Albumen and selenium toning

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by David A. Goldfarb, May 22, 2006.

  1. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I thought I'd test selenium toning with albumen today with some scrap albumen paper and a 6x6cm neg, and despite warnings to the contrary it doesn't look so bad compared to gold toning. Following recommendations for silver gelatin POP, I fixed first, rinsed, then toned, rather than toning before fixing. I also tried TF-4 instead of plain hypo.

    So the sequence was--

    10 min rinse

    1 min TF-4

    15 min rinse

    3 min KRST 1:32

    normal wash

    The albumen paper was actually coated a few weeks ago, and I still ended up with a pretty clean white (cleaner on the print than in the scan) and good density range. I think the bleaching effect of the fixer and to a lesser extent the toner makes up for the slight browning of the aged paper.

    So historical authenticity aside, is there any good reason not to selenium tone an albumen print? I'll leave the print out and will store some of the adjacent frames on the roll in a folder to see if there are any obvious short-term archival issues.

    I've got a pretty good stock of gold chloride on hand, but for those wanting to try out the process, with gold pushing over $700/oz lately, that's sure to be a barrier, and the option of selenium toning would certainly make albumen printing more widely accessible.

    On a normal 72dpi screen, the attached image will be about twice the size of the contact print.
     

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  2. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    I'm glad to see you try this and post the results David - thank you. One of the things that I had wondered about and which had held me back from trying Albumen (although I have practised the coating process to get it smooth and even, I have yet to sensitise with silver) is the price of toning with gold. Now that you have shown us that selenium does a good job, I am going to try the whole process soon.

    cheers
     
  3. kevin klein

    kevin klein Member

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    Albumen Toning

    I have been using Sodium sulfide for toning my Albumen prints and as far as I am concerned they look just fine. You can use the part B of Kodaks sepea toner or just buy the Sodium sulfide in bulk,it's cheap and a little goes a long way, But it shuld be used at half or third strength or it will yellow the highlites too badly. Be shure the fixer is washed out well or that will cause yellowing of the highlights too. About 10 seconds or so will make a change.
    Experiment and see what you get.
     
  4. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    Hey Kevin, funny meeting you here....

    David, it is hard for me to tell on screen, how does the tonality differ from a regular gold chloride print? I note that the Chicago Albumen Works (POP manufacturers) has a selenium toning formula on their website, but I have never tried it.

    As an aside, Blake at http://mostlymetals.com has good prices for Gold Chloride, about $22 per gram with a minimum order of 5 gram. He is also an good guy who makes Uranotypes...

    jason
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yeah, I bought my gold chloride from Blake when it was around $16.50/g for 25 g. I recommend him as well.

    The screen image is a bit redder than the print. It's pretty similar to a gold toned image, and very much like historic albumen prints. Gold can probably get closer to neutral with longer toning times.
     
  6. kevin klein

    kevin klein Member

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    Howdy


    Hey Jaason, I'v been here for about 3 months now.

    Kevin
     
  7. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    David, thanks for posting your results. I have done some albumen, but the cost of gold toning has held me back from doing more. I find your results very promising.

    Allen
     
  8. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    David,
    Do you know why it is recommended to reverse the usual sequence (i.e., tone first) for selenium toning? I have tried both Vandyke and POP with selenium and toning first seems to work just fine. I wonder if there is a benefit to the different order or is it just following standard practice for bromide papers?
    Celac.

    Moderator's apology--Oh, crap! I accidentally pressed the "edit" button instead of the "reply" button, Celac, and I edited your post, deleting half of it I think, instead of responding to it. Sorry about that, and I hope the question and the answer are clear.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm not really sure. I did take a couple of slips of exposed albumen paper and tried one one way and one the other, and the one that I did selenium first then fixer lost more density in the toner than the one that I did fixer first, so I suspect that's the reason.

    Generally, one exposes albumen paper so that the untoned print is about 1.5 to 2 stops "too dark," because it lightens up in the toner, then lightens more in the fixer, though it then has some dry down, so it gets a little of the density back.

    I suppose another issue might be that gold-alkali toners are alkaline, and fixing first might more quickly exhaust or contaminate the gold toner, where that wouldn't necessarily be a problem with selenium (since we do it all the time with regular silver gelatin papers).
     
  10. dmax

    dmax Member

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    As far as I understand toning for albumen prints, the recommendation is to tone first before fixing. The traditional toners (gold-borax or gold-thiorea) basically leave the silver chloride undisturbed, while the high percentage of sodium thiosulfate in Kodak's Rapid Selenium Toner (about 30% as I recall) works to dissolve the silver compounds. Hence the very visible drop in density when the print is immersed in KRST prior to fixing. The fixer then removes the remaining non-image silver. So toning in KRST prior to fixing introduces two stages where hypo gets to work on the print.

    I think that selenium toning after fixing gives more control over the final density and tonality of the image for two reasons: first, the overall image density is already established, and second, the dilution of the selenium toner, and the duration of immersion allows us to decide when the print "looks right." It's much harder to do this if selenium toning comes before fixing, since its difficult to visualize the full extent of the bleaching effect of hypo.
     
  11. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Is there a reason that selenium toner needs to have fixer in it? Would it be possible to make selenium toner in some other sort of solution that would not bleach? I'd love to have it as an alternative to gold or palladium toners for lower cost and another choice on tone.
     
  12. dmax

    dmax Member

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    Jason,
    Thanks for the lead on less-expensive gold chloride. It's been a while since I toned my prints in gold. Like everybody else, I have been deterred by the cost. Plus the fact that the toner itself is very short-lived, and demands that the printing workstream be built around optimizing the use of the gold toner.
     
  13. dmax

    dmax Member

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    Hi Mark,

    First of all, let me say that my understanding of photochemistry is nowhere near that of some of our members, so I can only guess at the reason. I suspect that the inclusion of thiosulfate in off-the-shelf KRST is a form of insurance against getting inconsistent toning results and staining in prints.

    I think that using KRST in toning prints (silver gelatin primarily) involves two simultaneous processes similar to that of monobaths in film developing. In monobaths, the developer acts on the exposed silver, while the fixer simultaneously dissolves the unexposed silver. For monobaths to work properly, a balance must be struck between the speed of development vs. the speed of dissolution of the unexposed silver.

    In a KRST solution, the selenium probably works on areas where silver compounds are present the most (shadow densities), and proportionately less on the midtones and highlights. Meanwhile the thiosulfate simultaneously works to remove any "free-floating" silver remaining in the print. If you recall, there is the standing rule that prior to any form of toning, the print should be thoroughly fixed, as well as thoroughly washed. I presume this is to remove all traces of non-image silver, and to remove any compounds formed by the fixing process. The presence of thiosulfate in the KRST solution is probably designed to ensure that the selenium gets to work cleanly.

    As an aside: A long time ago while I was working for a media house in Asia, we were able to order selenium powder from a chemical supplier. We would mix a selenium solution and apply it locally to portions of B&W prints with watercolor brushes. The result was the most 3-D B&W prints you ever saw! Prints that were impossible to create by conventional darkroom methods. All this before the advent of unsharp masking or Photoshop.

    But since selenium has been classified as toxic (as is many other photography-related chemical compounds), I doubt if it is still possible for individuals to purchase selenium powder to use directly as a toner.
     
  14. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    David,
    Your answer seems clear and I think the only part of my post you deleted was what I had quoted from your initial posting. Ya gotta watch yourself carefully when you're wielding those "moderator superpowers", kinda like the Charlie Chaplin carrying a ladder. :smile: I was just curious because everything I have read suggests that toning first is optimum.

    I think the reason you are getting excessive bleach-back is simply the KRST is quite bit more concentrated that necessary. As an example, 1+200 works well on Vandyke (toning times in the 10 minute range and a measureable increase in dmax vs untoned). I know that albumen and VDB sensitizer are not the same but the starting point of the image (silver nitrate) and the root problem (bleach back due to thiosulfite/thiocyante in the toner) are similar. I have used KRST on both Abumen works POP and old studio proof and the problem is similar. I had to give a presentation/demonstration recently, part of which was a toning sequence for VDB. I sifted through my small collection of ancient photgraphic how-to books on the premise that research was the better part of valor when faced with public speaking. What I gleaned from my survey of available literature was: toning first was traditionally done to avoid or mitigate bleach back, and VDB prints do not seem to traditonally have been toned. Anyway, toning first seemed the logical nod to received wisdom and it seems to work well if you get the dilution right. As to economy vs gold toning 5ml/litre really milks a long life out of a bottle of KRST.
    Celac.


     
  15. kevin klein

    kevin klein Member

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    Sulfide Albumen toning

    It is important that you Fix and wash the print before toning with Sulfide toner.