The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

Standing Still at a Fork in the Road

I am currently facing one of mankind's greatest dilemmas, namely that of toner choice.  As regular readers will know I have recently returned from a wonderful ten days in Iceland and am currently working my way through my negatives.  The process has been excruciatingly slow so far as the negatives are needing a lot of work to get them where I want them to be and, as always, turning my prints into digital files is proving to be a task of pure malevolence.  My monitor is calibrated, my prints scanned, the digital files edited as best as possible and then, inevitably, the colour and exposure levels etc go crazy when viewed on other computers and devices.  But enough of that talk lest I get sidetracked and end up throwing my phone against a wall in a fit of rage!

I am at somewhat of a standstill with my Iceland prints, primarily because I am unsure as to my satisfaction with the finished prints I have made so far.  After a quick scroll through the landforms gallery on this site it becomes quite clear that colour plays a large part in the look and feel of my finished prints.  This isn't something I originally set out to accomplish with my prints, it is just how my printing has developed over time.  With my Iceland prints however I have done very limited toning and seem to have kept to the kind of look that springs to mind when someone says fine art i.e. deep blacks, clean whites and smooth tones throughout.  Which is certainly no bad thing - many people print this way and produce some fantastic images; just look at Otakar Hevler - his prints are absolutely incredible!  The point that I am trying to make is that I am questioning whether I am staying true to my style of printing, making steps forward with my printing or just trying to make prints that I like rather than love.  I guess this is something that we have to keep on asking ourselves as time goes by, am I progressing and improving or am I merely settling for what is less than my best?

I have no doubt that the Iceland prints which I have made to date have been the most challenging to create; I have never done so much dodging and burning and had so many darkroom sessions ending with so little to show for my time.  I think the main issue is that I am trying to print these negatives as one body of work rather than, as in my landforms gallery, a collection of individual images.  This means that any toning which I undertake will have to tie in with the rest of the prints.  What may really work on one print may look awful on the next.

So far I have been printing on Ilford's MG FB WT and finishing the prints with a short dip in selenium toner to boost the shadows.  I'm certainly very happy with how the prints look but I am starting to feel that maybe I would like to add some more colour.  What colour I end up choosing yet remains to be seen.  I haven't used any copper in a while...hmm.....

Anyway, I think I have been wittering on long enough.  Time to leave the computer and head into the darkroom to try out some toners I think!  Please excuse my ramblings - I am at a printing crossroads and my brain can't handle it!  Hopefully my next post will be more interesting to read!  Until then - happy printing!