Friday, 17 July 2015

A case of the wrong paper?

FG 1.  Ilford Multigrade RC developed in
Ilford multigrade developer

FG 2.  Foma variant RC developed in
I was in the darkroom the other day doing some printing, when I noticed I had produced a print that did not match the test strip. This lead to a bit of head scratching. Then it occurred to me that the paper that was left from the last session in the test strip box was a different make. I had assumed it was Ilford, a logical thought, as it is the paper I use often.

I usually cut the paper I'm going to use into test strips at the beginning of each session. Only in this case I looked in the box and saw there were strips ready to go and just got on with printing. By strips I mean 8x10 paper cut in half.

I know that different makes of paper have different characteristics and levels of contrast. But I was not expecting such a big difference.

Lets set the scene: the negative is a 120 format Fomapan ISO 100. I had set the enlarger to F11 and grade 2.5 - a good place to start due to the negatives contrast. The test strip indicated a 7 seconds exposure would provide an acceptable first print.

When I pulled the paper from the soup it did not look right even with the red light on. It lacked contrast almost flat in appearance. (fig 1 Ilford paper). I opened a box of Foma and exposed it at the same settings (fig 2 Fomatone), again it looks soft with a cooler tone to it. Finally I put a sheet of Kentmere (fig 3 ) in the easel and exposed it at the same setting. Found it! - this matched the test strip. What a difference! - it suggests a grade or two more contrast! 
FG 3.  Kentmere RC developed in Multigrade

I was surprised at the contrast between the Kentmere and the others was so striking. The paper developer I used was Ilfords Multigrade it has been in the processor for about a month. I note the time it takes for the first sign of the print to show - in this case 15 seconds - this gives me an idea of how exhausted the developer is. Also as the developer exhausts so the prints show signs of warmth. Once it reaches 30 seconds I tend to add fresh developer or change it.

 I did not intend to compare these papers - I was side tracked by my test strip. What I would suggest is that if your negatives are a bit on the soft side that maybe if you use Kentmere paper it may boost their contrast giving them more punch or should I say presence. I am not suggesting that you should change to Kentmere paper instead of setting the appropriate grade for the negative you are working with. It is something to keep in mind for those very thin and or flat negatives that do not respond very well when you cannot find a grade that works.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Cold tone paper by Ilford.

Ilford Cooltone paper developed in
Ilford multigrade developer.
 When I order new materials for the darkroom I always add something I have not tried before. It can be anything but this time it just so happens it was a box of Ilfords new cooltone FB paper. I was interested to know what their definition of cool was. In my mind it means rich blacks and blueish tones in a very subtle way.

It has taken I bit of time to choose a set of negatives that would give this paper a good workout. Sometime ago I was fortunate to visit the thirty meter high Clydesdale horses heads known as the Kelpies at Falkirk. They are a wondrous sight to see glistening in the landscape. Even more so on the bright cloudless day I visited. Their stainless steel 'coats' sparkled in the sun as you walk round them, making it difficult to look at them without sun glasses. Trying to make photographs that are different is impossible as hundreds of people walk and stand around them taking pictures from every possible angle. It's a snappers paradise! But then every ones experience of these equine giants is different and so are the pictures made.  

Ilford coldtone paper developed in
Moercsch  6 blue.

I used my Bronica 120 6x6 camera to make the pictures I had in mind. Which turned out to be about a dozen frames across two rolls of film. I am not prolific at the best of times but even I was surprised by how few images I had captured.
Ilford coldtone paper developed in
Moersch 6 blue
 Armed with two pages of negatives I picked three frames to try this paper out on. I would start by developing the first picture in Ilfords own multigrade print developer this would be the standard to judge the others against. I will also be using my favorite cooltone developer as well.

It is not until you have the photograph in the day light that you can see what the tint of the paper is. It has a very bright white tint to the paper, making the blacks very crisp, but it still has a very subtle warmth to it when compared to Moersch 6 blue tone developer. I know I favour the cold working developer but I also like Ilford rendition of the horses nose, they each have there own character. 

Ilford coldtone paper developed in Moersch 6 blue.
Overall I am very pleased with the way the images have turned out. This paper appears to have a grade more contrast, I think this is due to the very white base colour of the paper compared to the neutral tone paper I am used to. It works well with my favorite blue tone developer. I will have to see if the blue is richer with this paper than others. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Fomatol PW paper developer.

Fomatol PW paper developer.
This small pack of paper developer has been sitting on the shelf patiently waiting for me to use it. I'm told it will produce some very rich brown looking prints. I think the time has come to try it.

The information on the packet:

Same size different amounts.
The developer is a slow working Hydroquinone that will produce warmtone images that verge on brown when used with Fomatone papers. This varies depending on manufacturer. You can get a bit more information about the developer 
from the Foma web site.

Mixing instruction: Dissolve big bag first in approx 750 ml of water at 20 c with continuous agitation. Then add small bag while continuing the agitation.
This makes no sense as both bags are the same size!!?

Figure 1
Ilford multigrade RC paper, developed in Multigrade.
Development: 2-3 minutes at 20 C depending on dilution. The more dilute the developer the stronger the image tone will be. The developing time is dependent on how many more parts of water you add to the stock solution. I.E Stock 2-3 mins, 1+1 4 to 6 mins, 1+3 8 to 12 mins. To keep the results consistent the developer should not be stored for the longer term.

Capacity: One litre of developer should develop 2- 3 sq meters of photographic paper. This translates to approx 210 sheets of 8 x 10. The number of pictures produced is dependent on the types and makes of paper used e.g. resin coated and or fibre base.

This little pack of powders makes up a stock/working solution of a litre. Which will mean for larger sheets of paper you may need to use two packs or dilute 1+1, this will extend the developing time and increase the tone of the final image.

Figure 2 Ilford multigrade RC paper,
 Developed  in Fomatol PW

The only bit of controversy with this developer is to determine which is the smaller of the two same size packs. If you lay the packs side by side it is easy to see which of the packets in fuller than the other or to be absolutely sure use a scales then there are no doubts. They could quite easily mark them A and B.

Making the developer up is straight forward:

Fill a mixing jug up with 750 mls of water at 20 degrees C. while mixing in the larger of the two packets make sure you constantly stir it. As you mix it in it will have quite a gritty feel to it turning the water white, this is normal. It will start to go clear as you stir in the the smaller pack. The gritty feel to developer will start to disappear as well. Once both the powders are mixed together add a further 250 ml of water making it up to a litre. Keep agitating the water until all the powder has dissolved. You should now be left with a clear slightly tan tinted liquid. This is classed as the stock solution and is ready to use as it is. You can if you wish dilute it 1+1 or 1+3 for greater colour.

Large pack of powder
added first.

I'm going to compare Fomatone PW against a semi fresh Ilford multigrade developer already in the slot processor. I am curious to see how much tone, different makes and types of photographic papers would show at stock strength. I poured the developer into a tray ready to use.

 I set the enlarger to grade 3 and the lens to F8 after exposing two sets of test strips the base exposure was set to twenty two seconds with a further forty seconds of burning in. I should have chosen a more straight forward negative for this comparison.

Figure 3 Adox MCC FB paper developed in
Fomatol PW for 5 Minutes
The first paper into the soup was Ilfords multigrade RC gloss into the slot process ( Fig 1) for comparison. Figure 2 went into the tray of Fomatone PW. Would the developer tone this paper? Resin coated papers can be difficult to tone.

Fomatone PW is billed as a slow working toning developer and at stock strength it was suggested that the image would take two to three minutes to reach full exposure. The Ilford paper was near enough spot on to the second of three minutes and has a warmth to it. Don't forget that RC papers tend to reach full development far quicker than it's FB brother.

Figure 4  Adox MCC FB paper developed in
Fomatol PW for 12 Minutes.
So I upped the stakes with Adox MCC FB paper this would really test how long the image would take to appear. Figure 3 shows what happened when I took the paper out after 5 minutes. I should point out that MCC is not a warm tone paper and yet here it exhibits a light chocolate brown colour.

I changed tactics for figure 4 it is the same paper as 3. FB paper can be manipulated far more than RC papers. So for this print I doubled the exposure time by adjusting the aperture to 5.6. I could shorten the developing time by pulling the paper out early. It should mean that the blacks in the image appearing more quickly. As it turned out it took twelve minutes for the image to be fully produced. If I had not increased the exposure I suspect that it may have taken a further twelve minutes to reach the same point of development. Of all the pictures made this is my favorite as it comes closest to what I had in mind. So far PW has demonstrated it is a very slow developer and a test of how long I can stand still rocking the developing tray. It is a shame that my darkroom is not big enough to allow a chair. How slow the developer can be I'm about to find out.

Figure 5
   Fomatone MG classic matt - Chamois 542 11 
Developed in Fomatol PW for 20 minutes 
Being this is warm tone developer I am about to see how it enhances a warm coloured paper. I chose Fomatone MG classic matt - Chamois 542-11. The papers base colour is cream to start with so what would a warm tone developer do.? Twenty minutes later - yes you read that right! - it is still under developed for my taste, all though it is richly toned. (Fig 5) Even with the red light on the colour was striking. 

Figure 6 is the same paper developed in multigrade to show how much tone the Foma PW has added. I must admit I prefer it in it's natural state.

Figure 6 Fomatone MG classic matt - Chamois 542 11 Developed in Ilford multigrade

 Things to note:

  • When mixing the developer up it will turn the water white.
  • It does not matter that the pack is out of date. In this case by four years! Powder chemicals have good keeping qualities.
  • It will significantly stain the tray you use.
  • It is a very slow working developer and will require patience.

I like the tone that the Fomatone PW has produced and think it gives the paper a more contemporary warmth.

The developer will clear when
the smaller of the two
packets are added.
Figure 6 with 5 over laid to show tonal difference