Take a negative …

… and print it.

I make no bones about embracing the so-called hybrid approach to film photography. I love the tactility of working with film and particularly old cameras. However, in order to share my images with friends scattered around the world, I’m lucky that the internet and digital photography make the process a practical and, to a large degree, a relatively straightforward one. However, when I get the chance I also like to take a negative into the darkroom and print it in the traditional way.

The irony is that I then have to scan my darkroom prints in order that these friends, scattered as they are, can share in the results of these labours.

Over the past weekend I did manage a rare darkroom session and as it was the first for a while set myself to making a couple of 7”x5” prints. Here’s the story of one of them.

I did my now-usual test wedge (above) but in hindsight I could’ve placed the sheet better. The focal point of the image, indeed the only part in focus, was the plant growing out of the wall. I should really have placed the centre of the test sheet over the plant so it appeared in each wedge. In terms of the starting exposure I wasn’t worried about the background, getting the exposure right on the plant was most important. Anyway, rather than retest, I decided to make an educated guess based on the information in front of me and opted for a starting point of 14 seconds. However, before making the print I also had a think about contrast. Sitting in the chair cogitating is an important part of being in my darkroom! The test wedge was unfiltered and looking at the negative and this set of test exposures I thought a grade 3 filter, just to add a little more contrast, might be useful.

Rather than retest with grade 3 dialled in however I pulled out a tool I’ve had for years, the Ilford Multigrade Calculator (see below). This suggested that my initial unfiltered 14 second exposure needed increasing to 20 seconds. So, setting the enlarging lens to f16 I dialled 20 seconds into the electronic timer and pulled out a sheet of Kentmere VC (fine lustre) paper. I use this calculator fairly regularly and on the whole find it a very useful aid.

14 = 20

The resultant print is shown below. It’s a straight print, no dodging or burning, and as I keep notes of all my settings it can be replicated in a future session should I decide to have a play.

I might reprint this and make the large mill to the right a little brighter

So, there you have it. One print and a peek behind the scenes at my methodology.

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