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Friday, 22 September 2017

Water marks on film. you need to be bold

It is a great sense of achievement to behold a set of wet glistening negatives in all their tonal glory. It is your first chance to see how well they have been exposed and a relief to see all those rectangles or squares in a row. But it is a time of controversy in how you get them dry and clean.

Normal wisdom states at the end of the processes you add half a dozen drops of wetting agent to the last rinse, swish the reel about a few times and leave to stand for a minute. This helps to break the tension of the water so when you hang it to dry the water forms little droplets that run off without leaving any water marks behind when it is dry. The reality is quite different for some.

Wetting agent is not some magic bullet that you cannot do without. Heresy! I hear shouted from the back of the room! It is true the inter web is filled with photographers bemoaning those calcium water marks unseen until the print is hanging up to dry. You film scanners need not sit there smugly because you can take it out using photoshop. I hear a lot of complaints from this sector as well - time lost to spotting. The real smug ones are those that never get this problem when they use wetting agent. Well bully for you! Most of us do not have super soft water that just caresses our film and falls off!


Please do not get me started on those delicate lovelies that believe that if you touch wet film it will be ruined. Lets have some reality here! Wet film is a lot more resilient than it is given credit. For those of a delicate disposition please look away as what I'm going to say next is going to be outrageous to the extreme. I do not use wetting agent and I use a damp shammy leather to wipe both sides of my film dry.


It is a shocking and stunning revelation, but I have had no choice in the matter - honest officer! I have been plagued with wetting agent contamination over recent times that no amount of cleaning and washing has put right. This has led me to hand drying the film. Before you start banging the door down I should point out that there is a very nasty bit of kit called a film squeegee that has in the past ruined countless frames of film by putting a scratch line through them all. It took a long time and many rolls film to discover. So I make no apologies for these outrageous actions.

 Seriously! I now have water mark free negatives that air dry more quickly and no more blotchy looking prints. I wrote an article on how I discovered that wetting agent was the problem. Called wetting agent contamination. 




Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Out of date film Home truths.

The use of out of date film has become very popular over the last few years. So much so that it has become a bit of a sub culture within the film world, with some photographers stating that it is all they use. I get the impression that in some cases there is a bit of grand standing, look at me, my photography is better because of it! If it has improved your picture making then all well and good, but I have to say that some of the images I have seen makes me wonder why did they bother! I personally see no advantage in using out of date, apart from the fact it is slightly less expensive than fresh. 

Lets be honest about this how often do you end up with a blank film?

But then again there is a certain extra thrill in the knowledge that when you take the lid off the developing tank and view the wet film with nicely exposed negatives, a sense of relief at your gay abandonment to the natural order of things was worth the risk. In my experience the risk is very small but if you read some blogs it is a step to far to contemplate.

120 Fujicolour Superia out of date by 10 years.
So why would you treat out of date film to a different set of process times?

I have always used out of date film long before it became popular. I just keep using the film stock till it runs out. It was not until recent times that I have taken note of the process before date and now that I have that knowledge it has not made any difference to the way I make images and process the film. When comparing them to in date negatives of the same make I can see no difference.




120 Fujicolour Superia out of date by 10 years.
So how do you store your film?

There is a lot of myth and misunderstanding about how to store your film after you have purchased it. The one thing that destroys film faster than anything else is humidity. Even in these situations, as long as the film is kept in its sealed containers and wrappers (medium format) it will remain in good condition. So common sense would suggest that you only break the film out when you are about to use it. Surely? 





So why would you need to store it in a fridge or freezer?

I used to do this until I was caught out by not getting the film from the fridge the day before. I seriously questioned whether there was any advantage to doing it. Common sense suggested that the weather in the UK never really gets that extreme so why bung the fridge up? -(there was a cheer from the other half when I removed it all!) - after all, I purchased it to use, not stock pile. Obviously everyone's circumstances are different. But I have found a growing number of people who store film in a draw find it more convenient and allows for spontaneity. Not having to second guess myself about will I or Won't I need a film tomorrow has freed up creativity.

 With this in mind I purchased a carton of out of date film. It is a mixed box of T max 400, Ilford delta 100, 3200 and XP2 400. I did this because I had been toying with the idea of trying out TMAX 400, but it then occurred to me that I had never used the others either. So now is my chance. I was told they had all been stored in a draw and were still in the sealed wrappers. Good enough for me! 

This selection of emulsions are a maximum of seven years out of process date. I have used so far the delta 100 and 3200 at box speed. Developed in RO9 @1+50 @20C using my usual method. The results are what I would expect from fresh stock.

There is a down side, it can go wrong occasionally, but it is a lot rarer than people would have you believe and it is more than likely to be human error than failure of materials. Some of you will be uncomfortable with the idea and I understand that reticence, especially if you are new to film photography.

I have written two other posts on the subject: Film storage - is a more technical look and colour out of date - which talks about an old film left in the camera for years. My view on film storage has not changed as these other post will reinforce. Remember do not be influenced by other peoples narrow mindedness. Photography is about being creative and that means there are no rules. 

Out of film Delta 3200, dev RO9, printed on Adox MCP