Testing LPD vs PF106

I love experimenting in the darkroom and recently sought out a brown tone developer. Photographers Formulary  had a similar developer to an older Ansco formula which was supposed to have been a brown toned developer on certain older papers like Kodak Ektalure which is no longer made. So I ordered some PF106 (link) to see if it would work on modern normal and/or warm tone papers. I also took the opportunity to try a new paper Bergger Variable CB Warm Glossy fiber based. I had hoped it would have the magic stuff that would allow the developer to actually print a brown tone. Also tested was my old standards Ilford MGFB Classic and Ilford MGFB Warm Tone.

The result: None of the papers printed with brown tones. All were neutral greys. But I did discover a few things along the journey.

Setup: I chose a very thin 4×5 negative recently shot, processed in Pyrocat HD which was under exposed and slightly over processed. I knew it had some black areas so I could easily make test strips. The enlarger is a Beseler 45MX  with a non-branded cold light head. I used an Ilford Grade 2 filter under the lens for all exposures and tests. I selected f22 on the 135 Schneider lens at about 8″ above the speed frame to create an  8×10 image.

Chemistry: Ethol LPD working strength developer was mixed fresh at 330ml + 670ml water (roughly 1:2), stock solution was a few months old. The PF106 stock was made fresh yesterday and diluted 125ml+875ml (1+7).  Kodak indicator stop and Ilford rapid fix 1+4 were fresh as well. Developer time for LPD was 2 minutes vs developer time for PF106 was 2:30. 30 seconds Stop, 1 minute in the Fixer, 15-30minute pre-soak and final 30 minute wash.

Exposure: Initial test strips were run to get me in the ball park for final exposure time usually with 2-3 second spacing. What is surprising is how much longer the required exposure was for the warm tone papers. Classic being the shortest and Bergger VCB being the longest. The PF106 developer also required a longer exposure time than LPD developer. The table below shows the exposure times for max black within the image.

Paper LPD PF106 Notes
Ilford MGFB Classic 6s 7s A slightly longer exposure needed to achieve black in the PF106
Ilford MGFB Warm Tone 21s 26s Longer exposures needed for warm papers to achieve blacks. Similar contrast and color tone to MGFB Classic.
Bergger VCB Warm Tone 22s 26s Similar exposures to MGFB WT. Slightly warmer, less glossy

Other Observations:
Image began appearing within 20-30 seconds in LPD, but did not appear in PF106 until around 50-60 seconds and was slower to come in fully.

I tried one longer development test in PF106 at 5 minutes and the image darkened much more than the 2:30 image, but did not turn brown or even warmer. This could lead to experimentation with shorter exposures and longer development or visa-versa.

Color tone of all three papers was about the same when adjusted for increased exposures, but the Bergger paper is slightly warmer than even MGFB WT but not softer or less contrasty. The Bergger paper base reflects white but the glossy black is not as pronounced as Ilford once dry. Mid tones are a bit softer in the warm tone papers as expected.

Even with a very thin negative I was able to get decent exposure times on the warm tone papers. The slower PF106 developer could be used for tough negatives when I need more working time during exposure.

It was hot in my darkroom today, 80-82 degrees so the chemistry warmed up through out the day but remained active and did not seem to vary in quality. Neither showed signs of diminishing or increasing activity between 70 and 80 degrees.

Cost: One Liter of PF106 costs about $25 shipped and only has a 6 week shelf life. One gallon of Ethol LPD is less than $20 and stock solution will last up to 2 years in my experience.  Bergger paper is slightly more expensive than Ilford warm tone and is a slightly thicker base 280 gsm vs 250 gsm.

And as a radical step I put an exposed image in LPD for about 45 seconds then stuck it in the PF106 for another 30 seconds. Surprisingly the image was very cold and bluish. I did not finish processing this paper but note it as something to try again later.

Update:  I tried the Bergger paper with PF106 diluted at 1:15. Still no brown tone. The working developer speed was slower as expected requiring 3-4 minutes for full development. I also tried Ilford Multigrade Art 300 which is a warmtone paper heavy textured fiber based paper that has similar feel of a watercolor paper. No brown tone but it does produce a full grey scale matte finished image. The texture of the Art paper is still there but not as pronounced as I had before with LPD development (more experimentation required to verify). While not glossy, the Art paper has a sparkle to it.

Bergger VCB Warm Tone 30s 1:15 Dilution – slightly longer exposure needed and longer processing times.
Ilford MG Art 300 Warm Tone 30s Similar exposures to Bergger but finish is matte.

Next Steps:
Toning tests with Selenium and possibly Thiourea to see which gives me the most interesting brown tones on the Bergger paper. And to determine if the PF106 has any tonal differences than the LPD developed prints. See http://www.searing.photography/testing-lpd-vs-pf106-part-ii/.

Further experimentation with Split Grade printing on the Warm tone papers to compare how they react at different times for min/max contrast.

Graphlex Optar 90mm W.A.

I feel I have a curse when it comes to shooting 90mm. Either the lens is not wide enough, the shutters acts up, or other problems abound. Despite having my Schneider Super Angulon 90mm shutter cleaned twice it still sticks at 1/2 and 1 second speeds.

So I purchased a used 90mm  (3.5″) Graplex Optar W.A. f6.8 . I read in several places this lens would cover 4×5 at f16 or smaller aperture. Further reading indicates this lens has about 154mm image circle whereas 4×5 is 153mm if you account for the edges.  My first outing with the new lens worked out ok but I can tell that this lens is soft in the corners and vignettes if the front standard is not perfectly aligned.  This is ok for a central subject and if the photographer likes to burn in the corners anyway.  The lens is tiny and light so a good choice for a backpacking trip. The lens is better suited to 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 or 6×9 cameras.

The Grafex Full Synchromatic shutter is a bit of an oddball too. It has two posts for flash bulbs and 3 different shutter firing mechanisms. The cable release will fire the shutter as expected. If using T or B mode you have a choice of using the tiny cable release, or to fire the shutter with focus/preview release arm and close it with the third. Using the latter method introduces the likelihood of camera shake but may be ok for long exposures. The f-stop spacing at f16, f22, and f32 is so tight I am not sure one could feel confident in using 16 or 22 and could easily be over/under 1/2 stop if bumped. If I keep it, I will make a note to use only at f32.



Reshoot day

9/1/2017 – I took a day off work and was in the mood to go reshoot the tunnel at AT- Byron Reece Trail. It was raining for the past few days due to hurricane Harvey in Texas. I also had a new-to-me 90mm to try out. When I arrived it was pouring rain. I waited about 30 minutes and the rain stopped but the sky was still cloudy and overcast which is fairly good for that location due to density of the canopy. The 90mm shutter is a bit quirky in that to use time I have to activate one shutter release and close it using another. I can not reliably hold the shutter open with the cable release. This was fine for the 6 second exposure but may be more problematic for 2-3 seconds. This was my 4th visit to this location so hopefully have learned from my prior attempts.

I also stopped at Boggs creek at 129/19 2 miles past Turners corner to reshoot the image I had tried before but ended up with too much fog. The air was clear and the sun was in and out of clouds. I chose to stop down a tad more than f22 and expose for 1 second vs .7 as indicated by my average meter reading.

I took two of each of these shots and will process individually. A good day despite the few number of targets.

The AT BHR creek negative was under exposed by at least one and a third stops. my first attempt to develop it was very thin, so I was able to adjust the development to add density. The low SBR allowed me to expand the mid tones while keeping the whites of the water within range. The negative still looks thin to me but scanned surprisingly well.  Here is the scanned image with a little manipulation of tone in Lightroom.

Tech info: FP4@ EI 100, f22-, 6 seconds,  Pyrcat HD 32mins minimal agitation.