Toning darkroom prints


Welcome to my 114th blog post, which I will use to describe some toning experiments with gelatin silver darkroom prints. I’m trying to spend more time in the darkroom and become more organised; so for example I’ve been producing contact prints for most of my sets of negative to make it easier to pick out the ones I want to print. It’s a bit of a chore but it will be worth it in the long run.

I’m also trying to plan my use of toning so that I’m more likely to know in advance what toning I want to apply to a particular negative. I’m not entirely new to toning, having used sepia and selenium, but my useage has been a bit ad-hoc and not properly documented. I’ve liked some of the results and not liked others but haven’t been able to remember what toning regime produced which results.

I also wanted to understand better the interaction between paper choice, developer choice, and toners. Most of my darkroom printing is with two resin-coated papers:

  • Ilford Multigrade IV RC (a neutral-toned paper)
  • Ilford Multigrade RC Warmtone

These papers are developed in one of two paper developers:

  • Champion Multicontrast print developer (neutral tone)
  • Fotospeed WT10 (warm tone)

I then have two types of toner available:

  • Sepia
  • Selenium

It sounds like a small range of materials but when you work out all of the different variations of paper, developer, untoned, toning with one toner, and toning with two toners, there are actually twenty different options. A spreadsheet came in handy to list the options:

Note that I have included as separate options, sepia toning followed by selenium toning, and selenium toning followed by sepia toning, to see what difference the order of toning makes.

A wet Bank Holiday Monday seemed like a good time to spend several hours in the darkroom so I set off to print 20 versions of the same image. I chose an image, taken in the Yorkshire Dales at Norber, which would produce a reasonable result as a straight print without dodging and burning, as I didn’t fancy having to replicate the same dodging and burning sequence twenty times.

All of the prints on the neutral paper were given the same exposure time of 7.2s, and all of the prints on the warm tone paper were given an exposure time of about 15s, in each case calculated using an RH Designs Analyser pro to produce the same tonal range.

I was aware of advice to produce a darker print where sepia toning is intended, and a lighter print where selenium toning is intended, but I decided to print them all at the same time so that the effects were visible in the reference set of images which would be my end results. If I had made exposure time alterations to individual prints, I probably would have then forgotten what adjustment had been made.

The sepia toner used was Fotospeed ST20, diluted 1:19. This toner comes with an additive which can be used in varying amounts to influence the colour of the toner image. I used 15ml per 1 litre which is designed to produce a tone called, er, “sepia”. So that’s stronger than “yellow/light sepia” and weaker than “dark sepia”.

The selenium toner used as Fotospeed SL20, also diluted 1:19. This is a fairly low dilution which is intended to provide archival permanence and to strengthen the dmax, but not to provide noticeable colour changes.

Unfortunately, I did make a mistake in the execution of my plan, and failed to print image 17, which should have been on warm tone paper, developed in warm tone developer, and toned with sepia. I didn’t notice until after I’d discarded the warm tone developer (the neutral tone sits in a Nova slot processor where it lasts for weeks). I’ll try to go back and produce the missing print and update the results when I can.

I’ll now post the results in batches. Click on any image set to get a larger view.

First, the results with neutral paper (Ilford MGIV RC) and neutral developer (Champion Multicontrast):

Here are the results with neutral paper (Ilford MGIV RC) and Fotospeed WT10 warm tone developer:

Next, the results with warm tone paper (Ilford MG RC warmtone) and neutral developer (Champion multicontrast):

Finally, the results with warm tone paper (Ilford MG RC warmtone) and warm tone developer Fotospeed WT10):


I’m not going to attempt too much analysis of the results right now and will just let the images speak for themselves, for a number of reasons.

First, it’s not a  case of finding the “best” combination because the result I like best for the image I used for these tests, might not be the combo I like best for a totally different image.

Second, what I like best might not be what you like best, dear reader.

Third, I need more time to assess and compare the results.

I will however post again with some more thoughts, including comparisons grouped in different ways, e.g. the effect of changing developer without changing paper.

I hope you found the results useful – I certainly did. I should stress that I am in no way an expert in toning – if you want to learn from someone who is then have a look at the tutorials from David Kirkby at Twelve Small Squares. David is a fellow member of the Film and Darkroom User Group and posted a link to his tutorials just before I carried out these experiments. I found it very instructive to see David’s results – but doing it yourself is even better because the learning sinks in better through practical exercises. I produced very small prints (about 5″ * 3.5″) to keep the cost down.

It’s worth noting two points:

a) Obviously I’m showing scanned prints and it’s not possible to guarantee that the tones in the scan are an absolute match for the print

b) There are a whole load of variations possible within the toning process (for example dilutions and timing) so these results are only one of many possible sets.

Oh, and apologies to those who read this post before I had actually finished writing it – I pressed the publish button too soon !



West Burton Falls, FP4+ in two developers

After leaving Aysgarth Falls (document in my last post here) I drove just a few miles to West Burton Falls. This is an easily accessible location as you can park in the village just a few hundred yards away and there are no hills to climb.

Mamiya RZ67, 65mm lens, Ilford FP4+, developed in Rollei RHS D74-DC

Mamiya RZ67, 180mm lens, Ilford FP4+, developed in Rollei RHS D74-DC

Mamiya RZ67, 65mm lens, Ilford FP4+, developed in Kodak HC110

The previous two images were both taken from the same spot, or nearly so, first with a 180mm lens (a short telephoto or portrait lens) and second with a 65mm moderate wide angle lens.

They were also developed with a different developer; the first three images in this post were developed with Rollei RHS-D74-DC and the last, which was the only shot taken with a second roll of FP4+, was developed in Kodak HC110.

I doubt very much if readers will notice any difference due to the developers; I’ve always thought that different developers don’t make a great deal of difference to the appearance of the image. Convenience factors (eg whether you prefer liquid or powder, one-shot or replenishable) and seem to be more important factors in choosing a developer.

I managed to make what seems like a major error with the HC110 developer, which was that I made stock solution by diluting the concentrate 1+1, even though the instructions quite clearly said it should be diluted 1+3. So by the time I had made up the working solution using Dilution B, my developer was twice as strong as it should be !

As soon as I saw the negatives come out of the tank I could see I’d made a mistake as they were very high in contrast, which is a sign of over-development. However I don’t think you can really detect ill-effects in this scanned version. I hope to print the image in the darkroom soon so I’ll see how that works with a soft grade setting.



Ilford FP4+ at Aysgarth Falls

You may have noticed that waterfalls are a favourite subject of mine and I was really overdue a trip to Aysgarth Falls, which I had last viewed about 20 years ago. This is a series of three falls in Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales.

There are actually three sets of falls. From the car park I walked downstream and first saw the middle falls – that is quite dramatic but the angle of view is limited to what you can see from a small viewing platform. So I moved on to the Lower Falls, which is well known as the location where Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood had a fight with Little John.

Mamiya RZ67, Ilford FP4+, 65mm lens

Mamiya RZ67, Ilford FP4+, 65mm lens

All the shots shown here were taken with a 65mm lens on a Mamiya RZ67, which is equivalent to about 31mm in full-frame digital or 35mm film terms. I hadn’t used that lens for a while but decided to take just the 65mm and 180mm lenses to force myself to consider the advantages of those lenses.

Mamiya RZ67, Ilford FP4+, 65mm lens

When I first bought an RZ67 it came with 65mm and 110mm lenses; later I added a 50mm lens (about 25mm in full-frame terms) and I tended to neglect the 65mm after that. However on this occasion I found the 65mm quite wide enough.

Mamiya RZ67, Ilford FP4+, 65mm lens

Some of the shots were a bit underexposed and I didn’t get as much detail in the shadows as I would like. Ideally I should have “overexposed and underdeveloped”. However I was using Rollei RHS D74-DC developer which gives a really short time for normal development, of 3m 15s for FP4+ – which doesn’t leave much scope for N-1 or N-2 development.

For this reason, I’ve stopped using the Rollei developer and I’ve not got some HC-110 to try. Of which, more in a future post.

I also visited the Upper Falls at Aysgarth, which are nice enough, but I couldn’t see a composition which I really wanted to take, which wouldn’t duplicate those from earlier in the trip, so instead I moved on to West Burton Falls a few miles away – I’ll show those in the next blog post.


Ilford SFX200 film at Seaton Delaval

I can’t say that Ilford SFX200 is one of my favourite films; it’s not even my favourite infrared film – that would be Rollei IR400, which sells for around half the price of SFX200 and produces a more pronounced IR effect. But I seem to have found myself with a few rolls in the freezer, and it’s not a bad film so I may as well get it used up.

So I loaded the film into my Yashicamat 124G and spent an hour at Seaton Delaval Hall, a local National Trust property. Being a sunny day – important for infrared photography – it was fairly popular with families so I had to select my viewpoints carefully and be patient to get images without a lot of people in the frame.

With a Hoya R72 filter and metered at ISO6


With a Hoya R72 filter and metered at ISO6

With no filter and metered at ISO200

For the last shot here, I took two shots with different exposures and then blended them in Photoshop – although to be honest the result was so close to one of the originals that it wasn’t worth the bother. The toning was added in Lightroom.

No filter

I wound up the trip with an overpriced ice-cream in the NT shop / cafe.


Location: North East Land, Sea, and Air Museu

I had lived in North East England for nearly fifty years before I found out about the existence of the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum (or NELSAM for short) which might give you a clue that the promotional activities of the museum don’t keep up with the better-known museums. Before you go, check the directions on their web site and be prepared for possibly driving past the entrance and needing to turn back. To be fair though, it’s run by volunteers and the admission price is very low, so I can’t complain.

2010 October, NEAM, Rz67, Provia 100, Tetenal 002

Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Provia 100F, home developed in the Tetenal E6 kit

I don’t have a specific interest in aircraft or military vehicles so my approach when visiting the museum is to look for details of interesting shapes, colours, and texture, of which there are plenty.

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 001

Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar, home developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 kit

If you do want to photograph an entire aircraft, then the problem you will find – apart from obviously needing a very wide lens – is that the items displayed inside the hangars are, of necessity, placed quite close together so it is difficult to photograph one display item in isolation without including another item in the view.

2010 October, NEAM, Rz67, Provia 100, Tetenal 004

Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Provia 100F, home developed in the Tetenal E6 kit.

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 003

For the indoor objects – and most of the displays are indoors – you’re going to need a tripod, and fortunately there are no objections to using a tripod, as there are at some museums.

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 004

Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Ektar, home developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 kit

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 011

I call this the “camera tram” (or maybe it’s a “trolley bus” because of the adverts on the side, for a defunct camera shop in Leeds. RZ67/Ektar

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 007

A detailed shot of the “camera tram” RZ67/Ektar

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 008

The camera tram again. RZ67/Ektar

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 009

A Dutch tram awaiting restoration. One of the volunteers was surprised to learn that I prefer my subjects to look decayed”. RZ67/ 75mm/ Shift Adapter / Ektar

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 016

Wing fragment from a crash site. RZ67 / Ektar

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 018

RZ67 / shift adapter / 75mm lens / Ektar

2017-03-19, RZ67, Ektar, NELSAM, 020

RZ67 / Shift Adapter / 75mm lens / Ektar


Entrance to an Avro Vulcan bomber. Canon EOS300 and Fuji Pro 800Z

All in all a good place to spend a few hours. There are some more images from NELSAM in my blog article about the Lomo Fisheye 2 camera.






Equipment: Lomo Fisheye 2

My latest camera purchase was the Lomo Fisheye 2 which I bought used from eBay for £16. I’m not usually one for the “Lo-Fi” approach but I didn’t fancy paying £450 for a fisheye lens for my Mamiya RZ67, or even £120 for Zenitar 16mm fisheye for 35mm cameras, bearing in mind that I’m only likely to make occasional use of a fisheye.DSC_0017

The field of view of the lens is 170 degrees, which seems to equate to just about everything I can see, including my feet or fingers if I’m not careful. Unlike my pinhole camera, which don’t have a viewfinder and require a lot of guesswork to determine what will be, the Lomo Fisheye has a handy viewfinder which fits into the hotshoe.

The viewfinder doesn’t give any information about shutter speed, aperture, or focussing; but then there isn’t any information to give. There is only one shutter speed of 1/50s, one aperture of f8, and fixed focus.

The Angel of the North

Given the fixed aperture and shutter speed, the user is dependent upon the light being within a certain range, and the relatively high tolerance of negative film. The manual recommends ISO400 film but I chose to load “Poundland special” Agfa Vista 200 film, because it’s cheap and I had a few rolls. That seemed to work OK.

Newcastle Civic Centre

Newcastle Civic Centre

I had expected the images to be almost circular, and indeed they are; you see the full radius of a circle on the long side of the film, but not on the short side of the film. What i hadn’t expected, is that you can see what appears to be the inside of the lens assembly in the area outside of the image circle. I find it a bit distracting, but you could add a vignette in post processing to darken it down.

Memorial to the Boer War, Newcastle Haymarket

Newcastle Civic Centre


Vintage fire engine at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum. It was pretty dark inside this shed so I was surprised at how the image worked out.


2017-03 Lomo Fisheye 2, Agfa Vista 200, NESLAM, 015

Bloodhound missile and Avro Vulcan bomber


A Dutch tram awaiting restoration at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum.

So far I’ve taken two rolls, in Newcastle and Gateshead, and at the North East Land, Sea, and Air Museum.

I don’t think the Lomo Fisheye 2 is going to become my main camera any time soon; I don’t even think I would pay the £60 some eBay sellers of new cameras have priced  them at. But for £16, it’s been an interesting change.

Ships and boats on Agfa Precisa slide film


I blogged recently about my first experience with Agfa Precisa CT100 slide film. It wasn’t a totally succesful experience because my task was to photograph waterfalls and the dynamic range of the locations were a bit too much for the range of slide film.

However my second roll produced a much better match of film to subject. I took a short journey to Blyth, a harbour town in Northumberland, previously home to mining and shipbuilding.

I took my new Mamiya ZM 35mm SLR together with a Mamiya 50mm f2 standard lens, and Tamron Adaptall 28mm and 135mm lenses. I took my Sekonic Digital Master L-758 spot meter to help ensure accurate metering and that worked well. I squeezed 38 shots out the roll and only two of them were out exposure-wise.


I don’t usually use lenses longer than 50mm very much, and I’ve been through a few telephoto lenses in the past and sold them on without making many images with them. On this occasion however the the 135mm lenses was used for over half of the images and proved ideal for searching out small details in the ships and boats to be found in the harbour.


It was a bright sunny day which gave typical exposures of 1/125s at f11. The winter sun was at a low angle which gave vibrant colours, well matched to the Agfa Precisa film (rebadged Fuji Provia).



Some of the jetties are locked near the ends but there is still room to get a substantial number of images. The get the image above. I poked the lens though the gate shown below.



I always get a surprise when I see a ship at the bottom of a street:


This lighthouse used to be on the shore, but the harbour extended outwards so it is now land-locked, and built onto the end of a house:


Nearby is the remains of a “rocket station” where rockets were used to send ropes over to boats which were wrecked near the shoreline. This is the door of the rocket station:


The support ship “Grand Canyon” was moored at what used to be a dedicated quay serving Bates Pit,. a coal mine:




The local fishing boats were dwarfed by the 125 metre long Grand Canyon:



Bates Pit, which once employed 1800 men, closed in 1986. It stood behind the sign below and the state of the sign sums up the desolation left by pit closures. The National Coal Board, in closing the pit, ignored the advice of an independent tribunal, and the Government Minister in charge didn’t even turn up to debate the issue in Parliament.


On a brighter note, a family of swans enjoyed the sunshine and basked in the reflections of a shop on the opposite bank of the river:


I hope you enjoyed these images, which I hope give a good impression of the capabilities of Agfa CT Precisa film.