Sunday, 29 January 2012

Choosing an enlarger.

This is the most important tool in the darkroom after the enlarging lens. With this in mind you need to consider the following: 

1.   The number of negative sizes you may wish to print. It is a good idea to get a multi format enlarger even if you are only going to use 35mm.
2.   The most appropriate lens size and quality.
3.   What type of negative illumination. Diffuser or Condenser.
4.   The maximum size of print you are likely to make.
5.   Whether you may want to do colour at a later date. Colour headed enlargers can be used with multigrade papers. 

As mentioned in “3” the type of negative illumination you choose is worth  a lot of consideration -  there are positive and negative points to both. Here are some of the pros and cons: 

Diffuser enlarger: 
Diffuser light box
This type of enlarger design is used with colour and multigrade heads. The light travels through a mixing box and semitransparent screen above the negative. To counteract the drop off in light, these enlargers use a powerful quartz-iodide bulb.  This multi directional light passes through the negative and down to the paper. The affect of this will produce a gentler, softer quality to the  light, producing a less contrasty grade for grade photograph. As a result damaged and flawed negatives lose or soften some of their faults. 
There are tonal differences between diffuser and condenser produced photographs because of the way light passes around the silver particle's. This is negated when using Chromogenic monochrome and colour films as they rely on dyes to capture the light. 
Condenser enlarger: 

Condenser light box
Uses a plano-convex lens which spreads a bright hard illumination  evenly across the negative. Supplied from a opal tungsten lamp. The harshness of this light produces a contrast enhancement that appears to make  fine detail more exaggerated. This crisp appearance to the photograph has the negative affect of bringing into sharp focus the grain, any scratches, flaws and dust from the negative, meaning more time spent on retouching. These enlargers are subject to the Callier affect this is where the highlights in the negative scatter the light more than the shadow areas creating the increase  in contrast.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Enlarging len which aperture?

The quality of your enlarging lens will lead to better and sharper results at greater magnification. The aperture ( low number = large opening, high number = small opening) you set not only affects the amount of light it lets through but the depth of field as well. A good average aperture is F/5.6 in most cases. If the exposure times are to short a larger F number is needed, this will give you a chance to hold back shadow areas that may become to dark to show any detail. But don't get carried away and close down the lens by too  many F numbers as this may over heat the negative causing it to buckle, making the picture loose sharpness.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Dodging and burning.

A slection of dodgers 
They are a darkroom tools to help bring out all the detail from your negatives when printing. 

Holding back

No matter how well you expose and develop your negatives, when it comes to making a positive you will need to equalise the exposure by holding back and burning in to keep the detail in the highlights and shadow areas. In a lot of cases it is not possible to alter the overall exposure time to take these deficiency's in to account. In these cases dodgers as the name implies will help you get round this problem. You can use your hands, fingers, pieces of card, a length of wire with a cut out of  card stuck to it and cards with holes in them. 
Burnning in
Dodgers work by casting a shadow over the area that needs less exposure than the rest of the picture. Likewise dodgers with holes in them are used for burning in areas that require more light than the rest of the photograph. This is also a type of holding back as it stops the correctly exposed picture from becoming over exposed. When using a dodger you must keep it moving otherwise it will produce a hard outline to the area you are trying to correct. It can be moved from side to side or up and down to stop this happening. The amount of time you use your dodger for will depend on what your test strip shows.  If you have not got a test strip then it will be trial and error taking a number of prints before you get it right. With experience the amount of error will diminish. 
Dodgers are not just for correcting problems, they are there also for creative purposes for example to bring out some extra drama in the scene, add a shaft of light where there was none or to bring two pictures together where one maybe lacking any sky detail.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Photograph or print

I do find the photography press a pain when it comes to describing the difference between digital and traditionally produced black and white pictures! They can no longer call a photograph a photograph, it has to be a silver print or gelatin print, why? I think they need to get over themselves as the English language describes both types quite well without having to preface the word print. A photograph is a picture produced using light and chemicals. A print is a picture produced using ink. What could be simpler.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Kodak files.

It will be a shame if they go. There is a great promo video on strobist that's worth a watch, just gos to show nowt for ever. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Evaluating your print test strip.

low contrast
High contrast
correct contrast
Now that you have your test strip what are you looking for? You are looking to see which of the timed sections gives you blacks that are really black without making the whites look grey, with a good separation of the greys in-between. If the picture looks grey overall with no defined blacks then the paper grade is too soft, meaning lack of contrast. On the other hand if the blacks dominate the picture then the grade of paper is to hard - too much contrast! If you need to change the grade of paper you will need to make another test strip. It should be noted that test strip evaluation is best carried out when they are dry as wet ones tend to hold back some of the more subtle grey tones which may encourage you to pull or push the expose time needed. While checking this you should also be ensuring that the focus is accurate.

When your test strip is pin sharp with good clear highlights, defined shadows and the right amount of contrast, you are ready to make a print.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Colour film well out of date.

The friend that gave me the out of date colour film did so in part for the removal of a partly exposed roll of film from her Dads camera a week or so earlier. She was not sure if it had become stuck or not.
The camera was an Olympus OM707. The battery carrier lid was broken and held in place with sticky tape and not working. The batteries were flat, so I tried some new ones but there was still no life which is a shame as it was in good order otherwise and had been in regular use up until eight years earlier. I had not come across this camera before so was not sure if I would be able to unwind the film manually. I found a re-wind button on the base plate, pressed it and went into the darkroom and opened the back. I took the cassette out first then gently pulled on the film and to my surprise it started to unwind. Once the film was fully removed I wound it back into the cassette.
A couple of weeks later I found out that the film had been developed and to her surprise it had produced some excellent results. It just goes to show even with a partly exposed colour film that has been sitting in a camera for eight years and extremely out of date, it can still produce some unexpectedly good results!
Yes I will admit that it is a risk when using film well outside the bbd; even more so with colour but I do not believe, like some, that you should only use this film with a so called toy camera as it suggests that if it goes wrong then it's “OK!” You just have to look at the lomograph site to see some excellent photographs. Personally you should have the courage of your conviction, use the best camera you can lay your hands on and embrace the results no matter what!
The colour pictures attached to this post were taken on my F5 on Agfa vista neg film that could have been out of date by fifteen years or so and kept in “iffy” conditions. So I walked into Lincoln on a warm sunny day with this film     and an open mind.  If I had listened to the doom and gloom merchants it was likely a waste of time! As it happens it was a good result even though I would have liked some colour shift to the pictures.

Related Posts:

Saturday, 14 January 2012

PMK Pyro after bath.

I have been developing Ilford FP4+ 120 format in PMK Pyro for ten minutes for quite some time, without an afterbath. With my latest use of this developer I decided to change part of the process, instead of inverting the tank every twenty seconds I changed it to every fifteen seconds to see if this increased the density of the negatives. My reasoning is that previous negatives have looked a bit on the thin side. Yes you are right! I could have increased the developing time but wanted to find out how much influence agitation has on the process.

FG 1
Film FP4+
When changing or adapting a method that works well, it is better to change one aspect of it at a time so that it makes it easier to judge whether it is an improvement or not. So what did I do introduce a re-bath of the film in the developer after the fix. The after bath is part of the full process when using PMK pyro that completes the staining. Up to now I have not felt the need to do this but was curious to see how much stain would be added and if it improves the print quality. I did this for the two minutes suggested which I agitated for thirty-seconds at the beginning and ten seconds one minute later.

FG 2
Film FP4+
There has been a marked difference in the density and the colour of the staining on the negatives. The picture marked Fg 1 shows the negatives developed with the afterbath, they have a yellow-brown look to them. Fg 2 shows negatives without the bath and they have a purplish look to them.

These results would suggest that an increase in agitation has just as much effect if not more on the density of the negative than an increase in the process time. The afterbath also produces a significant change in how much stain is deposited which is supposed to help in making these negatives easier to print. I have found that even without the extra staining I have been producing some wonderfully toned photographs. I have not printed this latest set of negatives yet but hope to do so soon.

Related Posts:

FP4+ PMK pyro method update.
PMK Pyro developer part B
PMK Pyro working solution

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Keeping to a known formular

It is always difficult to know when you first start printing, which developer and paper combination to go with. Pick one and stick with it. It is not a good idea to keep chopping and changing in the beginning.

The best way to approach this is to choose the developer that the manufacture recommends for their film and paper. They have spent a lot of time researching what works the best. Once you have become used to developing and printing you can start to experment if you wish.
Antonov An2
Film Ilford FP4+ 6x6 neg, developed in Ilford ID11,
printed on Ilford Multigrade RC gloss,
 processed using Ilford multigrade paper developer. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

PMK Pyro solution part B.

As mentioned in this post the developer is divided into two parts as a stock solution. Part B is the larger quantity of the two and suffers from settlement where the powder comes out of suspension and accumulates at the bottom of the bottle. Before use, you should shake the bottle well so that it goes back to a milky colour. It would seem that the larger the crystals in packet B the more drop out there will be. I have not yet found a method that stops this.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Idiot list!

I've been clearing out the closet that I use as a darkroom. Whilst I was moving out some old photographic paper the bottom of one packet opened and on to the floor dropped a clear plastic folder. To my surprise it's my original film processing list; a step by step reminder for the developing process, showing what quantities to mix and how long to develop each of the makes of film. At the time it was Ilford PanF, FP4 and HP5. The developer is the recently reintroduced Paterson Aculux. The only film from the list to stand the test of time is FP4; the only film I use from Ilford regularly and remains my all time favorite.
When starting on your journey to develop your own film it is a good idea to make up an idiot list. It is there in writing to prompt you on what to do next; it is a way of ensuring that the process goes smoothly and that the negatives are properly developed. As you become more proficient you should update your list with the changes you make - ie: film development times, solution quantities etc. I still use one but now it's divided into two. One page shows the developing method needed for each of the developers I use and page two is a prompt for the stop, fix and wash procedure. I know it backwards but old habits die-hard.
So what has changed over the years? The developer for a start. The stop time has increased to two minutes. I no longer check to see if the film has cleared and the milkiness has gone after two and a half minutes when fixing. I had forgotten that I even did this! The wash time is down to fifteen minutes and I do not add fourteen drops of wetting agent - thats way to much!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Luxuary Darkroom.

Some more kit for those with a bit more space and money.

  1. Enlarger with auto focus, tilting base and better lens.
  2. Enlarging easel 30 x 40 cm (12"x16") with four blades.
  3. Wall mounted safe lights and one white light.
  4. Automatic darkroom timer.
  5. Two timers one for developer and another for fix.
  6. Dishes 30 x 40 cm (12"x 16") and or slot processor.
  7. 50 ml measure.
  8. Four heaters with built-in thermostats for dishes.
  9. Four thermometers, alcohol.
  10. Double sided glazier with thermostat.
  11. Electric print dryer.
  12. Roller squeegee.
  13. Printing paper FB.
  14. Vacuum mount press.
  15. Film drying cabinet.
  16. Paper washer.

This is not a definitive list.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Film storage.

Out of date colour film.
Upto four years on some
The recent receipt of ten rolls of out of date colour negative film from a friend has prompted me to share my experience with issues around the storage and freshness of film.

How do you define fresh? A film that has a long expiry date, one that has been kept refrigerated most of its life or even in the deep freeze. It is true to say that film used before the manufactures expiry date, which by the way is a conservative indication of when it should be used by, will yield the best results provided that it has been kept properly. The manufacturers suggest that  normal conditions are temperatures of no greater than 24 degrees C (75 F) and a relative humidity of 40% to as much as 60% in some cases. At temperatures and humidities greater than this will cause the emulsions to age far quicker. Normal conditions also refer to the fact that the film should only be removed from, in the case of 35mm from its plastic container and roll film from its foil wrapper just prier to use. Once the film has been exposed the rate of deterioration increases so you should not leave it to long after the roll is finished, to develop the latent image. It is reasonable to say that  monochrome film is more robust relatively speaking to colour film which has a greater number of   delicate layers for the atmosphere to attack and if stored badly will increase the likely hood of a colour shift.
Fg 1
Film 35mm, FP4, developed in ID11.
Printed on Ilford MGr paper 

Freezing is an extreme method of slowing the ageing process and can cause  problems with condensation and ice particles. Refrigeration is the most popular with film photographers but should be treated with care and common sense. At one time I used this method but not any more as it is not suitable with the way I work. Instead I use a floor standing Cabernet that is out of direct sunlight and away from direct heat. I have used this method for years with no ill affects. I also pay little attention to expiry dates as experience has shown me that it has had little affect on my results thus far.

FG 2
Same as above.
A couple of years ago I was sorting out some boxes of darkroom kit when I came across some containers of FP4 that was about twenty years out of date. I say twenty but on thinking back it's probably closer to thirty years or longer. The pictures (fg1 & fg2) are the results from one of those rolls of FP4 which was mistakenly exposed at ISO 400. Half the film was developed in ID11 and timed for HP5 and the other was developed in Rolie R3 developer and timed  for 400 iso. With results like this it makes me wonder whether refrigeration is necessary for monochrome emulsion if stored with care.

 It would seem that all film users over estimate how quickly film deteriorates. Each person needs to look at the way they use film and what sort of climate they live in, then take the appropriate action to comply with normal conditions. 

Related Posts:

Colour film out of date

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The future of Copyright.

 The following has been taken from the DACS winter news letter.

The Hargreaves Review
            The dizzying speed of digital innovation means the debate around copyright has never been hotter. Last year the Government commissioned an independent review of the UK's intellectual property framework, to see if it was fit to support future economic growth and innovation in the UK - and if not, to propose changes.
  Professor Ian Hargreaves led the review with a call for evidence (to which DACS contributed a comprehensive response) and published his findings in May 2011. The Government has responded positively to his recommendations, which will mean some critical changes to copyright in the UK, some affecting visual artists.
Small claims court
In a positive move, rightsholders such as visual artists will have access to a small claims track for copyright disputes through an Intellectual Property County Court. This is good news for rightsholders, as it will reduce the costs of bringing a case to court.
Copyright exceptions
 The Government also backed recommendations to introduce new copyright exceptions. This move, if passed into law, will allow for copyright protected works to be used in some circumstances without the need to seek permission from the creator or owner. Intended examples include certain types of private copying, and other uses such as non-commercial research, library archiving, and parody.
  DACS is concerned about the effect of some of these exceptions on visual artists, and will be participating fully in the forthcoming public consultation.
Orphan works
  The Government also aims to introduce a scheme to allow for the commercial and cultural use of orphan works (works with untraceable owners). The intention is to ensure rightsholders' interests are protected, but details of this are yet to be published. DACS is concerned that the Government intends to legislate for a nominal fee for uses of orphan works.
It's important that the Government hears what visual artists have to say, and DACS will be creating ways for visual artists to participate in this process.
You can read DACS' submission to the Independent Review of IP and Growth on our website:

400TX: Agfa APX 400 in Prescysol

I came across this post while looking up a friends blog. It is worth a read as Jeffery Smith makes some interesting points. I must say that my use of the newly released Agfa APX 100 with PMK Pyro has not shown the signs of graininess he refers to with the faster film. But then I'm not sure that the new film is of the same make up as the discontinued one. He also did not say whether or not he used an after bath when processed his films.

400TX: Agfa APX 400 in Prescysol

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

PMK Pyro a working solution

I am no stranger to making up developers from powders into stock solutions. The first thing you notice is the very small amount it makes up. Next, it comes in two parts and last, the powder needs to be mixed into distilled/de-ionised water ( used for car battery top ups ).
Solution A mixes up as follows:
Pour 80 mls of de-ionised water at room temperature into a measure. Open the packet marked A inside there are two sachets, take the smaller one and mix that in until it dissolves, do the same with the second one. It is important that they go in, in the right order. Make the solution up to a 1oo mls once done pour into a small storage container.
Solution B
Pour 160 mls of de-ionised water at room temperature into a measure. Add the contents of packet B slowly to the water stirring all the time until dissolved. Then top up to 200 mls. Again pour into small storage container.
Some notes:
By the time all the powders are mixed in, the amount of top up will be very small. The distilled/de-ionised water helps it to stay fresh and will keep well in partly filled bottles. Solution B has a bit of drop out and will need to be shaken clear before use. Makes up to 10 litres of working developer.
Freshly made PMK Pyro
Making up a working solution:

A normal mix is as follows,
   One part A + two parts B to One hundred part of water.
e.g: To make 600 mls of working developer. Measure out 500 mls of water add 6 mls of solution A then add 12 mls of solution B and top off to 600 mls and stir. It is important that they go in in this order.

   When you add part B to the water it will turn a straw colour, if this happens it's OK to use.
   Working temperature should be 20- 21 degrees C depending on which make of film you are using. You can check this with Digital truths massive dev chart.
Used PMK Pyro
developer.You reuse this at the
end of the process to add extra
stain to the negatives.
   Prepare everything else before you make up the working developer then use it straight away as it oxidises very quickly.
   When you pour the developer out at the end of the allotted time the solution will be very dark brown.
   It is a 'use once and throw away' developer.
   It is not necessary to re-dip the film in the developer after it has been fixed to increase staining.
   Make working solution up with filtered tap water.

Test strips before printing.

The test strip is the foundation to obtaining a good final print. Unless you have one of RH designs excellent Analsyser Pro enlarging meters. If not the most common way of producing a test strip is with a sheet of card moved at timed intervals across light-sensitive paper. There are several things you need to set before doing the test: the size of the print, the aperture of the enlarging lens and making sure you have sharp focus.

10 x 8 test strip.
Once all this is done how big should the test print be? This is down to personal choice but you should consider whether the use of whole sheet, half, third or strips give the best test results. If using a test strip of about two inches (50 mm) you need to make sure that each segment includes a full range of tones from the lightest to darkest so you can see at which timed interval gives the best high values and shadow areas. It is much easier to achieve this with the larger test strip.

What should the time separation be? A good starting point for prints around the ten by eight size is five seconds. These intervals will give you a rough idea of what the exposure should be. This can be refined with further test strips of two and/or one second if needed.

On what grade of paper should you make the test print? Grade one is standard practice. If the method you use places your negatives at a particular grade In my case it is grade three then you should do your test print at that grade unless you are using the split grade method.

Related posts:

Evaluating your test strips

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Enlarging a section of the negative.

Picture from a 120 FP4+ ISO125 6x6 negative
 developed in ID11 and printed on Ilford MG paper
 Processed with Ilford MG Developer.
Landscape format
There are no rules when it comes to enlarging your negatives. Cropping, re-formatting and partial enlargement are all part of the creative process. Changing horizontals to verticals and diagonal is also part of this rich tapestry of creativity. The only time I feel this looks odd is with waterscapes and their horizons.
Portrait format

As one of those people that works with 6x6 negatives, cropping and reframing is all part of making the picture fit the paper. I'm not complaining but the fact is all paper sizes are oblong. I think this has helped me in getting the best from my pictures. I do not waste time in trying to make the whole negative fit the page; this is heresy to some who believe that having carefully framed the view that you should print as you saw it! This is not always possible, especially when you have a certain size of print in mind. Sometimes this careful framing once projected on the enlargers baseboard may look better with horizontal or vertical framing. Do not be afraid to play.

Square Format
Which do you prefer?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Photographys. Bigger again?

To make enlargements over 50 x 60 centimeters requires a different working practice and a large darkroom.

If your negatives allow you to print them at 50 x 60 centimeters this is not the end of the story, you can go bigger with roll sized paper of 65, 100 and even 130 centimeters wide. But to go larger you will need a different method to produce them and a larger negative to start with which will increase the quality of the image projected by the enlarger. Your darkroom will need to be big enough to cope with the increased size of equipment. You will need an area of clear space that the enlarger can project the image onto whether it is the floor or a wall. Of the former the latter is the better way of doing things as you are less likely to get dust on the paper, it also makes it easier to dodge and burn if you need to.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Enlarging the negative. How big?

Depends on how crisp the negative is! If it is razor sharp there is no reason why you cannot enlarge it to its maximum. A thirty-five millimeter negative should be able to produce a 24 x 30 centimeter print with ease and in exceptional cases 50 x 60 cm. To check if the negative is of a good enough quality, enlarge part of the frame to 18 x 24 centimeters, if it looks a bit grainy the chances are that when the whole negative is enlarged to 50 x 60 cm and viewed from a meter away it will look good.

When enlarging to larger sizes you need to take into account the distance that people will see the picture from. Large photos are rarely viewed up close.