Tag Archives: Ilford Warmtone paper

Split-Grade Printing, Silver Gelatin

I actually do make silver gelatin prints. I’ve been away from the medium for a while, mostly concentrating on alternative processes. I needed a break from alt process work so I cleaned up my workspace, fired up the enlarger, and started printing my Paris images you might remember from earlier blog posts. With my new (to me) Oriental VC-CLS variable contrast cold light head (a lot of jargon for a light source that allows you to adjust the contrast in your print by changing the ratio of blue and green light exposing the paper), I’ve been having a blast cranking out prints, and the Oriental head makes it a lot easier to do split-grade printing.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, instead of making a single exposure at one contrast grade, and then doing a lot of burning and dodging to make up for it, with split-grade, what you do is make two base exposures, one using a very soft contrast (in my case, most likely grade 0) and a second using a very hard contrast (grade 5). What this does is the soft exposure lets you get your highlights with detail, and the hard brings the shadows in to snap. You still need to burn and dodge for specific things, but you can refine the overall look as the image requires, without getting frustrated at why a certain area always comes out too dark or too bright. You can refine this technique to include your burning and dodging cycles, so that you might burn an area in with the grade 0 filter to put detail back in the highlights but not blocking up the shadows, or with the grade 5 filter for putting deep black in a shadow without muddying up the whites in the same area.

I’ll give an anatomy of a split-grade print here so you can better understand what I’m talking about. This is a real challenge to print “straight” – it’s a high contrast scene, with the dog-walker being somewhat backlit, and the upper left corner a lot brighter than the rest of the scene. This is the finished print here:

Dog Walk, Rue Sevigny, Paris
Dog Walk, Rue Sevigny, Paris

Here is the scan I made from the negative, which also had a fair bit of manipulation. Less successful, wouldn’t you say? The dog walker is still strongly backlit.

Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais
Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais

To make this print, I gave it a base exposure of 20 seconds using the grade 0 filter. I dodged the dog walker for 10 of those. Then I burned in the upper left corner for an additional 20 seconds. I gave a final overall exposure of five seconds at grade 5, to put a little snap in the general scene and specifically to firm up the shadows on the dog walker without losing tonal separation for his buttons, the cords of his iPod earbuds, and the hair of the dog. Were I making this print larger, I’d go back in and burn the sidewalk between his legs and the dog back down a bit, but in a 7×7 inch print, accurately wielding a burning card with a hole that small is tough!

This was printed on Ilford Warmtone variable-contrast fiber paper, using Ilford Warmtone developer. I’m not applying any fancy tricks to the developer like playing around with developer dilution or split warmtone/cooltone developers. That’s a trick for another day.

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.