Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Snap from a small island

One you might have seen before in a different guise.  A lith-developed print on Ilford Warmtone 5x7 RC paper.  Not toned, just naturally warm.

Rathlin Island, looking West, summer of 2016.  Snapped up on the M6 with a 21mm Voigtlander lens.  One of those wee silver LTM lenses with a adaptor to fit the M6.  A thing of beauty it is, too - with a focussing prong and all.  I could live on Rathlin, even though it's only a couple of miles one way by about 5 the other.  It's one of those places that feels just so in touch with Mother Earth and whatever weather she decides to throw at it, which is usually a lot.  And even though there is electricity and Internet these days it feels very un-connected. And there's history to the place - everywhere.  On the way to school this morning I asked Missy if we were going to Rathlin this summer and she looked at me as if I had horns (a good Ulster colloquialism that one).  The gist of the reply was 'Of course'.  Can't wait.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Ilford Cooltone vs Kentmere

"Reelcraft" - A thing wot I saw when wandering about Coleraine Marina the other day.  It houses a fuel line, necessary for those boats with engines.

Anyway, I had printed it out on Kentmere VC Select last week, gave it a slosh in sepia and was pretty pleased with the result.  Then a couple of days ago, when I received the new Ilford Cooltone RC paper, I printed the same neg, just for comparison.  Here ya go:

Kentmere on the left, Cooltone on the right
Clearly the Cooltone print is way more contrasty.  It's strange, before the Cooltone print I was pretty happy with the Kentmere, but when I look at the two side-by-side the Cooltone one has a lot more sparkle to it.  Of course it's entirely possible that the Kentmere print could have done with a bit more contrast. With a different scene things might be the other way around, but given the fact that the main subject is metallic and has a lot of reflective highlights I think the higher contrast print works better.

Just for the record, the untoned print on Ilford Cooltone paper:

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Ilford Cooltone

Been playing with a new (to me) paper - Ilford Cooltone RC.  Ilford describe it as have 'a cool image tone on a cool white image base'.  Sounds about right then, eh?  I thought it might suit the winter light we get around The Liberties.

The print is much punchier than the scan, for some reason.  The blacks at the first step there are really deep and the white of the salt very white.  I think you could probably get a really graphic look to your prints with this paper, if that's what you want.  I used good old Multigrade developer for these prints.

These were the first couple of prints out of the wash with this paper, so it's too early to really say too much about it.  But certainly the resulting prints are eye-catching, maybe even a little too contrasty.  I should really print some old negs and see how they compare with, say, Kentmere or Ilford Warmtone.

Again, the print has much more life about it than this scan, on my monitor at least.  It's easy to get very high contrast with this paper, as you can see.  Not unpleasant, but probably not suitable for all subjects.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Virtually real

This is my mate Dr C, who I used to work with not so long ago.  He's pictured here in his den, surrounded by more computer hardware than you could shake a stick at.  Still, that's what he does - he gets paid to play with this stuff, all day long.

Not the best shot in the world - just snapped off last weekend as he was showing off his latest tech.  This is a crop - I was handholding the square-shooter at about 1/60th.  Seemed to work OK.  All those computer rays have clearly caused his hair to fall out - even more than mine, it has to be said.
The research work we did was very applied - creating computer games for rehabilitation.  Mostly for people with stroke.  We would drive about all over the country getting people to test the systems we built - sometimes the same person for several months, a couple of times a week.  The theory was that the game-based systems provide better engagement than traditional rehab solutions, which mostly involve fairly boring, repetitive movements.   There was one lady we used to visit - lived way up the country at the end of a very long and bumpy single-track lane.  No neighbours within shouting distance.  She'd been widowed a few years ago and had since had a stroke which had left her in a pretty bad way, mostly wheelchair-bound.  She lived on her own and had a really tough lot, but I can honestly say she had the sunniest disposition of anyone we ever worked with.  An amazing lady.

Anyway, my mate Dr C is still banging away at this stuff, playing with virtual reality headsets, motion detection systems and pretty cool games.  If it wasn't for all the admin involved, the stress of research targets and the almost yearly 'restructuring' of University departments it would be close to being the best job in the world.  Next week yer man is off to Italy, he tells me.  Last month it was Spain.  And he's a couple of weeks to do in Oslo later in the year.   I did a fair bit of travelling in my day too, but to be honest, while it's always nice to go somewhere new, I don't miss it.  Airports are really not fun places to be any more and I find travelling more of a hassle these days.

So I got to try out his latest systems the other day and it was clear things have moved on in the couple of years since I've been out of it.  The technology was much improved - the headset provided better immersion, smoother movement and more accurate registration of the graphics with your own hand movements.  I'd really love to see this work come to fruition and be installed in all the stroke units up and down the country - in every country.  Eventually, of course, the idea is to have it in the home, so people can use it anytime, just as they do with a TV, laptop or games console.  That's the plan, anyway.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Playing around

Just been playing about with the prints from last week - toning and stuff.  Nothing spectacular to report.

Ilford Warmtone RC in lith

Same print toned in hot selenium (windows open :). Decent shift in colour, even if not that appropriate for this particular wintery scene.

I toned the Polymax print too, just to see.  A bit of a pointless exercise, really, since to my knowledge you can't buy this stuff any more.

Original print: Kodak Polymax II in lith

After toning - took it well, eh?

Friday, 10 March 2017

More paperwork

Some more work on different RC papers with the hot and weak Easylith developer.  First off we have Ilford Warmtone, which we know works pretty well:

I like the depth in the sky on this print of Portstewart Bay.  That's not a smudge in the middle, by the way - it's a lone seagull heading Northwards.

Next up is an fixed grade glossy paper, Kodak Polymax II.  I know nothing about this paper - I was given a box of it some time ago and this is the first time I've used it.  Its probably ancient - I liked it a lot:

Although not such a pronounced lith effect as compared to the Warmtone above it came out looking pretty good.  It looks a bit streaky in the sky, though - not quite sure why, it could be over-enthusiastic tray agitation.

Then we have Adox MCC 312:

Isn't that rather lovely? Lower in contrast than the other, but sometimes that's OK.  I think me developer was losing it's ooomph by this stage, which might well be the reason.  But still, a decent result - there's a subtle warmth to the whole print which is very pleasing.  And no, I didn't Photoshop out the seagull - it was a different neg.
Lastly comes Fotospeed's Oyster paper:

Much more colour to this paper, which didn't really come out in the scan.  It almost looks like it's had a mild sepia tone.

So there's a bit more to do, I think, with regard to getting to grip with these papers.  The next step is to do a bit more work with just one paper at a time, try to get the contrast up on the Fotospeed and the Adox papers in particular.  There's exposure as well as dilution and temperature of the developer to play with, so enough to keep me off the streets for some time, I reckon.  And just for the record, I also tried that old stalwart, Kentmere VC Select - in fact that was my first paper of the day.  In case you're wondering where that one ended up, it's in the bin :)

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Lith on RC paper

Some more lith experimentation, since that seems to be the flavour of the month.  Unfortunately what was almost a half-decent snap was somewhat ruined by an invading shadow of a lamp-post, which I failed to spot at the time.  However, that's not really what this story is all about.

When I was reading Tim Rudman's Lith Printing book the other day I saw that he not only referred to Ilford Warmtone Fibre paper as lithable, but that the RC version also got a mention.  This intrigued me, since I never really thought about using an RC paper with lith - I don't know why, but I just assumed that it was a process that would only work with fibre paper.  Anyway, since I had a nearly-empty box of 5x7 Warmtone RC lying about I thought I'd give it a go.

Dr Rudman suggests that both versions of the paper respond best to dilute, hot lith (in the book 40 degrees is mentioned, which certainly is hot).  So I made up some as hot as I could without resorting to a kettle - certainly it was over 30.  I was suitably stingy with the developer, mixing 10ml of A, 10ml of B and 500ml of water - good, eh?  I overexposed by 4 stops to begin with:

As you can see, the result was, well...interesting.  With the other papers I've used, in the Moersch Easylith developer the image can take anything up to 5 mins to make an appearance but this one appeared within 30 seconds and seemed to accelerate at a fearsome rate.  I'm sure that isn't supposed to happen - perhaps it was due to the temperature of the developer.  At any rate it caught me by surprise, as you can see, and the whole thing rather got away from me.  When things are happening so quickly, you forget that during the few seconds you are holding the print up to take a closer look the process is still accelerating.  From what I read about it, once you have decided the print is there or thereabouts (i.e., you are happy with the shadow tones) the best course of action is to get it into the stop bath without delay.  Forget even about draining the developer from the print, just get on with it - you get the point.  Anyway, the clouds in the top right of the print in particular look nicely textured, even if the whole print has a bit of 'What's going on here then?' quality about it.  It's art, innit? Think JMW Turner on a bad day.

The golden rule in lith developing, I understand, is that highlights are controlled by exposure, shadows by development.  I closed down a full stop and went again:

OK so the print has opened up a bit and although it is more conventional-looking there is still a degree of lithy-ness about it, albeit it fairly subtle.  In hindsight it probably wasn't the best negative to choose for this little experiment.  Anyway, you can clearly see the offending shadow of the lamp-post in the foreground. I think I prefer the first print...

This last one shows the effect of a dunk in some hot selenium - things are warmed considerably, this RC paper certainly takes the tone well.  Not that suitable for this particular subject, mind you, which was taken in cold winter light one morning last week.