Workflow – Step 1 – Camera, Equipment and Development

^ My Cameras

ShenHao02Most of the recent photos on this site have been taken with my Nikon D700, I now use a FujiFilm X-Pro2. Earlier photos are scanned from a Minolta XGM, Leica Minilux, Nikon F4 and Nikon F5. My most recent adventure in large format is taking place with a Shen Hao 4×5″ camera pictured.

I have a Fujinon f5.6/180mm, a Fujinon f5.6 90mm and a Fujinon f5.6/65mm lens. I’m not sure how the 65mm lens will go but I’m going to make my photography suit it’s capability with regard to field of view and focus.

Update: I have now installed a fresnel screen ‘correctly’ into the camera. Instead of being on the ‘eye’ side of the ground glass (GG), it is on the lens side of the GG. There is a small recess in the camera back allowing a fresnel to sit whilst not lifting the GG out of it’s focus plane. I’ve had to shave off the fresnel slightly to sit inside this lip but the difference in brightness of the screen is really impressive. The fresnel is installed ribs to the eye to create a collimator as per FresnelTech data.

I use the word ‘correctly’ loosely. It’s debatable.

The paper from Fresneltech, above, describes Positive/Collector, Positive/Collimator and Negative/Diverger
I know my fresnel is positive because I can see it under my loupe. I can’t actually believe that someone would use a negative fresnel in any of the positions I mention below so I assume negative fresnels aren’t supplied to LF cameras at all. By all means demonstrate an error in my thinking here.

I don’t know if the Maxwell fresnel is positive or negative but Alan Brock’s video shows dramatic fall off when you are not viewing in the sweet spot. He also documents that the ribs are placed pointing to the lens. This suggests to me that the Maxwell is positive and being used as a collector. Alan also comments that the focusing task with the Shen Hao fresnel is hampered by the ribs. I can testify that when the ribs are against the GG, their tops are more in focus and therefore more visible. If the ribs point to the lens, the ribs are not as visible during focus but the brightness almost ‘switches off’ as you move your eye from centre spot. This also goes to confirm in my tests that if you prefer less of this immediate switch-off, and you can tolerate the ribs being more visible to the focus task, then you place the ribs pointing to the eye. If you wish to remove the hard rib lines from the focus task (they are softer when pointing to the lens side), and you don’t mind the light switching off a lot when you eye moves from the centre, you can place the fresnel with ribs to the lens.

Either way, in my tests, as long as the GG is constantly in the same place, focusing still takes place on the GG and focus does not change with or without fresnel in place.

CaptureFresnelI think for people who don’t understand I am enclosing a photo of my Shen Hao back showing the ledge for the GG and the fresnel on its own ledge under the GG.

You can also place the fresnel on the eye side of the GG. It makes a difference in (improves) brightness but no where near as much an improvement as it does on the lens side of the GG. And, if the fresnel is on the eye side of the GG, you can probably, on some cameras, more easily remove and replace it. But not on my camera. It’s the same screws.

This probably all explains why some camera manufacturers place it on top, some below, some ribs in, some ribs out. All the positions have some merit and some trade-off. You choose what’s best for your taste. I can at least say that I now understand the trade-offs and can choose which way I prefer.

For the moment, I’m leaving it lens side, ribs pointing to the eye. Maybe I’ll report back sometime if I decide to change that setup and the reasons why.

Calumet Roll Film Holder

I have a Calumet roll film holder back for this camera so I can shoot medium format 6×7 as both a test vehicle and as might be required for using the 65mm lens.

Update: Well the roll holder has a light leak on the hinge side so I have to try some tape inside the trap and over the hinge to see if it can be fixed this way. Seems the original has felt in some of the light trap which is missing in my eBay purchase. I can fix this but other things have taken over. See below.

Fujinon f5.6 180mm

Fujinon f5.6 65mm

Fujinon f5.6 90mm

^ My Darkroom

I’m going to process B&W film myself using the Stand Method (see below) and so I have a Photoflex Change Room (tent) a Paterson Multi Reel 3 tank and an Ilford-Paterson MOD54 for my 4×5″ sheet.

pfcr pat335 Ilfordmod54-02

Update:  Well I’m happy with all this gear. The change tent is fine – just big enough for 4×5″ equipment. I can confirm that if you were thinking of 8×10″ gear, you’d need a larger tent. The tank is perfect to do roll film as well as the MOD54. I made my first processing and was left with tooth marks on 3 negatives which meant they weren’t developed. I was sure I loaded the film correctly but two more loadings and I am sure now that I must have loaded the film emulsion side out instead of emulation side in. The next two processes worked fine. See below.

^ My Development Procedure (B&W)


I’ve read up on all the Stand Development techniques suggested by numerous people on the web and I’ve boiled it down the following process which I’ll try to maintain as consistently as possible.

For 4×5″ sheets, I use the Lisco Elite Mark II holders (pictured). These Mark II units have the little safety button to prevent you pulling the dark slide out unless it’s held in by either the camera body or your finger. Hopefully this saves me from losing some film by mistake.

Stand Development – Rodinal + Ilford Rapid Fixer
Assumes film is loaded in the tank – All temps 20°C unless otherwise noted

Update: Well, I can’t be more impressed with this procedure. Not only does it answer my desire to be expedient but it delivers something I was not expecting. The dynamic range of exposure provided by this method is quite surprising. It’s almost as if you could just guess the exposure setting (aperture and shutter speed) and let the development process do the rest. I’ll never go back to the old method of development. I see no need to consider the zone method or the ‘beyond-the-zone-method’ of exposure and development. At least with HP5Plus 400 film, things are looking all very good.

^ First Preparation

  • Prepare esky/cooler bath to below the height of 120 reel (in my case 6cm) or 4×5″ film rack (in my case 11.5cm) and include the tank in the cooling process. At this point only the film is in the tank after being loaded in the change room.
  • Prepare filtered prewash water, 500ml or 1000ml to 18°C.
  • Pre-soak the film for 4 minutes and leave tank in the bath while it’s soaking
  • Mix the Rodinal Developer: 4ml per 500ml in distilled water – to cover 4×5″ film 1050ml

^ Develop

  • Empty the tank of pre-wash and fill it with developer solution
  • 8ml+1000ml of R09 (slightly less concentrated), I shall invert, very gently at the start and every 2 minutes for the first 16 minutes (8 inversions), then again at 30 minutes, and let stand for a complete 2 hours. It’s important to invert at 30 minutes so the bottom half of the developer does not remain so stale as to make the bottom half of the negative darker than the top half.
  • Place in esky/cooler bath for 2 hours.
  • See below for a full history of how this method has evolved.

^ Second Preparation

  • Mix 1000ml of fixer at 1+4 at tap water temp – filtered water.

^ After 2 hours

  • Pour out the developer.
  • Fill the tank with tap water, agitate 5 times (roll over end for end slowly), pour out the water, fill again, and agitate 10 times (roll over end for end slowly). Fill one last time and agitate 20 times (roll over end for end slowly), and then empty.
  • Fix for 4 minutes – agitate (roll over end for end slowly) every minute.
  • Empty Fixer solution into water bottle for re-use.

^ Wash

  • Fill the tank with tap water, agitate 5 times, and empty it. Then, fill it again and agitate 10 times, then empty it again. Refill and agitate 20 times, then empty again.
  • Fill the tank with the water and a squirt of washing up liquid made earlier. Agitate 40 times and empty the tank. Unscrew the top of your tank, take the negatives off your reel, and “squeegee” by putting the film in between your two fingers, and pulling them down to removing the bubbles. Afterwards, simply hang the negatives to dry with a weight on the bottom so they don’t go curly.
  • Once dry, do whatever you please with them.

^ Development Summary

  1. Pre-wash – 4 minutes
  2. Develop – 30 secs of gentle inversions followed by 1 x gentle inversion every 2 minutes for 16 minutes (8 inversions), then one gentle inversion at 30 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hours and let stand for total 2 hours.
  3. Wash – Inversions – 5, 10, 20
  4. Fix – 4 minutes, 5 inversions each minute
  5. Post-Wash – 5, 10, 20 (with detergent)
  6. Squeegy and hang to dry

^ Materials

  • Funnel, 500ml water bottle for Fixer
  • Syringes for 5ml measures
  • Measuring jug
  • Plastic Mixer Spoon for mixing

^ Scanning/Printing Colour

I’m still investigating scanning for B&W. I can either buy a scanner or have some scanned by a service to about 20Mb which would suffice as both a test scan and website publication.

Update: See Workflow – Step 2 – Scanning

At the time of writing this, the costs for printing was like this, based on VisionImageLab Pricelist:
For 4×5 film:

  • Develop 4×5 E6 transparency: $8:05 ea
  • Print from developed film using Durst Epsilon Printer at 30 x 40in (max for 4×5): $155.40
  • Scanned image of same for sale at $42. If you want the scan. If not, you can have a re-print within 2 months at $123.90

For 220 film:

  • Develop 220 roll E6 transparency: $18.50
  • Print from developed film using Durst Epsilon Printer at 16 x 20in (max for 6×7): $60.90
  • Scanned image of same for sale at $42. If you want the scan. If not, you can have a re-print within 2 months at $42.00

After 2 months – buy the scan on disk as above or lose it.

^ The Stand Development Puzzle

Standard recommendations for the stand development process have proven unreliable for a lot of people. Forum messages are plentiful on Flickr, and LargeFormat Photography about the results of the method and how negatives are tainted with drag marks and uneven development. I’d like to show my progress in removing these issues.

Image 318
Outcome of Popular Stand Development Process – note right hand (top) edge of scan

Image 347
Outcome of modified Stand Development Process

The raw scans shown here are examples of the popular Stand Development Process and the modified Process I shall describe below. The final published version of these shots can be seen here: Trenerry Reserve which required a graduated filter on the right hand side and here: Skate Park which required no such graduated filter.

The popular process typically involves a solution of 1:100 of your favourite developer. The developer is placed into the tank and the tank receives a minimal amount of agitation (inversions), tapping, to the remove air bubbles and then just letting the tank stand for 1 hour.

For 35mm film and 120 film, the outcome is often declared acceptable. But some just ignore the issue and leave it for others to solve or tolerate. The relative ease of the process, the economical use of developer concentrate and the surprisingly robust (dynamic range) negative appears to be satisfying. Perhaps more people than we know move away from the method but we never hear about that.

But the shortcomings frequently cited, include ‘drag marks’ from the film sprocket holes and or over-developed edges to the negative as seen in the first raw scan here.

Some operators have recommended better temperature control to avoid convection currents within the tank, some argue about bromide ions, some recommend longer stand times with lower concentrations and yet others recommend semi-stand methods which include greater levels of agitation.

My experience was similar but my research continued because I’m just plain tenacious. Another article caused some further re-thinking.

^ Tank Currents

The temperature control and convection current arguments centred around my, now mistaken, assumption that higher temperatures generated by the development process (reaction) caused a current which logic would suggest was an upward current in the tank. This, however, contradicts drag marks which appear to be going downwards on the film or away from the sprocket holes.

So I had the idea that I would sacrifice a piece of film by placing it in a transparent measuring jug with the measured solution of developer and watch what happens (with no agitation at all). What was immediately interesting was the appearance, after only a relatively short time, of brown stained developer, moving down the emulsion side of the film and settling on the bottom of the jug. On the bottom of the jug was a thin but rather dark layer of this brown stain.

As a consequence of this movement, at the top of the jug, was a very definite layer of very clear developer about 1cm high. This all occurred within 30 minutes of the starting the process. After an hour, however, the development solution was quite homogeneous again and light brown throughout. In other words, after an hour the current downward had continued until all areas of the solution were equally ‘contaminated’ with emulsion residue.

My conclusion from this observation was that the development reaction was taking place on the vertical face of the film, causing a denser liquid to fall to the bottom of the jug. This movement subsequently caused displacement of the fresh, un-exhausted solution to rise to the top of the tank and replace the 1cm against the film with clear. developer. This was the cause of the film in the tank to be over-developed (darker negative, lighter positive) along this top edge.

^ Possible Solutions

The possible solutions were narrowed by the unavoidable need to agitate, as gently as possible, during at least the first 30 minutes to avoid this congregation of fresh developer against the top edge of the film. But increased agitation risked going against the accepted logical relationship between agitation and over-development.

Return to AddictedLight’s article of semi stand development.

Instead of 1 hour stand time, Addicted Light used a much weaker solution and a 2hour stand time. But he recommend agitation during first 30 seconds and again at 60 minutes. This obviously would not avoid the convection effect described above.

So I decided to try the weaker solution, and the longer stand time to counterbalance the weaker solution, but to see just how much agitation I could introduce without over-developing the entire negative. I had to start somewhere, but watching my measuring jug test, I got the gut feeling that as a basic requirement, it would need to be gentle inversions for at least the first 15 minutes.

The second raw scan above is the result of this process. In fact the entire batch of 6 pieces of film in the Paterson Super System 4 Tank + MOD54 has delivered the exact same outcome. Significantly improved evenness of negative density.

So for anyone wanting to give this method another go or for those who haven’t yet tried it but are still deciding, I recommend you at least try this method and see for yourself. I’m sold and all future processing will be done with this method.

The gentle inversions I use, can be described as one slow and gentle turn-over of the tank with a slight side roll. The a couple of taps and the tank is returned to the temperature bath.