Dev by Inspection - How do you NOT scratch the film?

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Hi all,

I have experimented with developing sheet film by inspection for about 3 weeks now. I managed to increase from 1 sheet as a starting point, to 2 and 3 sheets. Then for the heck of it, I threw 6 of them in there to see how it went, and they all came out scratched. There were two different types of film in there, FP4+ and J&C400. The Ilford sustained better, because of its prehardened emulsion, but there were still tiny scratches, especially in images with clear sky and/or snow or large flat surfaces (I guess they are just more visible there).

I've tried developing with the emulsion up and down, been using different amounts of developer, and I shuffle from bottom to top, in a constant pattern of roughly 3 to 4 rotations per minute.
I should mention that I'm very happy with the results apart from the scratches.

What am I doing wrong? Have you any secret techniques?

Thankful for help,

- Thomas
Saint Paul, MN
 
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David A. Goldfarb

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This is not specifically a DBI issue, but a tray development issue. You might decide with the East European films to go with an alternate method of development. You can still do DBI easily with tanks and hangers.

Make sure you have enough solution in the tray and that the tray is one size bigger than the format. I like trays that have a single large "X" pattern on the bottom, and I'm not sure why, but stainless trays seem to be more trouble free.

Wear surgical gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals and to protect the film from your fingernails.

I process face up. Keep the stack together, and when you pull out the bottom sheet, pull it straight out of the stack, so that the bottom sheet isn't scratched by the corner of the sheet above it. When you put the bottom sheet onto the top of the stack, bend the leading edge of the sheet up a bit and pass it from the front of the tray to the back in a sweeping motion. There are good illustrations of this in Ansel Adams' _The Negative_.
 

James Bleifus

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David's given some great advice. To it I would only emphasize being sure to have enough developer in the tray. When I first began tray development I found that my scratch issues came from too little developer. Now I can develop 8-12 sheets of Efke at a time without a problem. I also use a tray with inverted ribs so that they point downward. For what it's worth, J&C 400's emulsion seems to be even softer than Efke.

Cheers,

James
 
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Personnaly, I go the long way around. I process each sheet of (8x10) film separately using DBI and brush processing in a tray with 400ml of solution. Not only are there NO scratches, but the "uneven sky syndrome" (aka blotting) is completely gone.

I used to process 6 sheets at a time but never could get scratches and/or blotting under total control. One sheet at a time may seem inconvenient but given how much time it takes to get a scene onto film in the first place, the extra minutes are insignificant overall.
 

Jeremy

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I think it is just a matter of practice with 6 sheets. The first time I had some scratches, but after that I haven't had any.

With 8x10+ film sizes I would personally look into brush development, but that's because I can comfortably hold the 5x7 film in one hand.
 
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Thomas Bertilsson
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Thanks for the suggestions...

...I'll be making another attempt tonight.

I have been wondering to myself if it really is recommendable to develop more than a few sheets at a time. Maybe I need more practice.
When I think about it, it's hard for me to keep track of up to six sheets at the same time anyway.

I'll try steel trays, as a close inspection of the plastic trays I have reveales small scratches at the bottom, barely identifyable.
I'll also be using more developer in the tray. I've been using an 8x10 tray for 4x5 negs, which is overkill in ernest. I'll be getting some 5x7 trays.

Thanks,

- Thom
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Work up to 6 sheets. If you've been able to do 3 sheets successfully, try 4. I do up to 8 sheets of 8x10". Jock Sturges has been known to do up to 16 sheets in trays. I find it easier to do more sheets, usually, because each sheet is handled less that way.

An interesting suggestion that I've read, but haven't tried yet, is to put a strip of wood under the far edge of the trays, so that the sheets will naturally fall toward you and not get out of control.
 

BarrieB

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I am also curious' What is BRUSH PROCESSING ? And Where do you place the Green inspection light ? Barrie B.
 
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Charles Webb said:
Daniel,
What do you mean by "brush processing"?

Brush processing is actually an old method used (and invented) by Astonomers when they used sheet film. They had serious issues with uneven development (which caused false readings) so they came up with brush development.

The procedure simply means that a sheet of film is placed emulsion side up in a tray and you, literally, paint the negative using a soft brush. The idea is to have the chemicals sort of forced into the emuslion in an even fashion although you apply very little force to the neg. The weight of the brush is sufficient pressure. Paint the neg from top to bottom/left to right througout the dev time. I use a very soft painter's brush that is 2" wide or so.

This can only be done with one neg at a time. I use 8x10 trays and 400ml of chemicals per 8x10 neg.

There's nothing to it and the results speak or themselves. As a test, take a couple shots of a scene with lots of clear blue sky. Do one sheet using your normal dev procedure and one with brush dev. You'll immediately see the difference when you print both. One will have uneven, smoky sky , the other a clear one.

Try it, you'll like it.
 
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BarrieB said:
I am also curious'...... Where do you place the Green inspection light ? Barrie B.

Look up a very well written procedure on the AZO forum by Michael A. Smith. Paula (Chamlee... the nicest photographer I've ever met) taught me the procedure in her (and Michael's) darkroom and it has way too many advantages to use any other procedure, IMO.

http://www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/index_skip.html
 

Charles Webb

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I appreciate the explanation, I am by no means new to dark room work,
but had never heard of "brush Developing" . I have used the technique in the past, but didn't know it had a name. See now I am an old trick that just learned a new dog! Errr something like that! :smile:

Thanks again!!!!
 
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