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  1. #1

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    Processed my first roll

    I finally got all the ingredients together and found some spare time on Friday afternoon to process my first roll of black and white.

    I didn't have a changing bag, so I sat in the bathroom with a towel blocking the light from under the door. I could still see light from the side of the door, but I couldn't see my hand in front of my face after a few minutes, so I figured it was dark enough.

    I brought in two tanks and reels. An old steel set of unknown make and vintage, and a brand new Paterson universal set. It was easy to load the steel reel when I could see what I was doing, but I just couldn't make it work in the dark. I kept getting a kink on the first loop. The Paterson reel worked perfectly on the first try.

    My fixer is brand new Ilford rapid fixer, but my stop bath and developer are from a load of old darkroom stuff I bought on the bay... I have no idea how old they are. I figure the stop is fine no matter how old it is.

    Most of my negatives ended up very light (they would print too dark, I think), so I'm worried that the D76 was too old. Does it go bad in powder form? On the other hand, some of them seemed better, so maybe it was the fact that my bathroom wasn't completely dark? Could this cause the negatives to be too light? I'd think it would be the opposite.

    I could have sworn that some of them actually came out positive, but when I looked again later, they were negative. My brain playing tricks on me I guess. Some of them don't seem to have any silver left in them at all, just dye forming a very faint image?

    Any clues as to what went wrong? I'm thinking I'll just buy some new developer and completely light-seal the bathroom to eliminate both possibilities.

  2. #2
    jeroldharter's Avatar
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    If you had a significant light leak in the room your negatives would be fogged (too black). If your negatives were too light, they were probably underexposed. Powdered D76 keeps a long time.

    In any case, if you are going to the trouble you always want to be meticulous fresh chemicals and cleanliness in the darkroom.

    I think that plastic reels are easiest to load (that is what I use). However, once you get the hang of the stainless steel reels they are quicker and very durable. Also, you can use photo-flo on stainless but should not immerse the plastic reels in Photo-Flo because they tend to gum up.

    You might look up pictures of a development grid that shos what negatives look like when they are:

    Under-exposed and under-developed
    Normally exposed and underdeveloped
    Over-exposed and underdeveloped
    ...

    With some practice you can diagnose your negatives by eyeballing them.
    Jerold Harter MD

  3. #3
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    Hi Middy,

    Congrats on developing your first roll.

    Next time you can check the developer activity by placing a snip of film in it under normal light. It should turn black in a minute or so.

    "Thin" negs as you describe can be from a weak developer, but it could also be from low temp, short times, or underexposure. If your developer is good and your temp is 68f/20c (a few degrees warmer is ok, just as long as you are consistent every time. Colder temps than 68/20c can really impact developer activity) and your times and agitation regimen are good, then you most likely aren't getting the speed you are rating your film at, which is common. If this is the case (which is the most likely explanation, if your chems and temps are in order) drop the rating on the film you are using, for instance tray rating 100 at 64, and see how that goes. Most photographers have a "personal" speed rating for various emulsions. This can be determined by testing, or trial and error.

    The shortcut non big brain "test" is to simply shoot a series of the same subject (of reasonable contrast, avoid skies and other meter twisters) using a range of speeds, keep track of which frame is rated how, and see which one prints for you. Then you have your speed for that particular film.

    The absolute best testing matches your development and exposure to the paper you are printing. It's to involved to go into in a post, but if you are interested in that, shoot me a pm, and I'll steer you in the right direction.

    Congrats!! They will just get better and better!

    Best,

    J
    Last edited by JBrunner; 04-07-2008 at 11:05 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4

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    Hi Middy,

    I would suggest the following:

    a) get a changing bag, not very expensive, a darkroom needs to be in total darkness, depending on the speed of the film any light can affect the film.
    b) get fresh chemistry.
    c) keep a log, you can look back and evaluate your work to make minor changes down the road a bit, once you have more experience in the darkroom.


    Basically you need to replicate the conditions of the development over and over again. You need to control all of the variables associated with the process. This way you can properly evaluate the results and change the process based on your observation.

    You may find that your are under/over exposing your film...but you will never know if you do not have a standard development process.

    Kevin

  5. #5

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    I'm pretty sure of the temperatures and times.

    I'll have to look at the pictures again, but now that I think about it this could have been a roll of TX400 that I exposed at 1600 last year and never got around to having developed. I found it in the back of the fridge. (I've been through a lot of chaos in the last few years, don't ask me )

    Thanks for the encouragement guys! I'm going to order some HC110 and try it again.

  6. #6
    CBG
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    Middy,

    Congratulations on getting into the (almost dark) darkroom!

    Forgive a too wordy post with comments are aimed at a newcomer. If you are already well versed in parts of what I note below, just read past what you already know.

    The fact that some frames looked better than others makes me think about the consistency of your exposure. If you are used to color negative film then you are used to having enormous latitude for exposure error. BW film may help you see when your exposures are best and when not. Metering in camera or with hand held meter is another day's subject but be ready to pay attention to it.

    If the film was too transparent / not enough image, it sounds quite like either underexposure or underdevelopment.

    A good way to sort out which is to look at the frame numbers that run down the side of the roll. The numbers are images just like your photographs. They have to develop along with your images. If they are pretty dark and absolutely readable, it says your development was workably vigorous and the processing was healthy enough for a starting darkroom worker. Likely you have underexposed the frames where the images were faint.

    On the other hand. If the frame numbering is weak, then it is likely you have underdevelopment - old developer, or somehow mixed it weak or contaminated it or had the chemicals too cold, too short a development time, too little agitation, processing in the wrong order, or some combination of the above.

    Old developer - I suspect it would have to be very old or very poorly stored to lose that much vigor.

    Diluting too much - would make for faint images and numbering.

    Contamination - is a very easy thing to happen. A splash of stop bath or acid fix falling in the developer could kill or debilitate developer.

    Processing at too low a temperature - will make for faint images. (Too high will yield dark, overly contrasty images - murder to print!) The reactions that develop film are very temperature sensitive. A thermometer is a must to process film. Keep your temperatures at 68 or adjust times for whatever you are using. 68 is the standard - no magic - but the default setting for BW work. Keep the temps of all solutions including wash water consistent. Big abrupt changes can cause the emulsion to wrinkle up and ruin your work.

    Too short a developing time - will not allow the images to fully develop. Time and temperature are related. At a low temperature longer times are needed to build the image. At high temps a short time prevents overdeveloping.

    Agitation - is extrememely important. Agitation provides fresh solution to the film and dilutes away the byproducts of development. Correct and consistent agitation will make for even and repeatable development. There are zillions of threads on agitation so a search will ferret out more information than you would ever thought you'd want to know.

    Processing in the wrong order - is ugggh.

    Could be a combination of exposure and processing issues. Just to make you crazy!!!!

    It sounds like you dodged the bullet of a too bright darkroom, but working to darken it further is a very good idea.

    Keep shooting and processing. It gets better.

    Best,

    C

  7. #7
    CBG
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    Middy,

    A good way to see some passable negs for comparison:

    Shoot a fresh roll in mid day sunlight at "sunny sixteen". That is f16 at the reciprocal of your film speed - or the closest approximation available.

    That is:
    f16 at 1/400th with Tri-X - really 1/500th on most cameras - the closest match.
    f16 at 1/125th with a 125 speed film.
    f16 at 1/x with x speed film

    Best,

    C

  8. #8

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    Thanks CBG! I'll check the numbering when I get home. I think it was light, but I'm not sure.

    The D76 came in a foil-lined paper package instead of the plastic package like my new Dektol, if this is any indication of the age. It came from an older gentleman that had a lot of equipment for color photography. For all I know that D76 is 40 years old...

    Ima keep tryin'. This is fun!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by CBG View Post
    If the film was too transparent / not enough image, it sounds quite like either underexposure or underdevelopment.

    A good way to sort out which is to look at the frame numbers that run down the side of the roll.
    This can be a useful technique; however, be aware that the darkness of the frame numbers varies from one brand and type of film to another. I've got some bulk-rolled Ilford Pan F+ 50, sold under Freestyle's Arista Pro brand, with very faint frame numbers. I don't know if that was intentional or if somebody just goofed when setting up the frame numbering machine the day that roll was made.

    You can also check the density of the leader -- the part of the film that was exposed to light as you loaded the camera. That should be quite dark, but high-contrast images, like newsprint, should still be discernible through it under bright room light. If the leader appears pale, then you've almost certainly underdeveloped the film (via too short a time or too low a temperature).

    Note that the times in published charts are suggested starting points. There are lots of variables, such as the accuracy of your thermometer, agitation idiosyncracies, and whatnot. You may need to adjust your times and/or temperatures to suit your personal techniques and preferences.

  10. #10

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    Not sure if anyone else posted this, but how you mixed the developer could also be a factor. If you put too much water in, or the chemicals didn't dissolve completely, you could get the results you mention.

    It can also happen if you read the wrong time off the box, thinking you have 1:1, or stock, or whatever, and actually having some other concentration. I know this one, personally.
    In life you only get one great dog, one great car, and one great woman. Pet the dog. Drive the car. Make love to the woman. Don't mix them up.

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