Silver Gelatin Printing- a Personal Refresher, With Experimentation

I’ve gotten back into doing a little sliver gelatin printing and enlarging since I’ve been shooting the Rolleiflex like a madman. I wanted to try something out with my printing, so I was doing split development of my prints with both warmtone and cooltone developer. The way it works is I have two developer trays, one for each kind of developer. I’m using the Ilford Warmtone and Ilford Cooltone (a now-discontinued product that I was given a case of some years ago). I want the shadows cool but the mids and highlights warm, so I start my development cycle with 30 seconds in the cooltone developer, then move to the warmtone developer for the remaining minute and a half. The below examples are printed on Ilford Warmtone paper (if you want a warmtone image, you have to use a warmtone paper – you can make a warm paper go cool with a cool developer, but you can’t warm up a coldtone paper short of sepia toning).

Window, Graffiti, 15thStreet
Window, Graffiti, 15thStreet

This is the warmest I can get in my highlights and mid tones using this process. The Ilford warmtone paper doesn’t seem to get very warm at all.

Here’s another in my series of Everyday Objects – the near-apocryphal payphone. In trying to find one, it actually took some looking! They’re not completely vanished from the landscape, but you actually have to go looking in somewhat rougher neighborhoods now to find one because anyone living above the poverty line these days has a cellphone, and nobody wants to carry around a pocketful of quarters AND dimes to make a call.

Everyday Objects - Payphone
Everyday Objects – Payphone

I was getting a little nervous about making enlargements as it has been forever and a day (at least five years) since I last made an enlargement. Turns out it’s a skill like riding a bike – once you learn, you never really forget.

Both shots were taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, on Ilford HP5+, developed in Pyrocat HD. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Pyrocat is my go-to developer, even for small and medium-format negatives to be enlarged (or scanned!). Pyro developers in general have great built-in contrast masking from the stain, so it is possible to retain detail in highlights in images that would require burning and dodging were they processed in another developer.

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