Category Archives: mono

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.


Single image: sunflowers

Sometimes I have a roll of film in a camera so long that I forget what was on the film, particularly at the beginning. That’s particularly likely to happen to photographers who have too many cameras (which I do, but probably less than the average). I also have multiple film backs for my Mamiya RZ67, which increases the potential of losing track, including the possibility of forgetting what type of film is loaded …

Anyway I finished off a roll of Tri-X in the RZ67, four months after it was started, developed the film in Firstcall B&W developer, and was pleased to find this image:


Infrared with Efke IR 820c Aura

I’m not usually one for using obsolete films – in fact I’m trying to standardise on a small range of currently-available colour negative and B&W films. The colour choice is pretty fixed at Kodak Ektar and Kodak Portra 400 – at least in medium format. In 35mm, I’m not averse to using Agfa Vista 200, at £1 for 24 exposures, when the results aren’t critical.

For black and white I’m concentrating on Ilford FP4+ for the slow-medium speed range but still haven’t settled on a faster film. I like Tri-X in medium format but find it too grainy for my liking in 35mm. I’ve never used Ilford Hp5 but all the results I’ve seen online look too grainy for me.

Getting a little closer to the title of this post, I recently purchased 8 rolls of Rollei IR400 in 35mm together with one roll of the defunct Efke IR 820c Aura, second-hand for a very reasonable price.

I’ve blogged about Rollei IR400 before; in that post I developed the 35mm version in Rodinal and liked the film but found it a bit grainy. Since then I’ve used the medium format version in a Yashicamat 124G and other developers, which resolves the grain issues.

Having eight rolls of IR400 is enough to make it worthwhile doing some testing to determine a good base ISO and developing time, for my now favourite/only developer, Firstcall’s own brand B&W film developer. 

As well as using the film for infrared with a Hoya R72 filter, I also intend doing more tests without a filter, for use as a “normal” faster film. If that goes well, then the Rollei IR400 may take it’s place alongside FP4+ in my small range of chosen films, doubling up for infrared and those occasions when I need a little more speed than FP4+ can provide. We shall see.

So finally getting to the point – my single roll of Efke Aura. I shot the film with a base ISO,  allowing for Hoya R72 filter, of ISO3, but also shot additional shots with an extra stop on top of that reading. On the whole the shots with the extra stop were probably the more useable ones, but I didn’t take careful records as I only had one roll and didn’t expect to repeat the experience. The film was shot at two National Trust venues in the North East of England – Washington Old Hall and Gibside.

I couldn’t find a published development time for my chosen developer so followed a very unscientific route:

a) Looked at the Massive Dev Chart filtered for all developers and Efke IR film, then took a mid-range guess of 8 minutes at 20c.

b) I then used the Massive Dev Chart time and temperature convertor to take account of the actual temp of my chemicals (18.5c) and the reduction needed when using constant agitation in a Jobo processor. This gave a time of 7m 54s.

So here are selected results.


2016-8-14, Washington Old Hall, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,026

Washington Old Hall – the home of the ancestors of US President George Washington

2016-8-14, Washington Old Hall, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,0312016-8-14, Washington, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,023

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,001

The Column to British Liberty at Gibside, completed in 1756

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,002

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,015-Edit

The ruined Gibside Hall

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,016

The Hall has been deserted since 1920 and visitors cannot enter

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,019

The Orangery at Gibside

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,018

A view from the Orangery

2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,020

Sunflowers in the walled garden at Gibside


2016-8-21, Gibside, Canon FTb, Efke 820c Aura, Firstcall Dev 1+15,004

So how was the Efke Aura in comparison with Rollei IR400 ? Well of course it is impossible to say after using only one roll. I didn’t see much of the “bloom” that the Efke film is known for, and it probably needs even more exposure to bring out that feature. I certainly liked the results (or the ones that worked well, and the hit rate with IR film is always going to be lower than it is with normal film). But I didn’t like it three times better than Rollei IR400 – and the few rolls of Efke Aura for sale on eBay are going for 3 times the cost of the Rollei IR400 film.





Birthday pinholes on Skye

August 2016 saw me head to Scotland for a week’s family holiday, at Balmacara which is on the mainland not far from the Skye Bridge. Family holidays naturally mean less dedicated time for photography than, well, a dedicated photo trip, so I left behind the RZ67 and heavy tripod and took the Ondu Multi-format Pinhole camera with Fuji Acros.

2016-8-4, Fairy Pools, Ondu 6  6, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 3

One day in the week was my birthday so I got to choose where we went and to devote some time to photography. A trip over the bridge to Skye was my choice, specifically to Glen Sligachan and the Fairy Pools, which lie either side of end of the Black Cuillin mountains.

2016-8-4, Fairy Pools, Ondu 6  6, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 4

I had photographed at both these spots before so I wanted to do something different rather than replicate my previous approaches, so the pinhole camera was the obvious choice.

2016-8-4, Sligachan, Ondu 6  6, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 5

My previous visits to the Fairy Pools had been in May 2012 and October 2014, and there hadn’t been more than a dozen other visitors spread out over a mile of the stream bank. This time, in August, there were literally hundreds of visitors, with both car parks overflowing and cars parked on the verges, leading to struggles to get back up the crowded single-track road on the way home.

So quite a lot of effort was involved to try to minimise the number of people in the images; some were reduced to ghosts as they moved through a ten-second exposure.
2016-8-4, Sligachan, Ondu 6  12, Acros, Firstcall Dev 1+15, 2

All the above images were taken on Fuji Acros developed, as usual for me, in Firstcall B&W developer. After scanning they were imported into Lightroom where toning a large amount of clarity added.