I've given myself some 'self assignments' during this last roll. My goal was to find patterns or texture that would reproduce with a high level of contrast. I am trying to 'self teach' myself to 'see' in black and white.

1st image:

I had issues with this image in the darkroom. Originally I was getting nice whites on top, but I was loosing the detail in the cracks. They were coming out solid black. So I added a contrast filter and was able to open up the detail in the cracks, but then the white came out blown. I ended up taking out the contrast filter and I think this was the final image. Exposed for 7 seconds without a contrast filter. What would you suggest I do with this one to keep the detail in the blacks, but not blow the whites?

DroughtWEB by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr

2nd image:

I had the same issue with this one, only it went in reverse. I had good detail in the blacks to begin with, but then added a contrast filter and it went blacker and whiter. I ended up taking out the filter and exposing this one for 7 seconds as well.

HayWEB by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr

3rd image:

I like the repeating patterns in this image, and I like the way that the ends of the logs look, but I dont like how dark the cracks in between are. I'd like to find a happy medium here, but dont know which way to go. And because of the two images above, I wasn't even going to attempt a filter of any kind.

WoodWEB by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr

And my last issue has to do with chemicals. Towards the end of my darkroom session, my prints would start to turn a purpleish/gray color when I would turn on the flourescent lighting in my bathroom to view things. I assume that it is because my fixer was spent, and the papers were still being affected by light. I did notice that my fixer had become cloudy. How can you tell if your fixer is spent, before it gets to this point?