Timing large format tray development

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I am new to large format and would like to know what people do about timing tray development of film in total darkness. Thanks.

-- Charles F. Barbour (chbarbour@sprintmail.com), December 18, 1999


Shine the white lights on the Gra-Lab for a few minutes, then turn them all off and go for it. The big numbers and hands are easy to see in the dark.

-- Tony Brent (ajbrent@mich.com), December 19, 1999.

Some timers, such as the Zone VI compensating development timer, have audible beeps periodically (the Zone VI beeps every thirty seconds). It's pretty easy to cover the red lights in the timer with a cloth or piece of tape and then count the beeps to keep track of the time.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis@tampabay.rr.com), December 19, 1999.

Charles, what kind of timer do you have?

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), December 19, 1999.

Charles, I have used several methods successfully. If you have a good old Gra- Lab, simply set it up where you can see it glowing in the dark but the film in the tray can't. (I doubt whether the low-intensity green glow of a Gra-Lab would fog your film even if the film were exposed to it as long as it was a few feet away.) The Zone VI compensating timer (which I now use almost exclusively for temperature control reasons) has a setting for film which dims the display to safe levels, but can still be read. It also beeps every 30 seconds to remind you to agitate. At my appartment in Vienna (where I only have makeshift negative developing facilities) I use a digital oven timer and a quartz metronome (a loudly-ticking quartz clock will do as well). I use the metronome to keep track of agitation and transfer the film from developer to stop when the oven timer alarm goes off. In a pinch I have simply counted seconds with a metronome or a clock, but this can be hard to keep track of. I am comfortable with all of my methods and they work equally well as far as timing is concerned. Hope this helps. ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), December 19, 1999.

I just use a clockwork darkroom stop-clock with luminous hands. Before I got it, I did some neat programming on a beeping laptop computer. It workeed, but I prefer the clock.

-- Alan Gibson (Alan.Gibson@technologist.com), December 19, 1999.

I have a kitchen timer that beeps once a second when the timer has counted all the way down. I just set it for ten seconds less than the desired time and count ten beeps before acting.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), December 19, 1999.

I just divide 30 seconds by the number of sheets I am developing and count out (mentally) the seconds between moving a sheet from the bottom to the top of the stack. It works for me, and I seem to get very consistent results. By the way, I have used daylight development tanks also, but never gotten results as good as simply using trays.


-- Mark DeMulder (mdemulde@usgs.gov), December 19, 1999.

I have found it much easier to go to rotory processing. But when I was in the dark ages I used a Graylab. I painted the hands with bright yellow dayglo paint. No fogging at all. james

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), December 19, 1999.

You can get a cassette tape player and record your timing on it, trying with a voice over on something pleasant. Try doing it about every 15 seconds or so. This is a cheap method & works. You can also get a dark green filter for your safelight & put a 10-15 watt bulb in it and use this for development by inspection. It is easy to learn & will work well for a long time to come. This way you can develop plus, normal and minus negs all in the same batch once you get the hang of it.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), December 19, 1999.

Have the wife stand outside the darkroom door with a watch, and call out when it's time to agitate or move from developer to short stop. That way, when you screw up you can blame her. For example, if your mind is elsewhere and you start the sequence in the right hand tray instead of the left, putting the film in the fixer first, then the shortstop and developer. It really helps to have somebody else to yell at. Other than that I recommend that you get one of the big luminous dial Gra-lab timers; mine is still going after 48 years.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), December 20, 1999.

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