Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The story behind the Winter Picnic Photograph.

It was round about this time last year (November/December 2010) that the UK was in the grip of the worst cold spell for as it turns out a hundred years. The country may have just missed coming to a standstill but it stopped me in my tracks literally, as I couldn't get the truck off the drive. The ice was a solid two inches thick not allowing for any grip!

The snow brought a brand new look to the area that I had not seen before, so I thought I would go out and take some photographs of this fresh, clean new wonderland of soft edges. Armed with my Bronica SQAi 120 format camera loaded with FP4 film I trudged gingerly off into the countryside.

I was quite surprised to find there we a lot of people out and about with the same idea, walking the dog, playing and enjoying their enforced day off work. As I strolled further afield the numbers thinned until I was alone enjoying the crisp white land the snow had laid out for me to photograph; so engrossed with the scenes before me I forgot how bitterly cold it was until my throbbing freezing fingers sent SOS messages to my brain and brought me back to reality -“Shhahhhoi!!! Its cold.!” Pulling my gloves on the best I could I made off in a hurry to warm up.

Briskly walking up a path by one of the lakes the path turns a corner at the top where there is a bench and from a distance it looks like someone is sitting there! As I got closer I could see it was two people! -”they must be mad!- and it looks like they are having a picnic!” As I got closer I could see steam from their cups as they ate their mince pies! An idea for this picture was forming as I approach them to ask if they would mind being in the photograph. They did not mind, so I walked back down the track a bit, set up the camera on the mono pod, took a light reading and pressed the shutter. You're right! I only used one frame, no back up or bracketing, the view that came to mind is the one I took. After the shot was taken I walked back and chatted for a while. Apparently they don't let a little bad weather get in the way of them coming to their favourite spot! I wish them the best of the season and moved on. Not so mad after all! I wish I had thought to bring a hot drink with me!

I am pleased to say that Picnic was one of the Pictures chosen for this years Film and darkroom users Year Book. Which can be obtained from Blurb.

FADU year books

Film Developing faults.

The most common faults that crop up in the course of processing a film.

    • Spots on the negative indicate two things: there was dust on the film at the time of exposure and/or fairly large round spots on the negative indicate that air bubbles were trapped against the film during the process and suggests insufficient agitation. This can be avoided by agitating for thirty seconds at the beginning of development and by tapping the tank on the bench. (some developers require longer agitation). It must be stressed that too vigious and lengthy agitation can induce the same problem. A way of helping to reduce air bubbles is to use a pre-soak. Some developers like PMK Pyro and Rollie's R3 require a pre soak as standard.
    • Black crescent-shaped kinks and clear patches more common with roll film but can happen with 35 mm cassettes, this happens where the film has been forced into the spiral making the film kink and touching the film beside it.
    • Lines are most commonly caused by the film running across a small piece of grit on the cassette opening. It can also happen by over tightening the film in the cassette and bad handling. One of the most common, which has happened to me, is the use of a squeegee to dry the film. I have not used one since.
    • Finger marks on negatives are caused by handling the film with wet, dirty and contaminated fingers. This can be eliminated by using disposable gloves during the wet process and cloth cloves when handling dry negatives.
    • White marks are caused by grease and fixer before development and dark marks by fingers covered in water or developer. Slight damage can be retouched.
    • Reversal of negative image is due in part or total to solarization making the negative into a positive; this happens when light gets to the unprocessed film during development. Care must be taken with the processing tank that the lid is fully secure before inverting.
    • Uneven image density is a sign that there is not enough developer in the tank or lack of agitation. A low-level of developer in the tank will show as a dark unprocessed line along the top edge of the film.
    • Reticulation is a lot of fine cracks in the emulsion this is caused by washing in too high a temperature or solutions greatly different in temperature. This can be avoided by making sure that the solutions only have a few degrees difference between them.
    • Deposits on the negative and discolouration. Hard water may cause a chalky deposit on the negative that cannot be washed away in water. It can be treated with a two percent solution of acetic acid, then washed in clean water. The same sort of problem may be due to the fix losing its acidity. A treatment would be to harden the negative in one percent solution of formalin, then wash in sodium carbonate followed by water. Yellow-white negatives may be due to deposits of sulphur from a decomposing fixer, it can be remedied by hardening in a one percent formalin solution and washing in a ten percent sulphite solution at thirty-eight degrees.

Under development

means the film has not been fully developed. The negative will look thin/ lighter than it should be even though you have exposed it correctly how does this happen:

  • Too short a development time.
  • Partially exhausted developer.
  • Too low a temperature ( standard being 20 degrees C. alcohol thermometers take about a minute to register the correct temperature.)
  • insufficient agitation during development.

If you pay attention to the details you should not under develop your film. Find a good working method and stick to it.

Over development

The film has been processed for longer than it needed. The following can cause this:
  • Too long a development time.
  • Too high a temperture. ( thermometers can go wrong.)
  • Too much agitation.
Attention to these factors should avoid this. If you know that a film has been under exposed then you can remmedy it by over developing.

Maximum-energy developer

With this type of developer it is possible to double or treble the speed of a film. These developers promote an extremely strong response in the emulsion. They can increase the speed in a film that is too slow for the job. It can reliably produce a speed increase of up to three times with this pushed process. The big advantage with these developers is being able to keeping the grain fine and a good degree of sharpness. You need to be carefull when using them and follow the instructions. There are a couple of makes that have these attributes: Ilford Microphen and Promicrol.

How to load a plastic film sprial

This is an outline on how to load a film spiral ready for processing.

The only way to learn is to practice feeding a film onto a spiral in day light. I suggest purchasing a cheap roll of 35mm film, probably colour. It is also a good idea to have a brand new spiral to practice with. This should make the learning curve less steep as older spirals get temperamental the more they have been used.

Prepare the film: You can use a cassette opener or film retriever for 35mm. Once you have the leader/tongue of the film in view use a pair of scissors to cut it square. Then snip the corner off each side, the film is now ready for loading.
Now lay out everything you need on a table in daylight for a complete dummy run. Set the developing tank, lid, spiral with center in place and scissors out in the same order each time to get a picture in your mind's eye, this way you will know where everything is in the dark. Keep the film in your hand. With your eyes closed load the film on the spiral, place it in the developing tank, put the lid on and turn till it clicks shut. Some tanks have a screw top so be careful not to cross thread it. After a few practices you maybe ready to do it for real.

Note: Make sure your hands are clean and dry. Damp or sweaty fingers can cause problems with the loading of the film and leave marks on the processed negatives. It is a good idea to wear soft cotton gloves for protection.

Tip: If you wash your hands in cold water before you start it closes the pores reducing the need for gloves. It is also a good idea to earth yourself on a radiator to stop charging the film with static electricity therefore attracting dust. 

It is a lot easier to do than it sounds, so don't be put off. Everyone has their own way of doing this so if you have a tip to add please do.

This video gives a straight forward no-nonsense look at how it is done.

Fine grain developers

The production of fine grain in a negative is dependent on, in the first place, speed of the film and the choice of developer. The object is to keep the structure of the grain in the emulsion as small as possible so that it does not show up in the enlargments. Fine grain developers are best suited to films of medium speed about 125 ISO and above.

Some of the best known fine grain developers: Ilfords Microphen and ID11, Tetenal Ultrafin, Kodak D76, PMK Pyro is a staining developer that produces a fine grain and for the new grain techologies: Kodak HC110 and T max, Ilford LC29 and Tetenal Ultrafin plus, just to name a few.