VC paper negatives - development queries
I've just got back from a holiday during which I used 10x8 Kentmere RC VC in my LF pinhole camera. The subjects were all megalithics in West Penwith, and I have a few dozen now to develop.
I did have a go at establishing a sensible EI for this stuff before I went, and was surprised to find it around 3 (others have reported much faster). However I'm also aware that the light in West Penwith is rather different to many other places in the UK, being rather richer in blue, and that this spectral difference might have an impact on the EI.
None of the negatives were exposed with a filter, and none were pre-flashed, I'm not too worried about extreme contrast as the subjects (to my eye) lend themselves to a contrasty treatment.
What I am concerned about is finding that the negatives are grossly overexposed, and the best way to manage this.
I have standard Fotospeed and Ilford MG print devs to hand and most standard photochemicals to make from scratch if required, but I'd rather keep things simple.
The usual advice with paper negatives is to develop by inspection in quite dilute developer (the general suggestion seems to be x2 or x4 normal dilutions), and be prepared to "snatch" at the appropriate stage of development. Although of course as paper negatives are a new area of experience for me, I'll have to learn what "appropriate" is ...
Any further thoughts before I plough on? (yes john, I know I can use caffenol )
I did quite a bit of work with paper negatives a while back using Ilford MG RC. Definitely a good idea to dilute and dilute. Haven't got my notes on me, but was probably around 1+25 or 1+30 PQ and short dev times, 1-2 minutes, though maybe more depending on how it is rated. Think we were 3 ISO. Best to test, perhaps shoot something you can waste before the main ones.
Wouldn't recommend snatching under red light. I did try that and as we were over-exposing and under-developing in general to get a smooth range of tones, had to be quite precise. If it was snatched too soon, (though looked good under safe light), paper negs were very thin.
It is possible to post flash to reduce contrast as long as it is very short and controlled.
I agree that it can be hard to judge when to "snatch" under a safelight. They do have a tendency to look good, especially the highlights, before they are ready. With more experience, of course you will get a feel for what the ones that were easy to print looked like. To add insult to injury, if you pay very close attention to the shadows, under the safelight it can look like not enough detail has emerged when in fact they are pretty good!
I really like to aim my exposures so that the negs are good when developed to completion. For a long time I was using dektol 1:4, not just for paper negatives but for all my darkroom printing. The higher dilution was not so much for slowing development but for increasing the volume of developer to make it easier to quickly cover the paper. I think the higher dilution marginally helps reduce uneven development, but pre-soak and getting the whole paper covered with developer fast are the main factors. I keep a bottle of well-used and aged dektol 1:8, but that is for intentionally overexposed paper negatives to get a certain look, not to "rescue" normally exposed ones.
Lately I've been using LPD 1:2 for paper negatives and most of my darkroom printing. Notice that is a pretty standard dilution and since I have a nice big bottle of it volume is not a concern. I've made plenty of perfectly nice pinhole paper negatives with that, relying on pre or post flash to control contrast.
FWIW, I think you should shoot some test shots at home where access to your darkroom is convenient, try to duplicate your travel exposure, and see what happens first with a normal developer. Then you can use a colder or more dilute developer if you are still worried about them being overexposed.
With an overexposed paper negative, it's alarming to see thet entire paper quickly turn dark... you are tempted to snatch it right out! But often those negatives are still printable, unless the overexposure is more than a couple stops. With an underexposed paper negative, it's much worse because no matter how long you leave it in the developer, nothing will change the pure white... those are more likely to be a total loss.
I haven't been at APUG long enough to be sure, but I have a sense that more people are playing around with paper negatives now, and I think that's wonderful! Have fun!
Thanks for the comments.
I would not be surprised if necessity is being the mother of invention once more, if it is true that use of paper negatives is increasing: sheet film is madly expensive!
(The usual cheaper standby for US-based LF photographers - X-ray film - is equally if not more expensive than normal pictorial film in the UK, and while Arista Ortho Litho can be imported, it nearly doubles in price thereby and of course has its own shortcomings)
Thanks also, by the way, Ned, for your kind & encouraging comments at Ipernity
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an EIof roughly'3 sounds right.It's what I use with a yellow filter.I got the best developmentwith regular Dektol diluted 1+7. let it develop out;no premature snatchingas that will kill midtone contrast and possibly muddled development.
I expose VC paper negatives through a yellow filter and develop in standard paper developer to completion. No issues with excessive contrast. In fact, I usually need to print these negatives with grade 3 or 3-1/2 filtration to get normal contrast prints.
Happiness is a load of bulk chemicals, a handful of recipes, a brick of film and a box of paper. - desertrat
As I said in my OP, contrast isn't the issue for me, it is overexposure that I am concerned about.
I don't think your negs will be that over exposed that they're unusable if your ei was three. I would just use a dilute developer in case you need to pull it early, but you probably won't.
it looks like it'll be pouring with rain tomorrow so a good day to set up the darkroom and have a go.
I'll report back ...