New emulsions are new distractions. They often lead to the same place over a broken trail, which is why I spend very little of my time with them. There are more excuses than bullets in the darkroom. I tested many papers and developers about 5 years ago, and over the years I have printed on papers from nearly a dozen companies. None of them solved all problems nor, more importantly, presented new ideas. Nothing increases vocabulary by providing a variant spelling.

Foma is a favorite paper maker. I particularly like the hand feel to their papers; this makes the time spent in the studio satisfying.

To test a paper, I make use of a simple, easily reproduced setup — this allows me to compare papers. I use Stouffer step wedges (uncalibrated). I also setup my enlarger the same, even though I make a ‘contact’ print of the Stouffer TP120, the same lens and distance from the contact frame mean my exposures reveal how the paper will print negatives typical to my work.

Foma: retro edition

A new paper is an unknown; but not a complete unknown, since the main emulsion companies publish a paper Iso(P) and iso(R) of their papers. [See the reference for what this means.]

According to the datasheet this paper has a paper iso(p) of 100; this makes the paper about the speed of Ilford MG 4 Filter. With that information, I can check my notes for exposure settings in my darkroom conditions for a IMG 4 filter; set the enlarger to that as an initial point and, make a first test exposure. Done.

I will test this paper in two different developers: Dektol (1:1, my standard), and Fomatol PW (1:1, my standard). The Foma PW developer is vary slow acting warmtone developer.

The time for Dektol was 2 minutes; time for PW was at first 5 minutes — this was increased in later tests to 7 minutes.

The test with Dektol went well — I wasn’t satisfied by the Fomatol version, so I ran them again with newer developer package. This gave me much better depth of tone with 6 minute development time. Better.

Dektol gives a neutral range of tones. Highlights showing the characteristic of this paper. To take advantage of this ‘retro’ look, the image needs middle value meaning, since that is where the distinctive color of the paper will be.

Not the case for Foma PW developer. Retrobrom paper in Foma PW is another rich brown tone paper. The brown is ‘woody green’ in my estimate. It is not ‘green’ toned — for whatever reason, Foma describes it as having a green tone, which among several online pieces I’ve read, keep the author from trying the paper.

At this stage, I am ready to print. Testing done; about 6 hours, including drying, evaluating and write-up. I will also try this with lith printing… but won’t report additionally.

These techday notes are not fulfilling enough to do.


* the ISO-P rating gives the speed of the paper: double ISO value means half of the exposure time. Unfortunately exposure meters that are calibrated in ISO-P values are hard to find. This ISO-P value has nothing to do with the ISO rating of your rolls.

* the ISO-R rating gives the grade of the paper: ISO-R divided by 100 is equal to log(D), which defines the contrast behavior of the paper. E.g. Ilford Multigrade IV has an ISO-R range of 130 for grade 1 and 90 for grade 3 (see details in data sheets, that come with the paper). The higher the ISO-R value, the lower the contrast of the print.

Fomatol PW review on webionaire.

Techday: developing roll film

The hard part is starting from nowhere. Not knowing what comes first is more than a riddle.

Photography is a mechanical process; we use machines to make pictures. Shared by chemical or electronic; actual or synthetic imaging manners — we use something to do something else.

In the days of darkrooms, students had more problems getting their film loaded than almost any other part of craft. Students would ruin film loading it onto reels; even those who were skilled with hand and eye. Loading film is simple, repetitive, and really ‘auditory’ … I listen to the film going onto the reel. Of course, practicing with a ‘dead’ roll is most starting points. Doing this in the light seems to prep you for working in the dark, but when the lights go out, you will falter, at least once or twice.

Make certain you lay out your work space/surface with the items in reach and ready for lights out.

I’ve always preferred metal reels and tanks. Just my first ways. They also work well for color; how I started souping so long ago.

There are other tanks, systems…

over the years, they’ve come and gone. Daylight processing has always been popular among the smaller labs, and infrequent users. The solo practitioners. Souping more than a dozen rolls a day is impractical using this method. It remains an accurate, functional system for processing film.

Timers: come in many flavors. My setup has changed over the years. With all sincerity, if I did this occasionally, I’

d probably use a smartphone app. I’d also not buy used that didn’t come with a money back, free return policy.

GraLab process timer

A simple coincidence, and why Ilford DDX with 400 speed films is convenient as a learning place. Ilford’s Delta 400, Kodak’s T-MAX 400, and Kodak Tri-X 400 all develop at for the same time: 8 minutes @ 68F (20C). Aside from being able to try different emulsions without altering your processing routine, you can put these films through at the same time.

Read the sheet, Luke. I never use the massive dev chart; nor do I ask the online lobby. Get the datasheet for the film, and one for the developer. Read these until they make sense.

If you fear the pencil, you will never learn to draw.

Processing film is a mechanical skill; you will use touch and sound of loading film onto the reels. The feedback of the hand head loop. This sightless task seems to frustrate, even detour some. Some of my best students, even though they could draw, could not load film onto reels. They could load sheet film into holders and hangers, so they loved the view camera, but that didn’t get them far enough into their image goals, their aspirations for adding to the conversation. For a few of them, I’d soup their film. Maybe not a great idea; the better two went on to be writers. One has a couple books, the other worked for TV shows.