I know similar questions have been answered but I have a specific unusual addition that I can’t work out. Developed tri-x 400 in d76 1:1 last night using the timings from the packaging that have worked spot on for me before. The negatives came out completely transparent including the leader that should have been black. The edge markings are all present and look normal. The transparent leader made me thing fixer was used before developer although I’m sure I didn’t!if fixer was used first though I thought the edge markings would also be transparent? I’m sure the film was from the camera not unused, and I’m sure it spooled all the way in the camera as winding it back in at the end felt like a normal length of time. If the developing process was correct in that the markings are present why is the leader transparent?! I tested some developer and fixer after with the cut off winder portions - developer made it black, fixer made it clear. Only explanation I can think is if Kodak don’t expose their markings onto the film but they are somehow printed such that they are no longer indicative of a correct developing process... far fetched? Help!!!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Kodak exposes edge markings. I've never heard of them doing otherwise. Have you checked the shutter of the camera in question to see if it is opening properly? How much of the leader did you develop (i.e. did you trim off the end that would have been fogged by loading in light)? P.S. Paragraphs are your friend. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 8:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep - fair enough - typing on iPhone could barely read it myself! \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben R
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... and turns out can’t do paragraphs as return key posts the comment! I only trim the asymmetric bit of the leader which usually leaves a significant chunk fully exposed and develops as a black strip. That hasn’t happened this time and I’m struggling to comprehend how the markings have developed properly yet the leader is transparent?! \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben R
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


I will speculate: In the darkroom, you grabbed the wrong film cassette and developed a roll that was never exposed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It the leader that was/is always exposed should have come out black if that was the case no? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben R
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ Ben R - If the edge printing is highly visible, then we can assume the film was developed and that the chemicals of the process were in reasonable condition. This falls under the heading of the twilight zone. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ Ben R -- I have observed Kodak film mal-processed, coming out clear. On such rolls I have observed that the edge printing, though barely visible was nonetheless visible. When I say visible I mean barely. I think the edge printing is applied both by light and by embossing. If you see bold edge printing, the processing was reasonable. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ The edge markings are as solid as normal - look great! I’ve emailed Kodak and will report back if any other answer comes up - otherwise I think the suggestion of developing an unused film must be the only answer - and managing to cut off the leader exactly at the same level as the exposed piece... I swear I didn’t but I think the proof is still hanging up drying for all to see! Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben R
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the only possibility, too. If you loaded the film into a camera, you'd have done it in ambient light and exposed the leader. (Exception: infrared film must be loaded in a changing bag. I assume this wasn't infrared film.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 2:26

The most likely culprit is your camera. Here are the steps I would take to troubleshoot this issue. I realize a few of them have already been covered by yourself but for completeness I've included them. if you answer "No" you've found the problem.

  1. Open the camera without any film loaded and fire the shutter (you may need to depress a switch to trick it into thinking the back is closed if your shutter will not fire with the back open.) Does the shutter move?
  2. Set the shutter to a long time (1/2 second or longer) Does the shutter stay open as long as you've selected? cycle between the shortest exposure available and longer exposures. Does the shutter adjust with each exposure or is it always short no matter what you select?
  3. If your camera is an auto-winder, does the take-up spool turn with each exposure? If it is a manual winder, does the spool rotate evenly through the entire lever throw or only "stutter" a few times?
  4. Set the camera to bulb and open the shutter with a normal (~50mm) lens attached. If there is a manual aperture, open and close it. If there is electronic aperture control, perform test shots at various apertures. Does the aperture open all the way or does it stay closed?
  5. Take your camera and a new spool of film from another batch into your darkroom. Spool off the leader plus a few inches and the cut a new leader tab. Load this film into the camera without ever allowing light to strike it. Make a few long exposures in a sunny environment. Develop the film. Do you see several over exposed frames or just one?
  6. Shoot film from the same batch in a different camera/ lens/ environment just to rule out random, rarer failures. Did anything change?

I've seen this issue 4 times and for three of them it was because the shutter had failed and was either not opening or was only firing at its native rate (1/250s on this particular camera) and also not opening the iris to shoot. If you are expecting a long exposure and get a short one, you could be so underexposed nothing is visible on the film.

The 1 instance in which it was not the shutter at fault was my doing. I had substituted a friend's unexposed roll with one I'd already developed and reloaded. It was just a scouting trip and I copied all of his shots so nothing would be lost... He was still pretty unhappy since I waited until he spent an hour trying to figure out the source of his problems. Then again this is the same guy who exposed an image of his rear end onto every sheet in my paper safe...

As Alan pointed out it is also possible that you mixed up the rolls but if, like most photographers I know, you mark each roll as it comes out of the camera, then that is unlikely.


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