Frogtown Creek II Split Toned

After my toning experiments I decided to split tone the Frogtown Creek II image. I think I went a little too far with bleaching so turned the whole image brownish rather than just warming the faintest highlights. But I do like the results and it is different than the untoned version. The print was a bit lighter than the final prints and had a bit more contrasts so it was a good candidate to determine if split toning improves a print in such a case. I’ll let you be the judge, your questions and feedback are welcome using the comment section below or Contact page if you want to send an email.

Toning proceedure: Presoak 5 minutes, Dilute reducing bleach for 45 seconds until leaves at top became white-ish, wash 5 mins, Thiourea mix 50 ml Thiourea + 50 ml Sodium Hydroxide +1000 ml Water 2 minutes, wash, fix with TF5 fixer, wash 5mins, dilute selenium 1:20 for 2 mins, wash. Note the Thiourea and Sodium Hydroxide were premixed as 10% solutions.

Split Toning First attempt

Over the last few weeks I have been trying my hand at Toning with Thiourea (Sepia) and Selenium on different papers. This thanksgiving day weekend gave me some extra time to try Split Toning with both. And as luck would have it my mentor Steve Sherman put out a video on his toning technique along with his mix of chemicals. Most of his statements I had read before but it was nice to see something in practice with explanations of what he considers a success or failure for his images. I also studied some of Tim Rudman’s recent work an noted the tones in his new Iceland series on the web have a nice yellow/tan tone in the highlights and a cooler black tone in the darker tones.

The image I worked on the day before also required some split grade printing. The overall image was exposed on Ilford MGFB Warm Tone paper for 10 seconds at #3 filter and 12 seconds at #00. But I also burned in various areas along the top and water to bring out their contrast a bit more using extra time with #00. Top right was dodged 2 seconds during the #3 filter exposure. This gave a nice black and white print and put some light grey tone in the water instead of it being pure white. I could have stopped there and been happy with the black, white, and silver tones. I could even push it a bit darker which I may do for future toning. Developed for 2:30 minutes in Ilford Multigrade Developer. Fixed in rapid fixer and washed for 30 minutes and allowed to dry overnight.

For the next step, I first rewet the dry prints for toning.  I used up my remaining stock of a Photographers Formulary Thiourea toning kit. I diluted the kit’s bleach to 1/5th its normal strength so I could watch the bleaching action. I ended up bleaching for about 1 minute and 15seconds to take out just the highlights and very light greys. I washed the bleach off the print and put in a wash tray for another 10+ minutes. I then mixed 30ml of the 5% solution Thiourea, 25ml of the 10% Sodium Hydroxide solution, to 500ml of water. This should give me a more yellow-brown to light brown since the Thiourea solution is more of the mix.  I allowed the toner to work for about 2 minutes and could see the color shift toward the yellow/tan color in only the highlights and could see some density returning. Then into a wash tray for 5 minutes to stop the toning.

Per Steve’s video I fixed the image again using PF TF-5 fixer for 1 minute. TF-5 is a rapid fixer. Some folks omit this fixer step but it does no harm. After another 5 minute wash I slipped the image into my 1:5 selenium mix. After about 30-40 seconds I could see the mid tone greys shifting toward a more neutral grey and pulled it there before the whole image went to the brown/magenta tone. The image was printed on Ilford MGFB warm tone paper which have a tendency to tone rapidly and produce a nice chocolate tone in selenium at full development. Full development is not what I was after in this case. I wanted to preserve the Black shadows and neutral mid tones. In the future I will likely dilute the selenium more so I can control the tone better.

Here is a scan of the finished product. The scanner tends to make the image much warmer due to the paper tone so it is adjusted slightly in Lightroom to make it more like what I see on the print. Your monitor may also be warmer or colder than mine but I hope you can see the tonal differences in the areas where sepia warmed up the image and selenium enhanced the blacks.

Note: One of the test prints I ran through the process was on Bergger CB warm tone paper. It did not tone very much in the sepia toner but rapidly turned to brown in selenium. I would have to experiment more with this paper to control it. The Ilford warm tone paper will also turn brown but it seemed to take a little longer

Technical:  Ilford Delta 100 4×5, HC-110 1:63 for 12 mins. Camera – Ikeda Anba. Lens 135mm, f22, 1/2 second. Print info above.

Helton Creek Falls

I found a couple of negatives I shot 2 years ago stashed in a box of rejects. I may have initially thought these negatives too contrasty or improperly processed. However in the darkroom I was able to pull out the details using split grade printing and a bit more skill than I had in the past. I ended up using Grade #00 and #2 contrast filters with most of the work being done with the #00 low contrast filter. The exposures under the enlarger were 1:15 long with filter #00 and 15-30 seconds with #2 filter. Dodging some areas with #2 and burning in at top of images due to flare for an additional 15seconds with the #00 filter. The water on the lower falls required the long times while the foliage needed almost none. I did not record my EVs for this shot but I am betting there was a 7-8 stop range and/or processing error in the negatives boosting the contrast.

The images are the upper and lower falls of Helton Creek in North Georgia. There is a long dirt road to get to this location and often only wide enough for one car, though you meet many coming and going as it is partially a residential area and camp ground. Once at the falls it is an easy 1/4 mile hike with gentle slope and rock steps. The lower falls are usually shot from the right side as there is a rock formation that juts out into the creek. I think this was the first place I had used my 65mm lens on the Ikeda Anba which required racking the bellows all the way back. The upper falls have a viewing platform so a strait on shot is easily achieved. I am thinking this pair would be nicely framed as diptych if I could match the contrast and general tonality of shadows.

Technical: Ikeda Anba 4×5 Delta 100, HC-110 68* 1+63 for 12mins (N). Lower falls f32, 3seconds, 65mm. Upper falls f22, 1second, 135mm. Printed on Ilford MGFB warm tone using Ilford Multigrade developer for 2 minutes. I will not likely tone these as they have lovely mixes of black, midtone greys, and pure whites.

AT Rocks and Roots


Details of the Appalachian Trail – Rocks and Roots.

The ability for roots of trees to take hold in rock crevices has always amazed me. This particular pair of trees did so with tremendous style, creating a nearly abstract artwork within the rock cliff. The colors of the tree roots is almost the same as the rock wall so I had to work a bit more than usual with film choice, developing, and even printing.

I captured the image with a 65mm lens fairly close to the rock wall to enhance the depth of the roots. The small plants at the bottom were as important as the rest of the composition while the sky above is intentionally blown out. The textures of moss and the dark crevices have a depth on the print not really evident on the screen. My scan of the print is picking up the warm tone of the paper which might lead me to toning this image at a future printing.

Technical: 4×5 Chamonix 04N2,  Delta 100, Pyrocat HD N+, Ilford MGFB WarmTone in LPD 1:3.

Blood Mountain Staircase

Details of the Appalachian Trail – Staircase on Blood Mountain. I should call this the Devil’s staircase because it took the wind out of me and several other hikers to get up it. It is only about a 50 foot rise in elevation but is merely the first in a series of steep inclines and switchbacks. The stairs continue up and to the right of the large rock. The air is different at this spot , a little cooler and windier. The light tends to shift as wind blowing the trees above and to the left (mid morning sun) changes the canopy filtration. Most of the trail is sheltered until you get nearer the summit. The 8 second exposure (4sec metered + 1stop reciprocity) shows a good bit of movement in the smaller vegetation which adds to the spooky atmosphere of this spot. The negative is also very dense compared to others I shot that day so likely overexposed due to changing light or miscalculated reciprocity.

Technical: FP4@100 8seconds, PyroHD, Normal dev 27:30 minimal agitation, printed on Ilford MGFB Warmtone paper. It is a good candidate for toning to get closer to the real tones of the rocks.

First shot on the Chamonix 4×5

Details of the Appalachian Trail – Mushrooms in fallen tree.

In a previous post I mentioned shooting with a fellow LF’er at the Byron Reese trail on the AT. This was also my first outing with the Chamonix 4×5 04N2 camera. We had barely begun to walk the trail from the parking lot when I noticed this mushroom growing in a fallen tree. Bryan went to photograph a tiny stream and I walked back to try to capture this log and mushroom. I moved a piece of the broken tree that was blockng the left mushrooms but left it in the image.

It took me a few minutes to setup the camera and compose the image, as I was not used to a fresnel ground glass. I was only a couple of feet away from the tree and very low to the ground. I knew I wanted to to blur the background a bit so I only stopped down to f8 hoping I had enough depth of field in the foreground as the texture in the shadows and log was as important as the mushrooms. The area around the mushroom metered 3.7EV to 6.7EV so I placed an area that metered EV 5 on zone 5 and let the rest of the tones fall naturally. The meter called for 2 seconds at f8 so I had to add 1 second for reciprocity.  I also chose to expand the contrast a bit in development. This is a contact print at grade 2 with no dodging or burning or computer manipulation. The scan is a bit darker than the actual image in the shadows. I am pleased with the results except that I may crop it square to reduce the upper area.

Update: I revisited this site a few weeks later. The left mushrooms had fallen off and the mushroom on the right had grown so large it no longer created a good composition.

Technical: Chamonix 04N2, 135mm Schneider lens, Ilford FP4 4×5, f8 @ 3 seconds. Developed in Pyrocat HD 3:2:500 for 32.5 minutes using minimal agitation. Contact print on Ilford MGFB classic using grade 2 filter.

AT Byron Reese Trail

Another visit to the Appalachian Trail (AT) in North Georgia. This time I met up with fellow photographer Bryan Garris at the Byron Reese trail near the Wasil-yi store on Hwy 19. The first .7 miles of this trail is a steep switchback wide path with lots of steps. At the point where the Byron Reese trail meets the AT, instead of continuing on to Blood Mountain, we then turned East toward Neel’s Gap and walked about another mile gently down hill. We stopped often to capture some interesting trees and rocks. The hike back was less difficult but still very tiring. At the parking lot there is a nice small waterfall and tunnel that goes under the road.

Shooting with someone was very different for me. We were carrying similar cameras and lenses, we often saw the same subject matter, and  at times both of us shot the same subject but not from the same tripod holes. Bryan’s approach is to take lots of photos from different angles or using different lenses, while I rarely shoot more than one image of a subject (something I need to improve on). We talked about photography, developers, style, toners, films, formats, interesting locations, and other general topics as we hiked. This was a tough slog for me and had to rest plenty while Bryan was much younger and fit than I but was patient. I was also trying out my new (to me) Chamonix 04N2 4×5 camera so was having to learn its idiosyncrasies and taking longer than usual to set up.

Shot 1 – Mushroom in a Fallen tree’s roots. We passed by this mushroom and said we might stop back later. Bryan found  a small creek up ahead a short distance so I went back and captured it. The lighting was dim and the difference in tone between the mushroom and detailed shadow areas was about 3 stops. I took two shots, one overexposed by 2 stops, dark shadows on zone 5+  and one placing the dark shadows near Zone 3+. We shall see which I like better. See image here

Shot 2 – We found an interesting root embedded in a rock wall. We both took this image with different points of view. Bryan used an extreme wide angle and got in very close. I used my 65mm lens from a bit further back. Tonalities in this shot were only  2 stops apart and required a long shutter of 22 seconds at f8. I do have bits of sky in the image but may still expand the negative to increase the contrast of the main parts.

Shot 3 – While Bryan was focused on an interesting fallen tree I saw a Ferns and Trees composition that captured my attention. With fairly even lighting this scene was also low contrast with only 2 stops difference. f32 for 1.4(ish) seconds on my 135 lens. The shutter 1 second timer is a bit slow so closer to 1.4 seconds so changed from f22.5 to f32. It will be interesting to see how Pyrocat HD  will expand the negative for N+3 tonality.

Shot 4 –  The waterfall and bridge tunnel – I shot this with a normal 180mm from a distance, while Bryan worked the scene from different views and lenses. I was worn out but noted the location for future visits. Bryan commented there is potential for an 8×20 format composition. Another long exposure due to sun going in and out of clouds at f22 for 14 seconds. When the sun was out the small waterfall was lit up a bit. So I took two shots with the sun shining and one while in more subdued light. The overall brightness of foreground did not change much. I need to reshoot this one.