I am interested in using a technique where you use two different concentrations of developer. One would be normal strenghth and the other very diluted. I understand this technique is certainly not new and is widely used by such photographers as Bruce Barnbaum.
I don't know however which should go first, normal soup or diluted. And what the concentrations should be. I am trying to extend the tonal range of my prints while still achieving good contrast.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The usual method of working is to use the dilute developer (or when it was available - Selectol Soft) first.
The idea is that areas with the most exposure (shadows, dark greys) develop quickly, while light greys and whites do not respond as fast. So, you use a soft working developer to make a full bodied print minus blacks. Then put it into the higher concentrate developer for a short period of time to develop the blacks and add contrast to the entire print.
If Selectol - Soft is no longer available, what is a viable alternative? I generally use Agfa developer as I use Agfa MG paper. I wonder if a very diluted first tray would work followed by a normal second tray. Or is the second try at a higher than normal dilution to bring out the blacks quickly?
This was never an issue when I was shooting 35mm but now I do mainly 4x5 and MF so am blessed with much better negs.
I wonder if selenium toning my negs would give me the same results with out all the fuss with two developer trays. Has anyone compared the results?
ps. thanks for you help so far.
"I am trying to extend the tonal range of my prints while still achieving good contrast."
The easiest and best way to do this is to contact print your negatives on Azo and develop them in amidol with a water bath. You'll have complete control over the scale of every print and will use far fewer sheets of paper.
The use of Selectol Soft was as a substitute for having to mix the Beers Formula developers.
I used to use Dektol (or Ektanol liquid) 2:1 in one tray and Selectol soft 1:1 in another tray. The print would start in the Selectol for 2 minutes until I had a "full print" and then I would transfer it to a water bath to wash the Selectol off the print. Then into the Dektol for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the blacks looked solid but the shadows weren't blocked.
I haven't looked at the Photographer's Formulary website, but it wouldn't surprise me to find that they had formulated a replacement for Selectol Soft. Perhaps someone who does more B&W than I do now would know off-hand.
In any event, you certainly could formulate Selectol Soft or the Beers Developers from standard photo chemicals available from Photographer's Formulary.
The advice to use Amidol is also very good as it is a long scale developer and can be used quite successfully with graded paper. I've never used it with variable contrast paper and can't tell you how well it works with a dual emulsion paper.
Again, maybe someone else like Ed Buffaloe would have some experience with Amidol and variable contrast paper.
Thanks for all the great advise everyone. Azo sounds neat but 4x5 prints are a tad to small for these aging eyes!
The darkroom cookbook includes a couple of paper developers that are supposed to me similar to Selectol . They look fairly simple to mix. Both claim to be usefull for two tray developing.
Ansco 120 gives results that are virtually indistinguishable from Selectol Soft.
But I agree that an amidol developer with a tray of water is as good or better than two developers.
I use a two bath developer when making enlargements. Both developers are from Tetenal; the first bath is Dokumol and the second is Centrabrom.
Unlike the advice from AA concerning 2 bath developers, I like to use the higher contrast of the two as the first bath, which in my case is Dokumol. Depending on the image, I let develope in the first bath until the blacks are about 60-70% done, then transfer into the softer working Centrabrom (the Tetenal version of Selectol soft), and let the highlights further develope.
I tried it the other way around, and got nothing but muddy looking prints. This is a great developer combination which really gives additional control to the final contrast/appearence of the enlargement.
Has selectol soft been discontinuted? I just bought some today at my local darkroom shop. They had a ton of it.