Friday, 19 September 2014

Mature paper developer

Mature multigrade developer with FB paper.
Notice that it has a very subtle warmth to it.
I happened to mention to a group of dark artists that I use mature developer when printing my photographs. I was a little taken aback in that they did not understand what I was saying and possibly a number of you reading this will not either. Basically it means that I cut fresh developer with old and exhausted developer from other printing sessions. Not always from the same manufacturer. It is something I have done for years and have not given a second thought to.

The technical bit:

Starting with the papers light sensitive coating, they can be made from three materials Silver bromide, silver chloride and silver iodide. These are combined to make three types of coating chloride,bromide and chlorobromide. A number of other chemicals are also added to help things along. The way in which these chemicals are mixed together affects how the final print looks. Chloride rich papers are slower and warmer in tone. Where bromide predominates it leads to faster acting and colder toned papers. As a common rule the material named first has the most influence on the way the paper reacts. Bromide papers are the most light sensitive producing neutral or cold blue black tones.
Fresh multigrade developer with FB paper.
Although the picture is of a cold subject the tone
of the scene is cold as well.

The most commonly mixed materials found today are chlorobromide papers. They are a compromise between speed and colour. By adjusting the percentages of these chemicals the manufacturer can alter the tone from warm to cold and vary how sensitive to light they are. I have found that the new Kentmere RC papers to be very sensitive to light producing a cold look to the print. It's quick reaction to the developer means that full development of the picture can be achieved in less than thirty seconds when developed with fresh Ilford multigrade. Chlorobromide papers tend to tone better than Bromide. If you are going to use gold toner then a chloride rich paper is the better than bromide rich paper as it hardly responds.
This is was printed on Kentmere RC paper with
 fresh developer. It was fully developed in less than
thirty seconds.

Although the tone and tint of black and white papers are subtle it has a great affect on the viewers response. Neutral and cold tones tend to create a distance emotionally, a sense of looking in from the outside. While warm looking images draw the viewer in engaging them emotionally. There is a tendency to use these different tones for certain subjects, cold and neutral tones with landscapes, abstracts and modern architecture. With warm tones being used with subjects like portraits, still life and nostalgic pictures like churches and old barns. We maybe used to seeing them used in this way but there are no rules but those you make for yourself and even then they should not be set in stone. By learning to manipulate and control the tone of the paper you are printing with, opens up new ways of engaging the viewer in your vision of the world.

Printed on warmtone  FB paper using
a sepia tone developer. Again the warmth is
very subtle. when compared to the picture
When talking about tone and colour of monochrome papers it is important to understand there is a difference between tone and tint. The tone of a paper is influenced by how much chloride or bromide there is in the coating of the paper. More chloride means slower warmer pictures.

Paper bases come in different colours/ tints such as off white, cream and variations on the theme. At one time warm tone papers could be made on a brilliant white base but these days the base paper has a tint to it, this allows the manufacturer to reduce the amount of chloride in the mix increasing the speed of the paper and still call it warmtone even though it is the tint we see. Tints are most noticeable in the high lights and tones in the shadows. Because the colour shifts are so subtle an untrained eye may not notice the difference until it is pointed out to them.

This is the most important bit when it comes to manipulating the tone of a paper. The main thing film and paper have in common is grain it maybe invisible to the eye but the bigger it is the blacker it appears. When the paper is placed in the developer the grain increases in size as it grows so it changes in colour. From a yellow to begin with it turns reddish, then brown and finally black which is the point of full development.

Printed on  Ilford multigrade FB paper.
 It has been developed in an almost exhausted developer
giving it a pinkish look.
This is valuable knowledge when it comes to changing the tone of a print for example: If you over expose your print more than the exposure your test strip suggests and then under develop the print by say a quarter of your usual development time this will help to increase the warmth of your picture. If you combine a warmtone developer and paper it will greatly increase the effect.

Now to the technical bit behind the mature developer. What happens; as the developer starts to exhaust, so it has trouble fully reducing the silver halides in the emulsion. This means the developer cannot turn the silver completely black therefore it leaves it in the warmer less processed state. You can induce this state by adding fresh developer to an old/ exhausted one which will leave your prints with a wonderful but subtle warmth. The old, new combination should only be used up to a dilution of one to one. Beyond this can lead to sudden exhaustion of the developer.