Friday, 28 December 2018

Taking the stop out of printing?

An acquaintance recently posted that he was having trouble with his photographs. The prints were producing brown stains on the edges and face of the paper which he had not seen before. He went on to describe a process that does not include stop bath. I have always accepted that stop was essential when printing.

This revelation made me stop and think about all of the books I have read over the years on photograph production. As far as I was aware none of them said that there was a choice. Just to be sure I went back to the reference books on the subject I trust most. After consulting Tim Rudman  Master Printing course, Michael Langford Basic Photography and Ansel Adams The Print - by the way this is the only book to explain what happens when stop is omitted.

Ansel Adams writes: That stop bath is a weak solution of acetic acid that neutralizes the alkalinity in the developer stopping development straight away. Fix being acidic would have the same affect as stop bath but it prevents the contamination of the fix from the alkaline in developer which quickly exhausts the fix making it more likely that the prints will stain.

I should point out that my a acquaintance has been producing prints that have not shown any signs of staining till now. It turns out that it was a lack of proper washing before the fix that was causing the problem and not exhausted fix.

The question that keeps coming into my head is why wouldn't you use stop? It makes no sense from my point of view. I spend a lot of time in the darkroom making test prints carefully choosing the right amount of light for exposure. Once in the developer I watch and wait for what I judge to be the right amount of development so I can remove it to the stop, freezing it at that point in the process. If this was substituted for water this would not be the case it would only slow down development making a mockery of all the careful planning gone before and adding a degree of uncertainty as to whether or not it was going to stain.

This is one of the main issues I have with not using stop bath which for me translates to film as well. You spend all that time getting the time, temperature and inversion right, - for what? Because you can not be bothered to use stop?it's to expensive? I will admit to not using stop at one point but not for the reasons given earlier when developing film. I reverted back to stop mainly because I did not like the look of the negatives it was producing. They seemed to have a soft look to them.

I know that this must sound like a bit of a rant and to a certain extent it is. Sometimes it's good to get things off your chest. As far as I'm concerned there are many different paths to creative nirvana and how you reach it is up to you.

You maybe interested in this article on Fixing faults


Tuesday, 25 December 2018

XP2 super is pulled in to the darkroom screaming

On the frontier of a new discovery in the darkroom A bit dramatic I know but that is how I felt. All rubbish, I'm not the first to travel this route. It is new ground for me and this time I have left the research alone.

Fotospeed RCVC paper

With no preconceived ideas as to what was going to happen. I'm free to experiment. The first and most noticeable problem is the colour of the film base. Will I be able to set the grade of paper I want?

 Before the film got anywhere near the darkroom I found my old Ilford multigrade filters and looked through them to see if the film base had a close relation. It is lighter in colour to filter number four in the set but will it interfere? I did try to duplicate the filter grade on my colour enlarger the closest I could get was what I set for grade three and that was darker.

Multigrade filters with XP2s film
To stop the speculation I contact printed all the film using white light at two seconds with the lens fully open. These are some of the best contact prints I have had, nicely toned and detailed. I was not expecting that!

The next thing to do was to scale it up to a print size in this case 8 x 10. I would do a segmented test print using white light and then set to grade three. I chose Fotospeeds RCVC to do the test on. (A much under rated paper ). I did the first print F8 for 4 sec's using white light and set grade three at F8 for seventeen sec's. 

HC 110 processed XP2s
 The results I received plays into my assertion that multigrade papers can produce well toned prints without filtration. That's not quite true in this case as the film bass is close to the shade of one of the multigrade filters. 

Here is a thought, if film base was the colour of a particular filter would all the negative on the film print at that grade? And would you need graded filters any more? There's something to ponder while you develop your prints. If you have any thoughts please share.

Where was I hum! Yes the results of course. The difference between the white light and grade 3 print? In short not a lot if you did not know which was which you would be hard pressed to tell but there is a subtle one it shows as an increase in the strength of tone and a slight uplift in contrast.
XP2s contact prints exposed with 2 sec white light

I was expecting a difficult time in getting good results because of the colour of the film base. This is partly because of what others had suggested when they had a go at printing. In fact I have found so far it very easy to print the XP2s negatives. I think if anything the tint of the film base has enhanced the results.

This was the first graded print the white light print was
slightly brighter
If we go back to when the film was exposed it was a very bright day with lots of contrast and if this had been a normal black and white film the contrast would have lead to a grade zero when being printed. Instead the prints have been at my normal grade three. Thinking on what others have said it leads me to believe that XP2s under represents contrast levels which would explain the flat looking prints when used normally. To counter this I would suggest using a harder filter grade and or Kentmere RC to lift the contrast to a better level.

Printed on Ilford multigrade FB paper
Back in the darkroom getting sharp focus was difficult. The grain seen in the focus finder is very fine and the window of sharpness is very small unlike traditional film emulsions. What I mean by this is when turning the focus wheel on the enlarger the grain of the film sharpens If you keep turning it stays sharp for a few degrees of turn and then go's soft. With the XP2s it go's out of focus almost as soon as it is sharp.

 I did try other grades of filter to see if they worked they did but made the picture look muddy and very dark. Under normal circumstances I would interpret this as the the wrong grade being selected and or over exposed.  

In answer to my question Will I be able to set the grade of paper I want?
No! I am of the impression that the colour of the film base plays a part in the amount of contrast the paper displays. I have not really forced the issue because the level of contrast I'm getting is to my liking. But you may know differently in which case please share.

You maybe interested in this The first part of this post: