Well, in the last few years, I don't think I've scratched a neg at all. That said, as Bill pointed out, all it takes is one slip-up to destroy a negative. And, the negative you destroy will be the best in the batch; Murphy's Law of Developing. I take a lot of care developing and am always a bit elated when I do a batch of 50 negs and have no scratches. In the last 10 years I'd say my loss rate was 1% or maybe less from handling damage. That includes stupid things like scratching a neg while loading the film washer, negs dropping from the clips while drying, etc.
Originally Posted by Rafal Lukawiecki
While learning, I scratched a neg or two regularly. For me, it was simply lack of care; dropping a neg, not being careful submerging the neg in the developer or pulling it out from the bottom of the stack, etc. Also, it took time to learn not to freak out when something went wrong, e.g., when I pulled two negs from the bottom (they sometimes stick together) or somehow got out of my agitation scheme. I've learned that taking time, missing a shuffle or two, and just taking a deep breath help immensely. Practice and being careful will get you a very good success rate.
FWIW, since others have posted their methods, I'll summarize mine in a bit more detail.
I use deep 5x7 trays for 4x5 with minimum 500ml of solution. I develop emulsion-side up; I tried emulsion-side down for a while, which promised to be safer, but ended up with unevenness caused by the tray ribs. I have some different trays now with a different configuration and will maybe try again soon. However, I'm doing fine with the film emulsion-side up and don't want to risk good shots on a test.
I turn the first sheet 180° from the rest when unloading so the code notches are on the opposite end. This is my "no. 1" sheet. I fan the stack in my hand like playing cards and take sheets from the bottom and submerge them into the pre-soak. I wait 15 sec. between sheets to prevent them from sticking (if they do stick, then patiently work them apart). Pre-soak is minimum two minutes with agitation (see below). I then gather the stack together an lift it out, making sure sheet 1 is on the bottom. I start the clock and submerge one sheet at a time in the developer at the same interval I'm using for agitation. Same when done developing and transferring to the stop. This ensures immediate exposure to developer and that each sheet is developed exactly the same time.
I shuffle across the short axis, turning each sheet 180° each shuffle. I like batches of six, but do up to eight at a time if I need to. For me it is important not to push the film to vigorously down into the developer solution, but just guide it down onto the top of the stack with the balls of the fingers. This prevents developer surging at the edges. I shuffle once through the stack every 30 seconds; for six sheets that's once every five seconds, for three sheets, one shuffle every 10 sec, etc. For one sheet, it's out and back into the developer every 15 sec. With PMK, I've been doubling the time between shuffles for the second half of development. This promotes edge effects.
I like tray developing for its economy, flexibility and immediacy; no loading hangers or wrapping tacos or getting the sheets into tubes, etc., just unload and go. I can leave the stop and fixer trays as they are and just replace developer when doing lots of developing (after a road trip, I usually spend a couple of days doing 48 negs each day. (not high-volume really, but I'm limited by drying space). That's six batches for me with no pouring solutions in and out of bottles, tubes, etc.
Plus, I can develop different films at different times in the same batch (simply start with the ones needing more development and add others as you go). I use SLIMT techniques for contractions and often end up having a few negatives in different pre-soak/SLIMT-bath trays that I can just grab when needed and add to an already developing batch. Can't do that with a Jobo...
Hope this helps,
Last edited by Doremus Scudder; 12-05-2012 at 05:57 AM. Click to view previous post history.