Issues developing black & white film

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by sebg, Aug 22, 2019.

  1. Hello there.

    I'm having some problems while developing my black and white film.
    I'm new at home developing and I developed 5 rolls so far. They all looked good fresh from the development tank but today I was scanning them and I notice theres a general lack of contrast and dark and sometimes light beams of light coming from the sprocket holes.

    I'm using a 2 roll Paterson tank. I use LC29 as a developer and also Ilford stop bath and fixer.
    My film is all HP5 at its 400 normal ISO.
    I develop for 6:30 min, stop bath for 30 seconds and fixer for 5 minutes with a 1 minute prewash before everything. Everything exactly as MassiveChart and Ilford suggests.

    I agitate 10 seconds at the start of every step and every minute after that.

    I agitate slowly rotating the tank over itslef and twisting it at the same time.

    As you will see on the images below theres a general lack of contrast and a lot of foggines... also parts of the images seem more develop than others, apart from the darkness following the sprocket holes..

    I did some research and I found that it can be because of a lack of proper agitation (maybe my slow rotating movement is not enough to get fresh developer everywhere so parts gets underexposed)
    But I also read that the white beams over the sprocket holes can be caused by over agitation so the two solutions seem contradictory.

    I would highly appreciate any feedback you have to offer as I dont like the idea of keeping "badly developing" rolls of film until finding the solution.

    Thanks in advance to everyone!

    test02.jpg test01.jpg test03.jpg 2019-08-22-0002.jpg
  2. SCL


    You state the negatives look fine, so part of the issue might be your scanning technique. In scanning are you cropping the images to the exposed parts of the negatives so the scanned exposure is correct, and if so, are you checking the histogram?
  3. I'd like to see a photo of the negatives on a light box.

    With that said, there's no need for elaborate agitation. Your schedule of 10 seconds initial, 10 seconds each minute is fine(I usually do 30 initial, but consistency is more important than anything). I'd suggest trying just flipping the tank over long enough to allow the air pocket inside to travel to the top, then flip back over and wait the same amount of time, and continue doing this until your prescribed 10 seconds have elapsed.
  4. Why the prewash? Ilford recommend against it, as it can cause uneven development. I'd ditch that as a first step. Second step is make sure everything is cleaned between rolls.

    What dilution of LC29 are you using?
    denny_rane likes this.
  5. The negatives dont look that bad no. I used a 35mm dedicated scanner and I tried to scan old negatives that where developed by a professional and those negatives looked fine, non of the issues of mine with the contrast and difference in tones. I was scanning just a single negative at the time with proper cropping selection so I would guess the scanner was balancing properly yes...

    I'm attaching some images of the negatives below so you can check them, I'm marking some of the issues I see strange, like the spots near the sprocket holes or the lack of cleanes on the whites (My guess is that the space between negatives should be clear transparent right? instead looks fogy and dirty...)

    The film was new when exposed and I took me a year to develop so don't think its expired. The images where taken in VIetnam and it's hot as hell but I dont think it's that as then it would be impossible to shoot in VIetnam.

    The prewash its something I saw people doing it, I guess I thought it would affect negatively being just water, but for sure I'm gonna skip it next time.

    I was using a dilution of 1+19 for 6:30. What Ilford recommends.

    IMG_8427_original.jpg IMG_8427_modif.jpg

    Thanks guys!
  6. The fog level looks a little high, but it isn't so hard to tell with a picture like this.

    Most 35mm film has a light gray base. Old film can have some fogging, and so be dark gray.
  7. I'm guessing you've been watching a dumb online 'how to' video, where this stupid technique seems to have originated. It's wrong!

    All that's needed is to fairly swiftly turn the tank upside down; hold it there for a couple of seconds, and then right it again. No need for fancy wrist motions or slo-mo replay speed. In fact that's the exact opposite of what's required.
    The whole point of agitation is to replace used developer, next to the film surface, with fresh developer from the bulk in the tank. With inversion agitation, this mixing is done by the airspace in the tank bubbling through the spiral. So the swifter you invert the tank, the better the air can bubble through - within reason. You obviously don't want to shake the tank like a cocktail shaker either. Just tip the tank upside down at a reasonably fast speed. Hold it upside down for the air to bubble up, and then right the tank at the same speed. Simple!

    You might want to go back to whatever Youtube video it was that showed you your developing tank Tai-Chi moves, and add a comment. To the effect that those figure-of-eight tank rotations are pure nonsense!

    Oh, BTW, your film looks underfixed. Check the fixer temperature and lengthen the fixing time. It's hard to over fix a film, but easy to under fix one. And poor agitation technique won't help there either.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
    bethe_fisher likes this.
  8. Dustin McAmera

    Dustin McAmera Yorkshire

    I have had 'surge marks' (as I was advised they were) from the perforations, just once. They didn't look like what you show. Much more obvious:


    This was some 1940s Agfa film, intended for photographing fluorescent screens. I had exposed just a short length of it, to establish a usable speed for it. Someone at Flickr suggested I try that gentle agitation with my first full roll of the same film, and I didn't get the marks; but I don't regard that as reliable evidence. I find it as easy to believe the marks came from having only a short piece of film in the tank. So I have stuck with the agitation I have always done; one inversion per minute (or per half-minute with Rodinal, just because Agfa says so), and smart, soldierly inversions like Joe describes, not gentle ones.

    I agree that it would be worth re-fixing the film (and washing again after, of course). There seem to be clouds of unfixed emulsion in the middle of each frame; more visible in the scans than in the images of the film.
  9. I agree with others-refix and try again. Otherwise, the negative density looks okay to my eye.
  10. Ok then, gonna try with proper agitation next time.
    I'm gonna proceed refixing the film then.
    And next batch trying 7 minutes of fixing instead of 5.



    Thanks a lot guys, really appreciate the help. Gonna try again with the changes and get back to you.
  11. The negs look fairly decent to me, but with some large underexposed areas. Look for detail in the dark (clear) areas- not much there. I'd go for more original exposure. Contrast seems OK in the image of the neg, but it needs way more contrast when I fool with it in the computer. Maybe increase development as you suggest. Something else is wrong too. Base density seems high, but I remember that from some old HP5 I had. Maybe fog? Darkroom not quite dark? Developer optimum for the film? If there is a fog problem, increased development might make it worse.
  12. Sorry, but I'm a 'surge mark' sceptic - maybe even a surge mark denier. Because in over 40 years of developing 35mm film, I've never had them. But then I've never used daft figure-of-eight slo-mo agitation moves either.

    I make no claims to having a perfect record when it comes to developing. I've had my fair share of fog, cinch marks, scratches, buckled and touching film, as well as managing to over and under-develop. About the only fault I've never seen is 'surge' marks from the sprocket holes. So it's a complete mystery to me how they occur.

    I'm wondering if it's not plain old light fogging through the sprocket holes, and falsely blamed on a developing fault?
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
  13. I did not read everything, so i am sorry if i repeat.

    Your fix is New/Fresh.?
    What was your dilution.?

    How "dark" is your darkroom.
    No light-leaks, near you from doors or windows.
    Are there any types of Security, Electronics, Equipment lights or red.?
  14. I am wondering if it is a scanning or printing (if you scan prints) problem.

    Looking at both the negative and positive for the picture with motorcycle, the motorcycle tire is very black, and clear on the negative. But there is a person with a dark (maybe black) shirt, clear on the negative, but gray on the positive. Other parts are gray that should be black, too.

    Can you use a different scanner, or otherwise get new scans?
  15. Your negatives strips look good to me. Your single negative scans lack some contrast, probably an effect of the scanner scan software combination.

    I see you are using VueScan. I have found it usually takes a little tweaking of scan to get a really good contrast and VueScan allows you to do that.

    Perform a preview scan in either 16-bit greyscale or RGB. There should be a histogram on the lower left corner of the VueScan window. Click and hold on the left hand triangle and drag it right until it points into the histogram. This sets the black point. Now click and hold on the right triangle and drag it left until it, too, is into the histogram. That sets the white point. The contrast should be better. Adjust the black and white points to suit your taste. That is why the adjustments are there. When you get it to look the way you want it, click SCAN.
  16. When I am developing with old fixer, I take a piece of film from the leader and drop it in the fixer. The rule is to fix for twice the time it takes to clear. With fresh fixer, it takes about a minute to clear and then I fix for 5 minutes. I usually toss the fixer before it hits the stated capacity.

    Iā€™m sure other knowledgeable folks have better ideas. YMMV!
  17. As others have noted: Your negatives look fine. It appears that your scans are the problem.
  18. Well they don't look fine to me.
    I've taken the liberty of downloading one of the OP's examples, and inverting it and boosting the contrast with my phone's image editor. Ignoring the surface reflections from the film, you can clearly see the patches of remnant unfixed silver around the sprocket holes, and spreading into the image area as blotches of lower contrast.
  19. The fixer was completely new.
    Dilution was 1+19 on LC29 for 6:30

    Don't have a dark room, I used a darkbag to load the roll into a Paterson tank.
  20. I used a Plustek OpticFilm 8100 film scanner, I bought it second hand on amazon. But after some issues with the original software and not being sure the scanner was working properly as it was "recondition" I decided to send it back.
    Gonna wait for the refund and proceed buying a new one.

    And true, from what I could see on the software of the scanner, nailing the historigram and levels can be a little hard. I guess i will have to experiment a little.

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