Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Is less really more?

A few years ago, when my stepson was a teenager, the whole house knew when he was heading out for a date, due to the fact that the smell of his aftershave permeated through every room.  I kept saying to him, 'Less is more, y'know'.  I think the message has got through, since he's not quite so bad these days, now he is nearing his mid-twenties.

Anyway, lately - as you may have noticed - there haven't been as many posts on This Place as there used to be.  Now certainly over the last few months this has had something to do with my domestic situation, my wife's hospitalisation and what have you.  (Things are slowly getting back to normal on that front, by the way). But the other factor is a conscious decision on my part to slow things down a bit - a kind of Less-is-More thing on here too.  I want to spend more time in the darkroom, try some different things there and generally try to move things along in that department.

I've been sorting out my offering for this month's FADU print exchange.  It's a print of a negative you may have seen before - taken in Portrush last Autumn.   I thought I would re-visit it and see if I could wring any more from it in the darkroom, other than a straight print.  Well, it's still more or less a straight print but with the addition of a sepia tone, but I tell you, the trouble I had...

Here's what I ended up with and the print is going in the post this morning to my fellow FADU member:

The Square-shooter, on HP5+, ID-11 (1+1), Kentmere VC Select 8x10 paper, Fotospeed WT-10 developer (1+19), Fotospeed Sepia Toner (30ml/750ml)

But as usual with me it wasn't a straightforward process.  I got the straight print looking more or less how I wanted it and made a few copies, as you do when you are toning.  You know, one to go wrong, one to get close with and the final one to nail.  I was using Fotospeed's Sepia Toner.  If you've never used it, there are 3 small containers in the pack.  The first is diluted at 1+9 for the bleach.  The second is diluted also 1+9 for the toner and the third is where the magic is - the toner additive.  Depending on whether you want very light yellow/brown tone, mid-brown or strong brown you add more or less of the third container.  In the past I've just sloshed a bit in but after a couple of experiments with older prints I figured that mid-brown worked best for this print, so in went 30ml for about 750ml of liquid.  750ml is a good enough amount for a 8x10 print and has the additional bonus of being able to be stored in an old wine bottle, with vacuum stop.

So the first 'test' print went into the bleach and immediately there was a problem - staining.  Same for the next couple of prints.  I was pretty sure this was a washing problem - not long enough.  So the next day I printed off another 3 copies and made sure they were well washed this time around - a good 15 mins under running water, plenty for a resin-coated paper.  Imagine, dear readers, how I felt when the first print went into the bleach and immediately up came a long dark streak across one corner.  I was not a Happy Bunny.  Then I looked closely at the other prints and could see the same mark on them all, straight out of the wash.  What the heck, I said to myself - or words to that effect.

I checked everything I could think of...no mark on the negative, lens was clear, then I looked closely at the projected image on the enlarger baseboard and guess what, I could see a faint dark line right where the mark was.  Then it dawned on me - it was a shadow, cast from the safelight hitting the power lead to the enlarger head.  Yep, something that simple.  Of course what this means is that my safelight isn't safe at all.  I never have done the 'safelight-test' procedure which is what is recommended in all Darkroom Work 101 courses.  Well my prints were fine, weren't they?  - no safelight problems here, I had thought.  But then I do move the safelight around a bit, particularly when doing lith work, where a little light is needed across the room to the wet side where the trays lie.  Not only is the safelight not safe, but I must have been a little haphazard with regard to re-positioning the safelight after one such session - hence the problem only manifesting itself now.

Anyway, problem fixed (safelight turned away from enlarger), 2 more prints and eventually get to where I wanted to go.  Bleach for 1 minute, wash for 5 minutes, then tone for about a minute then final wash for 10 mins.  Finally.

The next thing on my agenda is to replace the bulb in the safelight with something less bright and do a proper safelight test - something I should have done a long time ago.  There's a lesson there somewhere for myself...


  1. Heh, you should have titled this one Unsafe Light.

    Glad to hear things are improving at home!

    1. Unsafe light would have been a good title indeed, Jim. Something simple but stupid on my part. Once you get the darkroom up and running you just want to make prints, not do stupid tests!
      And yes, things are getting back to normal - slowly, but surely.

  2. Which reminds me I should have done the same safelight test myself, as well. Trouble is just the same over here, as I know there's a couple of more fun stuff to do inside the darkroom when I first get in there :))
    Anyway, will do some day for sure.
    Great print, again, by the way. Looks like you got it sorted in the end.
    And the composition is just as great today as it was the last time I saw the thing. Nice place, Portrush :)