Darkroom, prints, wet prints. What it is?

Today I will be printing my first prints, and by those, I dont really mean I haven’t printed my photos before, I have. I have had mural sized prints (24 x 36″) from both my film and digital based images. I have also printed contact prints before from my large format negatives.

However, what has since changed is that my analogue workflow has gone full wet. What’s that? Well, that means, that I have reverted to what has been the conventional workflow since say nearly a 100 years – the silver gelatin print, as printed from a negative – and, via enlarging. The enlarging process is probably around since 80 years or so.

So what is the process, what will I be doing? I will be taking a negative, projecting it onto a light-sensitive paper for a specific period of time and then developing that paper in paper-developing chemicals to obtain a photographic print! Sounds easy enough, you say? Any schmuck could do it, you say? Well, yes and no. Yes, every one can ride a bike, or a car, but it takes a Schumacher to drive an F1 car or a Rossi to ride a superbike as he does. The challenge is to be the Rossi/Schumacher of printing.

Printing, from my reading of books, of articles, websites, and even learning from videos looks quite a bit like a mix of art and science. There is the science bit in the process, and there is the art bit in choosing and developing the process. Like with cooking – one discovers what taste one has and adds sugar, spice and salt to suit it. Similarly with printing, you discover what is your taste of the visual – do you like it stark, contrasty? Maybe pastel black and white, with smoothest tonality? Do you perhaps prefer only the middle of the image in focus?
Each of that is a choice, a choice you consciously make, and something that you determine with experience – not that gleaned from surfing the web with articles like these, but that gleaned from your own methods and processes in the printing of the image.

So far, my own printing has involved contact prints, while I looked around for an enlarger. Now, it has grown to include the enlarger and an enlarged print. This Deepavali, the challenge is being undertaken to print enlarged negatives – whether 35mm, 120 format or even the 4×5 format. I shall keep you abreast of the challenges I face.

My next post on these will include information, tips and how tos. This post was merely an introduction.

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First attempts at development.

My first attempt at development needed easily available chemicals locally, or at least, in the country so that, I would not have to run around too much for them. I also needed them to be fairly standard or at least a little decent and not too much pain to mix or make. I was advised to try the Foma chemicals.

With Foma chemicals, I first tried developing with FomaExcel P. This is supposedly a fine-grain developer and suited for better film. First I had to prepare my developer and fixer – mix the chemicals. My first attempt at mixing the chemicals ended up in a bit of a disaster with me dumping in the chemical B which was supposed to be dissolved in water *after* chemical A was, being dissolved first and resulting solution probably not being upto scratch.
Not wanting to experiment – especially with some crystallisation – which on further reading, *might* have been okay, I started off with a pack of Fomadon that I had. Now Fomadon, I mixed right, wiser by experience.

The fixer was easier by comparison, and I just had to stir with an old toothbrush, to dissolve it in water, and it was done. It was Foma fixer, again. All chemicals obtained via the helpful chaps at Eastern Photographic, Delhi.

And then I went onto load film and develop.  I figured loading the film could be done in semi-dark circumstances and that it would suffice.  Closed windows, doors, put on the drapes(not really  ones that cut out much light), and proceeded to load film under darkness… under the bed, it should be dark enough right? WRONG!
It turned out that I had exposed film to light. And the whole couple of rolls( I seem to have habit  inclination of developing two rolls together, not sure why) went to dogs. Light exposed meant one didn’t even get to see markings on film.

Note: Even when exposed to light, with correct developer + fixer action, the film comes out as tan/dark tan roll.

This led me to learn and develop at night. Well, load at night (and changing bag wasn’t yet in the mind). Being a night owl helped. Anyhow, the next roll developed came out alright if a little feeble looking .

Given that the inverted development wasn’t really a fun-thing, I instead opted for standing development – about 35mins each, and fixing for a similar time. The wash was via regular tap. I developed a couple of rolls that way – a shanghai 120 (shot on RB67), a kodak c-41 negative (processed in B&W) and Delta 100.  All came out fairly okay, without much issues – there were some issues of development time and temperature I had to take into consideration, but I wasn’t fully ready to take that plunge yet.