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


Monday, 11 September 2017

We are back!

Mad rush to get first dibs on there preferred films. 
We have not forsaken you my friends. We will be publishing a series of posts very soon. They have been written and now thankfully the editor is back in the hot seat after a prolonged bout of illness. They will be wiped into shape so you can read them.  

We look forward to seeing you all again. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Picture Post, Planes

For me making images of aircraft is heaven. It is the combination of two loves. As you can see these are not the bog standard images you see, they are about the poetry of flight.






Technical Data: Camera Nikon FM, Film Agfa APX iso 100, Printed on Ilford multigrade RC gloss, Developed in Multigrade.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Enlarging lens revisited

Recently black and white photography magazine has been celebrating it's two hundredth edition which gave me impetus to rediscover what was in some of those back issues. While thumbing through one issue, an article about enlarging lenses caught my eye, reminding me that I have been meaning to revisit the subject.

I have written a couple of small articles: Enlarging lens and which aperture  I re-read both before writing this one so as not to repeat myself. But that is not going to be easy as the main issue with enlarging lenses is quality. The rule of thumb is to choose a lens of six or more elements. The Componon-s and Rodagon are two modern designs that work very well - they are two quality makes of the few still available new.

Looking down a focus finder at F5.6- F8
In the 1970s Nikon special optics division set about producing a darkroom lens second to none ( Apo-EL-Nikkors ). It was done in a one off batch, releasing a number to the market over a ten year period until they were all gone. It has been said that at the end of this period they did consider doing another run but stopped doing so because they would have had to sell the lenses for £12,000 each. I do not know if this figure is true or not. If it is, it will have made the original runs price in the thousands and therefore out of the reach for most of us.

The enlarging lens has one job to do and that is to project the the image from the negative to the paper perfectly. The one hindrance to good enlargement method and creativity is poorly maintained or ignorantly used enlarging lens practice. It is not good enough to think if you close the lens right down, like you would a camera lens, that you will increase the sharpness of the image. The rule again is to close the lens down by two F numbers. In a lot of cases this produces the optimum sharpness. One stop more may result in a softening of the grain structure. This does not mean that you will notice a softening of sharpness with the mark one eye ball as the image is projected onto the paper. Like a lot of things in photography the kit is made to a greater quality than can be seen in normal life.

Focus finder
Enlarging lenses should not be treated as second class citizens as they are several time better in quality than the camera mounted counterparts. They do their best work in a very narrow range of magnifications. For 35mm negatives the lens is optimized to 10x its size which equates to an enlargement of 10x8. As you go up the format scale this decreases 6x6cm lenses 6x and 5x4in 4x magnification. As you push past the optimal point it increases the possibility's of grainy photographs. This is not to say you should not push beyond this point as experience has shown. You can negate this by using ultrafine film developers.

Grain at f11

How do you see which is the best apertures to use? You need to complement your lens with a good focus finder. This magnifies the grain of the negative so you can see it. The best way to use the finder is to have the enlarging lens fully open. Place the finder in the middle of the baseboard. While looking down it at the grain, adjusting the bellows until it separates into little defined specks. This will mean that you now have fine focus.

While still looking down the finder shut the lens down a stop at a time. There will be a point where the look of the grain go's slightly soft and becomes softer the more you close it down. You should remember that you are still at optimum focus. To test this you can try to adjust the sharpness in most cases it will get worse and become to difficult to regain any sharpness until you go back to the optimum aperture.

Grain at F16 looking down the focus finder.

What has been described above is my experience with one of my 35mm enlarging lens. I will point out that it is not a well known make. It is one I use often. The softening of the grain in the focus finder is not transferred to a softer looking image on the baseboard that can be detected with the naked eye but you will start to question whether it is affecting the quality of your images. The only way you will know is to borrow or buy a better quality lens and do a comparison.

When considering buying a lens you should spend as much as possible to ensure that you get a good to very good lens. Knowledge that the lens is not what you expected will impact on your photography subconsciously.  

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Monday, 20 March 2017

Finding the edges of Eukobrom AC

One open ,One untouched.
I have some good and bad news concerning Tetenal's Eukobrom AC. I have been pushing the developer to find it's limits. Without knowing where the edges are you cannot be sure that you are getting the optimum usage.

Used and depleted

The good news is that two litres of diluted developer at 1 to 9 stored in a slot processor will remain usable for up to six weeks. Obviously this will vary depending on your circumstances. Also as the developer gets older the solution becomes more brown. Along with this it imparts some of this colour to the photograph by producing a subtle chocolate brown warmth in this case with Kentmere select RC gloss. A paper I have been using alot.

The bad news is, while I have been involved in seeing how long a working solution will last, I forgot to mark the stock bottle with an 'opened on date'!. As a result 800mls of unused developer has been thrown away. The first time I have had to do this ever! 
Continence from open

I discovered this 'error' at the start of a printing session. The existing developer was tested for usability and found to be no longer viable. So I made up a new batch to find that this was also depleted. I was suspicious that the open bottle was off by the colour but made up a new batch anyway. In the past with other traditional developers the colour does not always indicate that it is exhausted. It took time to find out for sure as the new developer was producing a very soft test image without any contrast. I was using Kentmere paper, not known for being on the soft side and very quick to produce an image when placed in the developer, seconds in fact. In this case it still was not right after two minutes. After several attempts it was dumped. Not impressed to say the least.

Test Prints from open bottle of Eukobrom AC 

Not to worry I had a new unopened bottle. However on pouring the new bottle into the measuring jug this was brown in colour as well. Not the slight orange colour I was expecting. Now I was angry. I made up a batch anyway and to my surprise I was met with a well developed test image. Fully toned, great!

Developer from fresh

It took over an hour to get to this point what with one thing and another. My temper mellowed as each successive photograph left the developer fully toned.

Will I use the developer again? I still have the best part of a litre left from a dodgy opened bottle that has an 'opened on date'. As long as the contents are viable I will use it again. As to re stocking it? Not sure? It is just as well I keep some of my old friends in stock.

Developer from
fresh bottle.

Test print in fresh developer..
I did email Tetenal a long time ago to find out if they had any suggestions as to why this should be the case but have had no answer, I can share with you at the point of writing there is still no answer on posting.

Printed on Kentmere RC gloss paper developed in Tetenal Eukobrom AC

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Picture Post Eukobrom AC

Paper Kentmere RC gloss.
The images that appear in this gallery have been processed using Tetenals Eukobrom AC developer on a number of different papers.

I would like to thank Tetenal for there interest in and re-blogging of the first look post. It was a big surprise when they got intouch.

There is a new post on Eukobrom to be published not all good news.

Paper Fomatone  Chamois 542-11 matt

Paper Ilford FB gloss
Paper Fotospeed RC gloss

Paper Kentmere RC gloss

Paper Fomatone Chamois 542-11 matt

Technical Data:

Camera Bronica SQAi, lens 80mm, Film ilford FP4+ iso 125, Fomapan 100 iso 100, Negative size 120 6x6, Developed in Studional.

Scanned from paper size 9.5 x 12, paper used listed with each image.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Double grade printing.

From time to time I find it strange the way events come together! for instance, I was in the darkroom working on some prints that I could not get the sky to burn in properly. There was nothing unusual in me burning in the sky, most of the photographs I produce have had the skies enhanced in some way. But this time I could not get it the way I wanted it.

The strangeness in this case was that a few days before, I was reading a thread on my favourite forum about how to deal with whited out skies when printing. I took part giving an account of my method of dealing with it. One of the other contributors suggested split grade printing. But when he described the process it is more akin to double grade printing - this is where you use another grade to bring out part of the image that will not burn in at the grade you are using.

All the circled images needed double grade printing.

The process:

The contact print in this case suggested that the stone work of the building and sky were under exposed when compared to the reflection. The segmented test print (grade 2) proved this by indicating that it may need to be burned in for an extra twenty seconds above base exposure of thirty seven seconds. Even with the extra light it did not make the difference. After a further print and forty seconds burn in, it still was not right. I decided to see if changing to a harder grade when burning in would make the difference.

With the discussion still fresh in my mind I opted to use the double grade method to see if it would solve the problem I was having. I normally would have used pre flashed paper but that would mean starting all over again with a pre-flashed test strip. I chose the simpler route of dialing in a harder grade, in this case 4, before burning in the sky and face of the building.

The red area indicates the over lap area of the mask.
Something to consider:

When using this method certain negatives can produce a grainier look to the picture which may not be to your liking and you need to be careful not to knock the masking frame when changing the settings and using the mask.

The burning in method:

It takes practice to get this method to look natural, which is easy to master when you have a nice defined area without things like buildings poking up above the horizon. A piece of card is needed to use as a mask. You do not need to use black card but if you have some all well and good. Otherwise any card will do, if one side is brighter than the other you should always make that side face the lens to reflect the light back. In my opinion you should make the mask smaller than the site that needs covering. Because the card is kept moving it will make up for the under size when used with an up and down motion. If you don't you can end up with a lighter shaded area a bit like an out line you would get if it was still. When you get it right it is very satisfying.


I used forty seconds at grade four to burn in the building and sky. How did I know it would work? I further considered the segmented test print, took a calculated risk and listened to the little voice in the back of my head. In other words I went with the creative flow.


Basic outline for split grade printing.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Trouble in the darkroom

My darkroom is a very personal space, the only acknowledgement to it being standard is the separation of wet and dry working areas. It is just big enough for one person to work in comfortable. A bit of a glorified closet really! which has meant I have had to find ways of making the space work hard to meet the needs of both wet-and dry sides working areas.

One of the things I have had to do is to put the 12 x16 paper processor under the work top on a pull out shelf. It was done originally to save space but has proved to be inspired in a way I had not foreseen. Being able to look down on the print process has made it a more relaxed way to work. Keeping the work top clear for other wet side needs has not worked so well, the top is being dominated by the tray I use to put the tube covers that keep the chemicals fresh in the slot processor. It was a large tray so that the tops could be spaced far enough apart to stop cross contamination. 

However, it all came to a head when I wanted to try a new print developer and use it with a tray so I could monitor when the first signs of the image appeared, then transfer it to the processor for stop and fix. I should explain that the darkroom does not have running water. I usually part fill a tray with water to put the fixed photographs in then wash them at the end of the session in the bathroom. Anyway I had the water tray precariously balanced on top of the slot covers in their tray as the rest of the top was taken up with the developing tray. It must have been a good day as I did not manage to tip the whole lot over myself. 

I now seriously considered ways of storing the slot tops that would keep the worktop clear. It came to me that the best way was to stand them on end. My first thought was to use a number of metal clips attached to the wall. I cannot understand why I had not come to this conclusion sooner. Once I had thought about it. It was not such a good idea as fix attacks metal. I decided it would be better to use plastic, so took some measurements, sat down and did a number of drawings of a tray that would hold the tubes upright. Then thought about how to stop cross contamination, so added sections to the base. Once I had refined the basic look and measurements I showed the idea to my mate at Plasweld, he helped to simplify the design and added a splash back to stop chemicals running all over the place when loading the tops into the stand. 

A few weeks later the stand is finished. It works very well and has freed up lots of space on the worktop allowing me to work more safely. Such a simple idea that has made a big difference.

A typical layout for a darkroom

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Picture post Snow

This week I'm sharing these images of snow. Not that we have any but you never know.   

Technical Data:

In order of appearance:

  1. Nikon FM, 35mm, FP4, ISO 125, developed in Acufine, negative scanned.
  2. Bronica SQAi, 120, FP4+, ISO 125, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade. 
  3. Bronica SQAi, 120, FP4+, ISO 125, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade. 
  4. Bronica SQAi, 120, FP4+, ISO 125, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade. 
  5. Bronica SQAi, 120, FP4+, ISO 125, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade.
  6.  Bronica SQAi, 120, FP4+, ISO 125, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade. 
  7. Nikon F5 35mm,  Agfa APX, ISO 100, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade. 
  8. Nikon F5 35mm,  Agfa APX, ISO 100, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade. 
  9. Nikon F5 35mm,  Agfa APX, ISO 100, developed in ID11, printed on Ilford Multigrade paper RC gloss, developed in  Ilford Multigrade.