Saturday, 22 March 2014

Finishing in the Mountains & Digging into the past

  My previous post was regarding the prints i made from a roll of film i shot whilst away on holiday in Glencoe, Scotland... and so is this post!  This week has been one of those wonderful weeks where Jess has had a lot on in the evenings, so i've been pretty much left to my own devices.  An we all know what that means don't we - key out, gate open, electric cable in, red light on!

  On the roll i shot there were two more prints i wanted to make.  I may end up printing some of the other frames at some point in the future but at the moment i don't find the "subjects" particularly interesting on one of them and the other one is ever so slightly out of focus (dammit)! 

  I started off in my usual manner on my first print - test strips, proof prints etc but after an hour or so i couldn't seem to get a decent looking print.  I knew i wanted to lith print the other two so i decided to try and lith this first one as well.  I mixed up some LD20 (15A, 15B, 10 old brown and make it up to an 800ml solution).  For the first print i decided to dig into my mini-stash of Orwo BN118 which is a paper i know nthing about except i have used it on a few prints previously and it tends to give a nice brown colour overall with not very much infectious development (much like Agfa Brovira which i'm a huge huge huge fan of).  Previous prints i have made on this paper didn't really have many highlight tones so i was interesting to see how it would handle the sky in this shot.  I did a test strip, determined the correct exposure, added 3 stops, exposed and started developing.  Eventually i pulled the print, stoppped, fixed and rinsed as usual, gave it a little dunk in selenium toner (1:9) and this is what i got:

  Not the greatest print i've ever done i reckon but a good start.  The paper has handled the highlights well (not that there are tonnes) and the shadows are nice and gritty.  To be honest the composition and light on this shot isn't the best but not much i can do about that now is there?!

  My next print was one i took on the road to Glencoe.  There's a huge layby on a sweeping bend of the road which was practically made for tourists.  I was there for about 45 minutes and i think at least 5 coach loads of people came and went in that time, compact cameras a-flashing.  I found myself chuckling when i pondered how their images would turn out.  For some reason people's holiday photos just amuse me - "here's a lovely landscape with my wife stood in front; here's an interesting statue with my daughter in front, here's a hedge with my brother in front".  Bizarre how most people seem to think shots are improved by having family members stood in front of them.  I think it may stem from my parents who overload on holiday photos, every single one having my mum or dad stuck right bang in the middle of the scene!  Anyway - back on track!  I did two exposures at this scene, one standard and one using a cheapo 10 stop filter i got off ebay/amazon (i can't quite remember).  After inspecting the contact sheet i decided to print the long exposure one (seriously, the exposure was like 8 minutes or something - i'd give you an exact figure but my notebook is buried in the under-stairs cupboard and going in there is an undertaking that requires at least half a day and a hearty breakfast, neither of which i have), predominantly because the sky had a better looking shape and also because there was a huge drying mark on the standard one.  I decided to use my precious precious supply of Fotospeed Lith paper for this print.  This paper is long gone but i got 20 sheets on ebay months ago and i'm saving it for very special prints and this felt like one of those.  In my mind i pictured something dark with emphasis put on the lake and sky.  I chose an exposure accordingly and started to develop.  When the time seemed right i pulled the print, processed and selenium toned in 1:9 again.  This caused a boost in the blacks as usual which resulted in some slight loss of detail in the foreground landscape - i expected this though and it was what i wanted.  I wanted the foreground to look almost blocked up so as to add further emphasis to the lake (which took on a lovely pale lilac type colour).  Here's the final result:

  I think it works well and i like the pale pastel tones taken on by the highlights.  Now if only Fotospeed would bring the lith paper back out (only 16 sheets left)!  On your screen you may be seeing some brownish areas in the dark foreground, that's just come from scanning - the print wasn't entirely flat and so some light got in, a bit of a pain but i'm not going to rescan and edit it all over again - just imagine everything in the balck areas is entirely black!

  For regular readers of this blog (if indeed there are any) you may pick up on the vibe that i begrudge wasting chemicals - they're expensive and i want to squeeze everything out of them that i can.  Some would coll that anal, i call it thrifty!  I knew that would be power for at least one more print in the lith developer so i hit the negative folder hard in search of something to print from my past.  I eventually stumbled upon  roll of film i shot at Whitby Abbey a few years ago on my honeymoon (7th May 2011 - a real man remembers when he got married) and realised i had never really printed from it (at that time i was still scanning all my negatives - terrible)!  The whole roll was pretty much a write-off mostly due to lack of ability to not chop the tops of images off when using a Diana camera.  One shot looked great though (even if it is from the exact same angle that everyone seems to take pictures of Whitby abbey from) so i decided to lith it and see what we got.  I spent a few minutes pondering what paper to use (because as you should all know by now paper choice has a massive effect on final print in lith).  As i was feeling somewhat devil-may-care a decided to use a sheet of my even-rarer-than-fotospeed-lith tapestry paper.  This is a textured "art" paper that liths incredibly well and when put into selenium toner will give at least 3 colour splits.  I have used one sheet before to create a watercolour style effect - see here for details.  I decided to give it a go with this print as it was somewhat heavier on the shadows and lower midtones than i have previously lithed on this paper, i was interested to see what i would end up with.  I determined exposure, processed and dipped into the selenium toner (1:9 again) and as expected colours kept changing from the shadows up through to the highlights.  I kept the print in the selenium until i got a nice cool grey in the lower mids and lovely pale pastel yellows and lilacs in the tones of the sky.  When using this paper previously i would paint the toner onto areas i want to alter the colours of but i thought this print looked fine as it was so i left it to dry (keeping in mind that when wet it is a yellowy colour but would dry-down to a salmon pink tone).  Once dry i was pleased with how it looked:

  Again - scanning problems!  Because this paper is heavily textured it wouldn't render the blacks actually black so they have the kind of look you get when you're trying to scan through dense colour film.  Again, just imagine that the shadow areas are solid black! 

  So, a successful darkroom session from which i learnt the following things:
  • I hate scanning
  • Lith printing continues to rule
  All i need to do now is actually go out and shoot some more film (it's been 2 months since i've even touched my camera - naughty me) so i can crack on printing.  Perhaps in the meantime i should go back through my old negatives and see if there's anything i've missed.  until next time - happy printing!