Darkroom daze

With my darkroom up and running it’s time to make some prints.

In my last blog post I described the conversion of a spare room into my new darkroom setup. Now’s the time to try out the layout and for the first time, find out how well the Intrepid Enlarger accessory kit works with the Intrepid 4×5 Camera.

Coincidentally, Harman Technology recently announced the introduction of Ilford MGRC paper and its rollout to replace MGIV RC paper which has been the staple of many photo printers for over twenty years. I’d had a box on order, Pearl finish, and it’s arrival was well timed to kick-start printing some of the many 5×4 negatives I made over the summer months. To see how this new paper performs it’s been an opportunity to run some tests, make comparisons with other papers I use and to revisit how I go about split-grade printing.

The first test I ran was to take a well exposed and developed negative with a full range of tones and make 5 second interval test strips through each of my multigrade filters. There are twelve filters in the box, ranging from grade 00 to grade 5. The exercise is useful to show the effect of each filter on highlights and shadows and also serves to indicate the typical exposure time required to achieve desired results from different areas of tonality. I also ran the same tests using an unexposed developed negative to determine the exposure time required to achieve maximum black with each filter.

  • It’s worth stating at this point the importance of using ‘a well exposed and developed negative with a full range of tones’. The results of these tests can be filed for reference and used as a starting point in future printing sessions, saving paper, chemicals and time.
  • The subject of the negative I chose for my tests had been metered using a 1º spot meter on the darkest shadow detail that I wanted to show in the eventual final print. Photographic light meters are calibrated to give a reading for ‘middle grey’ or Zone V in Zone System parlance and this needs to be adjusted to place the shadow detail on Zone III. This is simply done by increasing the meter reading by two stops, e.g. if the meter reads 1/15th sec at f/8, the exposure given would be 1/60th sec at f/8 or a suitable matching combination.
  • Development of the exposed negative should be consistent with the time and temperature required for a ‘normal’ process. A common fault is to start the timer once developer is in the tank and stop it before emptying the tank. In fact once in contact with the emulsion the developer remains active until it is stopped, hence the use of a stop bath. Failure to account for the time between emptying the tank of developer and refilling with stop bath often adds as much as 25% to the actual development time and results in over developed negatives that will never show the shadow detail that was intended to be seen!
  • Finally, a full range of tones in the subject from shadow to highlight is needed for proper assessment of the filter tests.

I am not showing the results of my tests here. They are specific to my workflow and my subjective reading of my negative. However I would suggest to anyone interested in following up on this blog that there is value in carrying out these tests for themselves with their own negatives and darkroom conditions. The investment in paper is not great (I had sufficient spread of tonal range in my test negative that I was able to use a 5×4 test print printer so only needed three sheets of 10×8, cut into 5×4 pieces, for the job), and requires only a few hours in the darkroom.

Armed with the results of my tests I set about making some prints. My plan was to use the split-grade method. (I say ‘the‘ split-grade method, but the more I look into it, the more I realise that there are many variations in use and not all that are to be found on the internet are reliable). My starting point was a tutorial by Dave Butcher that can be found on the Ilford website (https://www.ilfordphoto.com/split-grade-printing/). I’ve experimented with his process and realise that once fully understood it has great potential. If anyone is reading this in the hope of a quick fix, you won’t find it here. Do your own experimentation and make your own discoveries and you won’t regret it.

All that said, what follows is the process I followed in making one final (for now!) print from a negative made during the summer on a walk by a burn halfway up a hillside in north west Scotland. My exposure for this negative was based on a spot meter reading of the darkest shadow detail (some of the lichen on the top of the rock in the foreground) of 1 second at f/22. I adjusted this to 1/4 second at f/22 to place the shadow detail on Zone III. The combination of shutter speed and aperture was chosen to show texture in the motion of the water as it pushed through the rocks.

The negative.
1/4 sec @ f/22, Ilford FP4+, Rodenstock 150mm lens with yellow Y2K filter, Intrepid 4×5 Camera.

My first test strip was made with a Grade 00 filter at 4 second intervals. What I was looking for here was the first appearance of texture in the highlights. I’ve circled what I chose, an exposure of 20 seconds.

Grade 00 test strip

Now I had a choice to make: I could make a composite test strip by exposing the whole of the next test strip for 20 seconds at Grade 00 and then change the filter to Grade 5 and expose that at intervals over the Grade 00 exposure, or I could make a separate ‘intermediate’ test strip with just a Grade 5 filter exposed at 3 second intervals. (I determined what intervals to choose, based on my earlier filter tests and my reading of the negative). What I was looking for here was the exposure required to just produce almost black shadow detail. I think it has to be a matter of individual taste as to which method to choose. Personally I found it easier to find the detail I was looking for by making separate G00 and G5 test strips and it is a simple matter to make a third combined test strip that would confirm my choice.

G5 test strip
Combined test strip: G00 for 20 sec then G5 at 3 sec intervals

For my first work print, I decided to increase the Grade 00 exposure to 24 seconds and from my reading of the negative, to burn in the top and right edges at Grade 5 for and additional 5 seconds.

Work Print. G00 24sec + G5 9sec + G5 5sec burn along top and right edges

I was still unhappy with the top and right edges. There is a slight light leak (consequence of using ‘pre-loved’ film holders bought on eBay!) and I wanted a darker edge to frame in the scene. My solution was to crop slightly but to retain the burn around the edges.

Final Print. Top and right edges cropped. G00 24sec + G5 9sec + G5 5sec burn along top and right edges

It is never a good idea to rush through the preparatory stages and in hindsight I really should have re-done my Grade 00 test strip to show a range of times from 12 to 28 seconds. This would have placed my chosen 20 second exposure centrally and shown that better highlight texture would be achieved with a slightly longer exposure. As it was I realised my error prior to making my first work print and made a guesstimated adjustment to 24 seconds.

All in all I spent most of four days enjoying the red glow of the safelight and filling my nostrils with the aroma of fixer! I made several prints on the new Ilford MGRC and for what my opinion is worth I think it is a big improvement over MGIV RC. The blacks are deeper and the jump in contrast between grades 3 1/2 and 4 is much less pronounced.

Alongside my MGRC prints I also repeated my filter tests and made prints on Ilford MG ART 300 cotton rag paper, one of my favourites. The response is quite different and underlines what I said above about making your own tests of the papers and chemistry you use, with your own negatives and in your own darkroom.

Darkroom dreams

Overcoming inertia to repurpose the spare room as a darkroom in which to use the Intrepid Enlarger.

When I retired some fifteen or so months ago, one of my intended projects was to repurpose the spare room as a useable darkroom in place of the rather cramped facility that also had to function in its primary purpose, as shower room.

The spare room had last been used to accommodate my twin grand children while they, their parents and dog ‘lodged’ with us between house moves. They all moved out a few years ago leaving the room complete with Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pig wallpaper and the two cots that they had outgrown. The room wasn’t sorted out straight away and inevitably it gradually filled with ‘stuff’ to became somewhat of a store room.

Meanwhile, large format negatives made with my Intrepid 4×5 camera were piling up. I could scan them but then they were just digital files to be adjusted on a computer, or I could contact print them using my 35mm enlarger. Neither was particularly satisfactory but I’d subscribed to The Intrepid Camera Company’s Kickstarter project to develop and produce an enlarger attachment. In June the kit arrived complete with film holder and electronic timer. Its arrival was the stimulus I needed to get on with the darkroom project.

Once the room was cleared of stuff the cots were taken apart and reused to make a workbench, a close-fitting blackout blind with blackout curtain for good measure ensured no light leaks, an LED strip provided a safelight and the installation of a hanging system facilitated the display of prints. There is no water to the room so I set up a print washer fed from a large plastic tub reservoir by a fish pond pump. I acquired a solid, square-topped table to support my enlarger and reckoned I was good to go.

To use the Intrepid camera as an enlarger is simply a matter of replacing the camera’s ground glass and film back with the custom fit Intrepid Enlarger attachment. The camera has to be mounted on a stand but although a regular tripod can be used, I found it a hassle to set up and the tripod restricted adjustment, rendering it frustrating to use. I set the enlarger aside until I could find an affordable good quality copy stand on which to mount the camera instead. I was in no hurry. After all it was summer and I was more interested in getting out with the camera and adding to the pile of negatives!

Just a few weeks ago I spotted a professional-quality Kaiser copy stand for sale, described as having ‘minor cosmetic damage’ and at well below half the going rate for a new one. I took a chance and was very pleasantly surprised to receive a badly bashed box and packaging containing a brand spanking new stand that I had to examine very carefully to find the cosmetic damage – a tiny ‘bruise’ on one corner of the baseboard. Bargain!

Intrepid Camera with Enlarger Attachment all mounted on a Kaiser RS1/RA1 Copy Stand

So with the exception of a few unnecessary but nice-to-have bits and pieces that I’d like to have in time, my darkroom was ready for use just as the winter days became shorter, colder, wetter and gloomier. What better way to escape the gloom but to shut the darkroom door behind me, turn on the warm, red glow of the safelight and get printing?

Ready for action

With a box of the newly announced Ilford MGRC Pearl paper to hand I had a lot of printing to look forward to. All of that’s to come in my next blog post.

The challenge of Dollar Glen

Dollar Glen in the Ochil Hills is a steep climb at the head of which lies the ruins of Castle Campbell. Two burns run down deep gorges either side of the hill on which the castle stands, the Burn of Sorrows to the west and The Burn of Care to the east.

On a day-trip earlier in the week, my wife and I had visited the castle. We’d climbed the hill by the road on the way up but made our return by way of what was described as a footpath which followed the course of the Burn of Care. It was really just a very rough track with some steep descents made easier in places by steps built in to the hillside. What caught my attention was the ribbon-like waterfalls, the clarity of the water and the way it sparkled in the the sunlight as it lit up the gorge.

I was keen to return on my own with a camera and footwear better suited to the terrain. Low autumn sun like we’d had for our visit lights the gorge briefly for barely a couple of hours in the early afternoon. My opportunity came a few days later and I headed back with my Intrepid camera and a few holders loaded with sheets of FP4+ film.

Having spent some time finding a suitable viewpoint to frame this first shot, I had to decide on an exposure setting. I was faced with the challenge of the low light level in the gorge where it was not lit brightly by sunlight. Ideally for photographing flowing water on film I would aim for a shutter speed of 1/8th or 1/4 second with the expectation of rendering the water with a silky, soft, flowing texture. Taking into account of reciprocity failure, the exposure I required here for the shadows was 4 seconds at f/22. Shadow detail is good but the water has more of a rough texture than I would want. Had I been making a pinhole exposure on paper, the exposure time would have been minutes long and the water would have appeared with mercurial smoothness. I might have preferred that … so much for hindsight!

I was happier with this second shot, 1/2 sec at F/16 with some lens tilt. The challenge here was again the high contrast, this time between the sunlit ferns top left and the darkness of the gorge centre top.

Perhaps I should have removed the leaf on the left – it gives truth to the scale of this little cascade pouring down the hillside by the path! Less contrast to deal with here as all was in shade: 1 second at f/16.

At the foot of the tallest fall I liked the way the water spilled over the rock in this shaded part of the glen. The terrain here was very steep and muddy and restricted my choice of viewpoint. I’d like to have been able to frame it more tightly and to have controlled the plane of focus better. Again, 1 second at f/16.

By the time I got to setting up this last shot, intended to be of the main waterfall drop, the light was past its best with shafts of intense low sun lighting up ferns and foliage centrally, dominating the frame. Struggling to keep my balance on the precariously muddy incline made setting up difficult, even dangerous. My choice of viewpoint was seriously restricted and I would really have been as well saving the film for another day! 1/2 second at f/22 was a gross underexposure, made more out of desperation than calculation!

This location has proved to be a real challenge. I’d love to return again another day to discover more of it and for another go at mastering it.

Reekie Linn

Reek: smoke or mist
Linn: a dark or deep pool

Reekie Linn is one of Scotlands most spectacular and accessible waterfalls. It is to be found on the River Isla a little way to the south of the Cairngorms National Park and is easily reached from a small car park at Bridge of Craigisla on the B954 road, by a track along the north edge of the gorge through which it falls.

It is actually two waterfalls: one of 6 metres, followed by a second of 18 metres but when the river is in spate the two become one, falling the 24 metres into a pool that is another 36 metres deep. The spume, as the water hits the rock at the base of the falls, rises high above the gorge creating rainbows in morning and evening sunlight.

I arrived at the falls on a Saturday afternoon just as the rain which had been falling continuously in the area for almost twelve hours, stopped and late afternoon sunlight was appearing from behind the clouds. The river Isla was a wild, loud torrent tearing through below the bridge by the car park and promised exciting images to follow. The river runs west to east at this point and my intention was to park up overnight in my campervan to be on location to photograph the falls in the early morning, which was forecast to be dry and bright.

My first task was to locate the track and do a quick recce to identify possible viewpoints for the morning. It was easily found and in less than five minutes I had my first view of Reekie Linn where the rushing river was being forced through a narrow gap at the top of the falls. Ahead of me I could see the spume of water reaching high above the trees at the top of the gorge just a little way downstream. I headed further down the track and identified another two spots from which to set up my camera. All I had with me at this stage was my mobile phone and was using it to record some stills and video of the awesome sights before me. I realised that as the river level fell overnight the spectacle would diminish so I beat a hasty retreat to the van to return with my Intrepid to get what shots of the falls I could manage that evening.

The first image, taken in the evening and showing Reekie Linn Falls at their awesome best. One of my favourites from the trip.
The view downstream from the falls from above the gorge.
At the top of the falls. The noise such that couldn’t hear myself think!

I think I captured the power of the river in these evening images and was glad to have made the effort to set up the camera then, rather than wait until morning.

Dawn came about 6:15 and I was keen to find a path on the south bank of the river. I have seen photographs of Reekie Linn taken from the south river bank below the falls and reasoned that there must be a way of getting down the gorge on the south side. The woodland on the south side is dense but I did find a path. I followed it bbeyond the falls and came to what looked like a very narrow track zig-zagging down a slightly less than vertical face. With all the rain that had recently fallen, the track was soaking wet and soft. I’d been a couple of hours getting to this point but a quick personal risk assessment was enough to turn me back! I returned to the van for a coffee and then headed back along the north track to where I’d been the evening before.

The river level had dropped overnight by at least a metre and I was glad to have taken the decision to bag some shots yesterday. But now the sun was from the east and there was still plenty of power in the river, sending the spume above my head as I set up my camera on the track along the top of the gorge. Perhaps I was distracted by the spray and having to keep the lens dry, but somehow I lost concentration and exposed my first two shots on the same sheet of film! Schoolboy error but here’s the double exposure that resulted from it – I quite like it!:

East and west from the same spot. An accidental double exposure that kinda works!

Fortunately I realised my mistake right away as I went to jot down my exposure settings. I re-took both shots before moving on:

East … on it’s own
West … on it’s own!

Just two more shots were taken successfully before I called it a day. (Another schoolboy error, this time removing the darkslide before closing the iris leading to a much over exposed shot, was enough to tell me it was time to go: I’ve not included it in this collection.)

A slight change of position from the last image and a change of lens from 240mm to 150mm.
The ‘morning after’ view back upstream from Reekie Linn falls to Bridge of Craigisla.

All of the above images were made with the Intrepid Mk1 camera on Ilford FP4+ film using Rodenstock 150mm and Schneider 240mm lenses. The film was processed in Ilfosol 3 diluted 1+14 for 7.5minutes at 20ºC. The negatives were scanned with an Epson 4990 and edited for dust marks and black and white points in Affinity Photo.

Competing with wind, rain and midges

Wind and rain aren’t ideal conditions in which to set up a large-format camera but when they die down, how well could I cope with the scourge of the Highland Midge?

Family holidays gave my wife and I a three week long break from our grandparenting duties and our first opportunity for a proper roadtrip in the campervan we had treated ourselves to following my retirement. Of course, it was also an opportunity for me to explore new locations with a camera!

Our plan was to visit Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, travelling via the island of Arran and the Kintyre peninsula on our way there, and by the Cowall peninsula and the Isle of Bute on our return. Over the course of eleven days we would make eight ferry crossings and stay on four very different campsites.

In preparing for the trip I had subscribed to the Ordnance Survey’s online maps service and had studied the areas we planned to visit to identify possible photo locations. I packed my Intrepid 5×4 and a supply of Ilford FP4+ sheet film which I would use for ‘serious’ photography and also my recently purchased Polaroid OneStep+ camera with a supply of i-Type colour film intended for snap-shots of our adventures. Here are the snap-shots:

Though we seemed to dodge the worst of the weather being experienced elsewhere in Scotland, we experienced very strong winds over the first few days of our trip, and when the wind did die down, thundery rain showers took over. Neither condition was much good for photography with a large format camera and so my Intrepid mostly remained packed away. My only opportunity came on Islay where with the help of the OS Maps I found a lovely waterfall not too far from our campsite among the dunes at Kintra.

I was able to get these two shots at the top of the waterfall before the rain began again. Below here the water fell another 25 or so metres into the sea in an inlet below. I had hoped to get further down but would have had to make a crossing further upstream and then quite a scramble down the rocks to get the view I wanted. With deteriorating weather and an acknowledgement that with age comes less goat-like abilities, I called it a day.

These turned out to be the only waterfall shots I took on our Islay adventure, but having survived eleven days together in our small campervan, once home we decided to make the most of our break from the grandkids and took off again! This time we headed for Coigach in the north-west highlands, an area we know well as it’s where my wife is from and which I have explored widely with a camera in the past.

When we arrived there was no wind to speak of and it was dry. Perfect for setting up the Intrepid, but perfect also for midges. Even with liberal application of ‘Smidge’ midge repellant, even on parts of the body you would never expect a self-respecting midge to reach, the big question was “How long could I endure their inevitable desire to make a meal of me?” I react quite badly to bites from the wee beasties and have plenty evidence to show that they were successful in overcoming the repellant!

On our first full day, I managed these two images of Allt a’ Choire Reidh at the foot of the corrie below the ridge of Ben More Coigach before retreating to the van:

I have a lightweight balsa wood shade that I made to attach to the Intrepid to shield the focussing screen from light. It serves well to get the general framing and focus and cuts down the time spent under a dark cloth, which is still necessary to make final adjustments particularly when employing tilt and swing movements. Under the dark cloth is where the midges like to congregate so the less time I have to spend there, the better!

Day two was a better day. A little brighter and most importantly with a light breeze. The wee beasties can’t take to the air in wind speeds above 6 or 7 mph. The light breeze was enough to thwart them yet not enough to spoil photography. Heavy overnight rain (it’s the best time for it!) meant full, flowing burns so I headed back to the same location. This time I was able to explore the burn further up the corrie to make these images:

Our third and final day was like the second and I revisited the site of an abandoned croft house that I first photographed over 45 years ago.
It’s interesting to me to see the advance of nature as time passes. Click on the image to view larger:

All the black & white photographs shown were made with the Intrepid 4×5 camera on Ilford FP4+ film, developed in Ilfosol 3 diluted 1+14 at 20ºC. Scans of the negatives have been adjusted for black and white points and for contrast.

Down by the riverside

Last weekend I made the best of good winter light and time to spare for clambering up and down the rather slippery bank of the River Avon.

My cameras were almost ancillary to the restful experience that comes from the concentrated effort to find viewpoints and to set up for an exposure yet it is they and the images that ensue that give purpose to the solitary expedition. Here are a couple of memories from my day:

Shoebox pincam, Ilford MGIV RC Satin paper negative contact printed onto MGIV RC Satin

Intrepid 5×4, Rodenstock Sironar-N 150mm lens, Harman Direct Positive Paper

A fitting tribute

Having been inspired to and informed about salt printing by workshops at Stills, it seemed fitting that one of my salt prints should be auctioned to raise funds for Stills.

Over the spring and summer, one of my projects was to prepare a set of salt prints to be displayed as part of an Edinburgh LoFi group exhibition that was scheduled to take place during September. Unfortunately, at the last moment the exhibition was cancelled due to emergency building works necessitating closure of the venue.

News of the exhibition being cancelled coincided with an appeal from Stills for print donations to a fundraising auction in aid of the work they do to support photography in Scotland. Established in 1977, Stills was the first dedicated photography centre in Scotland and remains the only space dedicated to photography in Edinburgh. The gallery, darkrooms, editing suites and workshops have played some part in my own photographic journey and so it seemed appropriate to submit one of my exhibition prints to the auction.

But there was a snag. The auction I would be submitting to was to be an anonymous online one requiring that prints should be 10×8, unmounted and unsigned. My exhibition prints were 10×8 but were signed, mounted and framed. As such, they were ineligible!

After some thought, I realised I had a set of work prints from my penultimate printing session. Some of these were not what I was aiming for but there were a couple which I had considered using as final prints. I picked the best one, signed it on the back below my pencilled process notes and handed it in to Stills.

In due course I received an email accepting the print. The auction, for a total of eighty four anonymously donated prints would go live at the beginning of October, culminating in an exhibition of the prints in Stills Gallery from 18th until the afternoon of 20th October when the online auction would close.

In the evening of 20th October a live auction was held of prints donated by named artists well known in Scotland and beyond, many of whom have had exhibitions within Stills. Some of the reserve prices in the catalogue were eyewatering! I went along after work to experience the live auction, have a look at the exhibition of online auction prints and to find out if mine had sold.

I never scanned or photographed the print that was auctioned but I do have photographs of the set of mounted exhibition prints. Here they are. The print submitted to the auction was the work print for ‘Sinuous Attachment’, second in the set.

Of the eighty four anonymously donated prints, ten were unsold, most sold for prices between £20 and £100 and just two sold for more. The top price was £160. I was astounded to learn that my salt print raised the second top price of £120. I know and respect many of my fellow anonymous print donors. Although this was in no way a competition, to be judged by public auction has been a surprising, humbling, and ultimately encouraging experience.

Between them, the online and live auctions have raised much needed thousands of pounds for Stills at a time when arts funding is tight. I’m pleased to have made a small contribution. Stills introduced me to salt printing through one workshop and gave me the knowledge to develop my own process though another so it seems fitting that the print I donated was the product of that involvement.

Intrepid pinhole projections

Pinhole experimentation with the Intrepid Camera.

My Intrepid 5×4 Field Camera is one of the original Kickstarter models. It came with a lensboard fitted with an 0.5mm pinhole, the optimum diameter for a pinhole camera with the pinhole set 140mm from the image plane, giving an aperture of f/280. (I refuse to refer to this distance as the ‘focal’ distance, there being no lens to focus, and instead refer to it as the pinhole ‘projection distance’ or ‘PD’ for short.)

I have used the camera with its lensboard pinhole on a few occasions, always setting the front standard at 140mm or so. However the camera’s bellows adjustment gives the flexibility to alter the PD to cover a range from about 60mm all the way out to almost 300mm. With a little spare time on my hands I decided to investigate the field of view obtainable at different PDs and to see whether any image degradation occurred due to using the fixed 0.5mm diameter pinhole at ‘non-optimum’ PDs.

I set up The Intrepid on a tripod with a selection of my grandchildren’s old toys, an old rabbit hut and an even older garden shed as subject matter. My plan was to make exposures on Ilford MGIV RC Satin paper rated at ISO 6, setting the bellows for 60mm, 100mm, 140mm, 180mm, 220mm and 260mm PDs and using the Pinhole Assist iPhone App for calculation of exposure times. In the event, I ran out of sufficient daylight to complete the series and made do with four exposures.

Here they are:


The developed paper negatives have been scanned, inverted, flipped and been adjusted for black and white points in Affinity Photo.

Pinhole exposures will never be sharp due to diffraction but I am unable to detect any noticeable image degradation over this range of PDs although only the third image is exposed at the ‘optimum’ PD. This points to the accuracy and cleanliness of the pinhole supplied with the Intrepid. Exposure times are all satisfactorily consistent, given that changing light conditions during longer exposures have an uncontrollable effect on the outcome, so my long-standing faith in Pinhole Assist as a great tool for pinholers is well justified.

There have been times when pinholing that I’ve wished I could narrow the field of view. I think I’ve found a solution!

Filtering the colour from black & white

Assessing exposure factors and effect on black & white film for a cheap set of colour filters.

For a few years I’ve had amongst my camera gear, a set of coloured filters bought on eBay for a mere £7.50 delivered. From time to time I’ve used the yellow one but I’ve never actually assessed their effect on black & white film or measured the exposure adjustment each would require. With a bit of time to spare last weekend, I decided it was time to get experimenting.

The day looked set for good even light from a bright sky. My plan was to load six sheets of FP4+ in holders for my Intrepid camera to make exposures of the same subject set up under even lighting, each with a different filter: unfiltered, yellow, orange, red, green and blue. Before doing that however, I would assess the exposure adjustment that each filter would require. My Sekonic L-758 meter set up on a tripod would be used for that.

The L-758 can measure Exposure Values (EV) in tenths of a stop and can be set for spot metering, 3D incident metering with the lumisphere extended or directional incident metering with the lumisphere retracted. I used it with the lumisphere retracted and compared the difference in EV when uncovered against the EV when the filter was held in front of it. I took three readings for each filter, averaging the results for each.

Yellow … -0.7 EV
Orange … -2.1 EV
Red … -3.1 EV
Green … -2.1 EV
Blue … -1.7 EV

It took a little time to carry out and record my exposure measurements. By the time I had finished and then prepared a ‘set’ to make exposures with each filter, the sky had clouded over and lost any brightness. It meant longer exposures than I would have liked and less contrast in what light there was but having started I pressed on.

Set setup for filter testTo aid identification, I printed a ‘label’ for each filter. Unfortunately I forgot to use them for the yellow and red filters so edited the developed film sheets with marker pen! Also in the setup frame was a colour chart and the L-758. I would sit on a lime green camping chair wearing a bright blue polo shirt with bright yellow piping around the collar.

The lens I used allowed for thirds of a stop settings so I was able to apply my exposure adjustments with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Here are the results:

The results are better than I expected. The filters appear to work just as they should which makes them exceptionally good value at just £1.50 each and they came in a handy protective pouch too! And it’s good to have at last, what seem to be accurate exposure adjustment factors. The effect each colour filter has on subject colour is quite obvious for my shirt but can also be seen across the spectrum on the colour chart stuck to the wall of the shed (click on the images to see full size).

Every cloud has a silver lining

and at the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold.

It’s not often that I rejoice at a weekend weather forecast of heavy rain. However with the attractions of the outdoors in fine summer weather my salt printing project has stalled somewhat. Now I could anticipate spending time in the darkroom without the feeling I was missing out!

A month or so ago I had made some alterations to the salt print process shown to me at a workshop and I have been keen to make further refinements. The process, for me, is time and space consuming and I need to be able to set aside at least a full day devoted to the task. My regular darkroom is a temporary adaptation of a shower room, too small for my salt print needs. Instead, I adapt a spare room where we still have the cots that our grandchildren used when they came to stay over. The cots have been outgrown and with a bit of plywood they convert into a useful, if low, work surface!

Once cut to size and salted, the paper is sensitised with silver nitrate and then exposed under UV light before processing. I use an adapted face tanning machice as my UV light source. Processing the exposed print involves five separate chemistry baths and five water washes – that’s a lot of trays and containers to find room for!

During processing, a salt print changes colour and density quite dramatically and to make a reasonable assessment of exposure times a test strip or print needs to be fully processed through to at least a reasonably dry print. With a shortened final wash and the assistance of a hairdryer to dry it off, processing my test print took a couple of hours but I was rewarded with an exposure assessment of between three and five minutes depending on the density of the negative. Last time round I had been overexposing by a stop or more, leading to lost shadow detail.

By early afternoon I was ready to start printing in earnest. I prepared a project plan which would enable me to process prints at ten-minute intervals and keep a check on which print should be in which bath or wash. My first batch would be for six prints and then after a wee break, a final batch of four prints would take me well into the evening before finishing.

Each time I process one of these prints I discover something new or something changes, apparently inexplicably. The process is serendipitous and I actually quite like that. Reprinting the same set of negatives gives the opportunity for comparison, for re-examination of each stage in the process and for appreciation of the beauty in whatever is the outcome. Perhaps next time I’ll rescan the original film sheets and/or remake the digital negatives with tweaks to the colour screening.

Meanwhile, the task of cleaning up, putting away, and restoring the room to its original purpose awaits!