Category Archives: Processing

Drying on plastic reels

The short answer? DON’T DO IT!!

OK, with that out of the way… so a few nights ago I re-fixed and re-washed a couple of rolls that hadn’t been fixed properly first time around. I loaded the cut strips onto my plastic reels and did them in the daylight tank, no problem at all. I decided to leave the film on the reels to dry, and shook as much of the water off as I could.

First, there are drying spots. This I expected and they’re not too hard to gently wipe off, but it’s worse than I usually get with the film hanging up and photo-flow used in the final wash, and harder to remove.

That’s not the big problem though. The big problem was that one strip had a big wet patch in it where there was still water trapped between the strip and the reel. The bigger problem was that 3 other strips had stuck together in the middle, obviously having been touching while drying.

But don’t panic! All is not lost.

First up, I soaked the partly dry strip under the faucet until it was uniformly wet again, shook it off and this time hung it up to dry.

Secondly, I gently soaked the stuck strips in water. After a minute or two, they came unstuck with no sign of emulsion damage. Phew…crisis averted. Same thing with those, washed and hung to dry.

After a couple of hours they were dry again and ready to be re-sleeved. Yes, they were insanely curly length-wise, but across the width of the negative they were fairly flat. A couple of days in the sleeves being gently flattened has the curl tamed again, and in any case that kind of curl is well handled by the scanner’s film holder.

No more drying on plastic reels though!

Help! My negatives are turning yellow!

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and mix fresh fixer.

Doing some scanning over the weekend I noticed that several recent rolls of black and white I’d developed were looking kind of…well, yellow. Jaundiced, even.

One roll had splotches of yellow forming all over and streaks of yellow coming from the sprocket holes. Another looked like it had a uniformly yellow tint. Another had a small amount of yellowing along the edge of a strip. Not good.

Well it occurred to me that I’d been pushing it a bit with my fixer. I was up to about 6 minutes clearing time on a test strip, with rapid fixer. OK, make that pushing it a lot. The film seemed OK, but could it be…?

A quick trip to The Google confirmed my suspicion; my film wasn’t properly fixed. It also confirmed that I could re-fix and re-wash the affected film and all would be right with the world once more. Last night, after developing a roll I’d been sitting on for a couple of weeks, I tested one strip of 6 negatives which had the yellowing. Sure enough, it came out clear and also with less base fog than it had before the yellowing set in.

So tonight, I tackled the first two of four rolls to be re-fixed. They were already cut into strips, which complicated matters somewhat as I don’t have any decent means to hang up more than a couple of strips at a time. It also would have been quite a pain to individually fix and wash 11 strips of negatives the same way as I’d tested the one strip last night.

The solution? Carefully put the cut strips, end to end, back onto my plastic developing reels, and run them through fixer and wash in the developing tank as normal. To dry, I’m having to resort to hanging the reels up with film still loaded. Far from ideal, but I’m not exactly spoiled for choice here. No photo-flow so as not to leave dried gunk on the reels, either.

How will they turn out? No idea, I’ll check in the morning when they’ve had plenty of drying time behind them. I do know that the one strip I did last night is looking much better now. Which is good because one of those frames is lined up for an 11×14 print in the next few days and I need it at its best!

Stand Development and Temperature Gradients

I’ve become quite keen on Fuji Acros 100 stand developed in Rodinal at 1+100 dilution for an hour, with a minute of gentle inversion agitations to start. It makes for negatives with just a little grain that I find pleasing and great retention of detail over a wide contrast range.

However, I did stumble into a problem with it the last time I developed some medium format film that way. My negatives had a gradient in the base+fog with one side being noticeably darker than the other, even with the naked eye on a light box. The effect was very pronounced in the scans. What happened?

Well, for the first time with stand development, I decided I should aim to keep the temperature around 68F (20C) to ensure consistency between rolls. So I carefully adjusted a water bath to temperature, let everything sit in it while I loaded the film onto the reel, then after the first minute of inversions I set the tank in the sink and waited for the timer to beep at me 59 minutes later. The water bath came up just over halfway on the tank; any higher and it would have caused the tank to float and fall over.

The room temperature was somewhere around 75F, so every so often I’d monitor the temperature of the water bath and drop an ice cube in to keep it where I wanted it to be.

Straight scan of negative, showing gradient in the film base. The base gets darker as you move to the right.

Straight scan of negative, showing gradient in the film base. The base gets darker as you move to the right.

So here’s what I think happened: as the tank sat there, the bottom 2/3 or so of the developer in it was below the waterline, the rest was above in air a good 7-8 degrees HOTTER than my carefully tempered water bath! Not only that, but the water bath also was untouched, and the thermometer bulb rested at the bottom of the bath so there could have been hotter water at the surface. As a result of this my developer must have had a temperature gradient of several degrees top to bottom. The hotter areas developed more base fog than the colder areas. When I ran through the motions of how the film would have been loaded on the reel, I realized the darker areas were nearest the top of the developing tank. In the scan there was maybe a half-stop of difference from one side of the negative to the other!

The good news? ACR’s gradient tool was able to adjust for this problem relatively easily, and the effect was uniform on the entire roll so fixed once, fixed for all the scans.

The bad news? Could be an interesting exercise in printing if I ever get access to a darkroom with enlarger. Slowly uncovering the paper from one side to the other to allow a little extra burning-in time in the most fogged area should be enough. Having never printed in the darkroom of course, I’m guessing here but it seems to make sense to me.

After inversion to a positive image, the "frame" area is lighter on the right, due to overdevelopment.

After inversion to a positive image, the “frame” area is lighter on the right, due to overdevelopment.

The moral? If I’m going to stand develop, best to just leave it at room temperature whatever that may be. It’s rarely going to stray too far from 68F. If I get a little more base fog, so be it; since my first act on starting to scan is locking Vuescan’s exposure setting to the film base anyway, I may not even see any difference in the raw scans. Nor should it pose any problem for darkroom printing if I ever get the chance to do that.

Photo USA

Just wanted to give a quick shout out for a local business, Photo USA on Colonial Avenue in Roanoke. I’ve used them for several rolls of color print film developing, and am more than happy with the results and especially their handling of my film. No fingerprints and no scratches or crud on the last half-dozen frames because they know that a 36-exposure roll held at waist level will drag along the ground behind you and therefore refrain from doing that.

At $3/roll plus sales tax for C-41 develop only ($4 for 120 format) at time of writing this, they’re not much more expensive than CVS were, and cheaper than mailing out. They’ll package up my uncut negatives in continuous plastic sleeve which means I can just lay the whole thing out flat on the kitchen table for cutting. Only then do I need to don the creepy white cotton gloves to transfer the strips into archival pages. Much easier to deal with.

I’ll be trying them for some E-6 development soon, once I’ve run a roll of the Fujichrome film I ordered recently through a camera.

If you’re shooting film in the Roanoke Virginia area and want it processed by people who know what they’re doing, I’d recommend Photo USA.

To E-6 or not to E-6

The glory of E-6, inadequately captured by digital.

The glory of E-6, inadequately captured by digital.

I’m still toying with the idea of shooting E-6 after being so very impressed by the Kodachrome I shot in the final days of last year and especially the results I got shooting a roll of 6×6 on Fuji Velvia 50. The film itself isn’t much more expensive, especially in 120 format (actually medium format Fuji Provia 100F is cheaper than Kodak Ektar 100 in 5 packs!), but you can nearly triple the development cost unless you DIY it or send it out in big batches to one of the larger mail-order labs.

I really like the end result though, the workflow is a little simpler because I can easily make selects for scanning using a light table and my 10x-loupe-assisted eyeball, and did I mention how much I like the results? 😉

One option which might work is the Arista 1 pint kit sold by Freestyle Photographic. Pick that up along with a 5-pack of film, shoot the 5 rolls and develop them in one run. Cost is a little under half for development vs processing locally. Or batch up those 5 rolls and send them out to somewhere like Dwayne’s or North Coast, using the local lab if I absolutely must have it developed right away. That would be competitive with DIY and less mess, yet wouldn’t really penalize me much as far as time to development since I’d be batching the rolls up anyway, then finding time to spend several hours developing.

I’ll have to think on it, because color negative material has its advantages too and is cheap to develop locally.