Getting Started -- What papers and films to stock?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by MikeGates, Oct 14, 2004.

  1. MikeGates

    MikeGates Member

    Messages:
    19
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hi ---

    I've been out of the darkroom for nearly twenty years, and am just now building myself a new darkroom, and plan to dive in headfirst, and pick up where I left off. I have a couple of questions...

    First, fiber or RC? I used to use mostly glossy finished fiber, dried without any ferrotype plates so that I got a smooth, but not glossy finish. I did use some RC paper, but it always made me think of plastic, and I just really enjoyed the feel of 'real' paper. I used to use print dryers, but plan on going with a drying rack. Will I have too much curl if I use fiber-based paper?

    Second, graded paper, or variable-grade paper? I used to use both, but would be interested to hear what others prefer.

    Third, warm or cold tone paper? If I get a warm tone paper, will selenium toning cool down the tones and give me better results? I realise, of course, that subject matter and mood probably are the main deciding factors, but I don't want to start off with a huge stock of everything available. I plan on doing outdoor shots in the rainforest I live in, and both outdoor and indoor nudes and figure studies.

    I plan on working with a 4x5 field camera when I can afford one, but for now I'll be using my trusty ol' Nikon F2. I used to use Tri-X almost exclusively, with D76 developer. I'm not even sure what films are still out there. Lack of grain is more important to me now than speed of film, so I'll mostly be working with a tripod. Any suggestions on film/developer combinations would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much,

    Mike
     
  2. titrisol

    titrisol Member

    Messages:
    1,671
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    Rotterdam
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Tri-X is not specially grainless, you may want to try any of the Deltas, TMAxes or the Neopan (Fuji) for less grain.
    As for papers I use both RC and FB, RC is great for fast processing, contacts, tests, etc.
    FB is good for good pictures, I used Ilford MG-IV but now I'm using AGFA MCC (cheaper and very good quality). I also have some Ilford MG-WT at hand.
    I found that depending on the paper developer used the effect of selenium in Ilford WT changes, I'm using ethol LPD now, and when used 1+1 or 1+2 the toned print cools, but when using LPD 1+9 or 1+12 the toning turns out different, like here: http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=1266

    VC is my choice due to convenience, but graded papers are sometimes more beautiful.
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    5,894
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would have to agree with titrisol. You'll find that it won't take much to get back into it. I think the VC papers are much better now than twenty years ago. I had about the same long hiatus as you, and always used graded papers back then. I find they are pretty good now, and it's great to be able to burn in with a different filter. I've always thought a good starting off point is Tri-X or Ilford HP5 in D-76, but it sounds like you are ready to try some different film. Maybe just do a few test rolls to get back into practice. I have to say, it took me a few rolls to get used to loading up my reels. I also took an advanced darkroom class to brush up on my rusty darkroom technique. That was a big help

    Good luck!
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Since you mentioned film and working from a tripod, I would recommend something slower such as one of the Efke films. I use one of these (PL 100) in 4X5 and 8X10 and like it a great deal. I have found that the Efke films react very nicely to expanded development. I have found that TriX and also Bergger are more limited in this respect.

    Insofar as paper, I do not use RC paper in my work because I feel about it the same way that you did. I use Oriental graded and VC and I also use JandC Polywarmtone Classic. These brands are both very nice papers. It has been reported that one can get the Polywarmtone to go cold with the use of Amidol developer. So it appears that this paper has latitude insofar as color.
     
  5. David Ruby

    David Ruby Member

    Messages:
    203
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2003
    Location:
    Boise, Idaho
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I was in the same boat about this time last year!

    Now, after about a year of being back in the darkroom, I've just made the leap to fiber papers. I still plan to use RC for contact sheets and give aways, but I'm really likeing the fiber so far. I went the drying rack method that you mention. Actually two fiberglass screens. I pretty much planned and built my entire darkroom with the input and suggestions from the folks here. Keep lurking around and asking questions. Don't forget to try the SEARCH area, where you can find all sorts of older threads.

    You'll get lots of good advice on film and paper here. I have been buying my film and paper from Freestyle http://www.freestylephoto.biz/ lately. Mainly because I'm still getting back into it and they have some very inexpensive film and paper. There are a lot of fans of J&C here, and I'm probably going to try out their J&C Polywarmtone next.

    My darkroom page is http://mywebpage.netscape.com/rubydavid/Darkroom.html in case you're curious. I had some pretty unique circumstances (as we all probalby do) so I had to come up with some unique solutions. I'd be happy to go into more detail if you're interested. Keep asking or PM me if you'd like.

    I've never used graded paper, so I'll have to say variable contrast!!

    When I made my jump to fiber I bought a 25 pack of Ilford MG IV regular and warmtone. Mainly I just wanted to see the difference and to try some of the best (at least compared to many folks here). I do have to say it is amazing paper. I plan to keep some of each (regular and warmtone) paper on hand depending on the image. I have yet to venture into toning (soon), so I'm yet to determine if I really need both.

    I also shoot 35mm a lot, and 120 and 4x5. For 35mm you might consider going bulk. You can easily pick up a bulk loader and possibly the spools etc. off Ebay pretty cheap. It is much cheaper for the good stuff this way I think. You can also start watching Ebay for a 4x5 if your really serious. They can be found for decent prices I think.

    Welcome back and good luck.

    david
     
  6. VoidoidRamone

    VoidoidRamone Subscriber

    Messages:
    490
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2004
    Location:
    New York Cit
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My personal favorite paper (at the moment) is Oriental VC. The fiber does look better, and I like VC so you can do split filtering if necessary. My personal favorite roll film is Agfa APX100. The APX, PanF+, and HP5+ are what I like to shoot (although I've been trying the Efke and JandC films recentely and am very very pleased). I generally prefer a cold tone paper, but as you said there are times for warm tone and whatnot. I, and many others, would recommend Rodinal as a film developer, it's my favorite for slower speed films, that and WD2D+ pyro are nice. I've just started using WD2D+ and am enjoying the tonal range. And that's about it, my 2 cents worth. -Grant
     
  7. MikeGates

    MikeGates Member

    Messages:
    19
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks, all!

    Hey, thanks to all who replied to my question... I should learn to trust my instincts more, I guesss, as most of them pretty much underscored what I was thinking of doing, plus I got some good suggestions (particularly on the film and film developer responses) that I hadn't thought of.

    I'm finding this place *enormously* helpful and friendly. I lose track of time while going through all the old posts in each forum, as well as the newer ones. I'm really glad I stumbled across this site---you guys (and gals) are great!

    MikeGates
    On a rock in Alaska
     
  8. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

    Messages:
    2,512
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2002
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Paper- variable contrast. Buy a box each of Ilford MGIV neutral and warmtone. The two Forte papers are also viable alternatives. The Forte papers react more easily to toning, the Ilford paper has better whites (IMHO)



    Devloper for paper- get two to work with. Dektol and Agfa Neutol WA.

    Film- If you are going to work with a tripod with 35mm the two combinations I find the most attractive are Delta 100 exposed at 50 or 64 and processed in Xtol 1- and PanF in Rodinal. The Pan F. in Rodinal really gives the classic rodinal look and very good sharpness. Another that comes to mind is the all time classic combo of TRiX and Rodinal.

    If you move up to 4x5 (and you will) the most versatile films are HP5 and FP4.
    Developer favorites for me with sheet films are HC110, Pyrocat HD and XTOL.

    Of course as you move back into the darkroom, everyone here is ready to answer any and all questions.
     
  9. dancqu

    dancqu Member

    Messages:
    3,676
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Willamette V
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You used to use both graded and variable grade. You are then aware
    that the level of lighting is much improved with graded papers.

    Perhaps not. The last time I looked Kodak recommended the OC filter
    for everything. Even Azo! That's a 'one size fits all' from Kodak. Ilford
    likely has their own 'one size ...' recommendation. Dan
     
  10. sparx

    sparx Member

    Messages:
    376
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2004
    Location:
    Norfolk UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Still being a fairly new printer i'm keeping it simple. Films are FP4 and HP5, developer is Ilfosol/ilfotec and paper is RC multi.
     
  11. hansbeckert

    hansbeckert Inactive

    Messages:
    141
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2004
    What country are you in? In any event, FP4 films and Paterson Acutol developer would probably delight you. Try Acutol 1+15 for 7 or 8 minutes.
     
  12. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

    Messages:
    1,325
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Louisiana, U
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi, Mike.

    Everyone has an opinion. Mine would be to keep things simple. If you are familiar with Tri-X and D76, stick with it to begin with. It's a classic combination and it's hard to improve on it. For papers, again I would try to keep it simple. Ilford Multigrade IV and Multigrade Warmtone seem to be among the most popular papers currently available with good reason--they're good. Try a pack of each. Buy some Kodak or Ilford variable contrast filters that fit your enlarger and experiment. Fiber or RC? Most people prefer fiber but I would suggest you start with RC. It's a lot better than it used to be. Ilford's Pearl surface RC papers look very nice and they are a lot easier to work with than fiber if you're just starting to get into darkroom work again. As for chemicals--yep, keep it simple. Along with your D76 for film, go with some standard old Dektol paper developer, any stop bath you prefer and use a quick fix for both film and paper (mix a batch for each).

    You're gonna feel like you're dancing with two left feet and trying to juggle with two hands full of thumbs when you first get back into the darkroom. Try to limit the variables as much as possible to begin with. Once you get comfortable, you can start experiementing with other materials.