Yes it sounds as if your exposure time is way too much for your neg.
f8 @ 10-15secs for a normal neg (good range of tones between black and white) may be a good starting point at grade 2-3.
Again, it will depend on your paper selection and negative as to what exposure time you require. I have always used Agfa paper at grade 2- 21/2; when I went to college, their paper of choice was Ilford - try as I might, I couldn't get a good exposure from any of my negs without using Grade 3-4. It used to drive me crazy!! Finally I gave up and switched back to my Agfa paper and all was good for me. No idea why, but I consistently got good results and decided not to change papers simply because that was what they were supplying (at a cost).
Find a film, developer and paper, developer you are happy with and getting good results from. Once you've mastered the exposure development stages for both of these, you can start experimenting with other combination's - I'm only now starting to use some old Ilford graded paper again from which I am getting some acceptable results from; use this mostly for my Postcard exchange pictures along with old paper as well.
I've looked at the manufacturer's website, and it indicates that you should be mixing your developer with 1 part concentrate added to 15 parts water (2 oz diluted to make 1 US quart).
Based on that, the manufacturer recommends a development time between 2 minutes and 3.5 minutes.
Given that, the best way to approach this is to standardize on a development time (I'd suggest 2.5 minutes), stop down the enlarger lens 3 or 4 stops, and then do test strips with several exposures (6, 8, 11, 16, 32 and 45 seconds is a useful progression). Develop your test strips for the standardized time (and don't vary from that time). Use the test strip to determine a useful standard exposure for that much magnification and that aperture.
And then go from there.
P.S. here is the link: http://www.altaphotographic.com/zonal.html
I agree, but there is no need to poke the print from front or back. Just place it on top of the liquid surface and rock the tray. The print will submerge within seconds.
Originally Posted by polyglot
Some RC paper floats pretty well when one surface is still dry.
In my experience:
Glossy RC = most prone to not 'wet' and to from bubbles and air pockets. Some of this stuff develops quickly, and it floats, so with a big glossy RC 16x20 I rapidly immerse it emulsion up and pad it down. If I don't watch the reflection carefully in the safelight it is easy to miss an area that will remain 'dry.'
Satin RC = better than above
"Glossy" FB = about the same as Satin RC
While the problem comes most likely from processing, black spots can appear also in these two cases:
-dust on negative during exposure (maybe)
-tiny scratches or badly deteriorated emulsion (unlikely).
I came across the latter while printing some glass plates from the '20s.
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How does a dusty neg cause black spots? Surely you'd get white ones?
The only times I've had black spots was with one particular neg, but the spots came out in different places each time I printed so I suspect it was a paper issue or me getting something on the paper.
If dust is on the film prior to exposure, it will leave a clear spot, which prints black. It's generally not a problem with roll films, but does plague sheet film users occasionally.