View Full Version : VC paper negatives - development queries

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04-16-2014, 07:19 AM
I've just got back from a holiday during which I used 10x8 Kentmere RC VC in my LF pinhole camera. The subjects were all megalithics in West Penwith, and I have a few dozen now to develop.

I did have a go at establishing a sensible EI for this stuff before I went, and was surprised to find it around 3 (others have reported much faster). However I'm also aware that the light in West Penwith is rather different to many other places in the UK, being rather richer in blue, and that this spectral difference might have an impact on the EI.

None of the negatives were exposed with a filter, and none were pre-flashed, I'm not too worried about extreme contrast as the subjects (to my eye) lend themselves to a contrasty treatment.

What I am concerned about is finding that the negatives are grossly overexposed, and the best way to manage this.

I have standard Fotospeed and Ilford MG print devs to hand and most standard photochemicals to make from scratch if required, but I'd rather keep things simple.

The usual advice with paper negatives is to develop by inspection in quite dilute developer (the general suggestion seems to be x2 or x4 normal dilutions), and be prepared to "snatch" at the appropriate stage of development. Although of course as paper negatives are a new area of experience for me, I'll have to learn what "appropriate" is ...

Any further thoughts before I plough on? (yes john, I know I can use caffenol :D)

Mike Crawford
04-16-2014, 08:51 AM
I did quite a bit of work with paper negatives a while back using Ilford MG RC. Definitely a good idea to dilute and dilute. Haven't got my notes on me, but was probably around 1+25 or 1+30 PQ and short dev times, 1-2 minutes, though maybe more depending on how it is rated. Think we were 3 ISO. Best to test, perhaps shoot something you can waste before the main ones.

Wouldn't recommend snatching under red light. I did try that and as we were over-exposing and under-developing in general to get a smooth range of tones, had to be quite precise. If it was snatched too soon, (though looked good under safe light), paper negs were very thin.

Mike Crawford
04-16-2014, 11:05 AM
It is possible to post flash to reduce contrast as long as it is very short and controlled.

04-16-2014, 11:55 AM
I agree that it can be hard to judge when to "snatch" under a safelight. They do have a tendency to look good, especially the highlights, before they are ready. With more experience, of course you will get a feel for what the ones that were easy to print looked like. To add insult to injury, if you pay very close attention to the shadows, under the safelight it can look like not enough detail has emerged when in fact they are pretty good!

I really like to aim my exposures so that the negs are good when developed to completion. For a long time I was using dektol 1:4, not just for paper negatives but for all my darkroom printing. The higher dilution was not so much for slowing development but for increasing the volume of developer to make it easier to quickly cover the paper. I think the higher dilution marginally helps reduce uneven development, but pre-soak and getting the whole paper covered with developer fast are the main factors. I keep a bottle of well-used and aged dektol 1:8, but that is for intentionally overexposed paper negatives to get a certain look, not to "rescue" normally exposed ones.

Lately I've been using LPD 1:2 for paper negatives and most of my darkroom printing. Notice that is a pretty standard dilution and since I have a nice big bottle of it volume is not a concern. I've made plenty of perfectly nice pinhole paper negatives with that, relying on pre or post flash to control contrast.

FWIW, I think you should shoot some test shots at home where access to your darkroom is convenient, try to duplicate your travel exposure, and see what happens first with a normal developer. Then you can use a colder or more dilute developer if you are still worried about them being overexposed.

With an overexposed paper negative, it's alarming to see thet entire paper quickly turn dark... you are tempted to snatch it right out! But often those negatives are still printable, unless the overexposure is more than a couple stops. With an underexposed paper negative, it's much worse because no matter how long you leave it in the developer, nothing will change the pure white... those are more likely to be a total loss.

I haven't been at APUG long enough to be sure, but I have a sense that more people are playing around with paper negatives now, and I think that's wonderful! Have fun!

04-17-2014, 10:35 AM
Thanks for the comments.

I would not be surprised if necessity is being the mother of invention once more, if it is true that use of paper negatives is increasing: sheet film is madly expensive!

(The usual cheaper standby for US-based LF photographers - X-ray film - is equally if not more expensive than normal pictorial film in the UK, and while Arista Ortho Litho can be imported, it nearly doubles in price thereby and of course has its own shortcomings)

Thanks also, by the way, Ned, for your kind & encouraging comments at Ipernity :)

04-18-2014, 09:42 AM
an EIof roughly'3 sounds right.It's what I use with a yellow filter.I got the best developmentwith regular Dektol diluted 1+7. let it develop out;no premature snatchingas that will kill midtone contrast and possibly muddled development.

04-18-2014, 10:32 AM

I expose VC paper negatives through a yellow filter and develop in standard paper developer to completion. No issues with excessive contrast. In fact, I usually need to print these negatives with grade 3 or 3-1/2 filtration to get normal contrast prints.

04-18-2014, 11:22 AM
As I said in my OP, contrast isn't the issue for me, it is overexposure that I am concerned about.

04-19-2014, 03:54 AM
I don't think your negs will be that over exposed that they're unusable if your ei was three. I would just use a dilute developer in case you need to pull it early, but you probably won't.

04-19-2014, 06:48 AM
it looks like it'll be pouring with rain tomorrow so a good day to set up the darkroom and have a go.
I'll report back ...

04-19-2014, 04:01 PM
I to am just starting my paper negative journey,and will be anxious to hear about and see your resulting prints.Good luck.. Don

04-19-2014, 09:31 PM
....Thanks also, by the way, Ned, for your kind & encouraging comments at Ipernity Ha! I don't know who you are at Ipernity:redface:.... But now, don't tell me and I'll see who shows up with vacation pinhole paper negatives soon! I'll bet there are other people here at APUG that have different user names at Ipernity too...

04-20-2014, 02:57 AM
I expect if you look at your contacts you'd soon work it out :)

04-20-2014, 08:08 AM
On a tea-break from developing the first few ...

I shot half a dozen test sheets yesterday, using the same metering & exposure calculations as I did on holiday (but in a different camera (as I'd run out of 10x8 and had to use what scraps I had cut to 5x4)) and started off with those in Ilford MG 1+20ish.

They were really underexposed, which is peculiar; and so not much help in deciding how to proceed.

I've ploughed on and tried half a dozen or so of the "live" sheets and they are a slightly mixed bag so far - a couple just about right, a few rather overexposed and rather black, one or two a bit under. It'll be interesting to see what a scan can pull out, and more interesting still to see how they contact (which is the main aim)

Unfortunately a couple of the best have some sort of emulsion damage, presumably from my impatient sweaty fingers when loading or unloading the holders crouched on the floor of the cottage bathroom in total darkness. My companion on holiday said she was quite impressed by the range and volume of the swearing that emerged from behind the door while I was doing so ...

I got the best development with regular Dektol diluted 1+7. let it develop out; no premature snatching as that will kill midtone contrast and possibly muddled development.

I think that's roughly x3 the "standard" Dektol dilution, but I'm wondering what the advantage of a higher dilution is if you develop to completion?

04-20-2014, 10:33 AM
Paper negs that are too dark to scan well should print better. Negs I intend to print instead of just scan get a stop more of exposure than negs that will only be scanned.

04-22-2014, 06:46 AM
That's hopeful news, thanks.

Unfortunately, I do have "issues" with the negatives, which is widespread mottling (which looks like uneven development) and spotting (which I have no idea about) all over the paper. See the scans for examples.

Do note, this is not a "dusty scan" problem; I have other paper negs (on different and very much older paper) which don't show this problem, so it has only occurred on this batch. I've also made enlargements using this same batch of paper (but using a different developer) without this problem.

These were made on brand new Kentmere VC RC, developed in Ilford MG paper developer at ~1+30, given a brief very dilute (about 1%) acetic acid stop and then fixed for 1 minute in freshly made Champion Rapid Fixer at 1+9; they were washed under running water for 2 minutes.

I'll try developing another batch using a different, fresh, developer (my bottle of MG has been sitting around opened but unused for a few months) and see what they look like.

In the meantime, any comments?

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7070/13965056572_4a6b819f28_n.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13965056572/)
10x8-PaperNeg-1200-0004-1 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13965056572/) by _loupe (https://www.flickr.com/people/22065841@N05/), on Flickr
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7422/13968669464_25091a1261_n.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13968669464/)
10x8-PaperNeg-1200-0004-2 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13968669464/) by _loupe (https://www.flickr.com/people/22065841@N05/), on Flickr

https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7296/13965057702_f03e7d92a5_n.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13965057702/)
10x8-PaperNeg-1200-0004-3 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13965057702/) by _loupe (https://www.flickr.com/people/22065841@N05/), on Flickr
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7241/13965053541_77e4051eb3_n.jpg (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13965053541/)
10x8-PaperNeg-1200-0004-4 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/22065841@N05/13965053541/) by _loupe (https://www.flickr.com/people/22065841@N05/), on Flickr

04-22-2014, 07:03 AM
I haven't tried contacting these yet, so it remains to be seen how badly this affects the positives

Joe VanCleave
04-22-2014, 07:50 PM
My initial thought is either the film holders and/or camera are very dirty (being as you've enlarged on the same paper with no spots), or the new fixer needs to be filtered.

As for the mottling, I usually use Ilford liquid concentrate developer diluted at around 1+15. Perhaps 1+30 is just too weak, or you need a greater volume at that dilution.


04-22-2014, 10:04 PM
I think uneven development or streaking and mottling can be a problem with very dilute developer. A good presoak, making sure the water covers the paper quickly and without droplets or splashes can help. Then the same thing going smoothly and quickly into the developer, with continuous agitation... the agitation does not need to be vigorous, but it should keep fresh developer moving over the whole negative. Even being careful, sometimes it still happens... I don't know the cause, whether it's "bromide drag" or "surge marks" but sometimes there will be a streak of uneven development and it often starts at a boundary of dense / not dense.

I'm sure I developed this carefully, but look at this steak and mottling in the sky:

http://u1.ipernity.com/26/12/65/16601265.49f74b23.500.jpg (http://www.ipernity.com/doc/295785/16601265)
Pinhole Sand Dollar (http://www.ipernity.com/doc/295785/16601265) by Ned (http://www.ipernity.com/home/295785), at ipernity

I think those specks might show up more when you scan a paper negative that is a bit dark to begin with, so that there is not a lot of contrast and it's all bunched up in the darks ( the histogram is bunched up to the left ). Then, either the scanner software or whatever software you are using makes the specks stand out more when you add contrast and try to get dark enough blacks on the inverted version. They might also be related or increased by texture on the paper: I like to use pearl surface paper and it might be more prone to speckles in scans.

Don't get discouraged, you're getting it!

04-23-2014, 01:29 AM
Thanks Joe, Ned.
The holders are clean, the fixer was made up with filtered water, I use constant gentle agitation, and the paper is pearl
I do wonder about the dilution and the developer. As I say I'll try a few more in fresh different developer at full strength, and see what pops out next time.