Some of you may remember that I shot a roll of medium format on Father's Day with my husband and kids. I used Ilford HP5 in my Mamiya 645, rated at 1600 and pushed two stops in development. The images I posted on here had been cropped to exclude a dark line that ran all along the left side of the frame. Here is an example of an uncropped frame:
This line was present on each and every frame from that roll and was also visible on the negatives themselves. I fretted about this for awhile, assuming that it was a shutter lag or some shutter issue in general, but then I fired off a roll of color film, sent it off to The FIND Lab (best lab ever, guys), and got scans back that were completely free of any shaded line.
I suppose these results assuaged my fears before heading out on our trip to Florida, although I did replace the battery in my Mamiya, just in case. On one particular day while on vacation, my parents watched the girls while I lugged out all of my big girl gear and schlepped through the sand to capture the sunset. I burned through 4 rolls of Portra 400, Ektachrome 200, Ektar, and HP5, really pushing myself to experiment with low light, slow shutter speed (since my dad let me borrow his heavy duty tripod), and slide film again (fingers crossed). When I got home, I developed the HP5 and about cried when I hung the negatives to dry. The dreaded line had returned with a vengeance.
I immediately started to rack my brain about what could possibly be going wrong. I was now fairly confident that it wasn't a camera or scanning issue, but a development one. I started clicking through old black and white images that I've developed and scanned before and found no lines until...I bought a new developing tank. You see, my dad had given me his old off-brand tank and reel a couple of years ago and I had been using that since I had re-entered the world of film. However, it leaks pretty badly and so I can't do inversions without losing too many chemicals and thus screwing up the development process that way, so I sprung for a Paterson tank a couple of months ago. So far, I have developed 2 rolls of 120mm and 1 roll of 35mm in the tank. The 35mm images came out just fine:
So I've now eliminated the camera, the scanner, and a variety of films as the issue. The lines only appear on 120mm Ilford HP5 shot on my Mamiya and developed in my new tank. As you can imagine, I became highly suspicious of the Paterson tank and its annoying reel (I could never get it to work as easily as they said it should...the beginning of the film just won't catch properly and keeps curling into the grooves, making it very difficult to spool). As fate would have it, I had dropped off the girls for karate camp yesterday and after an appointment, I rushed back home and set up my camera. I kept every setting the same as when I had shot the Father's Day pictures last month: Mamiya 645, 80mm lens, HP5, 1/60 SS, 1600 ISO, f4.
The following images may be *NSFW* seeing as that I'm nude, but still covered by a sheet. I got a tattoo last week and felt that I could kill two birds with one stone by documenting the new addition to my body and troubleshooting the images problem. After finishing the roll (which is really, REALLY hard to shoot these kind of self-portraits on film!), I used the old tank and reel to develop it. Guess what? The line was only present on 4 out of 15 images, and it was the first four frames that were affected, which also happen to be the first frames that get spooled... coincidence? I think not. The line was also much thinner and less bold:
And so I think I've figured it out. I'm fairly sure the line is due to how the film is initially rolled onto the spool. If the edges curl at all and therefore touch the subsequent emulsion, the chemicals don't adequately permeate the entire strip. The Paterson reel just never felt right. So the next time I develop, I'll be even more conscientious of how I'm spooling the film. And since you can't really see my tattoo in this shot, here's a better one:
In case you can't read it due to the fuzziness (I told you it's really difficult to do self-portraits), it says "to the sea." I have this admittedly irrational fear that I'm going to die and no one will remember to burn me and put my ashes in the ocean (even though it's in my living will and I've told everyone close to me). I feel that I've now done everything I can to ensure that my final wishes are honored. Morbid, perhaps, but it puts my mind at ease. Anyways, my panic at receiving my Florida scans back next week has vanished and I'm now anxiously awaiting those results!