Shot first 8x10s, having issues . . . : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Ok, I bought my 8x10 about a year and a half ago, but I just finally got it out shooting on Saturday morning. Developed the negs on Saturday evening, printed them later that night, and both negatives are pretty uneven, variations of about one to two stops average density across a relatively even scene. The contact prints are significantly darker in some spots, particuarly close to the center of the image, but in an irregular shape. Doesn't look like a light leak, as the negative looks pretty sharp with no ghosts or fogging, just uneven, and possibly a little thin.

The particulars:

old B&J camera with Wollensak 12" vari-soft focus lens. Scene was a pretty evenly lit landscape, nothing too odd.

T-Max 100 film, developed in D-76 at about 69 degrees, developer is probably a bit old. stopbath was fine, Fix may have been a bit old.

Developed in total darkness in an 8x10ish tray, rocking left, right, center wait, left, right, center, wait, etc. 6:30 devel. for one, 7:10 for the other (to try to build more density in the second neg).

Stop for 15 sec.

Fixer, agitate first thirty seconds then every minute or so after that for 10 minutes.

Wash in water using an 11x17 horizontal print washer (water flows in through holes on one side, out through holes in the other side. Wash for 30 minutes.

The negatives came out of the wash with what looked like lots of little bubbles affixed to the surface, and dried with several white spots of various sizes.

I didn't notice the variation when looking at the negatives, but when I printed them and found the unevenness, I could match it up with slight variations in the negative. The variation is pretty subtle on the negative, but rather pronounced on the print.

The prints were made on an enlarger baseboard with a cold head (Zone IV cold head in Beseler MX45). I thought it might be the enlarger lens focusing the bulb on the baseboard, but it did the same thing at different enlarger heights/focus lengths.

I'm going to mix a new set of chemistry (it was probably six months old) to see if that's the problem.

Any thoughts on this? How do y'all prefer to develop 8x10 negs? I have a beseler drum that I may try using for the next one.

-- Andrew Cole (, March 11, 2002


For best = most even development use trays or a Jobo Expert drum system.

If you use trays do as follows:

Presoak the film

When developing the film in trays make sure to agitate properly, f. inst. like this:

Pick the film at the top right hand corner, lift and flip / emerse. Pick the film at the top right hand corner, (which is now the opposite direction) lift and flip / emerse.

You may also lift , flip and emerse the film holding the film half way on the side (top and legth wise) in addition to the above agitation.

It is important that you develop a system.

Jobo Expert drums offer another way to get very even development. But at a higher outlay of $$$...

-- Per Volquartz (, March 11, 2002.

I originally had similar problems when I first started shooting 8x10. My current, most-refined-to-date processing technique is * roughly* as I found it in Gordon Hutchings' The Book of Pyro< /u> (excellent reading, BTW). In paraphrased form, what I do is as follows: (note that I do use HP5+ and PMK, and always develop four sheets at a time, so take this with a grain of salt)

1. One at a time place 8x10 film in a water presoak. Let soak for two minutes.
2. Transfer film to tray of developer. Place film in developer emulsion-side down.
3. Shuffle through the film by grasping the bottom sheet with your left hand, lifting the edges of the 3 sheets above it slightly with your right hand to enable you to pull the bottom sheet without scraping against the other sheets.
4. Drop the film face-down into the developer so that it makes a "plop" sound when it hits the surface. Using the balls of your fingers, gently press the sheet down into the developer.
5. Repeat this until you have gone through all film in your stack. After you have gone through the stack once, either rotate the stack 90 degrees and proceed as before or start pulling from the next direction (I keep the stack in the same orientation and just change the direction I pull from, eg left then bottom then right then top,etc). Use the same agitation for the stop and the fix. < br>

I have used this technique without incident and with excellent results for a little while now. I have found it to be much more reliable and consistent than rocking trays. Most people will advise that you use 11x14 trays for processing 8x10 film, but I've found that a dedicated set of 8x10 Paterson trays works just fine (allows me to use less chemistry, too). As for processing emulsion-side down, it can be debated but, as Hutchings pointed out in his book, it goes a long way towards reducing scratches. Hope this helps. Good luck.

-- David Munson (, March 11, 2002.

shoot..... could've sworn I closed that tag...

-- David Munson (, March 11, 2002.


Your question is so cooincidental! I bought a B & J "Grover" 8 X 10 over a year ago for next to nothing. It turned out to be missing some parts and I found another one for less than $200.00. I'm going to build a good camera out of both of them. You did not mention if yours is a flatbed or monorail model. Mine is a monorail model with independent front and rear standards. I just got around to setting it up on a tripod last weekend. It is a pretty crude camera--I do architectural work and it looks like geting the front and rear standards in alignment might be tough. The weakest link right now looks like the bellows, which are the original red fabric. It was dried out and many of the corners have tiny pinholes, and the glue that holds it to the standards is dried out. Also I'm not impressed with the tighness of the spring back. These can cause light leaks that might result in your negative problems. However, the uneven density, subtle in the negative but pronounced in the print, sounds like uneven development. I have learned the hard way with 4 X 5 that processing film yourself can be problematic, although someone always manages to work it out. The "Yankee" type plastic tanks are a disaster, but I know a guy who modified his by drilling extra holes and now he gets even development. I have tried dip 'n' dunk frames in steel tanks and get "edge effects" such as bands near the edges with slow agitation, and "jet" marks from the holes from fast agitation. Some people swear by hand processing in trays, but all I ever do is scratch the film and also get uneven development. I just invested in a JOBO 12-sheet processing tank, which many people swear by as the only way short of taking it to a lab to get those perfectly even skies. Also, when testing out a new camera, eliminate the variables and have a lab prcess your first test film sheets. That way you at least know it is the camera and not the development. I hope that this is of some help.

Matt Kierstead

-- Matthew A. Kierstead (, March 11, 2002.

Sounds like inadequate agitation to me. I only develop in trays, a dozen or so sheets at a time. You have to pick that film up and then PUSH it down into the developer (gently, of course, with short finger nails!). It's not like developing a print at all. Just rocking the tray won't do it.


-- Bill Marsh (, March 12, 2002.

As others have said, it sounds like your problem is with the development and most likely the agitation (or lack thereof). FWIW, I've been using trays with 8x10 for about a year now, 8x10 trays, PMK, HP5+, four at a time. I'll go along just fine for a month or two, then I'll develop a batch and get a bunch of scratches or uneven development, then I'll go along fine for another month or two, then have another batch with problems. Lst Wednesday I made 6 negatives and all had either scratches or uneven develpment so I finally bit the bullet and ordered the BTZS 8x10 tubes, which I had been avoiding because of the cost, but this last experience just made me realize that trays will never be completely satisfactory for me and the BTZS tubes have worked great with 4x5 so I assume they'll do the same with 8x10.

-- Brian Ellis (, March 12, 2002.

Try the Beselar drum you have with fresh chemistry. I suspect that agitation, combined with old chemistry, is the problem.


-- Doug Paramore (, March 12, 2002.


i shoot 8x10 tmax 400 film developed in d76 straight at 70 degrees. I use tube development for my 4x5 and 8x10 negatives. i have checked the negatives with a densitometer for even development, and they have been perfectly consistent and even. i find tubes to be the easiest way to develope large format film. first, you develope the film in the light. second, there is really no way to scratch the emulsion. third, the development is even. i suggest for the best and easiest way to develope negatives, you look into this method. making the film tubes is very easy, or you can buy them at several sites. if you are interested, please email me and i will give you two sources of manufactured tubes.

-- howard schwartz (, March 12, 2002.

You mention using an "8x10ish tray" to develop the negatives. Try at least an 11x14 size to eliminate a lot of side agitation from being so close to the edges of the tray. This may help on cutting down the development differences from edge to center. Try a pre-soak as well. You don't say what the 'white spots' are from the rinse so we need more info to help with that. Be smooth and consistent with your developing. Even constant agitation will work as long as it is consistent. Rocking the tray for development kept the agitation rebound on the edges of the negative more active compared to the center which can easily account for the added density. Try interleaving the negs. Why are you fixing for 10 minutes? As to the white spots, did you photo flo in distilled water?

-- Dan Smith (, March 12, 2002.

When I developed my very first 8x10s in 8x10 trays, using the shuffling method, the results were good--perfectly even skies. But because I kept knicking the soft TMax emulison, I went over to developing one sheet at a time (still in 8x10 trays) with the rocking method, and that's when I started to encounter this same problem with uneven density from edge to center. At first I thought it was a light leak, esp. in the film holder since it looked like overexposure around the edges. But eventually I hit on the same explanation that Dan just mentioned--that the rocking of the tray was causing increased development on the edges vs. underdevelopment in the center.

Because I didn't want to give up tray processing, I tried a new method: extra large tray, one sheet at at time as before, but instead of moving the tray I now move the sheet inside the tray--gently and slowly from side to side and around the perimeter, trying for constant, continuous motion and avoiding setting up currents or eddies in the solution. I flip the sheet every 30 seconds. I'm now getting even development again and plan to continue with tray processing.

By the way, I always had wondered why, when using the shuffling method, the 8x10s had uneven density but not the 5x7s when everything else was the same. Now I suspect that it was because there was more room within the tray around the smaller sheet so that it was not as adversely affected by the rebound off the tray walls.

After reading this thread, I now use the presoak too, and I'll be getting some distilled water soon for my Photo-Flo. Thanks to David, Per, and Dan (again). Hope my move-the-sheet-not-the-tray method will work for others, too. Cheers.

-- Nick Jones (, March 16, 2002.

Try the following:

Take your backless camera into the bright sun, close the lens, and stick your head inside using a black cloth to make it dark. Irregular shapes suggest uneven development as others have pointed out, but a pinhole or light leak will image the outside world along with the lens, and the pinhole exposure will of course be of a longer duration than your intended exposure through the lens. These irregular shapes, depending on the location of the leak, might well be out-of-focus objects from your world.

As for development, 3/4" of straight D-76 in a tray finally did it for me while poking around for answers to my 8x10 negatives' depressing thinness. This is a large piece of film, and if you've ever taken it out of chemistry in the light (try this with D-76) you'll see a sheeting effect over the surface of the emulsion, with a sludginess that is somewhat syrupy. Agitation should indeed be regular, but sufficient to get things moving.

Of course, use fresh developer, and use enough of it. A lot of my thinness was because of developer exhaustion long before the time was up. Look at the table showing capacities on the package. Ration out your developer based on this, and don't expect the same full range from overtaxed chemistry.

-- greg petusky (, April 20, 2002.

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