Blemishes On Prints
So yesterday I spent 18hrs in my darkroom printing three negatives from a shoot I did the day before. (Excessive?) I only left because I had to sleep! (I like to get my money's worth from my chemicals haha)
Anyway, I digress. So at times I notice white dots or hair like marks on my prints, and then they disappear on the next print of the same negative.
Ruling out the negative as the blemish is sporadic, is this debris on the paper or???
My tongs are made from hard plastic, can they scratch the emulsion? As sometimes (quite often) I have to force the paper down into the tray to immerse it fully.
A pic is attached to show a couple white dots appearing on a print.
Excuse the smartphone photo, my scanner is crap and completely ruins the true likeness of my prints.
And I've read conflicting information regarding development technique. I develop with the image side up. I've read in a book that's how it's done so not to get air bubbles on the image if it's face down, but I've also read on the Internet to do it face down?? (is this so you're not tempted to pull the print out early if you've over exposed? - another thing I've read!)
One more question if you don't mind?
Print agitation. How long do you agitate for, and do you agitate in all trays. At the moment I'm agitating for the entire time the paper is in each tray. But I've googled it and I can't seem to find a clear/definitive answer.
I'm going to run with both hands...
It could indeed be dust, either a larger bit on the paper or a tiny speck on the neg. A blower, like the rocket-shaped ones, is a very useful thing to have around the darkroom for blowing dust and debris off the important surfaces. Blowing by mouth only seems a practical idea until the first time a tiny speck of saliva lands on the negative
To get the paper evenly wet as quickly as possible, without having to physically sink it, you could try tilting the tray slightly away from you then put one end of the print down in the tray, next simultaneously put the tray flat again and place the print down into the tray in order to allow the mini-wave of developer to rush over the surface and get the print under the developer. It takes longer to read it than to do it - all this is in a second or so. Hold the print with the tongs by the edge nearest to you when putting it in to the tray, then you can hold the print stationary as the developer covers it before letting go and rocking the tray. Ideally you shouldn't need to touch the image area of the print with the tongs at any time, as it can indeed be scratched.
You can also wet the print by starting with it face downwards and rolling it in to the developer, using the direction of the curl of the paper. After a few moments you can use tongs on one side to turn the paper over if you wish. With a very large print it could be possible for the paper to be floppy enough to actually trap a huge bell of air in the centre, if it was just dropped on to the surface of the developer, but with sizes up to 20" and especially using fairly stiff resin-coated paper I have not noticed this as a problem.
Developing the paper face down gives a little extra protection from the "safe"-light (which should be checked for its "safeness" anyway of course) and avoids the temptation to pull the print early. Contrast and density always look different under safelight anyway, so better to wait until you turn the light on after fixing to assess the results.
Initially rock the tray for the first thirty seconds at least, then I usually do just enough to keep the print non-stationary in the developer. In practical terms I wonder if gentle movement really does change the developer next to the surface, but it seems to work ok. It is perfectly reasonable to keep the tray rocking gently throughout the time. Over agitation can result in a small amount of extra development at the sides of the print, where the liquid movement is most vigorous, but that would really need a lot of agitation to be noticeable. When you have a scheme that works (it is not a critical process in any way), try to stay consistent so that you can avoid accidental differences in the print due to changes in the agitation.
I'm going to run with both hands...
Yes, white spots/hairs are caused by crap on the negative. I went through this learning curve. First, invest in a bulb squeezey blower - much cheaper than cans of air to blow dust off. Second, try and work as clean as possible. I actually found my mains water was delivering crap that stuck to the negs during washing so had to put a filter in my water line. This may not be an issue, but what I found really useful is one of those squeezy bottles with a spout pipe (sold on fleabay for not very much), and I use this to do a final wash of my negs once they are hanging with a dilute photoflo. I don't squeegee negs - didn't work for me. Occasionally I still get water marks on the shiny (not emulsion) side of the neg, and find these can be gently wiped off with a lens cloth and a tiny bit of alcohol (from a spray can). I am considering getting some distilled water for this final rinse, because I don't really like touching the negs at all.
Also, don't use the same fixer for paper and film. You get crap in the paper fixer which then transfers to the negs!
Finally, occasionally you will still get white spots (despite everything I still get an occasional one). There are various "spotting" methods using pens/inks. You can get a little bottle of dye from Silverprint. http://www.silverprint.co.uk/Product....asp?PrGrp=212 One bottle of neutral grey is enough, unless you are going heavily toned. You need hardly any. I use a 1/3 of a film can cut lengthways as a dispenser. 4-5 drops of water + 1 drop of dye - don't mix and you can then pick up a smidgen on the tip of a cocktail stick or tiny brush (I prefer cocktail stick) which is eithet almost pure water/white or heavily dyed/black to place that tiny spot of dye in the white spot on the paper (when it's dry). Once the dye has dried, if done well you can't see it. Work from too light, because a too dark spot can never be removed! Don't need to even wash the little dispenser made from the film can. Let it dry and it comes back to life with a drop of water.
Dust, hair and lint from you and your clothing can get onto the paper before you expose it, leaving little white "photograms" that you really don't want. If you have sporadic white specks on your print, this could be the reason. I always curl the paper and tap its edge on the baseboard before putting it in the easel, then take care not to hang my head and body over it as much as possible during exposure. And, take off that long-sleeved fluffy sweater with cat hair all over it that you cleaned the garage in yesterday and put on a clean, lint-free shirt when you're printing.
I use rubber-tipped tongs or my fingers (nitrile gloves mostly) when the print is in the tray. Hard-tipped or sharp tongs can scratch the emulsion.
I develop face-up for the most part. I slide the print into the developer from one side of the tray to immerse it quickly. I agitate by gently pushing the print down into the developer in a circular motion. Usually one part of the print floats up; that gets pushed down, which raises another part of the print; that gets pushed down.... etc. Agitation is constant for the entire developing time and for all other steps as well. I develop a minimum of 2.5 minutes and often quite a bit longer. I find it easier to make small adjustments in print density by extending development time rather than increasing the print exposure. Contrary to a lot of what you hear, most papers do not increase in contrast with extended development, they just get a bit faster. An extra 15-30 seconds in the developer is like adding a bit of extra exposure; a couple of extra minutes even more.
I often turn the print face-down during developing for a minute or so, especially if development times are longer, just to protect the whites a bit from the safelight (even though I've tested my safelights and they are fine... just an extra precaution). I use the rubber-tipped tongs to do this and grip the print close to a corner. For prints larger than 11x14, I use two tongs. I can handle 16x20 easily with two tongs, but often use my hands.
I usually take the print from the developer, let it drain and flop it into the stop face down to stop development quickly and evenly. I then turn the print face-up, agitate for a while longer in the stop, lift, drain and transfer to the fix. All as described above. I use a variety of papers, all fiber-base and neutral tone and have never had a problem with damaging the emulsion.
Hope this helps,
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Doremus, that was really helpful! Thanks so much. Man my darkroom is like 17 degrees, I need my jumper hah! (Kidding). Well I've just given it a spring clean.
Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
I always wipe (very gently of course) my negative with a chamois cloth so get rid of lint etc so will be sure to be careful with the paper.
I'm going to run with both hands...
Since it's winter for you, too, it may be fairly dry and the film could be getting static-y by wiping it. Dust can jump on and off of it then. And dust can be on the paper once you put it in the easel as well. Royal pain to keep the dust out, but it's worth it. Humidifying the air may help some, too.
As for putting the paper in the developer, I always put mine in face down and do it at an angle. I then can push down lightly on the back with the rubber-tipped tongs. I've never had an air bubble on a print. I also agitate by raising and lowering a corner of the tray slightly during most of the developing time. I do it purely by time and not by look.
Humidifying the air may help some, too.
Ha Ha Ha
You obviously haven't seen the weather in UK
If you have blemishes on one print, then no blemishes on the next print from the same negative, then it isn't a problem due to the film processing.
Something in your workflow is causing bits of stuff to fall on to the printing paper. I would follow the suggestions that Doremus has given above, and would also thoroughly clean the outside of your enlarger, your easel, and any paper safe or other container that you use for your paper.
Don't do the cleaning immediately before printing - you need to give the dust some time (~ 1 hour?) to settle afterwards.
What sort of ventilation do you have in your darkroom? If there is a fair bit of a breeze, it might be stirring up dust.
And 18 hours at a time might be a bit long
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I'm going to run with both hands...