and glass plate negatives since these materials were introduced, probably at least as early as the 1880s for glass plate negatives.
     
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  9. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Pdeeh, if it works, it works, stick with what you are doing. In my original post, I was specifically contrasting a "gentle rocking" of a tray to fairly vigorous tank inversions, which would be a cause for a difference in densities, between two methods, all else same. However, as Doremus, and Ian helpfully explained, there are many ways to get the tray agitation right, which I believe must also be your experience. If ain't broken...
     
  10. ROL

    ROL Member

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    For tray, just begin by using fresh (one–shot) developers and agitate per manufacturer's recommendation, stack or tray rock. Personally, I've standardized all sheet development times with constant agitation. Most sheet films need to be exposed far greater than the manufacturer's film speed suggests for proper shadow resolution (i.e., HP5+, TXP @ 200, FP4+ @ 80-100, etc.). Film testing, per your development method, will help you in determining proper film speed for your particular application.

    BTW, thanks for visiting my site. :smile:
     
  11. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    What Doremus said - and
    use one shot developer- too much exposure to oxygen during constant agitation to keep the developer for later, even if you do consecutive runs. Yeah, constant agitation, like he said, establish a pattern.
    A good start would be to expose 2 sheets identically, back to back. Do one with your tank, one with tray method, one shot developer for both, you'll know how much to allow for tray. Rule of thumb for me is 20% less for tray constant agitation vs tank with agitation every minute or 30 seconds. You'll be close.
     
  12. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    After reading Ian C.'s post about the proper method of agitation by tray-rocking, I'm going to retract my rather hasty condemnation of that method. It was occasioned by the practice of so many of just wiggling the tray around a bit and then complaining of uneven development. Certainly, any agitation that uniformly replaces the exhausted developer at the surface of the film will work well. Developing time will be unique to the agitation method.

    Tray rocking, however, seems to work with just one sheet (plate) at a time. For those of us who develop larger batches, the shuffling method has become fairly standard.

    Best,

    Doremus


    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  13. msdg6

    msdg6 Member

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    Tray Development is easy. why do people make it out to be an arduous task?

    Get 4 trays, fill 1 with water for pre-wash
    and the other 3 with developer,stop,fix.
    Take 1 negative and place it in the pre-wash for 30 sec
    than place in developer, while in the developer rock the tray from all
    4 sides continuously in a rotating method ie. right, back left, left ,back right.
    this way the negative gets developer washing over it from all sides.
    Only do 1 neg at a time.

    Make sure it is dark, NO SAFE
    LIGHT.

    Than stop and fix kind of the same way.

    Anyone who suggest tank over trays for 4x5 is just creating more work for themselves.

    Very easy. easier than loading a tank and trying to deal with even development.
     
  14. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Msdg6, I am sure you are finding trays easier than a tank, but I find opposite to be the case for me—we are all different, and you may have more experience of tray processing than I have. I find that I am faster, more precise, and end up with no scratched negatives by using a tank, CombiPlan in my case, with vigorous inversion agitation. I tested for uniformity of development, and using my densitometer I could not find a deviation larger than 0.03 logD, across the surface, on 6 sheets, exposed to different uniform tones. Had I had a Jobo with an Expert tank, I would be doing it even faster, and perhaps with even less concern for issues that smaller tanks can present. On the other hand, I enjoy trays when I only have a few sheets, especially from tests or other experiments.

    Right now, I am looking at two batches of negatives to develop, totalling almost 110 sheets, grouped into N-1, N, and N+1. By rotating two tanks, I will be able to do them all, I am sure, much faster than with trays, so I do not feel that I am creating more work for myself, although I appreciate that the opposite would be the case for you.
     
  15. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    While I also espouse tray development, I would submit that one sheet at a time is rather arduous. Try coming home from a shoot with 100+ sheets of film and see how long it takes you to get them all developed doing them one at a time.

    Heck, it's long enough for me doing them six or eight at a time.

    Best,

    Doremus


    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  16. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    You have much more experience, Doremus, than I do. May I ask you, if you don't mind, on average, how often do you end up with a scratched sheet doing 6–8 at a time, in trays? Is your experience specific to a particular film? I am just trying to get a feeling for what is possible with more tray practice than I have, being a tank user.
     
  17. kintatsu

    kintatsu Member

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    I hope no one gets offended by my opinion or method, but I just wanted to share what I'm doing in the hopes it will help.

    I "tray" develop my 4x5 in Glad storage trays that will easily handle a 5x7. I give 1-3 minutes initial agitation by lifting 1 side of the tray per second for that time. Then during the rest of the time, I lift 1 side of the tray 1 times every 10 seconds, which for me it works as a general rule.

    Here's a low quality scan showing what can be done this way.
    Copy of iunsub.jpg

    Ultimately, though, it comes down to what YOU are most comfortable doing.

    If you wish to inspect during development, use an incredibly dim green light for very short durations. Any even mildly bright light or any long times will fog the film.
     
  18. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Re scratching film. I routinely do 6 - 8 sheets of 4x5 at a time, and have done as many as 10, but not unless for a good reason.
    I use an 8x10 tray, with 1500cc of HC110.
    Unload from holders into a film box, sitting long side across the short side of the box, so the ends are sticking up at the edge of the box, e-up, clipping the corner of the last one, so I can find it in the dark.
    Turn the stack over, now the clipped one is on the bottom, e-down. Hold films in the left hand.
    Pull films out with the right hand, one at a time, drop into a tray of water the same temp as the developer, pushing down into the water with the little finger, let it "drift" to the bottom, keeping the rest of the hand dry. Go through the stack, the clipped one on the bottom, and herd them all together into a neat stack.
    Shuffle constantly for 2 minutes.
    When the clipped one is on the bottom, pull out the stack and drain for only a second or two.
    Place them, e-down, into the developer and begin shuffling, bottom to top. Rotate 90 degrees clockwise every other shuffle (feel for the corner).
    Agitate constantly the whole time.
    Pull the stack out together and go to the stop, fix, etc, always using the clipped corner to signify one round.

    I use an 8x10 tray for 4x5 with 1000cc developer (you can use 1500 for deeper chem). This was Fred Picker's recommended method for tray development and I have very few problems with uneven development, and maybe only one or two scratches over many years with this. I also do a lot of pan strips, and a sequence of shots is always very closely developed between shots. It's important that the stack is never settled out completely, so they are shifting a bit between each other all the time.
    Practice in the light with some of that bad film to develop the feel for it. As others have said, unload all the films into my left hand, holding them at the edges, clipped one on top.
     
  19. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I've had my fair share of scratches. Most tend to be practically invisible or easily camoflaged. In this print the scratch down her forehead and along the bridge of her nose drove me to distraction.

    http://www.apug.org/gallery1/showimage.php?i=62759&catid=member&imageuser=38808

    The processes described sound like what I do. To minimize scratches, I try to slow down and relax. I also wear gloves and do not leave the film unattended from beginning to end. But all it takes is one false move; bring one sheet up and touch the corner of the stack on the way up, and that sheet will be scratched in the important part of the image.

    So long as you don't do that, you'll be fine.

    Many have said that developing emulsion down minimizes this risk. I think mechanically they are correct.
     
  20. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Well, in the last few years, I don't think I've scratched a neg at all. That said, as Bill pointed out, all it takes is one slip-up to destroy a negative. And, the negative you destroy will be the best in the batch; Murphy's Law of Developing. I take a lot of care developing and am always a bit elated when I do a batch of 50 negs and have no scratches. In the last 10 years I'd say my loss rate was 1% or maybe less from handling damage. That includes stupid things like scratching a neg while loading the film washer, negs dropping from the clips while drying, etc.

    While learning, I scratched a neg or two regularly. For me, it was simply lack of care; dropping a neg, not being careful submerging the neg in the developer or pulling it out from the bottom of the stack, etc. Also, it took time to learn not to freak out when something went wrong, e.g., when I pulled two negs from the bottom (they sometimes stick together) or somehow got out of my agitation scheme. I've learned that taking time, missing a shuffle or two, and just taking a deep breath help immensely. Practice and being careful will get you a very good success rate.

    FWIW, since others have posted their methods, I'll summarize mine in a bit more detail.

    I use deep 5x7 trays for 4x5 with minimum 500ml of solution. I develop emulsion-side up; I tried emulsion-side down for a while, which promised to be safer, but ended up with unevenness caused by the tray ribs. I have some different trays now with a different configuration and will maybe try again soon. However, I'm doing fine with the film emulsion-side up and don't want to risk good shots on a test.

    I turn the first sheet 180° from the rest when unloading so the code notches are on the opposite end. This is my "no. 1" sheet. I fan the stack in my hand like playing cards and take sheets from the bottom and submerge them into the pre-soak. I wait 15 sec. between sheets to prevent them from sticking (if they do stick, then patiently work them apart). Pre-soak is minimum two minutes with agitation (see below). I then gather the stack together an lift it out, making sure sheet 1 is on the bottom. I start the clock and submerge one sheet at a time in the developer at the same interval I'm using for agitation. Same when done developing and transferring to the stop. This ensures immediate exposure to developer and that each sheet is developed exactly the same time.

    I shuffle across the short axis, turning each sheet 180° each shuffle. I like batches of six, but do up to eight at a time if I need to. For me it is important not to push the film to vigorously down into the developer solution, but just guide it down onto the top of the stack with the balls of the fingers. This prevents developer surging at the edges. I shuffle once through the stack every 30 seconds; for six sheets that's once every five seconds, for three sheets, one shuffle every 10 sec, etc. For one sheet, it's out and back into the developer every 15 sec. With PMK, I've been doubling the time between shuffles for the second half of development. This promotes edge effects.

    I like tray developing for its economy, flexibility and immediacy; no loading hangers or wrapping tacos or getting the sheets into tubes, etc., just unload and go. I can leave the stop and fixer trays as they are and just replace developer when doing lots of developing (after a road trip, I usually spend a couple of days doing 48 negs each day. (not high-volume really, but I'm limited by drying space). That's six batches for me with no pouring solutions in and out of bottles, tubes, etc.

    Plus, I can develop different films at different times in the same batch (simply start with the ones needing more development and add others as you go). I use SLIMT techniques for contractions and often end up having a few negatives in different pre-soak/SLIMT-bath trays that I can just grab when needed and add to an already developing batch. Can't do that with a Jobo...

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus

    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2012
  21. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    If OP doesn't need high volume processing I'd suggest a slosher-type tray insert. Depending on the size of the tray you could do up to 4-6 sheets at a time. Takes more chemistry though. But - no scratches, no handling of film. And you can do intermittent or reduced agitation (which doesn't really happen with shuffling). A slosher is easy and cheap to make.

    Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking shuffling. Just throwing another option out there.
     
  22. msdg6

    msdg6 Member

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    Sorry, I did not mean to make you cry.
    Well maybe I did. ROFLMA