Category Archives: tips

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 !



Using the Mamiya NI701Shift Tilt Adapter

For the last few years I’ve gone through phases of looking at large-format cameras on the web; the attractions being the larger negative and, more importantly, movements. I’ve admired the images of top photographers such as Joe Cornish and David Ward, with their front-to-back sharpness, and wanted to achieve the same effects.

However I’ve held back from large format because of the amount of extra equipment I’d need:

  • the camera
  • at least two lenses, one “standard” and one wide angle
  • dark slides
  • a loupe
  • a dark cloth
  • a different developing tank and spirals
  • for darkroom prints, a new enlarger, which might not even fit into the space available

The next step in my thinking was that perhaps I could achieve what I wanted by using a roll-film back on a view camera. I reasoned that the bigger negative wasn’t really essential. I get enough quality for my purposes from the 6*7 negatives in my Mamiya RZ67 (actually they are more like 56mm * 69mm). I’ve never looked at one of those images and thought “I really need more resolution”.

Using a roll film back on a view camera would obviate the need for new spirals and a new enlarger; the film would be cheaper too. There is even an adapter that would allow me to use my existing RZ67 backs on a large format camera. But the stumbling block, apart from other demands on time and money, was that to get a wide-angle view would require buying a new lens such as a 47mm or 65mm. Whilst large format 90mm lens can be picked up at reasonable prices, the wider lenses – which would be a super wide on 4*5 but just  fairly wide on 6*7 – tend to be a lot more expensive.

So, after much thought, I ended up buying the “NI701 Shift Tilt Adaptor” for the Mamiya RZ67, together with the Mamiya 75mm f4.5 SB lens. The “SB” stands for “Short Barrel”; the shorter length of the lens makes up for the extra extension provided in the barrel of the adaptor, so that the lens can be focussed to infinity.

The adapter and 75mm lens mounted on my Mamiya RZ67

The adapter and 75mm lens mounted on my Mamiya RZ67

The adaptor provides 12mm upward shift, 12mm downward shift, 12mm forward tilt, and 12mm downward shift. There is no “swing” facility, but if your tripod is strong enough, you can turn the camera on its’ side to achieve a swing movement. In the same manner, you could achieve a horizontal shift movement.

Now large format enthusiasts will point out that 12mm of movements is tiny compared to what a typical view camera can achieve. This is undoubtedly true and I haven’t yet got enough experience to determine how much of a limitation this is for my style of photography. I was concerned about this point until I found out that the modern T/S lenses for Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLRs have about the same amount of movements (for about three times the cost).

So, now to see how it worked out in practice. After a bit of playing around without any film to see how the movements worked, and then a first film shooting some flowers at home, I got round to some real world tests.

The first group were shot with the Mamiya 110mm f2.8 lens as the 75mm lens hadn’t been delivered yet. These were all taken at home with Ilford FP4+ developed in the Firstcall B&W film developer.

2016-4,TS, RZ67,  FP4+, Firstcall dev 18c 5m 11s Jobo, 008

The front of this shell was very close to the lens, so depth of field without tilt would be very limited. With tilt, I got most of it in focus, but probably should have used the full 12 degrees of tilt.

2016-4,TS, RZ67,  FP4+, Firstcall dev 18c 5m 11s Jobo, 004

Forward tilt again

2016-4,TS, RZ67,  FP4+, Firstcall dev 18c 5m 11s Jobo, 003

In this example, the camera was mounted above the subject, but it wasn’t practical to make the film plane parallel to the subject, so a small amount of forward tilt was used to get the whole subject in focus.

Next up was a trip to Lanercost Priory, which I envisaged would give an opportunity to try out some shift movements to straighten the verticals in the building. The first two shots were in Ilford XP2 film, developed in the Fuji Hunt C41 chemicals.

2016-4-16, Bowes Railway, RZ67, XP2, 75mm, Fuji Chems,  006

Some upward shift was applied here, and I think some backward tilt, although it looks like I could have increased the back tilt to get the stone at the top of the image a bit sharper

Backward tilt and upward shit were adopted here and I was pleased to be able get everything acceptably in focus

Backward tilt and upward shift were adopted here and I was pleased to be able get everything acceptably in focus

The remaining shots were taken on Fuji Acros, again developed in the Firstcall B&W developer. The toning was applied in Lightroom.

Back tilt and shift up.

Back tilt and shift up.

Back tilt

Back tilt

With upward shift, shot with the camera close to the ground so that the roof features were visible/

With upward shift, shot with the camera close to the ground so that the roof features were visible

Not a very exciting result but I did this to test the ability to get everything from the front lettering to the window in focus.

Not a very exciting result but I did this to test the ability to get everything from the front lettering to the window in focus.

On the way home I still had three shots left on the roll of Acros so I stopped off at Hexham Abbey for some more architectural shots. I knew that this subject would challenge the shift capability to the limit.

2016-4-22, Hexham Abbey, Acros, Firstcall Dev 21C 5m Jobo 006

In the event, the result you see above did have a small amount of additional perspective correction carried out in Lightroom; after applying the full 12 degrees of upward shift on the adapter;but I got much closer to the result I wanted than I would have without the adapter, and I could probably achieve the final correction in the darkroom by tilting the easel. Mamiya also have a Shift 75mm lens which has 20mm of up or down shift, but no tilt capability, but this would not be as versatile for general use as the 75mm SB lens in conjunction with the tilt and shift capability of the adapter.

At this point I should talk about what lenses can be used with the adapter. The 75mm SB lens focusses to infinity and I’ve found the focal length to be fairly useful for architecture and landscapes, although a wider lens would be handy. The 35mm-equivalent focal length is 36mm.

There is also a 180mm SB lens (90mm equivalent in 35mm terms) which can focus to infinity with the adaptor. I don’t have this lens and don’t think I’m likely to need it for the images I take.

The other lenses which are recommended for use with the adapter, but which can’t be focussed to infinity, are:

  • 140mm macro
  • 150mm f3.5
  • 180mm f4.5 (I have this lens but haven’t tried it yet with the adapter)
  • 210mm f4.5 APO

The ever-useful Mike Butkus has the manual for the adapter here;you might want to send him a donation to say thanks.

The manual warns that vignetting may occur in some situations; I have observed this through the finder with the DoF preview in use, but I’ve not actually noticed it in any of the images I’ve taken.

RZ67, 2016-5, Ektar, 75mm TS, Fuji chems010

About 3 degrees of forward tilt – Kodak Ektar taken at Seaton Sluice



RZ67, 2016-5, Ektar, 75mm TS, Fuji chems005

With maximum forward tilt- Kodak Ektar taken at Seaton Sluice

The 75mm lens is significantly heavier,at 1295g, than any other Mamiya lens I have, and has an enormous 105mm filter thread. The adapter is not heavy but it is an awkward shape to pack in my bag. As a result, it’s likely that when I want to take the 75mm lens out, it may be the only lens I pack.

Finally, here’s an image where I got the movements completely wrong.

RZ67, 2016-5, Ektar, 75mm TS, Fuji chems006

I was concentrating on getting the bluebells in focus and failed to notice that the tree trunk is completely out of focus; forgetting that tilt may be useful for gently sloping subjects but can’t cope with a vertical object in the middle of the frame !

In summary, I have found that the 75mm SB lens, combined with the adapter, is pretty useful for many landscapes and moderately-challenging architectural features, as well as for close-ups. The adapter also works well with the 110mm lens for close-up work.  But the limited lens choice with the adapter, and the relatively limited amount of movement, means that this setup will not suit everyone as an alternative to a full view-camera kit. If you’re already an owner of an RZ67, it may attract you, but if you’re not already an RZ owner I doubt that you would choose this route as a way of getting into camera movements.



Converting to “Infrared” in Adobe Lightroom

Just a quick post to show the results of messing around with Adobe Lightroom and some scans of colour negative images taken with Kodak Portra film.

Recently I had a pleasant walk around Bollihope which is part of Weardale in County Durham. I had the Fuji GA645Zi loaded with Kodak Portra and a Yashicamat loaded with Ilford FP4. As I looked at the bright green foliage I began to think it was the right time of year to be shooting some Infrared Film, but I didn’t have any with me. I’ll put that right by loading either Rollei IR400 or Ilford SFX into the Yashicamat as soon as the FP4 is finished, but in the meantime I decided to see what the “infrared” develop preset in Lightroom could do for me.


I have some presets which are third-party addons but this one is Adobe-supplied. I am not sure what Lightroom version it was first supplied with, but I think it appeared when I updated from LR2 to LR5. If you don’t have it on your Lightroom system, it should be easy enough to create one.
The key points are to set the yellow and green colours to +100, and the Aqua colour to +50.


You might want to increase to contrast, increase the exposure, and hold back the highlights as well:


Note that negative clarity has also been set; this gives an effect a little like the “aura” that the old Efke IR film gave.

Once you have the options set the way you want them, just click the “+” sign next to “Presets” in the left-hand pane …


… and check the relevant boxes in the screen below, and give your preset a name.


Of course, after applying a preset, you are free to make any other changes you want to suit the individual image.

Anyway, here’s the results I got. You might like them or you may think that they are an abomination and no substitute for the use of infra-red film; it’s your choice.

2015-5-23, Portra 160, Bollihope, GA645Zi, 16-2

2015-5-23, Portra 160, Bollihope, GA645Zi, 14-2

One final word – if you apply these settings to a scan from black-and-white film, then you won’t see much effect, and foilage may go darker rather than lighter. That’s because you can’t amend the individual colours in a “true” mono image, because there aren’t any. The preset will work with either a colour digital file or a scanned colour film image.

Ansel speaks

I came across this delightful series of five short videos about Ansel Adams, curated by the Getty Museum, on Youtube and wanted to let you know about them. Youtube has lots of videos of people talking about  Ansel Adams, but  four of these videos feature Ansel talking and the last is footage of him and some friends climbing Half Dome, and the resulting still image.

The second video, “Techniques and Working Methods” is an extract from a longer film which also includes Ansel playing the piano and a scene showing how much gear he packed into his van .. it’s in two parts – see below …

Location: Hexham Abbey

I find that cathedrals, abbeys, etc (and, I’m sure, similar buildings from other cultures and faiths) produce a good supply of photographic material and I’m often to be seen skulking around the aisles with a tripod and a film camera. Cathedrals vary in their attitude to photography; some don’t allow it at all (St Paul’s in London), others only allow it on certain days (Durham), some ask for reassurance that your work is non-commercial (St Nicholas in Newcastle) and others ask you to pay a small amount for a permit (Southwark).

I’m pleased to say that Hexham Abbey in Northumberland has absolutely no restrictions on photographing with tripods (well, possibly they do during services, but I haven’t visited during a service). I’ve been there twice – first time with a Yashicamat 124G and small tripod and the second time with a Mamiya RZ67 and a very large tripod, have been seen by staff, and not had any problems.

Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar film developed in the Digibase C41 kit

Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Ektar film developed in the Digibase C41 kit

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One camera on the Isle of Skye

In my last post I wrote about moving away from 35mm. Part of that process, as well as selling off most of my 35mm cameras, was to spend a week on the Isle of Skye with just one medium format camera, my Mamiya RZ67.

At the Storr with the RZ67

At the Storr with the RZ67



The resulting image on Kodak Portra 160 film

The resulting image on Kodak Portra 160 film

Lots of people on the internet describe the RZ67 as being “only for the studio” or perhaps “only for use near the car”. I can see why people think this – the camera weighs 2.65 kg with a waist level finder, one film back, and 110mm lens. Add a 50mm and 65mm lens and an extra film back will take it up about 3.2kg, that’s before you think about a tripod.

However I have used the RZ, together with a Manfrotto 075 tripod and 029 three-way head, for walks of up 5 or 6 miles. I don’t find the weight that outrageous if I’m on a trip where the main purpose is photography. By the way, that’s not because I’m particularly young and fit – I’m a slightly tubby 52-year old with arthritis. Granted, if the trip is a casual outing with family and the slight possibility of taking an image or two, then you might not want to carry that lot around.

So that I can get more use out the RZ, I made a couple of changes; first by adding a lighter tripod to my collection (now standing at four plus one monopod); secondly by choosing to carry the kit in a proper walking rucksack with a metal frame and hip belt, rather than a photo-specific bag.

Here is my “old” carrying arrangements, with a Lowepro Fastpack 250 loaded with the RZ, three lenses, an extra film back, and Sekonic spotmeter. 

It does just fit in but there isn’t much room for anything else. The longer the walk (and the more remote the countryside) the more you need to factor in the space to carry waterproofs, food, drink, etc.

Hence the new arrangement pictured below, for longer walks. The Karrimor rucksack has been in my possession since the 1980s, but very little used. I created some extra padding in the base compartment by using an old Camera Case Systems over-the-shoulder bag and cutting bits off. I purchased the bag for £2.49 in a charity shop – it was very dirty hence the low price, and cut off the lid and strap.



I have also used bits of foam to line the compartment; this works OK but the cut-off camera bag stays in place better. The bottom compartment only really has enough room for the camera body, film back, and lens – I could squeeze another item in but I prefer to carry the lenses, extra back and meter in the other rucksack compartments. There is loads of space in the top compartment for maps, guides, food, drink, waterproofs, etc, and the hip belt + metal frame makes it much easier to carry the weight for several hours.

Next we see the “new” tripod side by side with the “old” 075 tripod, first at minimum height and then at max height. The new model is an old Manfrotto 055 aluminium model with a ball head which I purchased for £65 in ebay. I haven’t been able to accurately weight the two ‘pods but the 055 seems about half the weight of the 075.



The difference in minimum height does not seem too significant in the image above, but in many situations such as rocks, you can’t really use the 075 at this height because the struts which make the tripod so strong get in the way of objects on the ground.



I  also modified the 055 tripod (using as my guide this youtube video by Mike Sowsun) to remove the centre column. On most tripods I would avoid using the centre column if at all possible, as stability drops dramatically. The 075 is however an exception, as the geared centre column is very strong and can be safely used:

It helps to be 8 foot tall if you need to use the tripod in this configuration

It helps to be 8 foot tall if you need to use the tripod in this configuration

I’ll come back to talk about how the new tripod worked out, after taking a tour around Skye with some of the photos I took during the week. Most of the colour photos were on Kodak Portra 160, plus a couple of rolls of Ektar, and the black and white shots were either TMax 100 or Ilford XP2 Super. In total I used 12 rolls of colour and four rolls of black and white. The Mamiya takes 10 shots per roll so that was 160 images.

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Pentax MX – the little marvel

A few weeks ago I added a second Pentax MX body to my collection so I thought I would write in praise of this fine compact 35mm SLR. L1180778 The Pentax MX is a camera which just works. It has all of the functions I need for my type of photography, and nothing I don’t need. Focus is entirely manual – to me the idea that I would let the camera decide what part of a landscape, for instance, I want to be most in focus, is an alien concept. The large clear viewfinder makes focusing a breeze and is a real aid to composition. Aperture control is through rotating a ring on the lens  – far simpler than any menu system. Shutter speed is likewise controlled through a simple dial. L1180782 The shutter button is threaded for a manual cable release – far cheaper  than an electronic release, and the manual cable releases can be used by any of several cameras I have that use this fitting. The lenses have a depth of field scale, so you can assess how much of the scene will be in focus at your chosen aperture; this also helps with hyperfocal focussing. Continue reading