Monday, 16 January 2017

Fooling around

Since I haven't snapped much in anger recently I've been delving in to the negative archive for stuff to print in the darkroom. I've lots of old negs, dating back to the 70s when I was a teenager, but I haven't really looked too closely at them as of yet.  Actually I'm not sure they warrant too close a look anyway.  What I have been concentrating on is stuff taken and developed in the last couple of years.  It's actually been a very useful exercise.

It appears, my friends, that I've been guilty of fooling myself.  And I'm not talking about the quality of the images - though you are indeed correct, that is also highly questionable.  No, I'm talking about the print-ability of my negs.  What I am beginning to realise is that too few of my negs are actually easy to print.  Too many are only printable at grade 4 or even grade 5.  Now this isn't a problem per se, but it does give you little room for manoeuvre if you need to do a bit of jiggery-pokery in the darkroom department.  Bear in mind that grade 5 is pretty much the hardest, most contrasty grade that you can achieve on normal papers.  OK so a bit of toning can sometimes help with the contrast, but from what I can glean about the whole thing ideally you want your negs to print around grade 2 or 3 out-of-the-box, so to speak, so you have a bit of latitude should you need to harden things up a bit, or soften things down, if you get me drift.

8x10 print, Kentmere paper. WT-10 developer (which is getting a bit old now and therefore I'm trying to use it up - but at 1+19 dilution it will take a while).

I've posted the shot above before, a while ago, but only as a scan.  This is, as they say in the movies, a real silver print, folks!  Well of course this is only a representation of the print, but it's the best I can do in the circumstances.  It's of 12th Street, aka Roosevelt, in the West Chicago suburbs, on Thanksgiving Morning 2014.  Exceptional for the fact that it's almost bereft of motor vehicles and let me tell you, it's probably the only day of the year you'll find it like that.  The Brother drives this pretty much every day and according to him, they try to take him out from all angles.  From what I've seen, his synopsis is pretty much spot on.

This link may or may not work, but this is where Google Maps Street View puts us:,-87.8009941,3a,75y,277.71h,83.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1su8a-SO1OmC7YuZR12xheIQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

Anyway, as usual I digress.  The point is, too many of me negs are a bit on the soft side, through mostly, I believe, a lack of exposure to light.  I don't tend to mess about too much with the developing side of things - I just go with the manufacturer's recommended times.  I assume they know what they're talking about.

I have another theory about all of this, but I'll leave that until the next post, since it's getting late in the day.


  1. As I looked at this image first on my phone this morning, the image so small details could not be made out, I thought, "Hunh, who knew a Northern Ireland street could look so much like the United States."

    And *then* I read the post.

    1. This one is closer to you than me, Jim!

  2. Ah, a good old likable exposure discussion might be started out of this one should one fancy so.
    I Don't know too much about what the majority of your negatives looks like, Michael, but the results seen through this channel seems to be really great anyway. Besides, these things usually are a bit relative to ones inner vision and likes as well, making it a bit difficult to be too picky or definite about other peoples work, or in this case negatives (photographic ones, preferably...).
    That said, we seem to want some kind of special looks to them which we not always get, and we might struggle quite a bit to even get close to it. Some of us seem to never really get there at all, but still being able to produce something half good at times for some reason.
    I don't like negs on the soft side either, but have tried lately to do something about it. I started with development, but that might just as well be attacking the issue from the wrong end. I'm a bit excited to see what you might drag out of your sleeve for this one, so coffee is ready and I'm waiting mate! :))
    No pressure, of course...

    And hey, the link worked brilliantly by the way.

    1. Thanks Roy - and you are correct, it's a personal journey we are all on, to get what we want out of this thing we do. I think it's like a lot of things - everyone else's work looks better! I suspect there is no great answer waiting for me to discover it, but I will write a few more words about it soon :)