Tales from the Experimental Darkroom

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Ole, Oct 2, 2003.

  1. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Well, this has been an interesting week...

    It started with a bad cold, which decided to settle down in my ears. So I'm off work for a while - which is good. I can hardly hear anything, wihch is bad.

    With the sound on the telephone turned to the max, I was just able to receive an order for 25 prints form a digital composite I made many years ago; the great-great grandparents of a friend. The couple were on separate photos, taken at different times by different photographers. Both pictures were badly stained and otherwise damaged. So I scanned, tuned, cloned, merged, adjusted - almost made new pictures. I had the final composite printed commercially, and was fairly satisfied with the result. Before handing the final picture to the client (my friend's father), I had the foresight to make a few copy negatives of it.

    Six yers later I have no idea where the floppy with the final version is, so I was very happy to find the negatives exactly where they should be!

    So I ran off the first batch of fourteen prints on 24x30cm Ilford MG IV RC (the limit of my drying capacity), and all was well.

    Then I ran off the second batch - and they were too pale! Thinking hard about the problem, I found that the difference was that I'd mixed a new batch of fixer: The first batch was fixed in my own alkaline rapid recipe, the second one in an "ordinary" acidic rapid fix. Somehow this must have bleached the prints almost half a stop! There will be no more acid rapid fix in my darkroom...

    I was able to salvage the prints by toning in very strong Selenium toner, which helped my mood a bit (I'm broke at the moment, and can't afford to buy another pack of paper: all the money I have this week will go for cat food).

    So, back to the darkroom to do some real printing!

    I've long wanted to try lith printing, and with nose and ears completely blocked this seemed like a nice time for it. So I got out the MACO Lith kit I bought a while ago, and settled down in the dark.

    The first negative I tried was a 4x5" IR photo of sunlit shrubs. I discovered right away that lith printing couldn't handle the extreme contrast much better than ordinary printing (the negative was over-developed in Pyrocat-HD), so I tried with VC paper (The stain on this negative gives a very soft print on VC, very hard on graded). I ended up with Oriental Seagull VC, which gave a really amazing print. I still have 20 sheets left of this classic paper, which I have been saving for the rihgt negative...

    After this I decided that it was stupid to use the small (8x10") trays, as most of the papers I have are 11x14"... Mix up more chemicals, clean the small trays, and then back to the games.

    The papers I tried were:

    MACO Lithpaper RC-F : Great! Warm browns all over
    MACO EXPO RF 2 : Very good
    Bergger Prestige CB Art 2: Truly beautiful - warm pink with brownish midtones
    Fortezo Museum Weight 3: Beautiful paper - pink highlights to olive midtones, very deep blacks
    Tetenal Vario PE (RC) : Not convincing, ivory tone
    Tetenal Baryt Vario : Odd, pinkisk brown
    Varycon PE K : Finally a use for this... Soft hues, blacks weak
    Ilford MG IV FB : OK, I guess...
    Oriental Seagull VC (Old) : Amazing warm highlights, goes even warmer in Selenium toner (only one toned so far).

    So now I'll get the 25 prints off to the great-grandson, and then back to the darkroom for more fun :wink:
     
  2. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    TimRudman wrote a book on lith printing published by Argentum which tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the subject-check it out.
     
  3. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Tim Rudman's book tells you almost everything you ever wanted to know about lith printing, and it has been a great help in building my anticipation until I got started.
    However, there's nothing there about Varycon PE. I also wonder about his negative results with Tetenal (Baryt) VC, as I get good lith effect with warm pinkish-brown highlights.


    In a way, this is a continuation of my previous games with highly dilute Gevaert G262 developer: Same results, but deeper blacks...

    If anyone wonders, Varycon PE was the cheapest available variable contrast plastic paper when I started out in the darkroom in the mid 1970's. The price was nice, but the results weren't: The highlights were always soft, regardless of filtration. The shadows showed some increase in contrast with the amount of blue, but not enough... Added to this, if there is one silver-rich VC printing paper, this has to be it: Forget about max black! whatever you do, there's still more black to be had. With extremely contrasty negatives, the paper will even show metallic silver in the shadows after normal processing - max black in transmission, but not reflection! It could possibly used for paper negatives, since it has such an unseemingly long scale...
    So that is why I have several boxes of this: It was cheap at a time when that was important, but I never used any of my several boxes once I found out that I couldn't figure it out :wink:
     
  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Update: Tested my Tetenal Vario in "normal" developer - and it's badly fogged. This may have something to do with why it work where it shouldn't (in lith)? Anyway, the boxes I have will be lith-printed only.

    Varycon goes peppery all the time, great fun if that's what you want. If it's coloured highlights, that's a bit more difficult. I'll try adding a lot of sulfite and bromide at the end of next session, just to see if it works.
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Back to the darkroom again today - yesterday's early winter turned to rain today. Might as well stay in...

    I have a very promising negative that's almost impossible to print. With graded paper, it is too contrasty. With multigrade it is too soft, which is one of the drawbacks of staining developers.

    So today I decided to have a go at it with special developers: Moersch Amidol Plus. This is a two-bath developer with a soft Amidol developer and a hard Catechol one, plus a choise of "warm and cold finishers". I assume the finishers to be Potassium Bromide and Benzotriazol.

    The picture in question needs to be cropped to almost square, so I prefer to use "inch size" papers for it. For some reason the "metric" sizes are all narrower. Besides, I can't fit four 10 x 13" trays on my workbenck, so I decided to use 8x10" paper.
    That limited the choise a lot.

    After trying TT Sepia (fogs in the catechol), Seagull VC FB (too soft, even with max magenta) and Kentmere Art Classic (fogs in the catechol) and using all the blue finisher to stop the fogging, I turned in desperation to Bergger Contact G2.

    Success! Open one stop and quadruple the time relative to hte other papers, develop a full minute in the soft developer and 90 seconds in the hard, and it's just what I was after! Very nice soft highlights, with very clear sharp shadows.

    I'm on my way back now to make some more, will put them in the Print Exchange...
     
  6. ian_greant

    ian_greant Member

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    .. :smile:
     
  7. Pandora

    Pandora Member

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    I'd like to see your lith print...would you put that in one of the galleries? (Let me know which one, please...).
     
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Examples coming up - as oon as the scanner's been warmed up and the prints flattened a bit (down, boy, down!).
     
  9. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    One Moersch Amidol+ print now in the Print Exchange Gallery.
     
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    And now, there's a lith print along with a "regular" print of the same negative in the Technical Gallery.

    I could have made the lith print darker - and did, in the next try. It was so nice I sent it off on the Blind Print Exchange. This one looks even "sunnier", but I'm less peased withit - technically speking.
     
  11. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    And now, the Technical Gallery also holds examples of the amazing pepper paper - Varycon PE!

    I'm just *bump*ing this up for Aurore :wink:
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Time for an update again?

    Nothing really new and exiting - no new chemicals, no new papers. But I bought a new packet of Varycon paper (this one is produced in Croatia, the old ones said "Yugoslavia") and confirmed that the formula hasn't changed. It still gives the same results in MACO lith developer, including pepper fogging!

    Speaking of old things, I'm still using the same Ansco 130 developer working solution that I mixed in November. It's been stored in a brown plastic bottle with increasing amounts of air between sessions. By now I must have processed several square meters of paper in it, and it shows no sign of giving ip. It's getting darker every day, but I can still see the print...
     
  13. Ka

    Ka Member

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    Ole,

    How did you become so versed in chemisty and papers?

    I am reading things here my eyes have never seen.

    ka
     
  14. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Wow, that's some shelf-life on that developer! I have been converted and will get the chemicals to mix up some Ansco 130 after all of my Neutol is gone.
     
  15. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Ka,
    I have a degree in chemistry, and I guess I've always liked mixing things together to see what will happen. The reason for my extensive "collection" of papers is - unreliable supply. For many years I bought what I could get hold of in packets large enough to see me through the next job with some hope of consistency. There was always a few sheets left... Since then I've just stayed in the habit, partly due to fond memories of a very few cases where negative and paper have "meshed" to produce a perfect print in the first attempt. I want to see that happen again!

    Ansco 130 continues to surprise me. I can now detect the first signs of "tiring", but it still works perfectly with Ilford MG. Fortezo is a different matter - contrast is definitely going.