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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 !

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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

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

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The camera tram again. RZ67/Ektar

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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

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Wing fragment from a crash site. RZ67 / Ektar

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RZ67 / shift adapter / 75mm lens / Ektar

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RZ67 / Shift Adapter / 75mm lens / Ektar

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ships and boats on Agfa Precisa slide film

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

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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:

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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:

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

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

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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.

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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:

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

 

 

The new family member: Mamiya ZM

I mentioned in my last post that I was using a new camera which I got for Christmas so I’m giving it a bit of an introduction here. The camera is a Mamiya ZM 35mm SLR which was released in 1982.

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The family

The third image above might give a clue why, out of all the cameras listed on all the auction sites in the world, I chose the Mamiya ZM … it was for purely sentimental reasons, to fit with my small family of Mamiya cameras. I have enough parts to make up two Mamiya RZ67’s;  you can see above one on the left with a 50mm wide angle lens and waist level finder, and on the right an RZ67 with a shift-tilt adapter, 75mm short barrel lens, and a prism finder.

Needless to say, the ZM 35mm, at 480 grams, is a lot lighter to carry around than an RZ67.

It works well, although I did experience two difficulties on the first serious outing with the camera. First, I dropped the camera body on to some rock, whilst changing lenses. The immediate effect was that the meter readings, which had seemed pretty accurate in my tests, were now way off. The camera was giving readings which indicated that it thought the aperture was always open at f2.

Fortunately I had my Sekonic Twinmate meter with me for backup so I used that for the rest of the day. I usually do carry an exposure meter with me, because most of my cameras don’t have inbuilt metering, so the lack of metering is an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

The second problem came to light a little later when the shutter would refuse to fire. It was rather intermittent and sometimes a little fiddling with the wind on lever would sort things out. When it finally died, I came to the conclusion that the batteries may be low. The seller had said it had fresh batteries, but my testing, combined with forgetting to switch the camera off, could have reduced the battery strength. Furthermore I had been puzzled by why the camera beeped every time I took a meter reading …. not realising this was actually the low battery warning.

So when I got home I put some new batteries in (unfortunately this is one of those cameras which needs batteries to function at all, not just for metering). That made no difference to the metering, so there’s probably been some damage to the pins that read the aperture. With regard to the shutter winding, I discovered that if I wound on twice, the shutter woild fire OK. The second wind-on would move film transport by just another millimetre, but was somehow enough to tell the camera it was ready for another shot.

The wind-on lever does have a rather unusual design, which means that only half of the lever actually moves when you wind on. Whether this has anything to do with the problem, I don’t know.

The most important lesson is, don’t drop your camera, especially without a lens or body cap fitted! But I am quite accident-prone, and lost a lens cap later in the day by dropping it into a raging torrent of the River Tees.

The camera came with a 50mm f2 lens which seems to produce good images, although the movement seems a little loose when focussing. I also have two Tamron Adaptall lenses with a Mamiya ZM adaptor; a 28mm f2.5 and a 135mm f2.8. So for a total of about £90, I got a very nice three-lens setup, albeit with some minor niggles.  I can also use the Tamron lenses with either my Praktica MTL3 or my Canon FTb. The 135mm lenses also came with an Olympus OM adapter, so if I ever get one of those Olympus SLRs….

I’ve now run a second roll of Agfa Precisa CT100 slide film through the camera and I’ll post the results as soon as the scanning is finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film

Within the past year on this blog, I’ve made statements to the effect that (a) I was moving away from 35mm in favour of medium format, and (b) I wouldn’t be buying any more slide film, instead using negative film for colour work.

And yet, Xmas 2016 saw me the proud owner of a new-to-me 35mm SLR from the 1980s and four rolls of Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film. Indeed, these were presents I selected myself, for the family to give me. How can this contradiction be explained ? Well the easiest way is just to recognise that rational behaviour is not essential when pursuing your hobby; I just felt like having an extra 35mm camera and some slide film.

I will write about new camera in a separate post to follow and concentrate on the Precisa film in this post.

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Agfa Precisa film is much cheaper to buy than some other slide films. I paid just under £29 for four 36-exposure rolls, including delivery, from an eBay seller. By contrast, 4 rolls of Fuji Provia 100F would cost around £47 including delivery, from the cheapest supplier I can see on eBay right now.

The strange thing is, that Agfa Precisa is re-packaged Fuji Provia 100F …..

Every 35mm film canister has a numeric code printed next to the bar code. The number on this film is 105574. You can feed that number into the very useful and simple web site at https://dexter.pcode.nl and find out what the film is. The result looks like this:

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Now somebody who created the dexter web page must have entered those codes into a database, and it is possible they could be using incorrect information. But it’s not just dexter that thinks Agfa Precisa = Fuji Provia.

The photographic supplier Firstcall states on their web site that “we were intrigued to try the new Agfa Precisa CT100 which is actually not from the old Agfa company at all. In fact it’s not even made by Agfa but actually Fuji Provia F in the box.” I am sure that Firstcall would not make that claim if it wasn’t true, as I don’t suppose they would be allowed to sell Fuji products much longer if they made a false claim.

Having established that we are actually dealing with Fuji Provia 100F, everything that I say below about Agfa Precisa would apply equally to Fuji Provia 100F.

I have used Provia before in medium format, but not in 35mm.

My first outing was a family walk in Rothbury, Northumberland, which produced a few snaps.

 

The next outing was a dedicated photography outing to Teesdale in County Durham, where I would be walking past several waterfalls, on the grounds that there would be plenty of things to point the camera at.

Problem is, waterfalls are a bit of a challenge for slide film, due to the typically very high contrast between the foaming water and the surrounding rocks – the brightness range of the scene will often be too wide to be captured in the limited dynamic range of slide film. In fact, I also prefer photographing waterfalls in black and white, another reason why colour slide wasn’t a particularly rational choice on that day.

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Gibson’s Cave near Bowlees in Teesdale. The stone at the top looks like the underside of a bridge but it is a natural feature.

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The last two images above give some idea of the difficulties in capturing such a wide contrast range on slide film. On the third image, the point where the waterfool enters the pool is very bright. Lightroom doesn’t give the flashing warning for burnt highlights but it must be very close. The dark rocks do have some details but they are a little “muddy”.

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Low Force, on the River Tees.

I would have liked to have the ability to vary the tone on the rocks in the image above in Lightroom, by using selective exposure adjustments to make them lighter or darker. However, attempts to make them lighter just made them a rather muddy purple.

The scanned slide images (scanned on an Epson v700 as 48-bit Tiffs) had very little “headroom” for making adjustments, compared to colour negative film, before image quality suffered.

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The top of High Force

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Vintage post office set into the wall of a farm building at Bowlees

The experience of using Agfa Precisa just reminded me of what I already knew; that slide film doesn’t cope well with a broad subject brightness range; and that the exposure has to be spot on. It also became clearer to me that the scope for adjusting the images in post-processing is mich more limited than it is for colour negative film (in particular Kodak Portra).

I’m not seeking to put any readers off trying out Agfa Precisa; it’s a good film if you are aware of the limitations of slide film and can work within those limitations. If you already like Fuji Provia 100F, and you work in 35mm rather than medium or large format, then it makes a lot of sense to pay less for the same film packaged in an Agfa box.

For me there remain two other practical problems in using slide film. First, because of the limited dynamic range, I am reluctant to go out for a “serious” photography trip with just slide film. That means that the camera loaded with slide film needs to be a second camera, not the only camera, reserved for occasions when the conditions are suitable. So I might shoot the remaining rolls in a nice compact Olympus 35RC for that reason.

Secondly, when I use colour negative film I process it myself and the cost of the chemicals works out about £1 a roll. The developing and postage for one colour slide film cost me about £9.50. I have processed colour slide film  before, but because of the limited shelf life of the chemicals it isn’t practical to keep both the E6 chemicals for slides and the C41 chemicals for colour negative in use at the same time, as they would expire before they are used up.

Finally, the film world is agog with the news that Kodak plan to reintroduce  Ektachrome slide film later this year, which had been “retired” in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single image: Raindrops on grass

I’ve recently returned from a 6-day trip to Scotland, staying most of the time in Callander, in the area know as the Trossachs, but with calls at the Falls of Clyde, south of Glasgow, on the way out, and a detour to the Fife Coast (Crail, Anstruther, and Pittenweem) on the way home.

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I returned with 12 rolls of medium-format colour negative, and two rolls of slide film. So far I’ve developed 7 rolls of film and I’m planning to wait until I’ve got them all done before posting some location-based selections here.

In the meantime I’ll leave this single image which was taken in the Falls of Leny car park near Callander, on a Mamiya RZ67 loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 slide film, and a 110mm lens. I’d just stopped to drink some coffee from the flask, in pouring rain, and noticed these raindrops hanging on the grasses just next to the car.

I would have liked a little more depth of field, but the light levels were very low, and if I pushed the shutter speed too long the breeze may have been a problem; I think the settings I used were 1/15s at f5.6.

More to follow …

 

 

 

Tri-X pushed at Locomotion

I took a trip to Locomotion: the National Railway Museum at Shildon last weekend. This is an outpost of the National Railway Museum at York, and much smaller than the York site but also much closer to home.

I wanted to use the Mamiya RZ67 but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use a tripod, so decided I would take a monopod and be prepared to push Kodak Tri-X film up to EI1600. This gave me exposures of 1/60s to 1/125s when near the windows of the museum “shed” and 1/30s when further away from the windows, with apertures around f5.6 to f8.

I also limited myself to two lenses – the 110mm and 50mm (equivalent to 55mm and 25mm in 35mm-equivalent terms.

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I developed the film, as usual, in Firstcall B&W film developer, but I didn’t have a time for pushing the film to ISO 1600, so  I used the Massive Dev Chart to eastblish the typical time differential between processing at 400 and processing at 1600, and used a time about 2.25 times for ISO400.

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After scanning with EpsonScan to TIFFs, I imported the images into Lightroom, darkened the blacks, and used a “Selenium Brown” pre-set. When I think an image might need quite a lot of adjustment, I prefer to scan to TIFF rather than JPEG, to avoid the “Jaggies”, i.e. gaps in the histogram following processing.
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I had to open up to f2.8 with the 110mm lens for the image above, which gives the same limited depth of field as f1.4 on 35mm film or full-frame digital, i.e. not much !

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I’m not keen on Tri-X in 35mm, which I find too grainy, but it’s OK in medium format and I think the “gritty” approach of push-processed Tri-X suits these images well.

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By coincidence, there was a classic cars display outside the museum that day, so I took some shots of the cars. These haven’t been processed yet but might make an appearance in a future post.