An emergency substitute
Way back somewhere I heard that you could substitute a small amount of dish-washing detergent for a wetting agent, to prevent getting water marks on processed film. Is this true?
Joseph R. Felton, Miami, Fl. This is one of those emergency measures that can come in handy at times. And it works with a number of regular dishwashing liquids if you are careful to use about the right amount. For a starter, take about ’/, to % teaspoon of a liquid dishwasher and add this to one quart of water—to avoid getting suds. Next, soak your washed film in this solution for about 15 to 20 sec. Then hang it up to dry without sponging. If it is necessary to get rid of slight foam, you can wipe film gently between two fingers, provided they are soft.
Exposure and water
How can I avoid underexposing figures of people in scenes with a large water background? My match-needle metering system averages everything seen in the viewfinder. And I can't move in for a close-up reading.
Barton N. Haussmann, Chicago, II. The problem here, of course, is that a body of water is far more reflective than a person, and when it occupies too much space in the picture, the metering becomes right for the water but wrong for the person. You need to give more exposure so the individual won’t be overexposed. Barring freedom to use a spot meter, you could take a close-up reading of someone else when they are lighted like your subject.
But if both of these alternatives are either impossible or impractical, you might take a close-up reading off the palm of your hand, when it too is lighted like the person. But be sure not to cast a shadow of your camera or separate meter on your hand. Then the general rules for such palm readings made with a so-called white hand (some four to six in. away) is to open up one f-stop more than the metering system indicates, or move to the next slower shutter speed. This should give you good results with a subject having an average range of light-to-dark tones, and include some shadow detail, or detail in darker areas.
Tri-X and grain
I do a lot of shooting with Kodak Tri-X Pan film at a rating of 400. But I get a lot of excess grain in my results. Is there a way to avoid getting it, short of going to a slower, fine-grain film?
James Thiel in, Round Lake, II. Grain is, of course, more noticeable in various gray areas, increases with the use of a higher contrast paper, and naturally will be larger as you magnify images more. But various techniques can be used to keep the kind of relatively small grain many of us associate with Tri-X on our 8x10 and 11x14 prints. So first, in shooting, try to compose your pictures so you will be enlarging most of the frame. Then avoid making overly dense negatives due to overexposure or overdevelopment, or both.
Another important piece of advice for keeping grain down is to maintain all processing solutions at about the same temperature—variously cited at within two to five degrees of each other—depending on who is doing the advising. In addition, keep a beady eye on the thermometer during the entire wash time to prevent sudden or wide temperature changes. Still a third bit of advice, given by careful photographers, is to keep wet time short by use of a hypo neutralizer after fixing, which permits shorter wash times. Despite shorter times suggested for some of these products, many photographers wash initially for one to two minutes, neutralize for two to three minutes, then wash for five minutes.
I've been getting fine lines on my blackand-white film, which show up as white lines on prints. Could these be coming from sponging off the film after use of a wetting agent?
Rafael Perez, Los Angeles, Ca. Yes, they could. Even if you are careful, it is easy to get pieces of grit or dirt in the fine pores of a photographic sponge. And these could be the scratch causers. Actually, it is not necessary to wipe your film after use of a wetting agent. So eliminate the wiping step and see if this solves the problem.
Unwanted marks on film
Why am I getting these black marks (apparently sprocket-hole images) on my processed film?
Steve Odak, Manasquan, N.J. These are due to fogging the film. And our best guess is that the fogging (due to exposure to light) occurred during processing— probably while loading the film, possibly at some other stage. So check these ideas out. Next time you plan to load film onto a processing reel, make sure the room is absolutely dark, and stays that way. Also be sure the lid of your developing tank is really on tight at all times, until the fixing step has been completed. O