Learning Journeys

Discovering Bromide Drag and New Developers – My First Steps into Analogue – Part 6 – By Andrea Bevacqua

June 11, 2020

After a while I was using the Cinestill mono bath, I noticed some stripes on my negatives and I did not know what it was. I asked Hamish and he came back with the answer “bromide drag”. It was a completely new phenomenon to me so I Googled it in search of some help.

There are tons of websites speaking about it, but briefly is usually due to poor agitation. Thinking about it, it did make sense. As I was experimenting with contrast, the two rolls I previously developed I changed the agitation from intermittent to minimal. As reported on the Cinestill monobath instructions:

The intermittent agitation is constant for the first 30 sec and then 10 sec every minute.
The minimal agitation is constant for the first 10 sec and then 5 sec every minute.

Bromide drag

After this episode, I decided to use the most “standard” agitation which is constant for the first minute and then 10 sec every minute. I said the most standard as it seems that this is the most used – at least on the videos on YouTube…

Following the instructions of the developer, there are a few ways of changing the contrast when developing, you can change the temperature of the liquid (the higher the more contrast you obtain) and /or change the type of agitation during the develop process and, of course, change the developing time (the longer the more contrast). This is The PDF with the instructions.

Developing

As I said in previous articles, developing is easy to obtain a result, but it’s when you want to obtain a good result that it becomes more challenging.

Every little change will produce a different reaction to the look of the final photo but also to the negative itself.

Now I know that reducing the the agitation time you can encounter bromide drag but changing the soap time (as well as re-using the develop several times) you can end up in having thinner negatives, so all the variables must be very carefully balanced.

I think that it is all down to practise and experience but because I wanted something more direct and more guided, I started looking for data.

I was already at the end of the life of my Cinestill bottle so I decide to look around and see if there was something available with a bit more documentation and the more obvious answer to me was the Ilford brand.

I love the Fomapan brand, they make some cool films I really like (the grain, the tones) and they are also quite cheap, but if I make a compare of the info you can find about their products, well, Ilford is a step ahead.

For instance, I really like the Fomapan 200 but if have to develop it at 23 degrees (because that is the room temperature and I don’t want to cool down or warm up the chemicals), I found very difficult to find the time on its technical data sheet where comparing it to a Ilford Fp4+ I found it more straightforward.

I understand that for more experienced guys these can be be just details, but for me, I need to have some fixed reference.

So, I decided to use Ilford ID-11 as a developer and I started to use more Ilford films.

Already changing the developer brought decent results (even with my very basics skills)

Ilford Fp4 – ID-11

Ilford Fp4 – ID-11

Ilford Pan F – ID-11

I found that using the ID-11 is easier to reduce the variables and became more predictable/constant to achieve the final result.

It is more predictable also because you can control easily if to re-use (and how many times you want to re-use) the developer/stop/fixer.

I bought the 5L powder pack and I have done the stock solution in bottles of 1.5L for the solution that I want to preserve. Doing so I can fill up the bottle at its max so the air in the bottle is very minimal and I can store it for long time reducing the oxidation problems. I also do bottles of 0.5L of the solution which I am planning to use short term.

For these I see small water bottles because 500 ml is the volume of liquid to develop 120 film roll and it is plenty to develop a 135 roll. Unfortunately you will need 600 ml to develop 2×135 film, but this is a problem I will solve in the near future…

Foma400 – ID-11

Foma400 – ID-11

Foma400 – ID-11

Foma400 – ID-11

Constructive comments and tips are always more than welcomed.

If you fancy, you can check out my Instagram.
You can read more about my journey into shooting film here.

Cheers,
Andrea

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Andrew L
    June 11, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    That effect seems to be easy to get with Foma film using this developer. Agitate more and it won’t happen, however I recommend against using the top end of temps with Foma (80+ degrees F) as the results look less than optimal. Middle of the road is usually best with DF96.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      June 11, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you Andrew. I will bear that in mind.

      Cheers,
      Andrea

      • Reply
        Roger B
        June 12, 2020 at 4:10 pm

        Andrea, be advised that excessive agitation can increase grain and contrast – meaning plugged shadows. Learned this 50 years ago (haha).

        • Reply
          Andrea Bevacqua
          June 12, 2020 at 4:12 pm

          Thanks Roger, great advice!

  • Reply
    Huss
    June 11, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for this Andrea:
    “I decided to use the most “standard” agitation which is constant for the first minute and then 10 sec every minute.”

    I too started getting bromide drag but did not think about constant agitation for the first minute. Are you using the invert method to agitate?

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      June 11, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Huss,
      yes, I use the invert method, I don’t use the little plastic stick which come with the tank (at least with the Paterson tank).
      I think that the first constant minute of agitation is a “must”.
      Anyway, since I started doing like this I think that my developing is improved.

      Enjoy

      • Reply
        Huss
        June 11, 2020 at 11:27 pm

        Thanks Andrea! Love the results/pics you have posted.

  • Reply
    Oliver Lison
    June 11, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    I have run into trouble with development failures too:
    1. Bromide Drag with Delta 100/400 due to insuffcient agitation what I believe
    2. too much grain on certain films with Rodinal
    3. didn’t pay attention when spooling film on a reel. Two films sticked to gether
    4. ripped film while spooling on a reel.

    I now have xtol at home. I would like to weigh the powder out so that I have only 1 Liter solution ready, If I need a new batch, I need to weigh again.
    I will see and read what is best.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      June 11, 2020 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Oliver,
      Thanks for reading. Making mistake is normal, the problem is to know how to rectify those!
      The theory says that if you have a bag of powder for 5L of developer for instance, you should have to do all the 5L and not weight the powder in order to do a portion of it. The reason is very simple. That powder is a mix of powders.
      Is like if you grind salt and pepper in a bowl all together and then you split that inTo two, you don’t know how much salt and how much pepper you have got in each little mountain of powder. For absurd you can end up having salt from one side and pepper on the other side.
      Because what ruin the developer is the air (it oxidise the chemical), I thought that if I pooR the chemicals into small container I could reduce the amount of air into the bottles so in theory I can preserve the liquids for longer.
      So far, I found the little bottles very convenient.
      What some professional do is to spray a gas (I can’t remember at the moment the name)into the tank (basically is the gas you use to recharge the lighters).
      This gas is heavier than the air, so it creates a little film on the chemical and doing so it does not come in contact with the air.
      I think is a very smart trick.

      Let us know how you go on!

      Cheers,
      Andrea

      • Reply
        Oliver Lison
        June 11, 2020 at 10:35 pm

        I am not sure. If you look at washing powder, it looks homogeneous too. That is why I am attempting to mix a 1 liter batch only.
        As you know the stated shelf life of 6 months is not long enough even though I have planned to do a lot more film (currently I am holding a stock of 80 films at home).
        The season to photograph outdoors with film is down to 3 to 4 months. In the winter it is hard to use film – for me at least.

        Cheers

        Oliver

        • Reply
          Sroyon
          June 12, 2020 at 2:17 pm

          I’ve been using D-76 for a while now (which is functionally equivalent to ID-11) and I always buy big (3.8 litre) packs and split the powder into 4 parts by weight, then prepare 950 ml of stock at a time. This is easier with D-76 than ID-11, because D-76 powder comes in one pack, while ID-11 as you know comes in two. I give the pack a good shake first, and I’ve never had a consistency problem (I’ve developed many rolls this way). Kodak doesn’t recommend making smaller batches, but I discussed this with someone who runs a lab in Copenhagen, and he also said it was fine to do this (and he seems to know his stuff). Admittedly I’ve not done a scientific comparison between different batches, but my thinking is, if I can’t see the difference, I don’t care 🙂

          • Andrea Bevacqua
            June 12, 2020 at 2:41 pm

            Cool! As we all now, theory is one thing but reality usually is another one…and I think exactly as you: if you don’t notice any difference, who cares!
            Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    Jasper
    June 11, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Ha! I just started last week with developing after 20+ years of schooting analog. Can you Imaging! And I started with… Df96. So far so good. Great to read your experience. After I finish this Df96 bottle I am going to look for the more usual methods.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      June 11, 2020 at 9:15 pm

      It works well! Especially if you start developing. As soon as you get a bit used to the process is nice to experiment and know something new.
      I love it.

      Let us know how you get on!

  • Reply
    Jerome C
    June 11, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    Wow, until this article I had never heard of bromide drag. I’ve been using df96 now for about 5 months. I have used it to develop HP5+ (35mm &120), Trix-X, and Ultrafine Xtreme 100 and 400. I use minimal agitation at 70F (7 twirls, seconds, then 4 back-and-forth twirls of the little stick once per minute), and thus far, I am very pleased with the results. Here is a link to a few 35mm shots developed with df96.

    https://earthsunfilm.com/df96-monobath-yeah-baby/

    Now that I’m comfortable with the basic development process I hope to try pushing film to experiment with 3200 and 6400, just to see what happens. For that I intend to try microphen. Thanks for such an informative article!

    • Reply
      Huss
      June 12, 2020 at 9:06 pm

      You wrote:

      “The only problem I have run into is sediment. After about four rolls of film, there was enough sediment to stick to the negatives, ruining a couple of shots. ”

      I have now developed 16 rolls of film (and counting!) and I have never experienced that. But I use the inversion agitation process (as I found using the stick was uneven) so maybe that moves the sediment as the flow is much greater?

  • Reply
    Simon p
    June 12, 2020 at 8:36 am

    I’ve developed countless rolls of black and white film over the last few years and from time to time these stripes have been a problem. When they start to appear on a roll I change my fixer- problem solved, every time . I always stand develop ( no or very little agitation) and I wonder sometimes if the so called bromide drag is just that- semi exhausted fixer.

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      June 12, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Hi Simon,
      reading on internet it seems that the problem is not the fixer, but if it solves the problem for you: happy days.
      What kind of developer do you usually use? Did you notice if these drags appear more frequently with one type of developer? How many time do you re-use the developer (and the fixer)?
      There are so many variables to bear in mind…

      Cheers,
      Andrea

      • Reply
        Simon p
        June 13, 2020 at 4:33 pm

        Hi Andrea
        I just use good old rodinal 1+100 and more recently I’ve been experimenting with 1+75. Rodinal is just use and dispose and I guess I change the fixer about once every 10-15 rolls but I don’t count lol. When the stripes start to appear that’s when I change it. Its just something that I’ve noticed and thought that it might help. Before deciding that the fixer was my problem those pesky stripes used to drive me nuts!

        • Reply
          Andrea Bevacqua
          June 13, 2020 at 4:48 pm

          Hi Simon, Thanks for your comments. I see that the fixer can be a cause, then. It is quite odd because with the mono bath you do not use a fixer as it should be already in the chemical. Anyway, now that `I am using the more “normal” way of developing, I have no trace of bromide drags.

          Cheers,
          Andrea

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    June 14, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Andrea. First I’d like to thank you for your “saga” which may help others to take the last step toward home-processing film which is, in my opinion, the best way of doing things regarding one’s film… once the process has been tamed with its usual load of mishaps overcome. Yes, Andrea, details matter here and any “experienced guy” will confirm it (I have been processing my own BW film for almost half a century now and I learnt to pay attentions to these details which are crucial with film processing). One detail you do not mention is the quality of the water you are using (some are more or less acid, may include particular chemicals…I have had friends who only used distilled water for constant results and control of the PH). Without going to this extreme, processing time have to be adapted to the water you use and so your results may not be 100% transferrable to someone else or a different location. Agitation is critical (not enough will create bromide drag (which, you are right, has strictly nothing to do with the state of the fixer) and low contrast / too much agitation will increase contrast and grain as it boosts the chemical reactions involved). If you have not been doing it, do take notes. To share my own experience, I usually start with slowly inverting the tank for 10s and banging it (2-3 times) to get rid of potential air bubbles, then 2to 3 inversions every 30s or 1 mn depending on the desired contrast. Temperature is also crucial (as mentioned above). To solve most problems (including storage problem) I have used ID 11 or D76 (almost same formula, one is Ilford, the other one is Kodak) at 1+1 to 1+3 dilutions for a one-time-use solution. Dilutions do affect processing time, contrast, grain and acutance (perceived local contrast/sharpness). More diluted developers allow for longer processing times which minimizes the impact of potential errors (wrong time, skipped inversion, etc. …). I find that 10 mn for the developer is the ideal duration, neither too short nor boringly long. As for dilutions and your processing conundrum having to use 600 ml for your tank, nothing stops you from adding 100 ml to your 500 ml solution, you just have to adjust your processing time. 20 years ago or so, as soon as it was released, I have started to use Kodak X-Tol (for many reasons, the fact that it is less damaging to the environment being one, but mostly for the results) at a 1+1 dilution. Since I have converted many past users of ID-11, D76, Microdol and other Rodinals… which means it does not work just for me. I hope these notes can help you in your progress. All the best,

    • Reply
      Andrea Bevacqua
      June 15, 2020 at 8:18 am

      Hi Bruno,
      thank you very much for your appreciated comment. I really do hope to be helpful to someone else, this is the intent of my saga.
      You are right, I did not down to details in my post, but I am trying to pay attention to them.
      I am using the tap water, which in my are is quite hard. I wanted to “analyse” it, just in order to know what kind of water it is and adjust my process. I just need to understand what kind of datas I need. I thought about using distilled water for the whole process but because is a bit laborious and I don’t do fine art, I thought it would have been more the fuss than the gain, for me.
      Unfortunately I do not take notes. Thanks for remind it to me.I have to start.
      Starting taking notes it is a good opportunity to experiment the agitation type as well.I will pay attention to that. I a used to bang the tank as well. A couple of time on the bottom, as it is the small tank. I saw a video of Andrea Calabresi (which I believe he is a quite famous printer) were he was explaining that for bigger tanks (he was using a very tall tank which can accommodate 6 or 8 120 format films) is better to bang the tank on the sides being so tall.
      At the moment I am using ID11 at 1+1 solution, which brings the time around 8-10 minutes. Depending to the film. I read that for times more than 10 minutes can happen that the film is going to thin considerably, so would be better to avoid long times.
      Next developer to try will be the Xtol. But on the to do list there is also the caffetol. I got a recipe from a guy who is able to have stunning results, so I want to try that as well.

      Again, thanks Bruno for your comment, I really need this kind of tips.

      Cheers,
      Andrea

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