Trying to solve a surge/ bromide drag problem with 35mm negatives (semi-stand development)

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I forgot:
Contrast is good (too) for overcast scenes included in the same roll.
My most common exposure under direct sunlight in this case is 1/125 f/8, without filter.
I use the common AP plastic tank with one of its plastic reels.
 
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Fragomeni

Fragomeni

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I'm back from my trip and catching up now. A lot of questions that were answered in the original posts so no sense in repeating all of that. One good question asked for actual volumes used rather than the ratios. I thought I included that in the original posts but I was initially seeing this when using 1000ml of solution in a 3-reel Patterson tank. Thats around 8.3ml of HC110 concentrate (I eyeball it to 8ml) and the rest is made up in water. That breaks down to a little over 2.5ml of concentrate per roll. Again, that number is lower than the minimum volume often referred to but my testing (and countless others) demonstrate that HC110 works very well at these higher dilutions and that has worked very well for me for many years so I'll continue to use it (specifically with semi-stand).

Yesterday, I spent the day running some tests and comparisons. I decided to eliminate some variables and start testing back from the beginning. I'm not a big fan of Patterson tanks (or any plastic tanks) and was just using those because it was the first things I grabbed. For this round of testing, I used my preferred steel Nikkor tanks and reels. Instead of using a multi-reel tank, I decided to also go with single reel tanks so that I could work with minimal solution volumes and see what was happening on a per roll basis.

I planned to test multiple things but wanted to start with what Sirius said in mind re: orientation of the sky portion of the film toward the bottom of the tank. From my previous tests, I was thinking that regardless of whether or not we're naming the issue as surging or bromide drag, it seemed fairly clear that there was a direction element to the artifacts so I wanted to know for sure if gravity was at play in dragging some kind of byproduct of development down from the sprocket holes into the image area. I tested by shooting two rolls of the same scene. Both were loaded onto the steel Nikkor reels and one was placed into a single-reel tank with the sky oriented toward the top of the tank as I'd done previously. This was a sort of control as I wanted to make sure I could reproduce the issue using these tanks. The other reel was placed into the other single-reel thank with the sky portion of the negatives oriented toward the bottom of the tank. Both tanks were processed at the same time, in the same chemistry (split between the two), under the same conditions, and agitated the same way (inversions with slight rotation). The same 1+119 dilution was used. The single reel tanks hold 300ml total solution each which comes to the same approximately 2.5ml of HC110 concentrate per roll in each single-reel tank.

The first roll, with the sky toward the top (the control), albeit fait reproduced the uneven development emanating from the sprocket holes:

[Side note: I did higher quality scans of these tests instead of quick shots using my phone. My scanning setup doesn't scan sprocket holes which is why these are cropped. Images are straight scans with no editing beside basic tone and color balance.]

Neg4.jpg

Pos4.jpg


The second roll, with the sky oriented to the bottom of the tank, did not exhibit any uneven development in the sky or anywhere else on the negatives. The sky gradient is correct with no streaking and no signs of drag:

Neg5.jpg

Pos5.jpg


While inverting the orientation of the negatives in the tank surly doesn't eliminate whatever mechanism was causing the problem, it does provide a viable solution for preventing it from showing up under the conditions of my test. One remaining question is whether or not developing in a multi-reel tank with the film oriented with sky toward the bottom, if that might still cause a drag issue from the material dragging down from the top reels to the lower ones. I'm unsure if that would happen and will test it with less important rolls later.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in with helpful ideas. I'll most likely make a video to discuss the problem and the steps I took to resolve it. I'll follow up to share the link to that when it's done. Thanks again for the help.
 
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koraks

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I'm glad that you found a workaround. And it's an interesting one, in a sense, as I personally would argue that the root cause of the problem is really insufficient agitation, but given the fact that you don't want to change that parameter, it's useful to know that the problem can at least be circumvented. To an extent. Because there's one thing that worries me: while with the sky-upwards orientation gives you problems with the sprocket holes, there's still the very real possibility that having the film in the opposite orientation will also cause spatial interactions between image or film elements that happen to be above one another. For instance, the horizon in the second example now has a conspicuously bright band immediately above the mountains, which is less present in the first example. Overall contrast of the second example also seems increased, so perhaps it's a red herring, but I'm still somewhat concerned that the low density of the mountain range (resulting in less developer exhaustion) has increased development right next to it - an extreme edge effect, so to speak.

Frankly, my personal preference would still be to increase agitation to the point where unevenness ceases to be a problem. I've done some testing with sheet film over the past few weeks, mainly for carbon transfer printing, and I settled on a minimum period of 5 minutes, which is a period that depends on many factors such as developer, tank geometry, type of film etc. But in the end I found that there are simply no visible advantages to this reduced agitation in the prints made from these negatives compared to more usual 1-minute or 30-second agitation intervals. My reasoning is that if I can't see the difference in my prints, it's not worth the added risk. YMMV, of course.
 

snusmumriken

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The workaround seems to imply that gravity is at work, and - because I'm not a chemist - I don't understand what gravity has to do with it. The 4-aminophenol in Rodinal is - I suppose - a moderately large molecule, and is described as only 'slightly hydrophilic' (Wikipedia). Does that mean it isn't held in solution as readily as (say) a simple inorganic salt? Otherwise, how does it fall toward the bottom of the tank? Would you normally get a concentration gradient in a container full of solution? And if so, how quickly would you expect that to establish?

I'm wondering if the mechanism at play has more to do with the fact that the sky is a large highlight area. I assume solutions must always surge through sprocket holes in 35mm, but in most development techniques this doesn't cause any visible issue. Perhaps it only produces a visible effect when the developer is highly dilute and the areas adjacent to the sprocket hole are highlights (e.g. sky) which are therefore likely to use up the developing agent quickly. That effect would obviously be enhanced if the developing agent is scarce (highly dilute). Please feel free to correct this suggestion if you know better.

But even if local developer exhaustion is the mechanism behind this (and after all, that is the aim of highly dilute developers and semi-stand methods, isn't it?), I don't understand why turning the film upside down would help, except that the low density foreground shadows are less needy of developer. It also doesn't explain why the streaks are vertical (across the film), unless the local exhaustion occurs rapidly during the initial pouring of chemical (and subsequent inversions). Haven't we also seen posts by people who get similar transverse streaks in rotary processors?

I don't even use Rodinal, but I would really like to understand this.
 
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removedacct1

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There's a reason film manufacturers clearly state a recommended agitation technique when developing a film. Opting to stray from what has been determined to be optimal risks introducing unwanted side effects, so don't be surprised if you ruin film by experimenting with non-standard techniques.
In my own tests years ago, I found that "stand" processing with Rodinal always, always introduced uneven, splotchy areas on film - either bromide drag marks, or when using sheet film in trays, big areas of uneven development. Here's a challenge for you: photograph a flat middle value surface, evenly lit, and do your stand processing on it. See what you get.
 

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I don't do a lot of (semi) stand development, but 30s initial agitation AND 2 or 3 inversions at the 30min mark like you did in your first test usually worked to avoid the streaks in the sky. I use a 2-reel paterson plastick tank, but always with one single plastic reel in the tank.

I'd try using a single reel at the bottom of the tank, and adding 2 inversions at the 45min mark as a starting point. But it might take away the effects you like with stand, i don't know.

Agfaphoto APX 100, HC-119 (g) 1:119, 60min semi-stand 20°c

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Same roll of APX 100, rodinal 1:100 60min semi-stand 20°c

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Fomapan 100 (@100 or @80, don't recall), rodinal 1:100 60min semi-stand 20°c

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HP5+ @400, rodinal 1:100 60min semi-stand 20°c : we can see some uneven development here on the last one

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IG_IMG_4554.JPG
 

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Sirius Glass

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I don't do a lot of (semi) stand development, but 30s initial agitation AND 2 or 3 inversions at the 30min mark like you did in your first test usually worked to avoid the streaks in the sky. I use a 2-reel paterson plastick tank, but always with one single plastic reel in the tank.

I'd try using a single reel at the bottom of the tank, and adding 2 inversions at the 45min mark as a starting point. But it might take away the effects you like with stand, i don't know.

Agfaphoto APX 100, HC-119 (g) 1:119, 60min semi-stand 20°c

View attachment 322103 View attachment 322104 View attachment 322105

Same roll of APX 100, rodinal 1:100 60min semi-stand 20°c

View attachment 322106 View attachment 322107 View attachment 322108

Fomapan 100 (@100 or @80, don't recall), rodinal 1:100 60min semi-stand 20°c

View attachment 322109 View attachment 322111 View attachment 322112

HP5+ @400, rodinal 1:100 60min semi-stand 20°c : we can see some uneven development here on the last one

View attachment 322113 View attachment 322114

People can diddle development techniques all they want, but they will never put in the time and effort that the film manufacturers R&D have. So improving the manufacturers' work is a fools folly. Remember that there is a reason that wise people say: Friends do not let friends stand or semi-stand develop film. :laugh:
 

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People can diddle development techniques all they want, but they will never put in the time and effort that the film manufacturers R&D have. So improving the manufacturers' work is a fools folly. Remember that there is a reason that wise people say: Friends do not let friends stand or semi-stand develop film. :laugh:

Friends let friends do experiments with their time an money, if it's not the most important pictures in their lives and have enough to feed themselves at the end of the day. It's not about "improving" anything.

Film manufacturers provide times and agitation methods suited to develop their own films in their own chemistry in the shortest time possible without risk of uneven development, to produce normal contrast negatives to be used in normal enlarger and normal modern papers, so that labs and professionnals can have a good indication on how to make normal prints, fast. It's all good to follow their publications if your want, or need, a safe way to get normal looking photos. But we're in 2022, photojournalists and crime scenes photographers have gone digital for a couple of decades now*, and the analog crowd is for the most part amateurs having fun.

So, since the 1800's, people that chose analog photography instead of a brush and some paint as a tool to make nice things to put on the wall (or "art") have been experimenting with development and printing techniques in order to make what they visualise in their head (or, at least, try to). In that regard, using low developer dilution and minimal agitation is nothing new under the sun and i've been used by a lot of "fine art" photographers, whatever that means.

I love a good debate on a variation of pictorialism vs straight photography, but getting back to the technical side of things, the reason I don't do a lot of semi-stand has i've said is because while it's a decent tool for pictures taken in very harsh daylight, it's not particulary appealing, for me, in all other situations. Plus the fact that I don't like rodinal and HC-110 with fast 35mm films anymore. But that's just me, it seem to work ok for OP.

Maybe the reason why (semi)stand seem popular nowadays is because of the predominance of hybrid workflows. I could see the appeal for flat negatives that you can tweak in lightroom.

*if you're a crime scene photographer using film in 2022, please share your story 🍿
 

M Carter

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A couple thoughts - testing is all about eliminating variables:

Lots of wondering here, about the skies being larger areas of density that makes these issue show up more. I think it's time to shoot a roll of a white wall at zone 8 or 9 or so and run some tests. You'll see if this is a "top or bottom of the tank" issue at least.

The OP's argument for stand is "controlling highlights across varying scene ranges". Yeah, I get that, but you may be better off doing the more-standard "over-expose by a half stop, under-develop by a stop" for 35mm roll film. 35mm is a compromise, it's part of why my 35mm cameras are collecting dust. But I assume OP is scanning and not printing, so there's faily immense contrast control there. You'll get flatter negs but keep skies more in-range.

I'm a believer in "spread the printable tonality as widely across the printable range neg as possible", so the over-expose/under-develop does seem like replacing one compromise with another.

If you really want to bring extreme highs in-range without compressing mids, and you're into blowing through lots of film and time, I'd do some tests with SLIMT processing. From the times I've fooled with it, it's impressive, but what I'd like to see is how SLIMT responds to exposure variance - like, if you SLIMT an entire roll to bring your highest densities down, does it do the same thing to lower-density scenes? Say you have one shot with highs clocking in at F32 and one at F22 - do both highlights get equally SLIMT-ed, or are only the F32 highs affected? Can you basically set a "density limit" for a roll of film, in a way that uses normal processing and just adds one step?

If I still shot 35 I'd have tested the bejesus out of this by now, but one issue with SLIMT is you need to dial it in for each film/dev combo you use.
 

Sirius Glass

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Friends let friends do experiments with their time an money, if it's not the most important pictures in their lives and have enough to feed themselves at the end of the day. It's not about "improving" anything.

Film manufacturers provide times and agitation methods suited to develop their own films in their own chemistry in the shortest time possible without risk of uneven development, to produce normal contrast negatives to be used in normal enlarger and normal modern papers, so that labs and professionnals can have a good indication on how to make normal prints, fast. It's all good to follow their publications if your want, or need, a safe way to get normal looking photos. But we're in 2022, photojournalists and crime scenes photographers have gone digital for a couple of decades now*, and the analog crowd is for the most part amateurs having fun.

So, since the 1800's, people that chose analog photography instead of a brush and some paint as a tool to make nice things to put on the wall (or "art") have been experimenting with development and printing techniques in order to make what they visualise in their head (or, at least, try to). In that regard, using low developer dilution and minimal agitation is nothing new under the sun and i've been used by a lot of "fine art" photographers, whatever that means.

I love a good debate on a variation of pictorialism vs straight photography, but getting back to the technical side of things, the reason I don't do a lot of semi-stand has i've said is because while it's a decent tool for pictures taken in very harsh daylight, it's not particulary appealing, for me, in all other situations. Plus the fact that I don't like rodinal and HC-110 with fast 35mm films anymore. But that's just me, it seem to work ok for OP.

Maybe the reason why (semi)stand seem popular nowadays is because of the predominance of hybrid workflows. I could see the appeal for flat negatives that you can tweak in lightroom.

*if you're a crime scene photographer using film in 2022, please share your story 🍿

Great response, well thought out!
 

Roger Walker

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Posts about surge and bromide drag when using stand and semi-stand development come up fairly often, and I’ve read just about every thread on every forum that touches on both topics but I’m still at a bit of a loss.

Caveat: This isn’t an opening to have yet another discussion debating the merits of stand or semi-stand development. It’s a tool that works well when called for. I’ve used it for years and it works well for me. Regular time and temperature also works well. Just trying to solve this particular issue so let’s please stick to that.

On to the problem. The following are all of the factors at play in how I’m developing. I’m including example test images to show the problem and how it changes based on changes in the development technique. Those are just quick iPhone photos from the negatives on a light table so ignore all the dust and stuff.

In the case of these negatives, I’m using semi-stand development (Tri-X in HC-110 1+119) in a Patterson tank with Patterson reels, I’m getting stripes in line with the sprocket holes in areas of continuous tone (mainly open skies). The strips are wider areas with greater density directly below the sprocket holes, and in between more narrow less developed stripes in line with the spaces between the sprocket holes. On the positive, they appear as lighter wide stripes between darker narrow stripes.

First, my understanding is that surging produces areas of greater density in line with sprocket holes on the negative so I’ve been thinking that’s what I have going on but I’m unsure and would like to confirm. Is this surging or bromide drag?

As mentioned, I’ve been reading everything I can find on this and common responses are that surging on 35mm occurs with too vignerons agitation causing an increase in fluid velocity through the sprocket holes resulting in greater development below them. In an attempt to resolve the issue I did a few tests.

Test 1: I agitated gently at the beginning of development by rotating and revolving the tank slowly and gently for three revolutions. Placed the tank down and tapped it to release any possible bubbles and then let sit for half of the development time. Then agitated with 3 gentle agitations using the same method previously mentioned then completed development by letting it sit. This reduced the stripes but did not eliminate them. Look in the sky:

View attachment 321340
View attachment 321341

Test 2: I then decided to try without agitation at the beginning of development and with the same 3 gentle rotating revolutions at the midpoint for agitation. I figured that maybe, if it’s in fact surging, the agitation at the beginning might have been the cause because the developer is at its strongest at the beginning. However, this test produced more pronounced stripes. Again, look in the sky. Also, ignore the bottom edge of the film in this example as that density difference is just because the film is still wet in this example:

View attachment 321338
View attachment 321339

In my reading, another common remark is about incomplete fixing with many people stating that semi-exhausted fixer could be the problem and with some respondents stating that upon re-fixing the stripes disappeared. Based on that, I made sure to use fresh fixer and I also re-fixed previous tests to see if the stripes cleared and they did not.

I’m now thinking that if it’s not surge marks and is instead bromide drag, my minimal agitation may not be frequent enough to eliminate the drag since the first test above with gentle agitation did reduce the artifacts but the test with no initial agitation produced more pronounced stripes. So now I’m considering a minimal agitation protocol based on what Sandy King and some others have described in previous threads. In methods like that, a few more frequent very gentle agitations are used progressively less frequently as development progresses.

If anyone can confirm what is actually happening in these negatives it would be very much appreciated and helpful as I get it resolved. Thanks very much in advance.
 

Roger Walker

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Why don’t you let the film soak in distilled water for five minutes, with initial agitation for a minute and agitation with the last minute. Throw it out and pour in developer and moderate agitate for the first minute, followed by three agitations half way through the development. Just sacrifice a roll and shoot images close to home, develop it and see what you get. I might also suggest using distilled water with your developing chems ( developer, stop bath and fixer).
 

snusmumriken

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Apologies - just realised that I made my last post under the momentary delusion that we were talking about Rodinal, when we are really talking about HC-110. Sorry to confuse matters.
 
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