Lith Printing: Fixer kills highlights/too much contrast

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Bosaiya, May 11, 2005.

  1. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I have been doing some lith printing lately and enjoy the effect quite a lot when it works. I've read several books dealing with the subject, including Tim Rudman's. They all claim that upon fixing the print will lose a little from the hilights and contrast will increase a bit. My experiences have been quite different!

    In the twenty or so prints I've done my experience has been that no matter when I pull the print, if it's before the appearance of any blacks or after, if it's FB or RC paper, if the developer is fresh or diluted with old, that when the print slides into the fixer (Ilford Rapid-Fix 1:9) within a couple of seconds the hilights disappear, sometimes entirely, the warm colors fade to white before my eyes, and the contrast goes through the roof and makes the whole thing look like a graphic-effect (line art style) lith print with none of the subtleties of anything I've seen.

    The books mention that your normal fixer should be fine but to only use it for the recommended time. The Ilford lists 1min. for RC and 2min. for FB, but this happens to me in a few seconds.

    This is frustrating because I am seeing all of the wonderful potential with varying colors, delicate hilights, you name it - just like in the books, right up until fixing. Then in a few seconds I end up with something completely different.

    Has anyone had this experience? I've done searches but can't come up with anything.
     
  2. George Papantoniou

    George Papantoniou Member

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    What kind of paper do you use? And which lith developer ?

    I have used different (lithable FB) papers in Moersch Lith developer and then fixed them in Hypam with no problem. In the fixer, the highlights do lose some density, but it usually comes back when they dry (!!!). The contrast shift is never that big...
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Try not using rapid fixer. Does the book say any fix? I thought it mentioned no rapid fix.
     
  4. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I've been using Cachet lith and Ilford Warmtone papers with Maco developer. Everything is there up until fixing: nice creamy tones, delicate hilights, you name it. It all goes downhill quite rapidly in the fixer.

     
  5. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I triple checked to be sure and didn't recall seeing anything about rapid fixer. But I don't have any of them in front of me. I believe they all just said to use what you normally lose.

    That would certainly make sense, if over-fixing causes loss of hilights and extra contrast, then if rapid-fixer is not recommended it would probably just accelerate that process.

     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Rapid fix bleaches the highlights, acid rapid fix bleaches even faster.

    This is one of the reasons why I don't use acid rapid fix - for anything.
     
  7. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    That makes so much sense. I really should have tried that first!

     
  8. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    You have just discovered one of the secrets of lith printing. Now all you have to do is figure out how to compensate.
    My suggestion is to pull the print earlier , when the image emerges and is still super flat, the timing is critical but let the fix do the work and watch what happens.
    I assume you are using a paper that is not noted for its lith characteristics. ie Ilford warmtone.
    If you use Oriental G4 or Macoe RF2 or Sterling Lith , you will be able to pull in the developer when it looks good.
    Hang in there just pull the print sooner and get use to what it looks like in the Dev . This is a bit difficult but if you hang in there and try this a whole new world of lith printing is open to you.
    Absolutely nothing is wrong here with your fix, just a bit of patience and you will get it.
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    By the way , there is nothing, I say nothing wrong with your fix, you have just stumbled like I did on a very cool technique. lets see where you go with it.
     
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If is use a sodium thiosulfate-based fix, there is hardly any bleaching at all. That means I can pull the print when it's ready, which makes lith printing a lot less frustrating :smile:
     
  11. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    Both papers were listed in Tim Rudman's article on alternativephotography (I believe that's right), and I tried pulling both well before the blacks appeared, just all warm creamy tones, but got the same results. So I suspect it's probably the rapid fixer. Even without a single dot of black, putting the print into the fixer caused all of the light tones to completely disappear and the middle tones to go black. Yikes!

     
  12. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    But the fact that I can't get a light- or mid-tone no matter when I pull it is disturbing, isn't it? It just bleaches away in a few seconds. Almost all of the work I do is extreme macro of insects and spiders, and almost all of the details are destroyed by this.

     
  13. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    Which fixer do you recommend, Ole?

     
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  15. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Bosaiya
    I print lith extensively and rapid fix is what I use.
    What developer are you using and at what ratio??
    As stated before the fix IMO is not the problem. some papers will explode in the fix others will not .
    You must be patient with Ilford warmtone
    I use macoe lith. indicator stop, agfa rapid fix. I just finished a project with 1200 11x14 prints done this way , it works.
     
  16. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I use "plain acid fix" - 200g sodium thiosulfate hexahydrate, 20g sodium bisulfite, 1 liter water.
    Mind you, I only use this for lith printing - I use some version of "OF-1" (see "Chemistry Recipes") for everything else.
     
  17. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    My experience is obviously quite limited, so I'm very happily open to all suggestions. It just made sense to me that the rapid fixer was accelerating the undesirable bleaching process. But as I mentioned I didn't read anything specifically against using it, though the authors may just have assumed a level of competence above mine (say, that of a rather dim stump).

    I'm also using the Maco lith (gray box, right?). I'm not near my darkroom now so I can't give specifics, but I made it up according to the included printed directions which looked like they came off a website on the first try, then on the second added about 300ml of the exhausted solution for the second set of tests.

    The warmtone was quite slow, as you point out. It slowly came up very nicely, lots of detail and shading with creamy warm-on-white colors. I tried pulling before anything approaching dark appeared, and also after the desired shadows were close to dark. No matter when I pulled it the print turned to black and white within seconds of the fixer. This also happened with the Cachet RC paper recommended in the article.

    I'm absolutely certain it works, and I'm perfectly willing to believe that the curse that witch put on me for cutting her off in line back in '83 is the cause of my current problems. I'm just trying to figure out which one it is.

     
  18. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    Despite a degree in molecular biology and working in a biotech lab some time ago I have a feeling that mixing my own chemicals will only add more variables to the problem!

     
  19. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Ok I will try to help but you must put in the time.
    Ilford Warmtone, chemicals as you have indicated will definately work.
    Overexpose on the enlarger
    start developing within 2-2 1/2 minutes.( Macoe lith 1 part AB 6-10 parts water 2 parts old chem.)
    You will notice the image is very flat and boring, wait, let the first indications of black appear. ie black hair, eyebrows, shawdows on trees bla bla bla.
    When it is still definately flat and boring with faint blacks , pull the print

    use rapid fix, you will see the contrast explode in front of your eyes
    This paper will never give you the Anton Corbin look but instead an old world yellow green print that is quite beautiful.
    If you are looking for the peachy highlights and dark blacks I would suggest
    oriental g4 or macorf2.
     
  20. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I'm more than happy to put in the time and effort, I just figured after the twenty or so prints turned out identically bad on two different papers that I should probably stop and ask for help. Then I'd try any suggestions that came along and see where that went.

    I've got some Kentmere paper as well to try, I just didn't because I was getting nowhere (well, someplace I didn't want to be) with the other two. The Ilford never achieved any sort of pleasing color at all for me, which was doubly disappointing.

     
  21. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    If you persue the Ilford Warmtone you will find one of the most beautiful lith paper combinations.
     
  22. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    The problem for me is the high contrast and loss of hilights. Those two contribute to a photo that doesn't suit my subjects very well. The only thing I can see that I've done different is my time under the enlarger has not passed two minutes. Maybe the extra minute will help, I'm sure willing to try!

     
  23. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    It looks like Maco=Cachet. I tried their RC paper and got the same results as with the Ilford. It's the Lith RC-F grade 2.

     
  24. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have used MACO Lith RC-F and some other MACO papers, several different Forte papers, several from Kentmere, just about everything from Bergger, as well as Varycon/EFKE PE RC.

    Most of them have given warm highlishts and midtones, none of them have come out of the fix as pure black and white.

    Here's a sample - on Fortezo Museum, MACO developer:
     

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  25. skander

    skander Member

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    Hi,
    Just my personal experience : I use Agefix, a non rapid fixer from Agfa, and have never noticed bleach in the highlights with lith prints.
    Skander
     
  26. Bosaiya

    Bosaiya Member

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    I spent the last couple of days trying to come up with some decent prints. Increasing the exposure times even further (six minutes to nine minutes for hilights, up from three to four) helped in some cases, but not always, and sometimes with strange results. The longer exposures did tend to curb the overly graphic effect I was getting, but I'm still not convinced that I'm doing things right. I've done over fifty tests now and have yet to get a print I'm real satisfied with. That being said, lith printing may simply not be the right approach for these photos. I do enjoy the effects tremendously when they do work, so I'd really like to find a way to make it happen.

    Rather than keep trying to yammer on in my limited vocabulary I put up some samples so anyone who is so inclined can see what I'm talking about. I'm still having a real hard time with fine light-tone detail and the darks are getting muddy. I put up three lith samples plus a standard reference print.

    (sorry, the URL didn't work so well)

    The scans are at: http://www.knockoutproductions.com/angels/lith/
     
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