First attempt at sepia toning
Well, I tried my first attempt at sepia toning a couple of prints done a few days ago, in Berg two stage (bleach and toner) sepia. I'm a little disappointed, and a little intrigued;
There were 4 prints total, of two different subjects; all of them came out more yellow than brown. The first print done, a portrait shot, I'm actually happy with. The shot, while lacking in artistic merit (it was really just a quick test shot done to see how my petzval handles), came out ok.
The one I'm a little disappointed in was a shot of the side of a hill and trees; it was fairly low contrast, and I thought the sepia would kick it up a notch (BAM!) but instead it seems to have retained, or even lost some of the contrast in the original scene.
I had two prints of this same neg, one about one stop lighter. The darker print seems to have done okay, but I seemed to have misunderstood something about split-toning. I only bleached to get rid of the highlights, thinking that sepia-ing them, while leaving the darker tones alone would be what increases contrast.
However, while in the bleach bath, it seemed like the denser areas of the print disappeared before the highlights did. I pulled the first print as soon as I saw this happening (the denser areas were around the periimeter of the print) and what ended up happening was that the denser areas toned, but the middle of the image with the lighter tones didn't. I may be doing them in trays that are too small, as these were 8x10 contact prints, and I was doing them in 8x10 trays.
All in all, I'm satisfied at the first baby steps. I'm gonna plan a trip to Yosemite in a few days to try and get some more negs to develop. :-)
I do have to say...I completely understand the love and devotion to the tactile sensation of developing your own film and prints. Especially prints. Watching them come up in developer, under safelight, has to be one of the most magical feelings a person can still have nowadays.
I'll post some scans of the final prints tomorrow morning, in case anyone wants a good chuckle... They're drying right now.
Sepia toning, after bleaching to completion, tends to lose density in the darkest areas - so you will see some loss of contrast.
Were you agitating while the print was in the bleach? I usually rock the tray gently but continually while bleaching and have not had any problems with uneven activity even with 8x10 prints in 8x10 trays.
The bleach should effect the highlights first, but I find the standard bleach supplied with toners to be too strong - it is simply too fast to reliably pull the print out at the right moment because the bleach activity continues until washed off.
Don't lose heart.
Once you start with effects like split toning, you are metaphorically in the "wild west" where rules are largely out the window and experimentation is about the only rule intact. Tim Rudman's book on toning is excellent and helps lay out something of a "map" of the wild west. Many surprising routes are explained - such as going back into developer - !after toning in some toners! I learned a great deal from the book.
It's probably best to use quite a bunch of prints as test platforms to get hold of the process before you expect dependable results from advanced toning techniques.
CBG, on the contrary, I'm loving it. Every time I get a result I don't like, I know what not to do! I've read, and reread (and will continue to reread) Tim's book, which is wonderfully and clearly written.
Here is more info if anyone wishes to spend some time on this, along with images for illustration.
The neg was fp4+ developed in Pyrocat-HD. Contact printed on Bergger Variable CB style, a double weight, FB, variable Warm, semi-gloss paper, with a tinted base.
The prints were developed in Ilford Multigrade paper developer, water stop and TF-4 fix, washed for 25 minutes after the fix, then allowed to air dry. That was a few days ago.
Yesterday, when I decided to try the toning, the prints were re-wet in distilled water for five minutes each prior to immersion in the bleach bath, of Berg's Rapid RC Sepia Toning Solution. Dilutions were 120ml (1 bottle) of the bleach with the recommended 840ml of distilled water, to make 1 liter of working solution bleach.
The toning solution was the same dilution for the first print I toned (not any of these two prints referenced), but as was recommended in the instructions, when that first print came out toned very strongly, I further diluted the toning bath (bath 2) with another 250ml of distilled water. Both prints had a 10 wash time after bath 1 and a 20 minute wash time after bath 2.
Both bath temperatures were 68-70 degrees for the duration of the toning session.
This first pic, I knew that I was going to split tone, and watched carefully for the light tones to disappear. However, before they did, the darker tones around the perimeter began to disappear, so I pulled early and washed for 9 minutes, then placed in bath 2 for 3 minutes, and washed again for 20 minutes.
Learning from that first print (I hope), I decided to leave the second print in the bleach until the center section of the image was disappearing. I bleached for approx. 2 minutes and pulled to the wash, then toned for 3 1/2 minutes and back in the wash.
Here is the 2nd print, which came out much better in my mind, though still not great. Definitely too yellow for my taste.
I think part of my dislike, or unhappiness may just be the possibility that this shot just doesn't look good sepia toned; thinking about it, due to all of the lighter tones that came through on the print, with detail in all of them thanks to the p-cat, a selenium toning would have been just fine.
My main concern was that the color was not at all what I was expecting. I don't think that the Berg Toning kit was that old, I think I purchased it last year, but the chems were never mixed, and it had never even been opened.
Thanks to anyone who waded through this whole post and throws some ideas at me. I'm loving doing my own developing and am sure that experience and more mistakes (along with all of your help )will teach me the corrections I need to make.
forgot to add that there was continuous agitation for both the bleach and toning baths.
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To get more brown than yellow try increasing the ratio of activator (typically NaOH) to toner
When i started to sepia tone, i used 6 trays bleach and tone in each. So 3 bleach and tone. 3 prints, each tone and bleach were all at different dilutions. 1-10, 1-15, and so on
until i found what i liked and at what speed. The more slowly you go at first the easier to keep control. So 3 prints 3 different finishes.
Glad to hear you are positive about the process. I like your second print - but if you want to retain more contrast and depth in the darker passages, various things like bleaching with a metal free brush or some sort of masking to be selective, or post toning in selenium, or another dip in developer, mid process....
In my experience (with Ilford papers) the Warmtone paper in sepia gave a sickly yellow color, but a neutral tone paper gave nice rich brown tones. So, I would suggest a neutral tone paper with sepia.
If you're looking to split tone then your bleach looks to be too strong. I usually use about 1+24 to 1+29 dilution for bleach when split-toning. This gives me ample time to monitor the bleaching in the highlights and whip the print out at the vital moment though even at this dilution I may only bleach for a handful of seconds. I then put the print under running water for a couple of minutes before toning. The best sepia kit I've found is the Foma kit (though it's re-badged by various other suppliers too). The tone in this kit is controlled by temperature from yelllow through deep brown. I find it easy enough to control even though I don't have the toner in a temperature controlled tray. You can see the effects I get in my gallery.