A blog about rediscovering the joys of printing with light, chemistry and plenty of luck

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Finally, New Stuff ! Foma and Slavich

posted in Bleach, Foma 532, Fotospeed LD20, Moersch Easy Lith, Slavich by with no comments

It’s been quite  a while since I have had time to be in the darkroom, but last week I was able to help a friend get set up to do lith printing and we had a great time.

Ron Reeder is a great friend and my mentor of all things alt photo; he has generously given his time to teach many folks the ins and outs of making digital negs, palladium and gum prints and his overall energy level is pretty astounding. Imagine a Jack Russell terrier with ADHD. That’s Ron.

Our setup was a little unconventional. Ron has a very large floor model NuArc exposure device, and we wanted to make use of the vacuum frame. So Ron mounted a spare enlarger to a ceiling beam over the top of the vacuum frame to use as our light source. Kinda wacky, but it worked. I’ll add a photo here next time I am over at Ron’s.

The great thing about working with Ron is that he has a wonderful imagination and great sense of humor, so the imagery we had to play with was fun from the get go. We started in the usual manner, making a conventional test print using Dektol. Ron’s digital neg profile for silver gelatin gave us a fairly low contrast print, so we printed another neg using his standard palladium profile (btw, this is the type of profile I use). You can see that the palladium profile, 2nd image, seems to work better:



We felt pretty good about being in the exposure ballpark, so we moved right along to a lith print, using Slavich Unibrom 160, emulsion 5613. We exposed at what we decided was N+3 from the Dektol test, and processed the print in LD20, 50mlA+50mlB+wtm3L. I like this print a lot. Ron felt it was maybe a little contrasty for his taste. The image, btw, is part of a series Ron has done with wacky shaped carrots. Hilarious.


We damaged the neg by not letting it dry quite long enough, and so we made another one. I should mention here that when you are using a vacuum frame, you are well advised to let the negs dry overnight, or slip a sheet of clear acetate (like a single layer of a Clear Bag) between the neg and the paper. This is especially true of the Slavich which has such a wonderful smooth gloss that the negs are prone to sticking.

Anyway, the second print gained some contrast by being second through the chems and we probably should have let it dev longer but we pulled it at 10 minutes. I can’t seem to lay my hands on that print at the moment…

Then we moved on to another neg, one of Ron’s model friends, shot by his wife Judy. I love the wonderful texture of this print, but Ron was starting to think maybe the Slavich was too cold in tone for him.


We had some gas left in the tank before needing to change developer, so I pulled out a sheet of Foma 532 and we went back to the Carrot Odalisque neg. We’re still in LD20 here, 50/50/wtm3L. Dev time about 14 minutes. Pretty nice. I still can’t decide if I like this or the Slavich print better.


Lunch break.

We decided to stay with the LD20 (50/50/wtm3L) for another round and make some more Foma 532 prints. From the last print, we clearly needed more exposure, so we upped it another stop, now at N+4 from the Slavich. As I recall the Foma is a little slower normally and we didn’t actually run a “normal” test print on the Foma, so this is probably close to where we should have been.

Here is Heather again, this time on Foma


And Odalesque


We didn’t get a very good black on either one of these prints despite upping the dev time to 15 minutes, although the web versions look not so bad. We also got some mottling of the prints that showed up towards the end of the fix time. My tentative theory on this mottling is that I have only seen it on Foma prints that spend a long time in the developer. Long being much more than 10 minutes. I have not done enough testing to confirm this. But I decided to up the dev concentration to get more energy and shorter times, so we went to 70/70/wtm3L.

Venus Carrot


Devon by the Window


Much better! About 10 min dev time, no mottling in the fix and good blacks. We printed another of Ron’s negs, this one from another fantasy series, and then exposed another print of Devon using Slavich.

The Owl Fantasy, has a weird low contrast tintype look to it, which is kinda cool. It will be interesting to play with this series some more. We were back to a long dev time and mottling, however.


And the print of Devon on Slavich.


OKAY! Time for some Easy Lith.

I mixed it at 40/40/wtm 3L. We also changed our exposure setup by removing the enlarging lens entirely which gave us four stops more light at the vacuum frame. Our math for exposure compensation proved a little fuzzy (and we did’t even have any wine or beer at lunch!), so these prints are a little dark. But the color is really nice, and a little potassium ferricyanide brought them back to an interesting place.



We made an exposure adjustment, 2 stops less than the ones above. Dev time right at 10 minutes and pretty much right on the money. Or on the carrot.



Overall a pretty successful day.

I’m encouraged to play with the Foma 532 some more and I think I will lean towards the Moersch EasyLith in the next set of tests to see if the mottling issue in the fix comes up.

If you’d like to see more of Ron Reeder’s work, including his excellent book on QTR and digital negs, check out his website at ronreeder.com



Taming Slavich 5613 pt. 4

posted in Arista, Fotospeed LD20, Oriental Warmtone (new), Slavich by with 2 comments

Sorted out a few Cuba negs that still need printing and I’ll work on those with the new 11×14 paper and see how that goes.

Having the extra amount of dev was nice, so I’ll bump to 4L instead of three for this session and see how many prints I can get out of it. Today’s mix, then, will be LD20, 50ml A + 50ml B +wtm 4L. Presoak the exposed paper for about 1 minute before developing.

The first print looks pretty good although a little low in contrast compared to the way this image has been printing and it does have some weirdness in the white areas.


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Taming Slavich 5613 pt. 3

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich, Uncategorized by with no comments

Back at this morning, bigger tray and here’s hoping for some progress. I’m going to go back to the LD20 mix that was working well for the previous batch of paper – 50ml A +50ml B +wtm 3L. I’ll do a presoak of 1 min for the first print and see where it goes from there.


Okay! A few more adjustments and we now have a very workable combination. Weird patterning gone but still have the nice grain and texture. The first two prints came up pretty quickly and felt over developed, so I added another liter of water, putting us at 50ml A + 50ml B +wtm 4L. This dropped the dev time into the 12-15 minute range. I also dropped my exposure from 32 seconds to 25, giving me a modest contrast boost.


As we go along from one print to the next, the grain and texture is getting more pronounced, so this will for sure dictate what kind of images work best at what point in the tray life we print them (I keep thinking of this as “birth order’). I don’t think portraits are going to work very well after print 3, but landscapes, artifacts and such should be very nice.

The other nice thing is that so far I am not seeing any pepper fog.


I’m going to wash up these prints and figure out what’s next.

Taming Slavich 5613 pt. 2

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

What’s the next strategy with the Slavich? I wish I knew what causes the patterning and chunkiness with the LD20, because there’s probably a way to minimize it if we knew what was going on. But, I have no idea. Cutting the dilution down didn’t really help, and in fact made the chunkiness worse. So I guess that’s a clue pointing towards a higher concentration of developer.

Adding Potassium Bromide didn’t help, but the Sodium Sulfite/Hydroquinone dose looks like it might have smoothed out some of the clumping just a tiny bit.

There is also the possibility that there is something in the paper which is causing the problem. If that’s the case, maybe a short presoak would help.

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Taming Slavich 5613 pt. 1

posted in Arista, Developers, Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

Time to suck it up and see if I can tame my new batch of Slavich Unibrom, emulsion # 5613. With 100 sheets of 11×14 and another 100 of 16×20, it would be really swell if I could get prints I like out of this emulsion batch.

Looking at the first attempts, I wonder (and hope?) if maybe the biggest problem is that these prints are over developed. They did indeed come up pretty fast.

I’m going to stick with the Fotospeed LD20 since that was giving me by far the best prints ever on this paper.

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Complete Series On Line

posted in Developers, Fotospeed LD20, Papers, Slavich by with no comments

All of the recent Slavich and LD20 work has been part of a documentary project on Cuba, entitled Beyond The Malecón. The printing and editing is more or less complete, and the series is now posted to my main website. Just follow the link over to the left on the navigation part.



First Round Done

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with 2 comments

Well, a lot of hours over a lot of days and a lot of paper later, I have the first round of this project more or less completed. Over the next few days will be backfilling the last several weeks postings and including images and details on the printing process, different mixes tried and so on. Burned through around 150 sheets of the Slavich 12×16 paper and quite a few boxes of fotospeed LD20, but overall I am very happy with the results. When this paper works well, it really delivers a beautiful look. I am posting the entire series on my regular website, it will be linked from the home page at www.douglasethridge.com.

Here are a few of my favorites.



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Slavich thoughts

posted in Developers, Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

The Slavich Unibrom 160 and LD20 workflow has held really steady over the last many days. Make four or five prints, dump the developer and make four or five more, then take break and wash all of them. This works well in my tiny darkroom, because I have just enough room to hang 8 good prints to drip dry before placing them on the drying screens. By then, it’s time for lunch and then repeat. Entirely possible this way to make as many as 20 prints in a day. The beauty of working with the enlarged digital negs is that all of my burning and dodging is out of the way up front, so for the most part printing is a process of cleaning the neg, loading the neg and paper into the vacuum frame and hitting the go button… at least on good days.


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Fix It Later

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

In trying to get the new emulsion of the Slavich to work, what are my options?

  1. Dilute the developer, maybe go from 50ml to 40ml or less.
  2. Add something. We know that adding sodium sulphite can cause pattering and since that’s what I am getting already in excess it doesn’t seem like that is a direction I should go. The other thing that can help control pepper fog is potassium bromide and I have not tried this yet with the LD20 and Slavich.
  3. Start trying other developers again.
  4. Find some more of the same emulsion number I was working with (not likely).
  5. Go back to the 12×16 paper, finish the project and deal with this later.

I think since I am on a deadline, the rational thing to do is #5, go back to what was working, knock out the half dozen remaining prints and then deal with the developer problem in a more relaxed manner.

Certainly back in the groove. When this paper works, it really works. It will just take some effort to decode the 5613 emulsion but we’ll deal with that later.

New Emulsion, Trouble Again

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

So, quite a few very productive days and I am getting close to finishing up the first round of printing this portfolio of nearly 40 images. Have learned a lot about when to finesse the image with more exposure and when to roll with the N+2 (32 seconds) which seems to be pretty much the right zone for most of these prints.

I just got a new box of paper from another supplier, this time a box of 11×14, which is a better size for the current work than the 12×16 and is about 1/2 the price. This emulsion number is 5613, which is the same as my 16×20 supply, but different than the 12×16 I have been using. This is both good and bad news.

The bad news is, the first print through looks more or less like my first prints looked when using the Moersch SE5. In other words, very mottled. In addition, the white border areas look exposed. I did go with N+3 on this image hoping to knock down the contrast, but it should not have gone this wacky.


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Slavich/Fotospeed Day 3

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

Back at it again this morning with the last of my LD20, at least until more arrives this afternoon.

I have 70ml left of each A&B, so I’m going to very slightly up the concentration and go with 70ml A +70ml B +wtm 4L. Yesterday I also mixed everything up a little warmer, 75F, and that cut the dev time slightly under 10 min. Will do the same today.

First print overall good except for a weird boat-shaped light area. Coating flaw? Paper didn’t get wet uniformly? Also came up pretty darn quick, so I’m going to add another L of water to slow things back down.


Okay, so far so good up to print #5. I should have dosed the dev with the 10% sodium sulphite after print #4 because I did get a scattering of pepper fog. I’m adding 30ml to the 5L of dev and we’ll see if that gets me a few more prints.

Next print, another paper flaw like the boat-shaped flaw above. This is frustrating. Along with the weird light shape, the image is also way overdeveloping in the area near the light shape. Next print is perfectly fine with a few tiny little pepper fog dots, so time to stop.


So from the 70ml in 5L, pretty much 7 prints. Not exactly economical but so far I am not finding another dev that works like this one does with the Slavich.

Okay, back at it, my next supply of LD20 has arrived. I’m going to go back to the 50ml A +50ml B +wtm 3L formula. Looking at what I did earlier today, the tone shifted a little towards the greenish side for some reason, maybe the higher temp? Who knows. But I don’t like it as well as what I was getting the day before, so I’m going back to the original setup that was working. This paper seems really touchy.

First print through looks great, the second one had a developing hotspot in the middle. Not enough agitation?? I’m erring on the side of gentle, maybe this was too gentle. Next one looks good except a little too light- I need to monitor the step wedge as well as the image to avoid this problem. After print#3, I am adding 30ml 10% sodium sulphite and going with an image that some pattern in the texture will be okay with. If this holds, we’ll make one more and dump.

TOUCHY! That’s what you have to say about this paper. The 30ml of 10% sodium sulphite held off the onslaught of pepper fog, but it also blossomed into starry night syndrome.


The 20ml was on the edge, but I was hoping that a little more would be okay and get me a few more prints. I don’t totally hate this look, but I don’t like it for a lot of images.

So here’s the deal. I will follow this procedure the next few days without deviation so I can get this project printed.

Mix 50ml A +50ml B +wtm 3L between 68-75 F

Gently agitate prints, turning 90 degrees every few minutes

After print # 3 add 10-15ml 10% sodium sulphite

After print # 5 STOP.
We’ll see how this goes and if I can resist screwing around with it.

Slavich and Fotospeed LD20 YEAH!

posted in Fotospeed LD20, Slavich by with no comments

April Fools Day. I am trying to get a book dummy prepared, which requires making prints so I can shoot them and place them in the book. The deadline is rapidly approaching and somehow the pile of negs seems to be getting taller rather than shorter. So I hope the rest of this week is super productive!

Am going to start out today with the Slavich paper and Fotospeed LD20 developer, mixing the dev to the manufacturer’s recommendation of 15ml A +15ml B +wtm 1L. Actually, I need 3L for the bigger tray, so this works out to 45ml A + 45ml B +wtm 3L. Fotospeed recommend an equal amount of 10% sodium sulphite to help surpress black dots. Although I know this is a very real possible problem with the Slavich, I have not used this dev before and I’d like to first of all see what it looks like with no additives.



Wow, this is possibly the best results I’ve had with the Slavich paper ever, and certainly the best with this new batch. Great grain, some nice lavender tints in the mids, not too much contrast, and a decent development time, around 12 minutes. Exposure for the first two prints is N+3, in my case 50 seconds. I’m going to try cutting back a tad and see what that looks like.

The 32 second exposure has more contrast and will be nice alternative for certain images. A very few tiny black dots have appeared on this print, not enough to ruin it but they are there. Fotospeed recommend using a 10% soldium sulphite solution to kill this, so I have mixed up some and am adding 45ml. I’ll print a neg that a few black dots won’t be a killer and then maybe we’ll go to Oriental Warmtone (OWT) for a few prints and then start over with some fresh.


The 10% sodium sulphite solution totally killed the black dots, but it also dropped the contrast (as promised) and bumped the time out to 20 minutes. Also starting to get the beginning of “starry night” patterns. I think in the interest of actually getting some work done, I’m going to dump this and remix with a very slightly stronger dev, 50ml A + 50ml B +wtm 3L. I really like the look without the sodium sulphite so I am going to skip it and try to make my #3 print of each round one that having a few dots won’t matter.

Fresh is better with the Slavich paper, that’s for sure. It does have a really annoying tendency to develop edges in, something I need to watch. After my next fresh batch of dev and round of Slavich prints, print number four had a serious case of the micro-dots. I then ran a sheet of OWT and it had great color but the beginning of the blotchy chemical stains it gets from exhausted developer. Conclusion is that although the LD20 does not look exhausted at this point, it is.

Further testing, it is looking like we’re going to get three dot-free prints plus a maybe out of each mix of the LD20. The first print, however, is going to be seriously edge developed before action reaches the middle. On the next fresh batch, I’m going to run a sheet of OWT as the first sheet and see what that does.

In this round, mixed 45ml A + 45ml B +wtm 3L, I ran a sheet of OWT first, followed by two sheets of Slavich. The OWT looked pretty good, decent color, maybe not an ideal neg. The first Slavich print looked great with no excess edge development, the second one was infected with pepper fog. I know that 45ml of 10% sodium sulphite will kill that, but it also killed my contrast. So I think I’m going to also add 20ml of potassium bromide to kick the contrast back up. The pb mix I have on hand is just 1%, not the 10% that Fotospeed suggests, but I have found that it doesn’t take much of this to have an impact. I’ll add 20ml.

So, I am going to add 45ml of 10% sodium sulphite and 20ml of 1% potassium bromide. This worked well, great grain texture, good contrast and no black dots. I had to blast a liter of the dev in the microwave a few times to add some heat but still the dev time has now stretched out past 20 minutes. Time for a fresh mix, and I think with more A and B plus the other additives.

Let’s go with 60ml A + 60ml B +40ml 10% ss+ 40ml 1% pb, and see what happens. Also going to mix this up at 80 degrees F to speed the party along.

What a mess. Blotchy, crazy additional edge development so much that by the time the center defogged the rest was black. Crap. (need to locate these prints and add them in). I am beginning to think that extra sodium sulphite with the Slavitch is a bad combination. I’m going to run another neg on OWT and see if this soup is useful for something. This print is just dull, and I think maybe the best thing to do is just dump the tray and start over with something else.

Looking back at earlier tests, maybe I should give the Ansco79b another shot, dilute it a little more than I did the first time. I’ll try 60ml A +60ml B + wtm 3L.

No good. Lots of weird splits and I just tossed the print.

OK! Unless and until I come up with something else, looks like LD20 is going to be my Slavich developer. Back to 50ml A + 50ml B +wtm 3L. This seems to work really well. I wish the dev time were a little less (12-15 min), but higher concentration accentuates the edge development. One thing that seems to be helping is to rotate the print 90 degrees in the tray every few minutes. At least it looks like it helps. A good solid three prints from this mix. Time to call it a night.


At this rate, you really do burn through the developer, but I sure am not seeing anything else so far that is giving me such lovely results with the Slavich. Tight grain, nice lavender tones in the mids, not too much contrast at N+3 and higher contrast at N+2 when you want it.

New Slavich and SE5

posted in Moersch SE5, Slavich by with no comments

Well, I’m still more than a little confused about the way the Slavich worked in the Arista dev. The fact that in a fresh, high concentrate mix, it looks nearly identical to the old paper is on the one hand a really good thing. We can count on it for one-shot development. But on the other hand, this is very confusing because using it the other day in a mid-range mix it did not work well at all. And in the very low concentrate mix, the paper went south after a few prints.

So today, I’m going to try the last dev in my current array, the Moersch SE5. Depending on how this works, I may try to pick up some Fotospeed LD20 since that is about the only commercially available dev I have not tried.

Anyway, onward.

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New Slavich, fresh Arista, keep trying

posted in Arista, Slavich by with 1 comment

Back at it with the Slavich. I have some fresh Arista powder mixed up and I think it’s worth seeing if a more dilute mix of this will work with the new Slavich paper.

I’ll try 30ml A + 30ml B + wtm 2L. Exposure at N+2 (25 seconds), and a dev time of 18 minutes. A decent lith-ish look, very nice tints, the black maybe a little weak and maybe I should have gone a bit longer on the dev.

001 M915_SLn_AR3030

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A Detour To Q

posted in Foma MG 131, Q, Slavich by with no comments

Mixing chemistry this morning. Fresh Arista powder, my new A20/A30 stuff and the pseudo-Naccolith, which I’m going to call Q for the photographer that published the formula, An Le-qun.

First up for testing will be the Q, mixed 40ml A+40ml B+wtm 2L. I’m going to run some Foma 131 first and then some new Slavich Unibrom 160.

The first print is on F131 at N+3 (25 seconds) and it took about 20 minutes to develop. It has a pretty outrageous color tint although not a heck of a lot of contrast and no real “lith” look to it.

001 M615_F131_Q

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New Slavich, Day 2

posted in A20, A30, Ansco 70, Ansco 79, Kodak D-9, Q, Slavich, Wall's Normal by with no comments

More Slavich testing today. What I have on hand that I have not tried is Moersch SE5, Ansco 70, Ansco 79b, and straight Kodak D9. I have not mixed up any of the home-brew pseudo-Nacco yet but we can go there as well.

I have a limited amount of older Slavich for comparison prints, so maybe the best approach is to cut the 12×16 paper down to 6×8. We don’t need to see much to know what works and what doesn’t

I think I will try the Ansco and Kodak developers first. They’re so cheap to make that mixing up a tray full for a test and then dumping it is not that big a deal.

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posted in Foma MG 131, Moersch SE5, Oriental Warmtone (new), Polywarmtone, Potassium Bromide by with no comments

The other day some friends called up and asked if I’d like a few boxes of old leftover paper from when their daughter was in photo school. I’ll take anything, so we went and picked it up. I just finished testing all of them for base exposure times and fogging. A few foggy clunkers that might work okay in lith, but one treasure amongst the expected Ilford papers was a half-full box of Forte Polywarmtone that seems to be in great shape. This will be fun to play with.

And as a bonus, the UPS guy just showed up with a shipment of Slavich Unibrom 160. Whoo hoo!

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More with Naccolith

posted in Foma MG 131, Hydroquinone, Ilford Warm Tone MG, Naccolith, Oriental Warmtone (new), Potassium Bromide by with no comments

The prints from yesterday look great and if I can drop the contrast a bit they will look even better, at least I think so. They have a really nice tone, great blacks and some grain, all the things I have envisioned for this set of images. What I’d like to do is drop the contrast a bit, lengthen the dev time a tad bit in hopes of a little more color. Lowering the contrast means a higher % of part B, but too much B overall will accelerate the dev time.


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