mandag 18. juli 2016

Darkroom papers and a few examples

Yesterday I was trying to give you folks who still have not tried film a simple and easy way to find out which type of film to go for. Not that everything is as simple as my short explanation, maybe, but it might work for some and in any case it should work great as a kick in the bottom to anyone thinking about trying this stuff for the first time. 

Your major place where woodoo can and will happen though, will be inside the darkroom under a redish light throwing different papers in and out of fluids with more or less unknown chemicals inside. And there will be some brainwork going on as well. At least when you get into the flow and things start working as it should. 
Your film negative will still have an influence, but it's more about the way it's exposed than onto which type of film it was exposed.
Inside the darkroom it's all about how much light you dare to shine through your negative onto different parts of your paper of choice, and then there's the very nature of your paper of choice itself. The choice you make here will really do something about what your end result looks like when you get out of the darkroom after a shorter, or more likely longer period of time inside. 
I don't have any research material available on this, but I got a strong feeling that the absolute majority of film users these days have never been inside a darkroom, or have not used one in very many years. Scanning of film seems to be the thing these days, and I would think more or less every filmwaster is scanning film in one way or another. Some with sophisticated machines, some with simpler units, and some are just using a digital snapping device to get the job done. There are lots of ways to Rome, and none of them are perfect... They will never be either, because you're screwing up the whole intention of using film by making a digital file out of it. 
And still we keep on doing it, just to get our snaps out on the web and into each others puters all over the place. Which is fine, of course! 
Still, it's when your masterpiece is printed on real high quality darkroom paper you will start to understand the point in doing this the way we do. 

My example print done on some Ilford FB Classic paper. A nice paper with a neutral toned base, and a smooth and beautiful matte surface. It's a bit tricky to get the print straight and even when the drying is done, but with the help of some weights and a bit of heat it all usually ends up looking absolutely smashing. Most of the time...

I'm not going to act like I know every paper available on the market, just like I'm far from the position of knowing every film on the market either. I can and will tell you though, that your choice of paper will have a lot more influence on your finished product than your choice of film. 
You got a very few main types of paper. Usually we're talking about Resin coated (RC) paper, or Fiber based (FB) paper. Some will stick to one type only, while others will use both. 
RC paper is by far the easiest paper to handle, and the one to start with. Because the RC paper is made of a couple of layers of polyethylene it will not suck up any fluids you throw it into. This also means that it dries without curling up like a dried out fallen leaf, and it's a bit easier to wash all the chemicals out of making it easier to get a decent result in that respect. The range of surface textures are limited due to the very nature of this paper, but you still normally get it in glossy and a bit less glossy or pearly kind of version.

This is a scan of the Emaks K883 G2 Croatian paper. Definately not the best paper for this particular snap, as it's a tad picky about things going on inside the fog up there. I have seen this before with this paper, but it only applies to one of my boxes. The other one (a smaller paper) is just fine. There might be an issue with this particular batch, but I don't know that for sure. The surface of the paper is dead matte, and got some very nice shades of gray inside. I like it a lot... but would really like to see a multigrade version of the same paper.

Most papers made today will, with a few exeptions, be of a multigrade type. This means you will be able to adjust the contrast on the paper from virtually no contrast at all, up to a more or less black and white only and very graphic looking version on the same type of paper. This was not the case back in the days when I went into a darkroom for the first time, and the downside of it was that you would need a lot more different grades of paper to get the job done back then. Nowadays all you need is a stack of different filters, or just simply an enlarger with a multi contrast head, or even a color head. There's a lot of them out there, so you will be able to find something useful to get second hand. 

Here we go! Now we're starting to heat up things by shining light through the negative onto some Foma paper. This is the Fomatone 532 Nature II paper, and as you might already notice there's a significant tint of yellowish inside this paper. I think it might be good for some special stuff, but it's definately not an everyday paper for sure. I have read that lith printers often use this paper, so I might try that... or rather maybe just silmply ship some of it away over the sea to check if a couple of great lith printers over in the UK can get anything nice out of them in some way. 

To really start exploring papers and textures you have to go the slightly more cumbersome way and get hold of some fiber based paper. Inside this playground there's a lot more to discover, and more or less every paper has it's own special quality in some way. 
Ilford got a nice range of some fine papers in a few different grades of warmness. The difference between their more normal papers is not that big, but you can still easily spot the normal ones from the warmtone styles. Their matte papers got a very nice surface, but without any clearly noticeable texture. It's just plain thick and very good paper, more or less. Then you have their Art 300 paper, which is 100% cotton rag and got a beautiful well defined eggshell surface. Way too expensive, but a hands down lovely paper me thinks. 
Fomapan got a small range of papers, but beware! Some of their papers, especially their Fomatone range, are real warm in the tone, and nothing you would use for all kinds of snaps for sure. But then again we are all different, and to get that certain looks it sure will be useful in one way or the other.

And the last one, the Fomatone 542 Chamois paper. The same surface as the Nature one above, but with an even warmer tone inside, I should have lit a bit more light through on this one, I know, but since it only was a brief test to see what the paper looked like I did not bother. This paper is for special purpose only, I would have to say, but still it's a nice thing having it around. I mean we should all applaude any company still pushing stuff like this out their doors these days. The structure, texture and surface of these papers are just beautiful, so I might try a bit more normal tinted version of them some day. They got two other papers in this same Fomatone series called Classic 131 and 132, where one of them is matte, and the other one glossy.

Just like scanning film, scanning paper prints will not give you the best idea of what the print looks like for real. The texture of the paper, and the thickness and feel of it, will totally dissappear and you will be watching a flat surface on your screen instead of a three dimentional real paper. 
I have tried to show you four different scans from the same negative printed on four different types of paper. The first one is on Ilford FB Classic paper, the next one were done on a very nice matte paper called Emaks K883 produced in Croatia. It's worth to mention that this paper is not of a multigrade type, meaning it's only made in a couple of standard grades which give you no way to adjust the contrast of the paper like you do with contemporary papers. It's old fashion, but it still works great with the right negative. 
The two last examples will be Fomatone (532 Nature and 542 Chamois. Just check out those very warm tones on that Chamois paper... looks antique as soon as you get out of the darkroom. And they got a lovely surface as well, them Fomatone papers. 

And hey... just like with film, old and well expired and out of date papers can really come in handy for some kind of more or less special work at some point. I still got a few boxes of paper from my fathers darkroom back in the 70's, and they still works quite nice.

So, if you're after that something you can't really put your finger at, try to play around with a few different papers for your prints. It's normally very helpful, and will give you a lot more variables to work with than changing from one film to another. At least that's my opinion about this. 

Good luck and have fun!!

2 kommentarer:

  1. Great post sir! Really good to see the same neg printed out on different papers. Not that anything beats having a print in your own hands, of course, but the difference is clear even in the scans. A very nice tutorial, that was.

    1. Thank you, my friend. I would need to throw a few sheets into some kind of envelope and ship away to over to you some day I think. There might be stuff useful when you got the habbit of throwing things into lith developer, different kinds of toners and so on. I don't know, it's just a feeling I got. But first of all I need to get home from the sea, as usual :))


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