RA-4 beginnings and troubleshooting
So I mentioned, in the thread for rhapsodising about Portra 400, that I was about to do my first RA-4 prints.
On Tuesday night I made my first ever colour prints, and to my delight and amazement, it more or less worked, except for one issue on which I'd like advice.
I was printing on Kodak Supra Endura paper, expired 2011-01 (so probably okay) using Rollei Digibase RA-4 chemicals. (I bought these since they have a little kit which was cheap to ship intercontinentally while I figured out whether I want to press ahead. I think my next run will be with Tetenal 5l kits. It's too expensive to import boxes of Kodak RA chems unfortunately).
Foolishly, I chose a fairly difficult negative to print at first but on the whole I was satisfied with the colour rendition after tweaking the filter pack slightly. Of more concern is that the exposure times are so very short that dodging and burning look really difficult.
The only real problem I have is that the unexposed borders of the print (from under the easel blades) have a marked, mushroomy-coloured stain -- a sort of yellowy grey with a bit of redness to it too. Funnily enough white areas within the print itself actually look better, but that may be an artefact of their being next to relatively dark areas. Overall, the prints are quite dull, but I may have better luck with other negatives -- like I said this was a difficult one.
I presume this is probably a chemical issue, but which one? I know PE has spoken skeptically of monotype blix concentrates in the past, and I trust his judgement on the subject. Also, one of the chems appears to have leaked a little during intercontinental shipping -- though certainly the developer still seems active and is rendering colours in the image okay. My suspicion is around the blix, but I'm no expert on the subject.
Any idea how I could fix this?
Oh, and some process details:
Exposure (zippy! About 4 to 8s!)
Processing in unicolor drum on roller base:
Pre-soak about 30s with 38-40C water(bright blue rinsate. Who knew?!)
Dev about 60s at 38C
Blix about 60s at 38C
Rinse with warm water x3
Should I be adding a stop / rinse between dev and blix? I guess that could extend the life of the blix but shouldn't have made a difference in the first couple of sheets. Should I be shortening process steps to 45s?
Thanks all for any input!
I used to get streaks on my borders when I used a too weak vinegar stop, I now use a proper stop and get no streaks - although my streaks were blue not yellow/grey/red. I think it's best to use a stop in any event. My exposure times are typically 8-12 seconds for a 5x7 print with a 50mm lens. What's the benefit of pre-soaking your paper?
That's interesting -- sounds a bit different though. This is more like an overall stain than streaks. But using a stop probably won't hurt at all. I'll make up a 1.5% or so acetic acid.
I believe the benefit of pre-soaking to be largely about pre-equilibrating the temperature. If you apply the warm developer solution over a large, cool area, you'll get a big and sudden temperature drop, so your careful temperature control is wasted.
But there may be other explanations, and I have no 'attachment' to any aspect of the process.
Pretty soon I'll have my Durst RCP-20 re-geared for RA-4 speeds, which will hopefully improve consistency at least (and be less schleppy)
Congratulations on your first colour prints. It's always pleasing when it comes out right at nearly the first attempt - perhaps not as difficult you might have been led to believe.
My only experience is with the Tetenal RA4 kit and a Nova tank, but I have noticed that the paper starts to look mucky when the blix goes off, so that might be a problem. I recommend a stop bath between dev and blix. Your exposure times sound about right. As for developing times, follow what the instructions say, although with the Tetenal kit you can go longer than the recommended times without ill effects.
The brownish, muddy whites with red and gray tint as you describe is EXACTLY what I got with the defective Tetenal kit. The blix sold as one concentrate bottle simply DOES NOT work unless it is very fresh. As a "first aid", I found that reducing blix time, from 60 seconds to 40 seconds, helped to reduce the stain, but it can lead to insufficient blixing. Oh, the blixing was insufficient anyhow.
Leaked Rollei bottles? HOW SURPRISING!
It is possible that the stop bath is also part of the reason, but I would vote defective blix because of my experience that sounds exactly the same. Do you have any crud in blix, too?
Anyhow, add the acetic acid (2%) stop (30 sec?) and a quick rinse after it (15 sec?) first, just to be sure.
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You really should try to get the Kodak RA-RT chems (10L size for example), they are much better than the other brands. bring in a case of each (makes 10L x 4, get both dev and blix) each ships in a single box, and for reasonable cost it should not be that bad. Pakor.com is where I usually buy it. 10L = at least 500-700 8x10s probably.
What aperture were you using with such short exposure times?