Friday, 20 December 2013

Branching Out With Slavich Unibrom

  I have made no secret on this blog and on various groups and forums of the struggles I have had with Slavich Unibrom.  I have had no end of trouble trying to get even development and retain highlight detail and I have pretty much given up on it until I can try out an alternative developer to Fotospeed’s LD20, which is all i have in my stock at the moment.

  Having a few hours free (a rare gift from Jess) to print I made a lith print using some old Agfa Brovira (see previous post).  I had to mix up some fresh standard developer for the test strip so instead of letting that go to waste I decided to try some straight up printing on Unibrom (sacrilege?) using a negative from about a year ago when I went on holiday to Scotland.  The image is of a very small plant that I discovered growing out of a bed of moss on the edge of a forest.  It has good contrast and was well exposed so I thought it would be ideal for seeing what Unibrom can deliver when it comes to straight up printing. 

  I made a test strip, chose an exposure and did a flat print.  It looked good, strong cool blacks and good highlights.  

Ignore the dust etc, my scanner is currently filthy!

   It would need some dodging and burning to get the most out of it though, and i was considering what needed to be done i found my thoughts turning to the lith developer I had just used.  It still had some life left in it so why not try some second pass lith?  I have seen some fine examples of this paper using the second pass method and now seemed like a good opportunity to try it out.  I got out my potassium ferricyanide/bromide bleach, bleached the print all the way back, rinsed it and then put it in the lith developer.  The colours were superb!  The shadows started to build up from a dark coppery red through to a vivid orange before finally cooling off into grey. 

Sorry about the orientation - blogger wont let me rotate the images!

  Unfortunately I pulled the print too late and lost the lovely copper tones in the foreground foliage so I re-bleached it and tried again.  Alas the print solarised (I’m no fan of solarisation) so I made a fresh print and tried again.  Unfortunately it failed this time too.  It is going to take a bit of work to make sure I keep the colour in the foreground at the same time the highlight detail comes in.  That’s something for me to work on in my next darkroom session – maybe only partial bleaching…

Here's the solarised version
   The only drawback I discovered is that once the print goes into the fixer the lovely copper tones disappear and turn into a pale golden yellow – still very pleasing but something of a disappointment after the copper tones.  It's something to keep in mind for future prints though.

The print after the fixing bath.  I need to try and get this lovely colour into the foreground more.  This print is going to take some work i think.
  But still, at least I have found a new use for my supply of Unibrom – it’s a lovely paper and it’s a shame that I can’t seem to get it to work for me with straight lith.  As I mentioned before, perhaps a different developer would serve me better.  Until I can try that out second pass seems to be the order of the day.  I’m looking forward to trying it out with some other negatives, hopefully this weekend.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Lithing Glen Coe

  As I STILL haven’t replaced my broken Bronica SQ-A body I am stuck without a camera.  That being the case I have hardly been in the darkroom at all lately.  I managed to get an evening a few nights ago though and decided to dig through my negative file and see if there was something I missed.  I ended up looking at some rolls I had shot on holiday in Scotland earlier this year.  I had printed most of the good frames from it but there was one frame in particular I just couldn’t get a print I liked from.  It was of some mountains in Glen Coe close to dusk and the shadows were all blocked up.  I was in a rush at the time of exposure so it’s not really the best negative I could have got from the scene, and what’s more there are spots, marks and scratches all over it (bad processing on my part)!  

  I decided that maybe it was time to give it another try.  I went through a few sheets of paper but couldn’t really get anything close to what I liked, and those spots and marks were an annoyance.  I decided to try and lith it and settled on Agfa Brovira as my paper of choice.  With Brovira I can get a good range of tones and it still retains great highlight detail so was ideal for this situation.  Plus with lith marks and spots annoy me much less for some reason, maybe it's because of the gritty nature of hte final print.  

 I mixed up the developer, exposed the paper and slid it into the tray.  It took about 25 minutes to get to an appropriate snatch point, but unlike most of my other prints I pulled it just before the shadows became too dark.  There is shadow detail in this negative that would be lost if I let the blacks fully develop – a road and the texture of the mountainside – and I wanted them to still be discernible in the final print.   

  I’m pleased with the final print, there are patches of a golden yellowy tone that appeared upon drying.  I’m not sure if that’s to do with the lith process or just down to the age of the paper, I like it anyway.  I’m starting to run low on Brovira so I need to start saving it for the most important negatives, or find someone with a huge stash for sale!

  It just goes to show how important it is to keep going back to old negatives as well as printing new ones as your printing skills improve with time and you may be able to get more from your negative than you could when you first tried.