Selenium toning, image permanence and how the heck do I do this?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by tkamiya, May 31, 2011.

  1. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I'm not sure if this is a place to post this question or enlarging forum is better... but since it involves toning, I'll post it here. Mods, please move it if appropriate elsewhere.

    I have a print that I "perfected" to my liking. I print with Ilford MGIV FB glossy paper with good amount of darkroom manipulation. Un-toned, it is exactly what I want. Now that I'm experimenting with toning, I have issues. It's a bit too dark and the "feel" of the image isn't right. If someone can help me, I'd be grateful.

    1) I am using Selenium toner at 1:40 dilution (Kodak kind) for archival/image permanence purpose only. I do not need color change or Dmax change. It seems, at this dilution, at around 2 minutes mark, the rate of dmax rise starts to really take off. If I tone this for 2 minutes only, am I getting any increase in permanence of the image? More toning, better permanence? Or it isn't like that?

    2) I can tone it for 3 minutes, I guess... and according to Kodak literature, 2 to 4 minutes toning is recommended for image permanence. When I printed my image as I "perfected" it and tone it for 3 minutes, it didn't look right. The image was a "tad too dark" for lack of better descriptions. It isn't what I want. I reduced the exposure time by 1/12 EV and toned for 2.5 minutes. It's still not right. Too dark and the image has a different "feel." I've gone though more than dozen 11x14 paper trying to get this right. Ugh...

    What to do here? I can do minus 1/6EV and tone for 2 minutes but then issue with question 1 comes to play.

    I guess my real question is, what to do here? I need image permanence. I don't need tonal change. How much reduction in exposure and how long to tone? Or it isn't that simple? I can manipulate the image some more but I'll run out of hands to do it shortly.

    Thanks in advance for all the help I can get.
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Toning with selenium only increases the permanence of the image significantly if the toning is at or near it's maximum effect. So if your main goal is image permanence, you need to accept maximum increase in dMax.

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that you are attempting to adjust for the increased dMax by reducing exposure. Are you adjusting contrast with split contrast printing or otherwise adding high contrast to emphasize the shadows? If so, you my have more success with the toning if you reduce exposure and also reduce contrast.

    When it comes to the appearance of the image, selenium toning mostly affects the shadows. It is the same with high contrast filters or high contrast papers.
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Matt,

    What I see is that shadow got darker. It's hard to say how much but enough for me to notice it lost details. (it was barely there by intent before and now it's pretty much gone) Mid-tone also increased in density but by less of a degree. Highlight was unaffected. It also threw the image off-balance.

    My main exposure was 38 seconds with grade #1.5. Reduced this to 36 seconds with #1.5. Changed dodging from 20 seconds to 19 seconds. Then, reduced the toning time from 3 minutes to 2.5 minutes. Still not quite right. My fear is going to #1 filter will be too soft and I have no ways to do #1.25. I've been staring at the image for few days so far to see what other adjustment I can make to make it a great image - not necessary the same as the first, but still keep the essence and be great.
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    When you say that you changed dodging from 20 seconds to 19 seconds, you tell me that you decided you wanted the area that you dodged to be darker.

    Isn't that the opposite of what you wanted?
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Over all, base exposure of 2 second reduction, plus one second less dodging results in one second less exposure to the dodged area - hence lighter by one second. Rest of the image received 2 second less exposure. It was part of my attempt to keep the balance intact.

    Really hard to explain but that was my intent.
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You mention that you have no way of doing a #1.25 filter. If you print for 1/2 the time with a #1 and the other 1/2 the time with a # 1.5, that will give you a #1.25.

    You might want to try something like the following:

    1) A 9 second print of the entire image with a #1 filter;
    2) A 9 second print of the entire image with a #1.5 filter; and
    3) An 18 second print of the entire image, with a #1.5 filter, while dodging the area you are trying to hold back.
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    With some papers, shadows get distinctly darker after selenium toning. I have ended up toning test strips and test prints too, if I intend the final print to be toned in any way.

    The curve changes a little too, so you may end up with a rather flat untoned print before it looks great after toning.
     
  8. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I wonder if toning for purpose of preservation is even warranted if I'm going to tone it for 2 to 3 minutes only with 1:40 dilution?

    Matt,
    Thanks for how-to on 1.25. I didn't realize that but that makes sense.
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    If you plan on toning, you simply must print differently than you normally would. It takes practice (i.e. trial and error) to figure out exactly how.

    You can search the archives for endless discussion about toning and it's results. I have decided that for "archival permanence," selenium (or any) toning really is not needed, and it doesn't really do anything worth while unless it changes the color and density of the print anyhow (which I usually do not want).

    Just run a nice and clean two-fixer-bath process with plenty of rinses (and hypo clear), and the stuff will be better processed than most old prints I have seen that are absolutely fine, and that is in fairly poor storage conditions!

    I used to work for a museum exhibit preparation company organizing, cataloging, editing, restoring, and reproducing (digitizing via copy stand and hand printing) huge collections of vintage historical negatives, prints, and transparencies; and I also worked for an estate sales company, where I tried to hold onto complete family photo "archives" whenever possible, rather than seeing them split up for 50 cents or a dollar a print. I have personally handled literally over 100,000 OLD photographs (back the the 19-oughts was fairly common) and film frames. It was very rare that any print suffered any degradation of the silver itself. Water damage, stains, folds, holes, chips, tears of the base, sure. But very rarely would a print be "silvering out" or yellowing, and those cases were usually snapshots poorly stored in crummy cardboard in a hot environment. Don't throw your prints into low-quality cardboard boxes and stuff them in a hot garage, and then expect them to be perfect years from now when your grandchild pulls them out after your funeral (though based on what I have seen, they just might be fine, even in those terrible conditions).

    Based on what I have seen and worked with, the main keys to archival permanence are clean processing and proper storage. Don't get me wrong; toning can only help. But I'd only use it if you want the color change; it should not be viewed as an absolutely necessary part of an "archival" process IMHO. There is no reason you should compromise your desired image color simply for sake of achieving "archival permanence." It is simply unnecessary.

    FYI, there is a product called Sistan that may be of interest to you. It will make you feel a bit better about archival issues, but without changing the color of your print.

    This is not an argument against toning in general. I am just trying to say that I do not think it should be used simply for the sake of improving the archival qualities of a print, at the expense of unwanted contrast and color changes.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2011
  10. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Hum....

    It seems Sistan is more of a product I should be using for this application. Thank you for mentioning it. I'll do more research.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    its funny that you say this,
    i have done archival ( HABS/ HAER ) documentations for federal and state
    archives for 20 years and the standards do not require selenium toning ..
    as you said, it helps, but it isn't necessary ...

    good luck tkamiya !

    john
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I was asked about Sistan in a PM, so I found something online about it at http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Archival/archival.html. The following paragraphs are probably worth considering in regards to this discussion:

    "Other Treatments: Agfa makes a product called Sistan, and Fuji makes a similar product called AG Guard, which is used to treat prints after washing. Thomas Wollstein has corresponded with Agfa regarding Sistan, and tells us that Sistan contains potassium thiocyanate and a wetting agent--it works by converting oxidized silver ions in the emulsion to a stable, insoluble salt. Robert Chapman states that Sistan “...precipitates any silver ion formed by oxidation in the form of silver thiocyanate (AgSCN). Silver Thiocyanate is colorless and virtually light-insensitive.” But Sistan only works as long as the thiocyanate stays in the emulsion, so Agfa recommends that Sistan be used as a final treatment, after washing and before drying--if it is washed out, archival benefits are probably lost.

    "According to Doug Nishimura, “before any silver deterioration can occur, silver must be oxidized into silver ion. Even air and moisture can act as a strong enough oxidizing combination to cause damage.” He notes that “...there is always a small amount of ionic silver in equilibrium with silver metal in a photographic image.” But, whether the ionic silver already exists in the emulsion or is caused by pollutants, thiocyanate combines with it, thereby stabilizing it as an inert salt which will not cause image degradation. Sistan is said to be fully compatible with toning treatments. I should note that Dupont 6-T Gold Toner contains potassium thiocyanate, and Kodak GP-1 contains sodium thiocyanate, but I do not know if either is in sufficient quantity to be as effective as Sistan is alleged to be--also, prolonged washing would negate any benefit derived therefrom. Robert Chapman states that, though he has inquired several times, Agfa has not provided him with substantive documentation to prove the effectiveness of Sistan. He allows, however, that “..it makes sense on theoretical grounds.” Other sources on the world-wide-web hint that Sistan may not be effective over the long term, but there is no hard data to back this up either.

    "Long Term Stability: Doug Nishimura of RIT’s Image Permanence Institute has emphasized repeatedly that image permanence is tied more to storage conditions than to processing. No matter how carefully processed an image is, if it is subjected to atmospheric pollutants it will be liable to degrade. In a letter to Jennifer Scott of the State Library of South Australia, he tells an anecdote about photographic prints on display in a gallery that suffered deterioration in a matter of weeks in the form of orange spots, which resulted from the fumes produced by a repainting of the gallery walls prior to the exhibit. In a web post he states: '...we find that of the thousands of photographs examined here at IPI, we rarely find deterioration from hypo retention. Virtually all of the fading seen in photographs has been caused by [contaminants in] air and moisture.'"


    Of course, this is off of the Internet, so you have to be careful about such claims. Most notably, I don't know who any of the named sources are.
     
  13. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I intend to display some of my own work on walls of my hallway. It will be inside of a regular frame made from archival quality materials. All of my works are double fixed, HCA, and washed for 30 minutes. Some are selenium toned, some aren't, and I'm considering SISTAN per above recommendation. This hallway is lit via natural lighting during the day. I wonder how photographs of different treatment will fare under this condition.

    Are there any comparative studies on this?