Toning with Espresso

Continuing experimentation with toning or in this case staining I decided to see what soaking an image in espresso would do. While I let one of my test prints pre-soak in about 75* water for 5 minutes, I ran a double shot portafilter full of freshly ground espresso through 4 cycles which gave me about 8 ounces of espresso. I let the espresso chill a minute in the freezer but it was still warm when I dumped it into the tray and inserted the print. Within 30 seconds a good deal of staining had occurred but I let it go on for 15minutes total immersion time. I did check it a couple of times to see if it was getting darker or unusable. I gave it a quick rinse under the tap to wash off most of the surface coffee and then a good soaking wash for 15mintues. Below are the results. Its a nice light coffee stain tone with no apparent effect on the non-white silver tones other than making them look slightly colder in the darker areas. Overall I like the effect but probably would not use it as a primary toning/staining device. It is not likely archival.

Technical: LOCATION Sope Creek Ruins Roswell GA. FILM 4×5 Delta 100 – developer HC-110.
PRINT Berger CB WarmTone paper, developed in Photographers Formulary 106 1:15, Stained in espresso. This test print was not fully developed under enlarger.

Testing LPD vs PF106 part II

In a previous article, I explored the differences of two paper developers on 3 different papers and found there was little difference in the tonality based on developer.  There were differences in exposure time required to achieve max black  and some differences in shadow detail but I can not attribute all of that to the developer.

So this weeks experiment was to take those same 6 sheets and tone them completely in Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner (KRST) to see if there were tonality differences. I used my 8 month old 1:6 mix of selenium but added 100ml after a couple of tests so it is more like 1:5 . The paper tone did change from neutral grey to a dark purple/chocolate on all three papers. The Ilford MGFB Warmtone and Bergger CB Warmtone are very  close in tone to one another with Ilford MGFB classic being slightly more neutral. The amount of black in the image affects the brown/purple-ish cast. An over exposed dark image gave very deep  chocolate tones vs a very under exposed test sheet gave a purple cast in the under developed shadows.  I suspect that the age of the selenium created more purple tones than warmer chocolate tones but earlier experiments were nearly same tone.

So what about LPD vs PF106?

All tests were toned to completion for 5 minutes. Most of the papers had noticeable color shift around 2mins and 30 seconds with overall color shift occurring within 4 minutes. Color is very purple when wet but dries down to less of a purple cast. Prints were washed for 30 minutes after toning.

Ilford MGFB Classic – there is a very slight tonal shift to the purple side on PF106. Classic was a tad more neutral in tone in LPD. LPD is preferred tone.

Ilford MGFB WarmTone – No perceptible difference between the tonality of the two images.  However I do feel that the LPD image had darker shadow detail tones than the PF106 image. This may also be due to subtle differences in printing initially. The PF106 wins in this case.

Bergger Variable CB  – No real tonality difference. The prints were well matched and have equivalent shadow detail. This paper has a nice gloss finish similar to the Ilform MGFB WT glossy.

Other tests

I toned the same image using Bergger VCB exposed with a #2.5 contrast filter (vs #2 for previous tests) developed in PF106 1:15 for 4 minutes. The image has more contrast than the #2 filter images but the color is also a bit more neutral. The difference is very subtle and there is no loss of detail in the darker shadow texture. Except for the darkness of the image this may be a better overall tone.

I used a lighter image (slightly under exposed in enlarger) on Bergger VCB, #2.5 filter, PF106 fully developed, and only ran it in the selenium toner for 2:30. That was enough to shift from the neutral grey to slightly warmer tone away from the greenish/flat grey when compared to another print properly exposed split grade and developed PF106 at 1:15.  This gave a dark tone close to charcoal brown with no hint of purple in solid black areas.


Overall toning with selenium gives a nice rich deep brown on these papers regardless of developers tested. I did not find a magic tone that I like better than the rich brown of my sepia tests so far. I do like the slight color shift of the partial toning at 2:30 minutes which remains truer to black and white. Its not enough difference for me to switch developers since LPD is so economical to use.

All three images are Bergger CB Warm Tone paper developed with Photographers Formulary 106. Left Selenium 5:00 minutes, center 2:30, right untoned. Note my scanner tends to bring out the warm tone of the paper when scanned as a color image so I adjusted tint on the single combined image slightly, otherwise this is unaltered. The color shift can be most notably seen in the lower left corner.

Review: Ilford Multigrade Developer

Since I use mostly Ilford multi-grade papers I decided to try out the Ilford Multigrade developer. It is similar in chemical make up to LPD, being a Hydroquinone + EDTA acid, so I did not expect much difference. The developer comes as a liquid concentrate and is mixed 1:9 or 1:14. Working solution should last up to 50 prints for Fiber based papers which far exceeds my usual output in a single session. Ilford states the life of the working solution is optimal for 24hours if kept in a tightly sealed bottle. I have found discussion forums that indicate it may go as long as two weeks but will suddenly fail without color change. I will likely use the 1:14 mix since I rarely produce more than 15 prints in a session and will consider it a one-shot developer.

After exposure, the prints begin to emerge in the developer within 30 seconds. Full development can occur from 1:30 to 3 minutes, though I did not see much difference between 2:00 minutes and 2:30. The prints made on Ilford MGFB Warmtone paper have a nice neutral grey with good nice warm-ish lighter midtones. I used it with Kodak Stop and Ilford rapid fixer with no issues.

Easy to use – no mixing of powders.
Economical for single or frequent printing sessions, comes in 500ML bottle
Ilford Quality, designed for their products
Reasonably priced for infrequent/low volume printers

Short shelf life of opened bottle (6 months) and working solution (24hrs-1week) for infrequent printers.
Some hazardous chemistry

Review: Bergger Prestige Variable CB Warm

In my recent experiments Testing LDP vs PF106 developer I decided to try a different brand of papers than my usual Ilford products. Bergger Prestige Variable Contrast CB Warm Glossy is a heavy weight (280 gsm) Chlorobromide fiber based paper with a white base. The manufacturer touts it has six grades of contrast with a high Dmax. I found it does have nice rich glossy blacks where shadow values are solid, while mid tones and highlights are very neutral gray. The warm tone is always a bit of misnomer in photographic papers as I have yet to find one that is actually anything other than perhaps “flatter” or “softer” than a resin coated glossy paper. It is a very slow working paper requiring a bit more exposure time and takes longer to come up in the developer. Texture is very smooth and the paper does not curl excessively. The paper tones beautifully with Thiourea Sepia toner and takes on lovely rich browns from milk chocolate to dark coffee.

Bergger CB is only packaged in boxes of 25 which likely makes this paper a bit expensive. B&H sells it for $44.95  for 8×10 which works out to a $1.80 per sheet. Some of that price is due to the heavier paper weight, 280 gsm vs Ilford’s similar product which is only 255 gsm. For price comparison, Ilford MGFB Warm tone glossy sells for $37.95 or $1.50 per sheet. Ilford is also available in larger quantities of packaging which helps lower the price to nearly $1 per sheet.

And there in lies the problem. This paper does not have a distinguishing characteristic to separate it from the Ilford products. A finished dried print given the same exposure will be a tad less black and shadows may contain a bit more detail, but if one prints to max black there is no noticeable difference. It is no more or less glossy than Ilford MGFB Warmtone or MGFB Classic.  Even when toning there is no color difference. With a #2 or #2.5 contrast filter there is no difference in contrast tonalities from the Ilford products. Perhaps I am spoiled by the high quality of Ilford fiber based products that deliver consistent results every time I print. Perhaps in more capable hands an artist could pull out some additional feature that I can not.

Overall it is a very nice paper for final prints but its price point will likely keep me from ordering it. Bergger papers are also available in Semi-Gloss and Semi-Matte finishes which I have not tested.



Film Processing Guide

I created this card to help with film processing. I practice Steve Sherman’s minimal agitation technique with diluted Pyrocat HD and usually Ilford FP4+ film. The times and periods reflected on the card are designed to help me create negatives that print well on Ilfords MGFB Warmtone papers with a #2 filter. The chart is not meant for scientific accuracy but rather a guide for development adjustments based on SBR and my personal desires for the film/developer/papers I use.

The colored time periods are agitation points and the underlined bold values are normal removal/dump times. Since most scenes do not have a perfect 5 stop SBR, I can adjust one way or the other in total time processed. My initial agitation is always 2 minutes, then I divide the total remaining time by 3 to get my inversion points (20 seconds each). So if my actual SBR is 5.2 stops (high EV – low EV) I would use 8 minute agitation intervals after my initial 2 minutes for a total time of 26 minutes. If the scene had a couple of outlier bright areas I might pull back to 7:30 minute intervals or take a minute off the end.  Field notes will help with that determination. Beyond 6.5 stops or less than 4 stops I need to adjust dilution and agitation. For Delta 100 I reduce time by 1:00 to 1:30.

If I shoot two shots of the same scene I may pick a development point and then make adjustments on the second sheet.  The guide shows me that I need more time for expansion than I do for contraction. If I processed a 4 stop SBR scene at 32 minutes, I may need to go as long as 3 minutes longer to further expand contrast.  Similarly a 6 stop scene will contract in less than 2 minutes adjusted.

Your feedback and questions are welcome.

Sepia Toning with Thiourea Part II

Today I engaged in further experimentation with Thiourea toning. I changed the mix that I used in my earlier article  from 20/20/400 to 10ml Thiourea, 40ml Sodium Hydroxide, and 500ml water.  The tone was not the yellowish brown of sepia but a much richer chocolate brown. The dark shadow areas were the color of coffee while the midtones are more of a milk chocolate color.

I of course had to make one mistake – I used a Dicromate bleach normally used for bromoil preparation instead of the Ferricyanide-bromide bleach typically used for print bleaching. It did not seem to matter. The white borders of the papers did take on a purple cast when wet but that disappeared once dry.

I tried the toner on several different papers from my recent experiments with LPD vs PF106. All toned about the same except for Ilford Art  which has a more matte appearance and seems much lighter in the shadows.

Overall I am pleased with the tone and may like it better than the dark selenium tones, especially on Ilford MGFB Classic which tends to turn purple-ish with selenium. Below is a sample of the toned vs untoned areas on a test print. The banding left to right is the different exposure times and the dimpled texture is due to the scanning of Ilford Art paper.

Appalachian Trail – Byron Herbert Reece – Tunnel and Creek

Printing 35mm vs 4×5

When I first began taking images I used 35mm gear and printed them using a 35mm enlarger on 8×10 paper. My setup was small enough to fit in an apartment bathroom with the enlarger by the sink and the trays in the bathtub. It wasn’t too difficult to set up due to the dedicated enlarger set at basically the height I needed.

Last spring I ran a roll of 35mm through my VC Bessa R3M to try it out once again since I was thinking of selling it due to non-use. The camera performed fine and I processed the roll in HC-110 instead of my usual Pyrocat HD.  There were a couple images of my daughter and four of her friends after a band concert on the steps of one of the universities buildings. Kind of an informal group portrait of the kids that hung out together that semester. I promised my daughter I would print the images for her and her friends as a memento sometime before Christmas.

My current enlarger is a 4×5 enlarger usually set up to enlarge 4×5. So I changed the lens from the normal 135m to a 50mm. I then had to adjust the top and bottom bellows to work with the smaller 35mm frame size.  After initial set up and getting focus close by eye I found it much easier to get the sharp focus using the grain focuser. With 4×5 I rarely have any grain so focusing is done on a high contrast area. Then there was the question of cropping. Do I print full width with a 3×2 ratio on 8×10 paper or just crop the image to best fit the 4×5 ratio. I decided on the latter. I then turned the aperture to f16 and attached my filter drawer below the lens as I do with 4×5.

My first couple of test strips were way under exposed. The height difference of the bellows reduces the light output from the light source. So I ended up with times around 60 second to 90 seconds. I actually like that time frame as I have more time to dodge where needed. These images were more contrasty than my Pyrocat 4×5 negatives too so I had to change out my normal grade 2 filter to a grade 1 filter. I finally achieved my desired prints after about 15 sheets. The images were not grainy nor were dust spots any more noticeable than 4×5 negatives.

My main issue is with the need to swap out lenses and reset the enlarger when changing formats. If I had the space I would set up the dedicated 35mm enlarger along side the 4×5. I’m sure those who shoot medium format would also want a suitable enlarger to  reduce the need to constantly swap lenses and adjustments. Having two enlargers would also allow a setup for paper flashing.

I also dislike processing roll film since each exposure may contain different subject tonalities or “zones” of contrast. I have typically used HC-110 but I may try Pyrocat next roll to see if I get similar results to my standard 4×5 processing of single sheets. I find the loading of reels to be a chore. I look forward to the LabBox being sold since I think it will make processing easier than using traditional tanks and reels.

This is merely food for thought for those of you contemplating moving up or down in film formats. Your feed back regarding similar experiences or questions are always welcome. If you have any tips for quick setup changes please do add your thoughts in the comments.

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

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

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.

Sepia Toning with Thiourea

I have been interested in the sepia toned images I have often seen online. My attempts at toning with selenium yielded a nice chocolate brown on Ilford MGFB WarmTone paper but was not so pleasant on MGFB Classic.

I ordered the Thiourea Toning kit from Photographers Formulary. It ships with chemistry to make 1Liter of bleach/reducer, 100ml of Thiourea, and 100ml of Sodium Hydroxide. Mixing the chemistry is straight forward and the instructions are clear and warn of potential dangers.

After mixing the chemistry and getting them all to room temperature I poured about 1/2 Liter into a tray and bleached 3 8×10 images to completion. The bleach is a bright yellow color and works in under a minute. If you wanted to do a partial bleaching for Sepia + Selenium you would likely want to dilute the bleach to slow the action.

I followed the bleaching with a 15 minute wash for each image removing all the bleach from the paper. The remaining bleach can be reused, so I returned it to its glass bottle.

Mixing the Thiourea and Sodium Hydroxide to its diluted state is where you can effect tone. The PF recommendation is 28ml +28ml + water to make 500ml. Other online resources are near that with 30+30+500. It is also stated you can vary the color by increasing or decreasing the amount of Sodium Hydroxide relative to Thiourea. Since the kit only offers 100ml of the toning elements, I decided to go with a 20+20+400 dilution, which would allow me to have up to 5 toning sessions. The toning solution does not keep beyond a single session.

I dropped in the first print and within 1 minute the image was a lovely sepia tone. A nice lovely golden but yet still brown tone that is so much nicer than the chocolate of selenium. The shadows opened up and highlight detail just seemed brighter. Second sheet same result, Third sheet ditto. What amazed me about this was that the three sheets were different papers 1 MGFB Classic, one WarmTone, and one MGFB ART. The resulting color when dry is almost the same, noting tonal differences of the base paper and lack of gloss on Ilford Art.

Overall I am pleased with the Sepia tone and will experiment more. I may even like it better than the black and grey tones for waterfall images.

UPDATE: see Part II of this article here

Ilford Art paper prints comparing Sepia Toned vs untoned, click for larger image.