Wednesday, 30 July 2014


  I have had both good and bad fortune lately.  I thought things were really looking up when i found this stash of photo paper ridiculously cheap (i won't tell you how much i got it for because you will hate me forever and never read this blog again).  I saw an advert that someone was getting rid of some darkroom gear so i message them to see if they had any paper.  They said they had a few odds and ends so i took a punt and we arranged a price.  When the package arrived my head nearly exploded!  Inside was an almost full pack of 8x10 Fotospeed Lith paper, a pack of Oriental Seagull, a few packs of Ilford MGIV RC VC, a pack of Kentmere Fineprint VC, some Ilford MG FB WT in 9.5x12 and 12x16, a pretty full pack of Kentmere Art Document, Some Foma papers in 12x16 and a full pack of 16x20 and some Fotospeed Fotolinen which i haven't been able to find much out about yet.  And on top of that they sent me some unused Moersch Easylith!  What an absolutely fantastic bundle to get in the post!

   Naturally i got into the darkroom as soon as i could and that is when misfortune struck.  I decided to do some lith and try out some of these new papers.  I have used Fotospeed Lith and Art Document before but i tried some again (after all, everyone loves 9.5x12, right), and i also tried some of the seagull as i believe it is great for lith.  Unfortunately none of the prints turned out particularly well.  I think i chose the wrong negatives and they came out looking dull.  But, on the bright side at least i learned how the papers act in lith so i can know what results to expect next time.

   The Nab shot is from my recent trip to the east coat, and the one of the boulder is from an old negative i dug out - i am thinking both of these probably deserve a bit of time trying to get a good fine print out of.  I have struggled with the nab shot in the past but i put that down to being in a 'funny mood'.  Perhaps another session in the darkroom will reveal if i can make anything of it.  The boulder shot has great detail in the sky so i may try and make a moody print out of it with lots of lovely cloud contrast.  As for the castle shot, i found that on a recent walk with the dog and it would make a great print except for the face that the development messed up.  I'm not sure if you can make it out but there are loads of white dots all over the print.  For some reason i rated Ilford Pan F+ at 25iso and in Rodinal that doesn't work out too well.  Looks like i will have to return there with some FP4+ and re-shoot.

  I haven't really done much else lately.  I have been toying with doing some zone system testing to determine the best ISO and development times for my setup.  It is something i should have done ages ago but, as you should know by now, i am somewhat lazy and it feels like i'm wasting film (even though i know i'm not).  No doubt i will write a tutorial all about it (if it is successful).  I really do need to get better at getting work done and getting this blog updated more regularly.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Power of Selenium

  I've spoken many times on this blog of how much i enjoy working a negative until i get the final print that i want.  I love working out the dodging and burning for different areas of the print and thinking about the toning i want to do to complete it.  That being said, this print was an absolute killer.  Once again it is from my recent holiday away to the eats cast of England to enjoy the pleasant life of a fishing village for a week.  I have been here many times before and fancied some new spots to shoot so i had a quick look around online before i headed out.  A little bit of research revealed a somewhat hidden bay on the coast complete with rock shelves and nabs (a nab is an outcrop of rock which the sea has not eroded - think stack).  Perfect!  We ended up going there for a day midweek and had a fantastic time walking the dog and relaxing on he sand and rocks.  Of course, i had my Bronica kit with me and was going a bit trigger happy.  I took this shot low to the ground with a nice shapely rock in the foreground and a distant nab and cliff in the background.  The sky seemed good so marvelous, i could burn that in as much as need be upon my return to the darkroom.

  After i developed etc i setup a flat print (after determining the best overall exposure using split grade test strips) i got a flat print exposure.  And it looked rubbish.  So, off i went exploring my dodging and burning options - sheet after sheet after sheet after sheet of paper was used (i was using Slavich Unibrom for it's cold tone and nice heavy weight).  I got a print i was semi happy with and decided to tone (after a wash of course).  I copper toned for a short period then put it into selenium - after a few minutes large white spots started to appear (this is where we learn to selenium tone before copper) so i scrapped it, deciding it didn't look right anyway.

  No amount of dodging and burning that i did made the print look right.  I wanted something dark and i just wasn't getting it.  Perhaps i'm just not at the skill level to do that kind of print yet - hopefully one day i will be.  It's prints like these that really test me!

This is the best i got alas.
   After hours of trying and eventually running out of Unibrom i knew it wasn't happening - i just couldn't get any "pop" out of the print.  I decided to clear my mind and approach it from a lith point of view.  Sometimes, if i'm honest, lith feels like a bit of a cop-out.  I suppose that's because i'm not spending hours configuring dodging and burning charts, i'm just picking an exposure and slapping some paper in a tray.  There is more skill to it than that, and there's nothing wrong with dodging and burning for lith - a fact i had to reassuring myself with.

  Now one of mankind's oldest questions - which paper to use.  After much deliberation i decided to go for Fotospeed Lith paper as i knew it would give me a dark feel and suitable colouring.  So, i picked my exposure and developed until the sky had good detail.  After snatching, fixing and washing i was left with this:

  Good, i thought, but not quite there.  The shadows are a!  As is usual with my lith prints i like to see how they react to selenium toner.  In this instance i chose a dilution of 1:5 as i knew it would give more of a colour change than a weaker ratio.  I popped the print into the tray and it went nuclear!  The shadows got absolutely obliterated, the sky darkened dramatically and almost all detail was lost in the foreground rock.  I felt crushed - all that hard work wasted.  I decided to let it dry and think about my next step.

  After a few days of moping about and being busy with work i went back to look through my prints and you know what - i decided i liked the final print i got.  I was suitably dark and it was moody.  It probably isn't going to go down in history as one of my greatest prints but i like it so i decided to leave it there and move on to another negative.  But then again - looking at the above photo of my pre-toned print, i'm liking that as well...

  One thing we learn - never underestimate the power of selenium!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Keep on Rolling

  Rather excitingly i have a new paper to use for lith - Kodak Polycontrast III.  

  I found it on a classified listing and as you can see - it's a big roll!  I haven't used paper on a roll before but £10 for this 40inch wide, 100ft long paper seemed too good an opportunity to miss!  I'm hoping to get into the shed this weekend (if Jess let's me - the sun makes her want to go out and do things) and give it a try.  A quick dip into the internet has revealed that it is indeed lithable so i'm thinking of either buying or making some huge trays and making some mega lith prints!  I will, of course, keep you posted on how it goes.