The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

The Many Pains of Printing

Sometimes printing can be absolutely woeful.  For whatever reason i'm not in the right frame of mind to create anything and when I step out of my shed after a long session I hold my head in my hands, look to the sky and ask why. 

Last weekend was one of these times alas.  Jess was away from Friday evening to Sunday morning, and when I pulled onto my driveway after work on Friday I was giddily anticipating all the printing I was going to get done.  After playing with the dog for a little while I got the shed set up and decided to start by making some lith prints of a few frames I had shot a few weeks ago in the Peak District.  The negatives were super-low contrast so I thought lith would be ideal for making them "pop" a bit.  I used some of the last remaining sheets of my precious Fotospeed Lith paper which has been discontinued for a while now.  I managed to get a few sheets on the used market a few months ago and thought that the kind of lith effect this paper gives would be ideal, especially when combined with some selenium toning.  Well, it didn't go exactly to plan.  I guess the initial exposure was wrong (naughty me didn't do my usual test strips) so i ended up with blocked up shadows before the highlights had come in enough.  I decided to selenium tone as usual and see what the final images looked like.  I wasn't blown away by the prints so I haven't scanned them yet, they're just sat on my computer desk.  Jess said she liked one of them earlier but at the moment i'm not convinced so i'm leaving them be for now.

I spent the rest of the night angrily watching Netflix.  The next day I decided to take a different route and do some straight printing of a frame I shot whilst in the lake district a month or so ago.  It was taken using my recently acquired 6 x 4.5 back.  I'm so used to shooting squares that the rectangle was really throwing me, both when framing in-camera and when printing.  I decided to try and print on some of the new Ilford Multigrade Fibre Cooltone paper, which I bought a pack of in my last order from Silverprint.  I developed in Ethol LPD diluted 1:1 which gave a great, deep cold tone.  LPD is my go-to developer at the moment, I absolutely love it!  Mostly because it's a warmtone, cool and neutral tone developer all in one!  After figuring out my dodging and burning times I made my final print, washed and then sepia and selenium toned.  As suspected, the sepia tone wasn't too strong (which is what i wanted) and the selenium gave a real boost to the shadow areas of the print.  Here is the final print:

There's something about it, i'm not sure what.  I just can't decide if it's rubbish or not.  Which is annoying because I put quite a lot of work into it.  Sometimes a negative just speaks to you and the creative process is very simple, this definitely wasn't one of those negatives.  I had to really work for everything - getting the sky balanced and darkening the tress enough so that there was still a little detail after selenium toning.  Normally after putting so much effort into a print I feel great, but not so in this case.  Maybe I should just sit on it a little longer before I decide whether to upload to my Landforms gallery or not.

So, what do we learn from this weekend?  What great wisdom can I pass on to you my fellow printers?  Probably not to try and force it.  If you're not in the mood then you're not in the mood, it's no good trying to force yourself to print just because you have the time available because you will just end up wasting paper and getting frustrated.  Also, always test strip before you lith, especially when using rare and treasured paper!

I'm still feeling in a bit of a creative funk at the minute.  I haven't shot a roll of film in a while and at the moment I can't seem to think how I want any of my final prints of some of my negatives to look.  Warmtone?  Cooltone?  Lith?  Dramatic?  Subtle?  Pffft, I don't know.  I need to shop around for some inspiration I think and get some ideas flowing.  Hopefully the creative juices will return and I will have some new prints to show you all soon.  In the meantime I have got an interview with one of my favourite photographers lined up which I hope you will enjoy reading when I post it.

Until then, stay well and happy printing my friends.