I'm experiencing an unpleasant problem with some of my prints. Some areas of the photo come out lighter than the rest of the print, leaving an ugly stain effect. These stains are very random: they vary in size and shape; there does not seem to be any correlation with specific paper (I'm using RC papers) or developer brands; they appear on one print of the same photo but not on the second print (if I'm lucky). I thought it could be uneven development due to uneven immersion or something like that, but neither placing the paper face down in the developing tray nor increased agitation have helped. Does anyone know what causes this problem, and how to remedy it? Thanks.
are your hands clean? Do you have any fixer on your fingers, etc?
Defect on paper.
Try another batch (see code #). If there is no problem on it, return the first to the maker and ask for reimbursement. Let us know which paper is.
I've already had this problem with Kodak RC Kodabrome II.
You say that it is different packages of paper?.
To help you, I think you have to describe your process in more detail. I have never been a fan of placing prints face down as air can trap under the paper and inhibit development. Tell us about your agitation, as well as your routines in and out of each chemical and on through the wash.
If there is a stain on the print I think that the cause is likely to be contamination or it could be heat from your fingers as you lift it to either inspect it or move it to the next solution. I know that this sounds silly but it does happen, I have had this problem with both Oriental Seagull and Ilford Warmtone. Are the stains on the edges or in the actual image area?
The stains are in the image area, and they can be seen to emerge while the paper floats in the developing bath.
When I move the paper from the enlarger into the developing tray, I hold it directly in my fingers (no gloves or tongs) near the edges. Normally I place the paper face-up into the developer (placing it face down was just to see if it would make any difference, which it hasn't). I agitate by raising the corner or sides of the tray so that the paper doesn't stay motionless but slowly floats around the tray. The stains, if they indeed form, can already be seen at this stage, as areas where the image does not emerge as strongly as in the rest of the photo. After the prescribed developing time, I lift the paper from the tray using tongs, hold it above the tray for a few seconds to let the developer flow off, and then place it into the stop bath. In the stop bath I use my hands to move the paper around until the image surface stops being slippery, then place it into the fixer tray, which I agitate similarily as the developer. After the prescribed fixing time, I take the paper out using a different pair of tongs, and place it into the sink to wash.
95% of the time, I use Fomaspeed papers, of different types (single and variable contrast), sizes and surfaces (velvet, glossy). Using paper from a single package, sometimes the stains form, sometimes they don't. I can't recall for sure if I've had this problem with Ilford MG Express which I've used on a few occassions.
While I cannot completely rule out the possibility of some fixer residue on my fingers (I will pay more attention to this in the future), I have not noticed that the stains would coincide with the places where I touched the paper.
I can see what may be happening. The developer is not flowing over the face of the print evenly as you start the agitation. I've had problems like that long ago in a different galaxy. My solution to that is to rock the tray a bit before inserting the print, making a wave go to one end of the tray. As it nears the end I slip the print down to the developer and the wave rolls back across evenly wetting the entire print very quickly. It takes a bit of practice at first but will become almost automatic very soon.
This is indeed strange.
If the print is in for a minute for RC and 3-4 for fiber it should not have under developed areas, as long as the agitation is constantly getting developer to all the print, even if it misses for a few seconds early on.
It sounds like something is wrong with the paper or skin oils are touching the paper from the box to the enlarger or the enlarger to the developer.
I would need to see the prints in question to make a reasonable response. But as a shot in the dark, have you checked for light leaks in your darkroom, including your safelight? I once had the dye flake off a red safelight bulb resulting in a pinpoint of light. This evidently produced a rather narrow beam which, from time to time, fell across my paper resulting in bands of slightly fogged areas, which ultimately resulted in print banding. It took some time to figure this out as I never handled the paper in the same manner or located the box of unexposed in the same place.
Is this recent (you did not have them before) or are you starting a new darkroom?
Honest, I've never seen it and can't imagine what would cause it from your description.