Monday, 24 June 2013


  As usual at the weekend i had a bit of time to myself as Jess was working the morning shift (got to love that morning shift)!  What better way to spend this time than by dabbling in the ancient art of printy?!  I was in a very lith mood so i chose a negative from my latest roll of film and picked a paper.  As mentioned previously i recently won a bulk load of paper on EBay, mostly old Agfa Brovira and Portriga, but i also got a small pack of 8 x 10 Fotospeed Tapestry.  Is it lithable?  Internet says yes as does the good old Facebook lith printing group.  A bit of reading in Lord Rudman's lith and toning books revealed this to be a very special paper.  It liths very well and when toned in selenium a wide range of colours are available.  I got set up and gave it a try... and what a paper!  A lovely textured base with a nice matt finish, it liths fantastically and (as we will go on to see) is phenomenal in Selenium.  This is the print i finally got at the end of the process:

  As you can see it has a very different look to my usual lith prints.  It looks (to me at least) like a watercolour painting.  The colours you can get from this paper in selenium are fantastic, but instead of me talking about it - i have pictures!

  The first print i made of this messed up because i ended up putting finger prints all over the paper.  I decided to use this print to see how far the colour change in selenium would go.  What follows is a series of pictures (taken on my camera phone - sorry for the poor quality of some of them) from 0 to 23 minutes taken every 60 seconds to demonstrate the colour changes.

  Firstly here is the original, untoned print:

Untoned, wet print (note the golden yellow colour - when dry this turned a strong pinkish colour)
30s - note the shadows immediately turning a cool purplish colour
1:30 shadows cooling off further and working up to the lower midtones
3:00 midtones starting to be affected.  Hints of purple can be seen around the boats cabin
4:00 nice separation in the cabin area and increased separation in the sky
6:00 purple tones taking over the midtones now and moving up towards the highlights.  The sandy foreground taking on a cooler steely grey tone.
9:00 cloud separation reducing slightly as the cooler grey moves towards the purple areas
14:00 the cool grey now slowly turning into a soft creamy buff colour
15:00 as the creamy colour is taking over cloud separation has reduced significantly
17:00 shadows have a slight olivey brown tone
23:00 the cream has settled into a pale creamy grey colour across the print
  As you can see the print goes through many different colour changes before settling down at around 20 minutes or so.  My plan now was to give an overall toning in selenium to get things going then wash the print and, using a paintbrush, place selenium onto the areas i wanted extra toning on.  I started with the sky so as to increase separation between the purple and yellow areas, then i toned the foreground to change it from the cool grey to a sandy yellow colour.  Then i did a little extra on the cabin and prow of the boat to help it stand out from the frame a little more.  I think the final print looks much better with these multiple pastel colours than it would with just one overall tone.  But maybe that's just me.  One thing that i should mention if you should be lucky enough to come into ownership of this paper is that it dries a different colour.  For exmaple - here is my final print when wet:

And here it is dried out prior to toning:

  As you can see we've gone from yellow to pink.  Not quite what i fancied for this print but maybe one to kkero in mind for another subject.

  I'm sure this "toner painting" could be just as easily applied to any other paper.  You probably won't get as much of an extreme colour shifting but you may get something.  It's certainly something i'll be keeping in mind to try out in the future.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sometimes a Joy, Sometimes a Trial

  I printed this at the weekend and it was a huge pain in the bum to do!

  I went through at least 20 sheets of paper trying to get the contrast and exposure right.  I had to keep swapping frames on my negative due to dust and hair that were in the emulsion - the whole printing process was just a pain.  Sometimes printing is a joy, sometimes a trial.

  Even the toning didn't go as planned.  I wanted to try something i read in the Tim Rudman toning book that i recently acquired.  You blue tone the print to completion, rinse then put it into selenium toner.  The selenium replaces the blue in the highlights which turn a putty colour.  If you rinse again and put the print back into blue toner then the blue will shift to a bright azure blue.  Guess didn't work.  The selenium stripped all the blue back off the print (apart from a slight hint of purple in the shadows).  It seems only some blue toners work well for this.

  In the end i split toned in sepia and blue to get the above final image.  I really don't know if i like it or not.  But i guess each session in the darkroom is a lesson, sometimes a hard one.

Friday, 14 June 2013

A Reasonable Excuse For Being late?

  On Thursday Jess was working the morning shift, so what with her being lazy unable to drive it fell to me to drop her off.  A quick ten minute journey and i was back home with an hour and a half to kill before i needed to leave for work.  Plenty of time to fire off a quick lith print, yes? Yes?  Well, no not quite.

  Everything was all set up from a session a few days earlier butt he print had turned out to be a dud.  I was using old Agfa paper i had won on Ebay and it had developed very unevenly (which can sometimes be pleasing but in this case wasn't).  I decided to use my ample morning time to make another print, have some breakfast, have a wash and then head off to work satisfied in the knowledge that i have had a fruitful morning.  I started the print but ten minutes in noticed a thicker, darker band running across the centre of the print.  I ditched it and exposed another sheet.  Guess how long it took to develop... 20 minutes?  Half an hour?  No... 56 minutes!  Talk about slow!  I guess next time i use this paper ill try a stronger solution.  The problem now was that i had 5 minutes before i needed to be out the door.  Right, lock the shed, leave the print under the wash, brush my teeth, no time for a shower, deodorant on, clothes changed, hair and beard combed, shoes on, tap off, print drying, out the door, in the car, on the road!  In the end i arrived at work 2 minutes earlier but it was a push.  What do we learn?  Never try and lith on Brovira paper within the space of an hour!

  Anyway, here's the print.  I like the softer lith look this paper has given (compared to Slavich Unibrom).  I haven't experimented with toning it yet so not sure how it will react. I'm sure ill be doing some toning on it soon though so i'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


  Sometimes Ebay is a wonderful place. I tend to go through phases, winning nothing for weeks then getting 5 things at once. A few days ago I took a gamble and won an auction for what was described as "10 opened 12" x 16" packets of Agfa paper, mostly Brovira" for £12. It was a gamble because I didnt know the storage condition of the paper and didnt know if there was 1 or ten sheets in each pack.  Well the paper arrived yesterday and I must say im chuffed. I got sent around 20 packs with some Portriga and Record Rapid thrown in too! There are a few unopened packets and some smaller packs of 9.5" x 12" and 7" x 9.5" too which is great. And to top it all off there is a pack of Fotospeed Tapestry 8" x 10" paper. A bit of research and asking around led me to the discovery that this is basically the legendary Kentmere Kentona paper under Fotospeed branding! Hopefully it will be in good condition and ill be able to get some decent prints out of it. I believe most if not all of these papers lith to varying degrees so it is going to be interesting to experiment.
  Anyway, boast over! It always pays to keep an eye on Ebay. But then again, dont - more for me!!!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Introducing... Slavich Unibrom!

  During my recent order from my usual photo supply store i got a 25 sheet pack of grade 3 Slavich Unibrom.  This is currently the only true lith paper being made since Foma altered their emulsions some months ago.  Whilst the Foma papers still work in lith they no longer give true infectious development so, alas, do not count anymore... not that i'll stop using them though!

  I had seen from my internet research that Unibrom is a hard paper to tame.  Little did i know!  Normally i can get the print i want first or second try when it comes to lith.  I only just got it on my third try with this paper!  My first print went black very rapidly and my second was way too pale.  The infectious development on this paper is ridiculous!  I am used to developing times of around 20 to 45 minutes when in lith but with Unibrom i was snatching at around 5 minutes!

  The paper itself is lovely.  It has a glossy finish that isn't too in your face but gives a lovely sheen, and with it being double weight it has a nice thickness to it that is a joy to handle.

  Im looking forward to using it some more but ill definitely have to make sure i choose the right subject.  This paper gives a very graphic look, almost like a charcoal sketch that could look horrendous with the wrong negative.  It's definitely going to take some experimenting to get the best from it.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

How To: Create 2nd Pass Lith Prints

  Second pass lith is a phrase coined by Tim Rudman and is another tool in the printers tool belt that (like lith) can open up a whole new world of possibilities.  Just like lith developing a plethora of colours are available to the printer who takes time to get to grips with the process and is willing to experiment a little.  In this how-to we’ll run through the basics of 2nd pass lith so that you can get started yourself.

  First, we should talk about what 2nd pass lith actually is.  Unlike lith developing where we overexpose the paper and then slip it into the lith bath, with 2nd pass lith we develop a slightly overexposed print in our normal developer, bleach it back and then redevelop it in lith developer.  The special thing about 2nd pass lith is that it can be used on some papers that do not straight lith, meaning that new avenues are opened up for the printer.  I like to use Kentmere VC Select as it is readily available, relatively cheap and gives lovely greys and pinks on redevelopment.  It is best to experiment with the different papers you have.  Some that lith nicely wont second pass at all whilst others will give a good effect.  Take some time to try some of your stock out and see what you can come up with.  Tim Rudman regularly produces a PDF document with the results of papers and developers currently on the market.  It’s definitely worth a read and you can sign up to get it on his website here

  To demonstrate the process let’s talk through a print or two of mine that i have used this process on.  The first print we will discuss is one i took at a wedding of the front of the wedding car.  Not an especially wonderful print but it serves our demonstration purposes well here.  I did a test strip on from 0 – 30s at grade 2 and came up with this:

  I chose the 30s time as it had the detail i wanted (i was only printing this to make this tutorial so was too focused on getting exposure spot on).  I had to do a little dodging and burning (particularly on the bonnet as the sun was hitting it hard on the day) to get an even exposure across the print.  I should state that when you are making a print to 2nd pass lith it should be overexposed (made darker) slightly (around ¼ - ¾ of a stop, depending on the effect you go for) to compensate for the loss of highlight detail you will get when bleaching and redeveloping (remember the shadows will accelerate in the lith developer and so highlight detail may get left behind).  So, i developed my print (making sure it was slightly denser) and came up with this (which this damned blog hosting website wont let me rotate!):

   Nothing mind-blowing but it will do.  Note how the highlights are burned in quite heavily.  This is important because i want to retain detail in the bonnet highlights before the shadows get too blocked up.

  After the usual wash it is time to bleach the print.  If you have a bleach from a sepia toning kit that will do nicely.  Now comes experimentation time.  You can bleach the whole print back, bleach only the highlights, bleach partway into the midtones or bleach until you just touch the shadows; it’s really up to you.  Bleaching time will obviously effect the look of your final print so it is good to make a few copies of the same print and try different bleaching times, then compare the final prints and see what works for you.  The type of bleach you use will also effect the colour you get upon redeveloping.  Bleach supplied with toner kits is usually a potassium ferricyanide/potassium bromide mix but copper sulphate bleaches are also available (among others).  If you are only bleaching a little it is good to dilute your bleach (around 1:7 is what i find best) as this gives you more control.  If you put a print into full strength bleach it will disappear very rapidly, a weaker bleach will allow you time to inspect and decide when to pull the print.

  With this print i first tried bleaching only the highlight, but it didn’t work as on redevelopment the shadow blocked up before any highlight detail started to return.  Bleaching all the way back led to a very flat image.  In the end i bleached partway into the lower mid-tones resulting in this:

  After a good wash to make sure all the bleach was removed i put the print into my lith developer and started agitating the tray.  Another good thing about 2nd pass lith is that it can be done with the lights on, therefore meaning that you can keep a good eye on the print a development progresses.  You may find that development is very rapid, sometimes just 1 minute!  With this print the shadows started building up nicely as the highlights were starting to come in.  This paper tends to give nice greys in the midtones and lovely pinks in the highlights:

  I toned this print in selenium toner which reduced some of the pink and gave the mid-tone greys a cooler blueish colour.  As you can see, although not true lith it does have some lith characteristics like high contrast, cool grainy shadows and colourful highlights.

  Let’s now take a look at another print.  This is a quick portrait i shot of my wife Jess at a wedding we went to recently.  It was shot on Ilford Delta 400 and developed in Rodinal.  Big mistake.  I quickly came to see that delta films developed in Rodinal give hideous, hideous grain!  Won’t be making that mistake again!  But as i liked the shot i decided to give it a try with 2nd pass lith on Kentmere VC Select to see what happened.  I spent some time doing a test strip and subsequently had to change the grade to get the contrast i wanted.  A print at grade 2 resulted in this monstrosity:

   So i did a split on a sheet of paper, grade 3 on the left and grade 4 on the right.  Grade 4 gave me roughly the look i wanted so i did a straight print.  When it came to bleaching i left the print in the potassium ferricyanide/potassium bromide until the shadows were just starting to be affected. 

  I then washed thoroughly and began redeveloping in the lith developer.  The shadows emerged nicely and the highlights took on a pleasing pale pinkish tone.  When the time seemed right i snatched the print and stop, fixed and washed as usual.  I then finished off with a small amount of selenium toning to give a little extra “pop” to the print.  I like how the 2nd pass has forced the eyes to stand out from the shot more and given the hair nice detailed contrast.


  As with straight lith there are many factors that can affect the look of the final print.  The paper used, developer temperature and dilution, the type of bleach used, time bleached, time developed and the overexposure of the original print can all change the look of the resulting print; and it would be good to spend some time experimenting with these.

  But who’s to say that 2nd pass lith has to use standard developer then lith developer?  You can start with lith and end with lith if you like, or you can start with lith then end with standard dev.  It’s really up to you – again, experimentation is the word!

  As with straight lith, toning can often alter the colours you can get on the final print.  I find selenium can have a huge effect on the highlight colours particularly. It is good to take a print, cut it into strips and tone for varying amounts of time.  Some papers will show little change where others can go from yellow highlights t pinkish red, plum, steely grey and brown!  I’m going to say it again – experiment!

  So as you can see, 2nd pass lith is a lot of fun and is a great way of extending your printing vocabulary.  I hope you give it a try and i hope you like the results you get.  Here’s a print of mine to end on that is 2ndpass lithed on Orwo BN118.