Monthly Archives: February 2009

Talk given to photo educators (UK)

First posted 21 Feb 2009

Today I gave a talk and an all day practical darkroom lesson to around 10 Photo Educators from Colleges and Universities across the north of England.

The event was staged by Ilford/Harman and is part of their strategy to keep darkrooms as a viable part of photographic education. Here in the UK, the college budgets are determined by student numbers and if they can get more ‘bums on seats’ per room, then they think they are doing good. The consequence is that in theory, each student is allocated one square metre of space!

Darkrooms and studios take up a lot of space which is not occupied all day, so the logic is that they should be ripped out and replaced with a lot of computers (after all, digital is the future).

The tutors I have met over the last five years are passionate about darkroom because most of them came into photography that way. Some of them have had big battles with heads of department, or people in finance and not all have been successful. The main College in the town nearest to me lost all of its darkrooms four years ago.

Coupled with this; the amount of administration, register upkeep, meetings and paper shuffling that the average tutor has to do, means that they get very little time to actually teach the practical aspects of the course.

Tutors become so distant from the very thing that got them interested in the first place, that they get really ‘rusty’. my job today was to get them back in the darkroom and give them some simple methods for creating high quality prints.

Without sounding boastful, the response was very enthusiastic and the impression I got was that everyone had a really inspiring day.

10×8 snow negs contact printed.

First posted 12 Feb 2009

I contact printed my 10×8 negs onto some grade 3 Forte Fibre Based paper today (this paper is slightly less contrasty than a grade 3 on Ilford Multigrade). the main reason I chose it was that the exposure for the shadows can be determined by a simple test and the highlight detail can be controlled by development. This made it perfect for these large format negatives, because of the full shadow detail and long tonal range.

I was impressed with the technical quality of these negatives and the tonal range this developer gives. I really enjoyed making the contact prints and I’m very pleased with the shots themselves.

10×8 snow negatives processed

First posted 10 Feb 2009

I finished my printing this morning, so I put the 10×8 sheet film through the two bath developer. I process individual sheets in trays, so it takes quite a while, but the results were astounding!

The tonal compression that this method gives is just amazing.

I will do some prints as soon as I get a bit of time.

High contrast snow scenes

First posted 6 Feb 2009

I had an idea today to put Ortho film in one of the cameras, shoot some graphic contrasty snow scenes, over process the film and get a really high contrast result. This I hoped, would print as black and white with no mid tones.

I had a roll of 35mm Ortho film which I’d been saving for something and this seemed like a good cause. I went out with an old Nikkormat and a 20mm lens and ran the roll of 25 ISO film through. Later I loaded the tank and gave it one minute in fresh Ilford Multigrade developer at 1-9 dilution @20ºC.

The agitation was constant for the first 20 seconds, then I let it sit for 20 more. This was followed by ten seconds of agitation and ten seconds still.

You have to be quite fast at getting the developer out and the stop bath in, so I pour out into a print tray for speed (the developer can be used again).

Stop bath was as normal and then fix by inspection; This means that I start the timer as I pour in the fix, agitate fairly vigorously for one minute then inspect the film. I know it won’t be done yet, but I pop it back in, giving another thirty seconds of agitation then inspect again. I keep giving 30 sec / check – 30 sec / check again until the milkiness has cleared from the film (with some films it is as little as one and a half minutes, others up to 5 minutes). I then look at the clock to see how long this has taken. I give the film the same amount of time again with only occasional bursts of agitation. This ensures that the film has received the proper amount of time in the fix for that particular emulsion.

The Ortho film turned out just right, -that is to say, just right for images with normal tonality, not as contrasty as I had seen in my head, but a further 30 seconds of development with the next film will do the trick. I have one more roll of 35 mm and one roll of 120, so if the snow is still looking photogenic, I may go out tomorrow.

Ortho snow scene

I have quite a bit of writing to do this week for magazine articles I have promised and around 15 prints at 16×12 inches for Ilford. The prints are all from different negatives and each is on a different paper, so it isn’t straightforward.

They are to show the range of Kentmere papers at ‘Focus on Imaging’ at the N.E.C. in Birmingham (in the UK).

I am also booked to give a talk there to a number of photo educators from around the UK on the future of Analogue photography in education, so I need to take some time out to write a piece for that.

Snow shots on 10×8

First posted 4 Feb 2009

The picture possibilities today are not ideal, the snow has been messed up on the roads, but not cleared enough to get anywhere. I would like to take the 10×8 out and do some snow scenes, so I’ll stop writing and go and load some darkslides.


I did manage to get out with the 10×8, but it was hard going, the ground was slippy and I couldn’t find a strap for the tripod, so I was carrying a large tripod in one arm, the bag with the 10×8 in the other and a big bag over my shoulder containing darkslides, filters, meter etc.. You can’t get far with an awkward load like that without stopping for rests.

Anyway, enough whingeing, I did manage about 8 shots, which wasn’t too bad. I was a bit short of time because I had to be back to collect the kids from school.

I intend to process the sheets of HP5 in Barry Thornton’s two bath. This gives me a really long tonal range. I got to know Barry just six months before he died. He was a very good photographer and his two books are full of really useful information. The first one was called ‘Elements’ and the second was ‘Edge of darkness’.


Bath A. Metol 6.2 grams and Sodium Sulphite 85 grams in 1 litre of distilled or de-ionised water.

Bath B. Sodium Metaborate 12 grams in 1 Litre of distilled or de-ionised water.

Mix the Metol in about 700 ml of water at 38 degrees C and once dissolved, mix in the Sodium Sulphite and top up to 1 litre with cold water. Do the same with the Sodium Metaborate. Give films around 4 minutes in each bath. In the first bath, the film must be gently, but constantly agitated. In the second bath there is a little agitation to begin with, then leave standing. A slight agitation at 2 minutes is all that is needed to avoid streaking, then leave alone until the fourth minute. Stop and fix as usual.