I decided to take a Friday off and do some work towards my photography goals for 2017. Originally I hoped to get out and shoot some redscale with a few different pinhole cameras, but the day ended up being rainy and dank. So a perfect day to do some darkroom practice.
I brought a number of sleeves of film with me along with my Lith chemicals from Moersch, his SE-5 master kit. I only brought parts A&B plus some ‘old brown’ as Tim Rudman calls it, old lith developer that has already seen a number of prints run through it. I also brought a pack of Fomatone MG 333, a warm-tone RC paper by Foma which is supposed to be quite colorful with the lith process. It is not cheap and I am not sure is available anymore. I paid about $2 a sheet on clearance from Freestyle. They list it as no longer available and B&H has it listed as special order for 11×14.
Since it had been a few months since doing darkroom work, I tuned with some Ilford MGIV in Dektol. First a test sheet, with 1.5 contrast filter, 6 secs center, 8 secs left, 10 right. I should mention, all of these scans are directly from the Epson V700. I resampled them to be 1024 on the long side.
I decided on the 10 sec exposure and did a full sheet, still with the 1.5 contrast filter.
And just to see what it looked like, I went with a 3 contrast filter. I kind of like how the bubbles in the glass ended up popping at this contrast level, but it could probably do with some dodging in the upper portion, and/or perhaps less exposure.
On to the lith printing, with the Fomatone MG 333. Because of the expense, I cut this into smaller strips for exposure tests and for focusing. The Foma was a little thicker than the Ilford, so I had to make a minor adjustment to the focus. A decent print ended up being 15 sec, again with the 1.5 contrast filter and same f-stop as the Ilford (8 or 11, I forget what it was). This print was also developed in Dektol and is used as a baseline for the lith printing exposure times.
One thing to mention on the lith process that is counter intuitive for most darkroom work. First, you expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows. So if the highlights are not to your liking, increase or decrease your exposure. But the shadow detail is all in your hands as you watch the print develop, take it out of the developer and put it in the stop bath (snatch point)–that determines whether you have detail in the shadows or they start blocking up on you. Sometimes you want to go for that gritty look and other times you want a very light, creamy look to the print with almost no strong shadows. It can be hard to determine in the dim darkroom, which makes this process even more magical than most silver gelatin printing.
Now for a baseline with lith printing, Tim Rudman suggests taking a good exposure from your regular B&W chemistry and adding 3 stops. So in my case 30 sec is 1 stop, 60 is 2, and 120 sec is 3 stops. Also one other thing to keep in mind with lith printing, the chemistry changes as more prints are put through the developer. I didn’t time these, but between this first print and the last one of the day, I’d say the developing time when from 30 secs to almost 3 minutes. I used a ratio of 1:1:20 for the developer, so 1 part Lith A, 1 part Lith B, and 20 parts water. I added some ‘old brown’ as well, but didn’t think to measure it. You can see the colors change with each successive print. I tried to keep the ‘snatch point’ roughly equal, but I think the first one was a little over developed compared to the other two. The original negative is from my previous post, JCH Pan 400 shot with a Canon EOS 3, and Lensbaby Velvet 56, developed in Rodinal 1+100.
I’m not sure I love the salmon look in the last print ‘lith 3’, but the middle one had kind of an interesting mix of pinkish highlights and greenish-gray shadows.
I then looked through my negative sleeves, hoping to find some landscape shots that would look interesting with the way the Fomatone seemed to be behaving. I found a roll from last year that I shot with my Fuji GA645zi, TMax 400, deep red filter, developed in Rodinal 1+25. The scans just looked so-so, but I think they printed beautifully, much sharper than the scans. Again I did a baseline with the Fomatone in Dektol, and the exposure ended up being the same as the last shot, 15 sec at same f-stop (8 or 11).
Same as above I went 3 stops more than the Dektol, so 120 secs.
I purposely waited a couple seconds longer on the snatch point for this last one, hoping to see some difference in the color. I think the shadows are just starting to block up a bit too much, but otherwise prefer this one the best.
And a different scene from the same roll. This one I didn’t bother to do a test strip and just went with 15 secs, which is probably a bit over exposed, but it has kind of a graphical quality I like.
And into the lith, same time as the others, 120 secs. This is probably the most dramatic of the day, with just a bit of shadows blocking up on it (could have snatched a bit earlier), but with very interesting colors esp in the clouds in the upper left.
The last one of the day. I waited a bit longer with the snatch point, but because the developer was getting exhausted at this point, the shadows aren’t quite as blocky, but also the color changes are more muted. If I could take the lake portion of this print and marry with the cloud portion of the previous print, that would be my favorite of the day. I suppose with photoshop and such, I could do just that.