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Labour Love - part 3 of 1 2 3 4

by Paul Gallagher Published

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During one of those Internet reading sessions I noticed a repeated message that many of the people had bought a system called the HP Combi-Plan. This system, which sounded like a 1950's kitchen design, was, in fact, a light-safe tank that, once loaded, could be used to process up to six sheets of film in full daylight. This sounded amazing, so I tracked down the supplier in the UK and duly paid the £65 and a bit extra for express delivery. After all, I had film exposed using this new camera, which had not seen the light of day since the shutter was released. When I got the tank it comprised a negative holder for up to six sheets of film with a rubberised lid and funnel.

I followed all the instructions and the first negatives showed some promising results, but were still not reliable enough and showed streaking. At this point a friend visited, and brought an old book showing various processing problems, arising from different processing methods. Although it was agreed that my Paterson design was a complete non-starter, I was shocked to find that the main source of the problem I was encountering was due to pre-washing the film. But, I had always used this method and Ilford recommends it! In disbelief, and with a little trepidation, I began processing two sheets of film for the first time without a pre-wash and the results were a marked improvement.

After some further alterations to this essential part of the overall photographic process, I bought several other tanks and I now 'dip-n-dunk' process all my films, but still only two at a time. I arrived at this decision because I still found that, even without a pre-wash, the film was susceptible to streaking, because of the inversion agitation recommended for the tank. The reduction in this type of agitation was the only way I found I could be sure of reliable consistency and offer my films to a process I truly trusted.

Drying these negatives also proved to be something that I could not be quite as cavalier about as I had been with roll film. Because I have never had a drying cabinet, I used a small warm room in my house and placed a deioniser in it to reduce the airborne dust.

This part of the process was still good enough, but when I first hung the sheet films they developed drying marks because I failed to hang them from one corner. This, along with trial and error adjustments throughout the entire processing procedure, was one of the many lessons that I learned.


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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:45 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022