Second foray into the darkroom

Dust and scratches?

This is my second attempt at darkroom printing after several years away. I decided this time to use the RH Designs Analyser Pro to make the test prints rather than going with test strips. The Analyser allows you to take a meter reading using a probe on the baseboard under the enlarger of the darkest and lightest elements in the image and tells you the exposure time and grade of paper to use to get a full range of tones in the image on the paper. This assumes of course that you have calibrated the paper you want to use. I bought my Analyser several years ago and it came calibrated for Ilford Multigrade IV. 

The machine can be programmed with up to 8 different papers. I managed to get some data from photrio.com in this thread which has the numbers to enter for Ilford Multigrade RC V (or rather Ilford Multigrade RC Deluxe as it is properly known) which is what I have decided to use from now on as I get back into darkroom printing. The calibration numbers tell the Analyser the sensitivity of the paper to light at all grades thus allowing the user to bypass making a test strip. This paper also has the advantage that the emulsion is exactly the same as Ilford’s Portfolio and Fibre versions of the MG paper so no timing adjustments are needed when transferring from one paper to another. So proofs can be made with the cheaper paper and then the settings seamlessly transferred to the more expensive version. 

I had produced some new negatives using a Nikon F60 and Nikkor 28-80mm AF-D lens which I had picked up for £30 off eBay in mint condition. It was a good way of testing the camera and lens. The shots were window-lit still life shots of tulips and pears. I used Ilford FP4 film and developed in Tanol (a staining developer from Wolfgang Moersch). In the past I used staining developers a lot. The one I settled on (Prescysol EF) is unfortunately no longer made. These are usually developers based on pyrogallol or pyrocatechin and stain the negatives – which has various advantages in printing.  I misread the data sheet for the developer which suggests a time of 11.5 minutes at 24C for ISO 100. The F60 does not have ISO controls so I had used the DX coding on the film – ISO 125) so I gave the film 12.5 minutes. The negatives appeared to come out very well.

The problem now was though that I have a persistent problem with water marks on the negatives. I never had this issue the last time I developed negatives (and I am using the same water supply in the same house with the same methodology). Not only that, but some negatives seem to have dust and detritus on them as well which appeared during printing.

I do a final rinse of the negatives with tap water and a wetting agent (in this case Edwal LFN). So I do not know where this dust and water mark issue is coming from. Next time I will use deionised water with LFN and isopropyl alcohol and squeegee the negatives. The alcohol is supposed to speed up the drying process and allow the water to disperse better. The good thing was though that the Analyser performed very well and the prints tended to be pretty good right off the bat although perhaps the contrast was sometimes too high.

One final mistake I made was that I think I inadvertently splashed fixer onto the easel which has left white marks on one of the prints after development through contamination of the paper before exposure. I will have to move my final holding water tray onto the bench next to the fixer rather than having it on the other side of the enlarger. 

Other than that I am fairly pleased with progress so far.

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