Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Paper Negatives and...(tests)

Looks like some drugs (one particularly) started to fill not only my veins but also entire space around me ;) ... Let me explain however everything from the beginning. About a week ago i took a couple of photographs on paper instead of film. That’s my first attempt to paper negatives. It’s a modern version of “Calotype”, an old process invented by Fox Talbot in September 1840 in which photographic paper is exposed directly using large-format camera. Such a paper is processed in darkroom where it gives negative (on paper) and then final positive print by making contact print. Easy peasy ...almost ;)

I used Ilford Multigrade IV RC Pearl Deluxe paper (cut to 4x5 format)  which is very simple to handle due to quite fast drying and being flat during that process.
In case of paper negatives speed (ISO) is about 6. Quite slow but still faster than wet plate collodion  for example introduced about 10 years latter ;)

So photographs has been taken...

Here I can come back to my “drug story” from the beginning of this post ;D
I decided to give a try... Coffee  development (again, haha) which obviously is equal to darkroom printing in this case ;)

Very different proportions than in case of film dev process..

250 ml water
2 tsp of washing soda
3 tsp of caffe
1 tsp of vitamin C

Of course everything can be adjusted according to required amount of liquid. I was processing my papers in 500ml.

paper negative developed in Caffenol-C

It’s a veeery slow process comparing to when I use normal chemistry. First shades of the image appears after about 3-4 minutes...then image was ready after about 10minutes (!).
As a comparison - week ago i took couple of photographs on the same paper and I processed them in Ilford Multigrade paper developer. They were ready in 1.5min

Anyway - I have negatives. Time to create proper print.
Mentioned before photograph taken week ago was presented on my Facebook page. This one was processed in Ilford Multigrade paper Developer  (click HERE please) and then inverted in photoshop to create positive. All looks great but Photoshop is not the right way.
Below is the other one created the same day... you know this photograph from my older post but it was taken on normal film back then ;)

paper negative developed in Ilford Multigrade paper developer

positive image created by negative's inversion in PS

I set my darkroom last night to process and print the other photograph taken yesterday (first image in this post).
Contact print is made by creating sandwich with clear paper and paper negative sticked together on emulsion side. Negative must be obviously on the top.
Exposure and hight of the lamp (enlarger head) is another crucial element in this process. It will provide differences in contrast of final image. I had a rather limited time so i could make just a 2 tests. One with 2 sec exposure and second with 4 sec. The last one was quite good but not good enough. Lack of contrast ...It only means I will have to come back to it ;)

 wet print in Caffenol-C 
Differences?’s again depends on what you prefer. With paper negatives, traditional development gives quite strong contrast which usually I like. Coffee development gives however more details, nice brownish tint on paper but not enough contrast...

I am sure that something is not working here properly but don't know what. It may be soda again as in case of Caffenol-C-L ...or something else.
Before i tried it I spoke to Damian Dzialoszynski , photographer who is experimenting a lot with these materials (click HERE  please to see his blog). His prints full of fantastic blacks and shades and generally great contrasts where ready after a few seconds... (???)

Will have to work it out definitely. Its all constant learning curve ...
If somebody who is reading this post had a different experience or some advice you are more then welcome to post it here or contact me directly. Thanks a lot!

1. negative in Caffenol (first image) with positive print (last image) - The Irish Waterways Visitor Centre by OPW.

2. paper negative in Ilford Multigrade  Paper Developer with positive created in PS - Bolland Mills.
Here is link to my older blog post about it with the same photograph recorded on traditional negative (as a comparison):  please click HERE


  1. dzieki Maciek ;) bede do tego wracal czesciej (w miare mozliwosci) az opanuje drukowanie.

  2. Thank You for mention me in Your post :). Yeh I was developing some contact print in caffenol with recipe which You describe and have great results.

    Firstly I made test with harman warm tone paper developer on Ilford Multigrade IV RC Gloss paper to establish time ( it was 2 sec exposure time , 2 min developement).As light source I used 25 watt frosted light bulb 1,3 meter from glass.

    Secondly I made the same exposure and develop in caffenol. I was very surprise with development time after 40 sec in need to stop development.

    Difference in those two images was huge. Cafenol image was much better with beautyfull blacks almost like on fb paper. Image had great depth and tonal range ( looks like 3 d ).

    You may check the results
    last picture man with camera which contain two b&w pictures.
    Picture on right side caffenol , picture on left side harman warm tone developer.

    Unfortunately I don't have any idea what happens in Your case and why pictures are lack of contrast.

  3. Thank you very much Damian for your comment! This is what i am looking for in this blog :D
    Coming back to printing in caffenol - i will focus first on soda and will check water free one. Then will play with height of the bulb (mentioned by me and you) which may be a crucial element. Photographs from your link are fantastic. This is the quality I am looking for!
    All the best!

  4. Excellent work! I'm always happy to see more people printing with Caffenol. I've been printing with Caffenol since 2007 and now use it as my primary print developer. Sometimes, If I'm working with a very slow paper, I add a few ml of spent developer to push past the threshold of development. My favourite papers for Caffenol printing are Ilford WT RC glossy, and Ilford Art 300. Both respond very well to toning in selenium. (KRST is good, but if you can get some Berg Selenium toner it is very nice too)

    If you're interested, check out my article on my work with Caffenol.

    Tom Overton

    1. That's brilliant Tom! Thank you very much for the link. It is all really inspiring ans I think I will come back to it faster then I thought ;)