As you may know, I've been doing some lith work recently. It's proving interesting but there are a lot of variables which I'm trying to get to grips with.
I'm using Moersch's EasyLith developer - basically, this is lith developer for beginners. There's an A and a B solution and you decide what proportion you want of each and dilute it heavily with water. 1:15 to 1:50 is suggested, which is quite a big range - so for example, 1:25 would mean 20ml A + 20ml B + 1000ml water. Higher dilution means stronger exposure, longer development times and softer/more colourful highlights. Lower dilution for less exposure which leads to more contrast in the print, less colour and undeveloped mid-tones. To start with the negative is heavily overexposed, by 2 to 4 stops. The development stage then takes anything from 5 to 15 minutes and while it is very slow to get going, once the print reaches a certain point you get what is termed 'infectious development' and the shadows turn black quickly. If you don't snatch the print from the developer at this point, the next shadow zone also turns black and any detail there will be lost. So although you are stopping development before the midtones and highlights have fully appeared, if all is well these will spring to life in the fix. This is completely different to the usual fix stage for conventional printing, where nothing visible happens at all - everything has taken place in the developer.
One corollary of all that is that since you need to be able to see the print progress in the developer, you need to ensure that your safelight is indeed safe over the long period of time that the print will be in the developer. Some people prefer to use a safelight torch which they use to check progress intermittently, rather than leave their main safelight on the whole time.
At first glance, lith developing seems like a black art - there are seemingly hundreds of different methods and while not all papers react to lith developers the ones that do would appear to have their own individuality with regard to how the finished print looks. I read around the subject a bit but like all things in life there comes a point where you just have to get your hands dirty (or wet, in this case) and try it out for yourself - in my case with Foma MG 131 paper.
What can you expect from the process? Ideally deep blacks, colourful mid-tones, white highlights and a print that looks very different to conventional printing. It's early days but I have to admit it is a bit addictive. Toning can add another dimension and again there are a hundred different variations, from the usual selenium to copper, gold, carbon - you name it. You can re-bleach a conventional print and lith develop it, you can have a two-bath lith development process (with differing proportions of the magic potions), the list seems to be endless.
The two things that keep me awake at night (well, not really, but you know what I mean) are predictability and repeatability. Like most things, predictability comes with a mix of knowledge and experience - if I have in mind how I would like my print to look, then what do I need to do in order to get there? Sure, sometimes you get side-tracked in the darkroom and end up with something different to what you envisaged - usually that's a good thing. Repeatability is always harder to get right in the darkroom, in my experience. Even in conventional printing, if I get to a certain stage and then up-sticks for the night, the following day I never seem to be able to pick up from where I left off.
Enough talking - here's a scan of a print:
|St Thomas' Church, Rathlin Island 2016|