The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby


Forte Polywarmtone is a paper of legend in lith printing circles, and now I know why.  I recently managed to acquire a 100 sheet pack of 8x10 resin coated and tried it out for the first time last night (Dave-time has increased dramatically since Jess joined the gym).  I mixed up some Moersch Easylith 20ml A, 20ml B, 60ml old brown and 600ml water and left it to heat up to around 25 degrees celsius whilst I figured out my exposure time (which turned out to be 180 seconds).  After the exposure I started developing and was pleasantly surprised to see an image appearing after only a few minutes.  With lith i'm used to waiting at least 15 minutes, if not an hour;  so having an image appear so rapidly was a refreshing change.  Development progressed and I snatched the print at around 7 minutes (possibly the quickest snatch point i've ever had).  Unfortunately the development was very uneven, presumably due to the age of the paper.  I decided to soak the print in some water for 30 seconds or so prior to putting it in the developer.  This is something I sometimes do with old papers which are showing some uneven development as the water kind of "opens up" the emulsion, preparing it to receive the developer.  This is especially important with lith developing as any area of the print that doesn't start developing when it should is going to get left behind when infectious development kicks in. 

Once in the fixer the print cleared up nicely.  This is something I have noticed on a few papers, most notably Fotospeed Lith which looks really cloudy when developed but will suddenly clear up in fixer.  With papers that show this it is important not to leave you print developing too long otherwise your print will be too dense when it is done fixing.

Finally, after a few sheets, I got a print I was happy with.  After a good wash I was left with this:

Which as you can see is very, very, very orange.  Not the nicest colour to my eye.  Inevitably I reached out for the selenium toner.  Regular readers of my posts will know that I pretty much use selenium toner on everything.  I decided to use a 1:5 dilution as this would give me a good colour change.  Little did I know the colour change that was to come!  The print shifted almost immediately from orange to yellow, then to a lovely pink.  This then gave way to a cool purplish blue, followed by a cool grey.  All of this took place in the space of around 1 minute.  Colour change began to slow down then, with the cool grey giving way to a warm chocolatey brown in the shadows which worked its way up through the midtones to the highlights.  This then subtly gave way to a golden yellow in the midtones and highlights, which gave a lovely split tone effect.  This helped to lighten some of the initially darker areas around the face and the lighter areas of Jess' clothing.  I stopped the toning at 4:10 as I had achieved a satisfying colour.  it is possible that further colour change may have occurred with prolonged toning, but I decided to leave that experiment for another time.

Here is my final print:

As I have said many times, portraits are not my strength.  This isn't the greatest image ever, I just took it whilst out walking the dog because I had a few shots left to take to finish off a roll.  I hate half used rolls.  But I think it works as a lith print.  Who knows, I may even put it in my portrait gallery.  But at least now I know some of the capabilities of this paper and I can keep it in mind for future prints.

What do we learn?  Well, never underestimate the power of selenium toner.  And never underestimate the lithability of old papers.  That being said if I find out that I lose an Ebay auction for old paper to one of you then prepare to face my wrath!