Troubleshooting RA-4 colors

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Hey friends,

I could really use some help troubleshooting some problems with my RA-4 printing. Bought the Ektacolor RA developer/replenisher RT & Ektacolor bleach/fix from Adorama, those came yesterday and I mixed them up today, making especially sure to not cross contaminate funnels and beakers with the wrong chemicals. I've been doing it in trays at 20C, 2 minutes for developer, a quick stop bath rinse, and 2 minutes in the blix (as suggested in previous threads). The problem is, when exposing at the standard C-0 M-50 Y-60, my prints appear red. Here's a raw scan of that first print:
firstprint.jpg

I also ran a test strip at maxed cyan, magenta, yellow, and unfiltered white enlarger light to get a better understanding of what's going on color-wise, these are the results:
colortest.jpg

At this point, I'm like 90% sure its a chemistry problem (I couldn't help but notice that part A of the blix had a whole lot of precipitated sulfur, and that the entire a-c developer had expired as of February 2018), but I'd love to hear any input from people with more experience. Could it be a paper issue instead? Or is it possibly a technique issue too?
 

RPC

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Hard to say if the developer is bad but the blix surely has a problem. But I think the red is due to filtration. Starting filtrations in the neighborhood of 50M, 60Y are often suggested, but that is what they are, starting points. You almost never get perfect color the first print with these suggestions and have get to the correct filtration setting by trial and error. In your case you need to add more magenta and yellow in the enlarger to counter the red in the print. Try 10-15 more units of each, observe the change, and go from there. Eventually you will likely have to tweak each one individually. Do not add any cyan.
 

Mick Fagan

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That certainly looks a bit on the red side, maybe a touch of yellow as well.

However work on the basis it is a red cast, do a ring around taking out red in steps of say, 5 units at a time.

Currently you have 50M and 60Y so adding 5 units at a time you would start with a ¼ part of an 8x10” sheet exposed with 55M 65Y, then the next ¼ part of your sheet with 60M 70Y and the following ¼ parts of your sheet of paper with 65M 75Y and lastly 70M 80Y.

If possible, expose the same part of the negative for each colour filter change. I would use the part of the newspaper with the man in the suit.

I would use your second density exposure time and keep it at that time for all exposures, meaning, as you add more filtration the print will start to get slightly lighter. Please note that as your print gets less exposure, this will also make the colour less red. By only changing the colour filtration and nothing else, you will have only one known variable. By changing the exposure each time as well, you have two variables; don’t do this at this early stage of your colour printing career.

I’m guessing that around 70M 80Y will be reasonably closer in correct colour, although I could be wrong. I’m thinking that your fourth colour filtration change will be closer to being correct. At this stage, if the colour has constantly been getting better as the filtration changes, then you could have a good idea if your colour cast is a predominantly red cast. By doing the four changes on one sheet, you should be able to see a clear and progressive change quite easily.

When you are really on the money with C41 colour printing, then differences of say 1 unit of magenta can be seen. Plus, as I said before, adding density (making a print darker by using a longer exposure time) will make a print more red, conversely, using less density will make a print more cyan.

Perhaps the best accessory is to find a set of Kodak Color Print viewing filters, they really do give you a big help in sorting which way things are not quite right.

Mick.
 

btaylor

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I hate to sound like a broken record, but it will be really helpful for you to get neutral color if you take a pic of an 18% gray card properly exposed in whatever type of light you use and use that to calibrate your color correction. All films and papers have their own slight color variations so you have to adjust for all of them
+1 on the Kodak viewing filters. It will make seeing what adjustments need to be made much easier.
 

Photo Engineer

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Looks like a filtration problem and not a blix problem. Can you get a white border? If so, then development and blix are both ok.

PE
 

mnemosyne

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There ain't no such thing as a "Standard" filtration.

You always adjust the filters until the cast is cancelled out.

Don't look at the numbers. Look at the print. You have a red cast. You need to add M+Y filtration until you see a cyan cast.
THEN you know you have too much filtration and dial back towards neutral.

Wether the dials read "050"&"060" or "001"&"999" doesn't matter, the procedure is always the same.

When cancelling out a cast, depending on the strength of the cast you can proceed in steps of 5, 10 or 20.

If you can get a good solid black with a completely fogged strip of paper your developer shoud be good.

White borders will tell you if your blix works (at all) and if there is any (severe) fogging.

Don't use expired RA4 paper if you're beginner, it is a waste of time, energy and money. because it is unpredictable and will drive you nuts.
 

RPC

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I would replace the blix. Precipitated sulfur in the fixer part may mean the fixer is not doing its job and if so, you won't see the effect now, but prints may darken or take on a color cast down the stretch.
 

btaylor

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Don't use expired RA4 paper if you're beginner, it is a waste of time, energy and money. because it is unpredictable and will drive you nuts.
This is an excellent point. Use chemistry, film or paper that you are SURE is 100% okay/fresh. When I re-started my RA4 printing I tried some less expensive "house brand" RA4 paper. A good percentage of it had defects which amounted to a lot of waste-- especially of my time, which I don't have a lot of. I now stick exclusively to fresh paper from Fuji, very consistent.
 

DREW WILEY

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'Standard filtration" is a valid concept and saves a lot of time and fuss. It is related to establishing a base point for any given batch of paper and a specific colorhead. Doing it correctly requires a standard negative. I use very carefully exposed shots of a MacBeath Color Checker Chart. In a correctly balanced print, all the gray patches will be completely neutral without any color cast, and all the actual color patches will appear clean and uncontaminated, at least to the ability that particular film is able to do so. The same brand of paper doesn't vary much batch to batch, typically less than 5cc in my own experience with Fuji paper. So once you get to first base using your standard neg, then you can tweak for actual subjects as needed. If nothing else works, throw out all your chem and mix completely fresh. I mix just enough RA4 for a daily session. No sense taking chances. But one thing you should note is that 20C is VERY cool for 2 min steps. And color is affected by temperature. For 2 min I standardize at 83F, just like Kodak recommends on their time/temp chart.
 
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Hey everyone,

Thanks for all the replies! After doing some more research online, I found out that I misunderstood how the paper responds to the different color filters. Oh well, lesson learned. Since my borders were coming out white, as Photo Engineer talked about, I ruled out any issues with chemistry. So, after 4 hours in my darkroom and lots of fine tuning of the filters and I finally got a good print:
finalprint.jpg

Seriously, thank you all so much!! I would've been completely lost without your help.

-Gabe
 

mshchem

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Hey everyone,

Thanks for all the replies! After doing some more research online, I found out that I misunderstood how the paper responds to the different color filters. Oh well, lesson learned. Since my borders were coming out white, as Photo Engineer talked about, I ruled out any issues with chemistry. So, after 4 hours in my darkroom and lots of fine tuning of the filters and I finally got a good print:
View attachment 206163
Seriously, thank you all so much!! I would've been completely lost without your help.

-Gabe
Excellent , once you dial in the filter pack for a certain film/paper combination you will only need minor adjustments. Making pictures in daylight everything should look great. I've had problems with the fixer part of blix too, ppt. Sulfur. In a pinch I've used Ilford rapid fix to mix up the blix.Color printing is so fast and so much fun.
PS red borders mean (in my case) even though you have been doing this since 1973, you still fog the paper by not fully closing the papersafe :smile:
Mike
 

RPC

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But one thing you should note is that 20C is VERY cool for 2 min steps. And color is affected by temperature. For 2 min I standardize at 83F, just like Kodak recommends on their time/temp chart.

The time and temperature combination of 68F-20C with two minutes gives excellent results with Kodak RA/RT Developer-Replenisher. Many here on Photrio use it, and PE endorses it. Kodak's time/temp chart was for their regular RA-4 developer, not the replenisher.
 

gijsbert

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Looks great, what filter settings did you wind up with?
 

DREW WILEY

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I've always used starter RA/RT, never replenisher per se. In fact, I've never even bother to plug in my replenishable roller-transport processor. I prefer using drums, and that per one-shot chemical usage. Anyway, it's generally easier to keep chem warmer rather then cooler than ambient air temp. Glad the problem is solved.
 

MattKing

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If you are trying to calibrate an RA-4 process, it really helps to have a flesh tone that goes from light to shadowed - something like a face that is modeled so that the neck is more shadowed than the cheek bones. That way you can evaluate colour balance over a range of exposure.
This Instagram link about the new beta tested Ektachrome films is a great example of a good test subject:
 

RPC

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That way you can evaluate colour balance over a range of exposure.

A gray scale is best for this, shows light to dark, and readily any unwanted color shift along the way, known as crossover. Can be used to evaluate film processing quality as well as printing.
 

MattKing

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A gray scale is best for this, shows light to dark, and readily any unwanted color shift along the way, known as crossover. Can be used to evaluate film processing quality as well as printing.
While this is true, it doesn't help as much when you are trying to learn how to print real world photographs. Essentially, grey scales reveal process and procedure problems, while properly lit photographs of people help you develop skill at printing a wide variety of photographs.
Unless of course most of your photography is of grey things :smile:.
EDIT: Looking back on my earlier post, I see why RPC posted what he did.
Referring to "calibrating a process" was a mistake. I should have said something more like "developing experience with and learning a process".
 
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