Friday, February 28, 2014

Roll Developing

I have learned a technique for developing sheet film from a friend, and fellow photographer, +Holger Drallmeyer.  Now, he doesn't take full credit for it, as his method is using 300mL of chem, and usually uses it for C-41 developing.  I have refined it to using only 100mL of chemical.

I have been asked many times, how do I do my developing?

Well I have been promising my blog post for it for a while, but haven't yet done it.  Until now!

So, for starters, I use a 5-roll Nikkor Stainless steel tank with a Kindermann plastic lid.  They seem to work very well together, nice and tight!
This is very important to prevent leakage.
This is the tank and lid I use.  Behind I have the 650mL cylinder that is filled up to the 300mL mark.  This will be used for 3 sheets of film, 100mL at a time.  I decant it into another cylinder to 100mL.  This is specifically done to make sure I have the suggested 6mL of developer, as I use Rodinal for 4x5 sheet film.  Of course, I don't always do this.  Sometimes I mix it 100mL at a time with 2mL of developer, as I use a 1+50 ratio.

The green bucket is my dump bucket.  I pour all used chemicals into that afterward, other than Fixer, which I use a 1200mL cylinder.  Normally I also have a drip tray when I am doing inversion developing, or using my Combi-Plan sheet film developing tank, at least if I am developing 6 sheets at a time, which is very rare.  I specifically use that these days for STAND developing, as my Roll Developing technique seems to suit me very well.
Lastly, this is also done at the edge of the table, and for easy clean up sakes, try to put some newspaper or a old towel on the floor under the lip of the table, as chemical can always potentially drip out of the tank.
So first thing is first.  The film.  We need to get that sheet of film out of the holder.  So, get your holder and have the tank ready.  As you can see this is in the light.  When you do it you have to do it in complete darkness, or under a 7w DARK GREEN safelight (unless you are using super panchromatic/IR film which requires complete darkness), which might as well be near on pitch black.  This information has been shared to me by another friend +Kelly-Shane Fuller who is a very gifted technician with cameras, chemistry, and apparently even cars/motorcycle engines.
That doesn't say anything about his photography, though, which is phenomenal!  A very very good photographer.  Easily rivals my work, if he would stop shooting Selfies I think he has a lot of potential (sorry an inside joke between the two of us).
But in all honesty, he really is an exceptional photographer, as is +Holger Drallmeyer.  If you get a chance, check out their work!
So opening up the holder we have now got the film ready to be removed from the holder.  Now before you say, "Good gawd man, you just ruined a perfectly good sheet of film!" you would be wrong.
This sheet of film is Chinese Shanghai GP3 film which is suffering from their complete near on lack of Quality Control  There is a good half cm (1/4 inch) missing of emulsion off the acetate, and 1cm (1/2 inch) of anti-halation missing.  Plus there are machine marks and pinholes in the emulsion.
So it is used now for experiments, and stuff like this.
From there we need to load that film into the tank. You need to cup the film slightly to fit it into the tank, making sure that the emulsion is facing toward the middle of the tank.
The reason you want the emulsion side toward the middle is so that the chemical washes across the emulsion first and foremost, for if it is facing toward the edge of the tank, it might stick to the edge, get damaged, or not develop.
Don't worry, the anti-halation layer WILL wash off.

The other question I have been asked is, "How do I know that 100mL is enough chemical to coat the film, and how did I come to that conclusion?"
Simple.  I developed a BLACK sheet of GP3 in 100mL of chemical and it developed evenly.  I have developed many more sheets of film using 100mL (and the last one with 75mL) of chemical perfectly!  I have been tempted to try 50mL, but am worried it won't work.  Have to try it with a 'scrap' sheet sometime.
I guess in answer to the question is just that.  It was a guess, and it worked!  I started at 300mL but thought that 300mL is a little much for one sheet.  So I reduced it to 200mL without a problem, then finally got to 100mL and am really happy with that!
10 sheets would be 1L of chemical solution, which is awesome, considering my CombiPlan uses 1050mL of chemical and will only do 6 sheets, and the FR Tank will do many more (I think either 10 or 12 sheets) but uses 1500mL!!
So now we have the film in the can, the lid is on, the lights are on, and we're just about ready to get started. Right, so now what?
Easy, we get the chemical ready.  I usually have at least 2L of water at around 18°C ready to go for mixing and using for stop bath.  Of course, I also usually develop a good 4 to 6 sheets in one session.  First sheet is developed, then it goes into the sink to be washed.  While washing, I'll develop the next sheet.  When it is done developing, I take the sheet from the wash, and put it into the Wetting Agent bath, and develop the next sheet.  Then it's like a procession.  Develop, wash, wetting agent, hang to dry.
And when I am done the last sheet, I set a timer for 15:00 and let it wash for that amount of time.
I almost always leave the film in the wetting agent for 5:00 unless I am developing, then it can be for about 15:00 or more, depending on how long it takes to develop each sheet of film.
So now we have the 100mL of chemical ready to go.  So lets get started!  Pop the filler cap, and pour it into your tank and start your timer.
This is where this method starts to excel over the inversion method.  You can actually reduce your developing times by about 10% because it is "constant" agitation!  The faster you agitate will control your contrast and grain levels.  Faster agitation = more grain more contrast.  Slower agitation = lower grain and lower contrast.
Of course using a different developer, like HC-110 or TMAX Developer will change those as well.
I just really like Rodinal with 4x5 because of the high acutance and incredibly smooth tones.
+Alex Luyckx will contest to that and say, "No way, Pyrocat PMK All the way!" 

Keeping the tank on the edge of the table, so it is flat, you roll it back and forth.  You can go fast for higher contrast, but you will increase your grain, or slowly to keep grain down and a smoother contrast.
On the right image you will see a line that I have drawn on the can.  This line says, "ROLL PAST" which is so I know I have given the can a full rotation left to right/right to left.
When the time is up you dump the developer, and pour in your stop bath.  Continue to roll it back and forth for at least 1 minute.  When that is complete, dump that bath and pour in the fixer.
I fix for about 5 minutes continuously agitating the film the same way.  
And now that we've finished developing it, we can pour out the fixer and peek at the negative.  And here it is!
Perfectly developed negative!

So as you can see, this method works very well, and can be used for C-41, E6, and B&W developing.

When you start using this method for developing film, you'll start to tray develop less and less.
Or maybe you never have tray developed your film, or you haven't shot sheet film before and were intimidated by tray developing, this is an excellent alternative to tray developing.
For one, you can do it in the light instead of complete darkness.  This method is easily controlled, and has less of a chance of scratching your film, pretty much almost a "NIL" chance of it.  Plus, no elastic band marks from the "TACO" method.
This is an excellent method for developing your 4x5 sheet film, and even 5x7 sheet film, as 100mL will even cover 5x7 sheet film.
Hope this was informative and gave you some insight into another, and possibly easier, method to develop sheet film!

Until next time, keep those shutters firing!

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