Porto at Night

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Horizon Perfekt (swinglens) camera, TMAX 400

A few days ago I had a total disaster with a roll of TMAX 400 B&W film and Xtol 1:1. The result was bright surge marks on every frame. After reading many opinions that ranged from over agitation to under agitation, I decided that I couldn’t isolate one specific thing that I was doing wrong, but that I needed to really start from the beginning.

This post summarizes what I learned using TMAX 400 and Xtol 1:1. These lessons may ONLY apply if you are using plastic tanks and reels and normal (not stand) development. They may be totally wrong if you are using stainless steel tanks and reels or stand development.

These experiments were done with Xtol 1+1and TMAX 400 film, 35mm, 9.25 minutes @ 68-degrees. 1 minute pre-soak, 1 minute water-stop, Photographers Formulary TF4 fixer.

Lesson 1: Paterson tanks and reels are the ones you should be using. Let me say this again – PATERSON TANKS and PATERSON REELS!

The tanks I’ve seen are all designed to pour out the sides and refill down the center through a funnel shape. I now understand this approach – pour out fast, refill gently and from the bottom up. Paterson tanks takes this approach one step further with a deep top well, allowing about 1/4 to 1/3 of your chems to come into the top of tank (above the funnel) to be remixed from the bottom up. Even if you are using the tank to its capacity, there is plenty of room for the chems to fully mix during agitation.

Comparing Paterson reels against cheap reels, you will see that the plastic is thinner with more space between the spirals. Therefore the chems rush in-between the spirals with less force.

Lesson 2. Forget all those super gentle crazy-8 slow inversion techniques – just invert 180-degrees, then back to upright (don’t forget to tap to dislodge any bubbles)

The super gentle crazy-8 and parabolic patterns will not mix your chemicals sufficiently and may even defeat the design of the Paterson tank. You want the take full advantage of the Paterson tank design which allows chems to flow into the top of the tank around all sides and then fill back down the center of the funnel. The only way to effectively do this is to do a quick invert to up-side-down – letting the chems flow into the top of the tank from all sides, then a quick revert back to upright. If you take off the cap, you will notice your chems in the funnel and that it may take a few seconds for the chems to flow back through the funnel. You may want to wait a couple seconds before starting the next inversion. I rotated the tank 45-degrees to start the next inversion.

Lesson 3. Initial agitation 5-7 times in 20-30 seconds followed by 2 inversions each 30 seconds

I can’t say that 1 minute initial agitations followed by an agitation every minute would be better or worse. I can just say that the negs I got were great with this approach.

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2 Comments to “Porto at Night”

  1. Great shot of Porto at night.

  2. Hi Nancy. Not sure what your problems are that you are referring to? But when I teach b&w film processing I teach it with 4 inversion every 30 secs. The process is a 2 min pre-soak, then Xtol 1+1 8 mins 20ºC next kodak indicator stop bath 30 secs, basically pour in and out, followed by Ilford Hypam Rapid fix for 3 min to 90 mins depending on the age of the fixer, lastly 3 mins in HCA [Hypo Clearing Agent] by Kodak followed by a 10 minute wash. The students rate their films at 200 ISO and we develop Xtol 1+1 for 8 mins at 20ºc. In my experience students tend to be lax in agitation patterns resulting in flat negatives, or the other extreme too vigorous resulting in too high a contrast neg, so agitation is very personal but simply needs to be a constant method repeatable form film to film. We use Jobo tanks, as they are the only tanks in 20 years that I’ve taught that were injection moulded and therefore almost indestructible by students! Either way we only match tanks and reels, but are looking for replacement reels which are becoming harder to replace!

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