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Thursday, October 19

North Sea Storm


Print made on Ilford MGIV FB glossy

I've learned a couple of things since starting back in the darkroom. One is that darkroom prints are so much nicer than anything I've produced by way of a scan. The other is that Adox Silvermax is a really nice film.

The scanning issue reared it's ugly head recently when I attempted to scan some negatives with a view to using the process as a quick contact sheet so I could check out the images. The files just looked horrible on screen, all grainy and blotchy. At least they did in comparison with scans from prints I've made.

Print scans look much nicer to my eyes although I suppose you might ultimately get more information from a good neg scan. The problem is that it's far easier scanning a print than it is achieving a quality neg scan so this doesn't always work out in practice.

The upshot of it is that, if you use film, then please, please make the effort to get into a darkroom to print your work or you'll never know what you're missing. If you haven't room for one at home and you don't want to create one in a shed in the garden (it's been done successfully loads of times) then try to find a local community facility or printmakers' workshop and get cracking.

It's all very well using film but manufacturers make their profit off the paper and chemical sales so every time you buy something for the darkroom you're doing more to support them. If everyone who used film started printing then Ilford, Adox, Foma, Kodak, Rollei and the like would see a strong upsurge in their turnover which would only be good for the industry's future prospects.

An old Agfa APX 100 shot of Forneth House overlooking
Clunie Loch in Perthshire. I used a Nikon EL2 with 105mm
Nikkor lens for this one.

Looking through the darkroom notes I've been keeping made me realise that some of my favourite pics have been shot on Adox Silvermax. I haven't used any for ages but I might try to rectify that. It's a film with strong, robust tonality, well-controlled grain and good sharpness. Adox aimed for the look of the "real", original Agfa APX 100, the film that had quite a devoted following, and I do see some similarities although I never shot a lot of APX 100. The print I've scanned for this post (the first pic) is typical of the look I've been getting from Silvermax. The print scan immediately above is from an APX 100 negative for comparison.

The Silvermax print was done on the 1C at grade 1 at a basic exposure of 8 seconds. The sky got another 21 seconds at the same grade and then another 50 seconds at grade 5 to spice it up a bit. Some bright areas of water were burned in for 21 seconds at grade 1 and the bottom edge got another couple of seconds. The concrete encasing the water outfall pipe was dodged a little. The camera was the OM2 with a 24mm Zuiko. I must have taken about 20 shots of this scene as the storm passed over and I haven't decided yet which is my favourite one.

Adox introduced Silvermax with its own Spur-made dedicated developer but I've never used it with the film. It seems to do well enough in the usual suspects. I'd love to see some done in Perceptol. Mind you, I seem to want to see everything done in Perceptol at the moment. Must get some soon.

24 comments :

Neal said...

I was going through some old prints the other day and came across some prints I made from Adox Silvermax.. it really is a fantastic film. those tones are to die for!

Herman Sheephouse said...

Bruce, you are, of course, correct. Making a real print completes the circle, the whole process you set off in as a 'photographer' - and I know a lot of develop and scan people will get ants in their pants about this, but I think it is what makes you a photographer!
You're upholding a legacy, and as you say, without sales in darkroom 'sundries' then the companies founder and die, which is something nobody wants.
I mean, for goodness sake, I used to make contact prints in a tiny cupboard, on a makeshift shelf space, clutter all around me, with a shielded torch (!) - ok, they were utter shite, but the point was I wanted and hungered so much to make prints that it it didn't matter - I was getting my fingers wet, and that was what counted.

I've never used Silvermax, but I used a fair bit of the old APX 100 - it was a marvellous film - pretty sure I developed some in Perceptol too.
I really like the look of your prints, though I see you are still S-Ging . . honest, just try a straight print at a fixed grade. You might well be surprised.

Glad to see you're still taking notes - it's a useful process isn't it!

DavidM said...

That's some heroic dodging and burning. Out of curiosity, may I ask how you meter such a scene?

Bruce Robbins said...

It was based on a zone iv exposure for the concrete in the foreground if I remember correctly, David.

Paul Blanchard said...

Very pleasant prints today.Good of you to raise the scanning issue. I have always scanned the prints on my Blog from paper prints made in the darkroom, of fairly small size, as my scanner is a cheap one taking A4 only. In fact from my limited knowledge it seems that original print size is not highly geared to the resulting 'screen' quality. When I look at the cost of a quality negative scanner, taking 6x9 from folders as well Leica work, I might as well go for a new Digital M camera-which is a thought in fantasy land. I entered some B/W in the village Arts Festival last week-end and was told that my prints were difficult to display as most entrants made 10x8 prints-the limit on home colour printing!

Bruce Robbins said...

I seem to remember that you can't ring any more than about 200 dpi out of a print scan so there's not much point in producing big scans as they just make your page take longer to load. Can't see you with a digital M, Paul, - hope not anyway! Have you thought of a DSLR and macro lens set up for "scanning" 6x9 negs? It can work well if done properly.

Alan C. said...

Bruce, it made me smile when you described Agfa APX 100 as "old". I can remember when it was new. I can even remember a time before it existed.
When I took up photography seriously in the early 1980s Agfa's 100 speed film was Agfapan 100. This was wonderful 35mm film; gritty, quite grainy, and with lots of guts. My friends and I used to develop it in Rodinal. I found this to be a perfect combination for photographing the gritstone rock outcrops in North Staffs. near where I lived, and the limestone pavements around Ingleborough in Yorkshire. I used to print these on 16 x 12 resin coated glossy paper. I still have some of these prints. Perfect they are not. But they somehow sum up how I felt about things at the time.
Agfa had a wonderful paper too, the old (that word again!) blue label Record Rapid. I used this to print my medium format negatives.
Then I took a break from photography for a few years to concentrate on my painting, and when I came back to it, horror of horrors, Agfapan 100 and blue label Record Rapid had both gone. The film was replaced by APX100, which I always thought to be rather insipid and whimpish in comparison to Agfapan 100. And I could never understand why it acquired such a cult following. Blue label Record Rapid was replaced with Record Rapid without the blue label. And more to the point, without the cadmium. So it too seemed to lose its former character.
But it's no good living in the past. No point in spitting your dummy out because you can't get your favourite products anymore. In any case these days I have enough on my plate trying to fully exploit HP5 and Ilford Warmtone Fibre paper.

But I can't help asking, although I'm not a magic bullet chaser. Does anyone know if Silvermax is anything like the old Agfapan 100?

Alan

Bruce Robbins said...

Can't say anything about Agfapan 100, Alan, but from your description maybe Fomapan 100 might be worth a crack? As for the old Record Rapid - I've got three boxes of the stuff. One is an almost full 100 box of 7x9.5 ins and the other two are full 100 boxes of 5x7. It's all got the white fine lustre finish which is beautiful. It's so good it almost makes me weep over its disappearance. Definitely the nicest paper I've seen. I'm saving it for a special project, don't know what yet.

Nasir said...

Rodinal is my favourite developer for APX 100. I really like the old school look to it. I think I've used 1+50 dilution in the past.

DavidM said...

I hope you're looking after your RR. A while ago, I found some that I'd not used and passed it on to a friend, but he found that it had become rather softer than the grade marked on the box.

Anonymous said...

Hi Herman, what is or where can I find more info on “s-ging”? —Koen

Bruce Robbins said...

It hasn't received any special treatment at all, David. It's just in the pile with my other paper. It spent about 20 years in an attic darkroom before I got it and I didn't really think it would be usable. When I tried it a few years ago it seemed quite good. It didn't appear fogged but it has lost maybe a half grade to a grade in contrast. I have this idea of producing some contrasty 5x7 negs and contact printing them onto the RR. I'd like to do something special with it.

DavidM said...

5x7? Do you have a new toy? Split developer processing of the prints for fine control, perhaps? Exposing both sides of the dark slide, with the duplicate for fine-tuned neg development if needed. All sorts of possibilities. Interesting idea. You might be thinking of selenium.

Bruce Robbins said...

It's the Kodak Specialist II, a half plate beast. Had it for a while but haven't used it yet. Only have the one half plate DDS for it but had to take it apart and replace the light trap felt as it was all bumphled up. I'd rather have a few 5x7 film holders but, being Scottish, I'm not prepared to pay the going rate on EBay. Haha.

Yes, selenium toning neg and print a definite possibility. So is using x-Ray film that has the emulsion on both sides and can get a bit contrasty as a result unless carefully handled.

Alan C. said...

Bruce, getting some 5x7 holders will make life easier. You won't need to trim film, as you do now to fit your half plate holder. And you can use the energy saved to help you pick up the Kodak Specialist camera.
I know how heavy they are because I have one as well....

Alan

Bruce Robbins said...

Haha! Think it's a sherpa I need to lug it around.

Robert Dungan said...

I am in 100% agreement that everyone should print their photographs. I mostly shoot black and white fi.my in folding cameras, developed the film and print the negatives that have the most promise. The resulting photos are all mine. Vs. A digital camera where all I do is frame and shoot letting a computer make most of the decisions and then uploading to a website where a computer will print it. I feel little connection to the digital pictures but a lot of connection to the ones I print.
Bob

DavidM said...

Unless you're very certain of the image you need, one holder is a bit limiting, but that might be an essential part of your plan. Thomas Joshua Cooper, at Glasgow School of Art, goes to a place and makes only one image, so you'd be in good company. He's an "art" photographer of course.
Donkeys are charming and willing, so you might consider one to carry the Specialist. In the summer (always remembering you are in Scotland) you could make a few bob on a nearby beach, to pay for extra holders.

DavidM said...

Roger,
The great William Henry Fox Talbot stands at one end of a spectrum, with instant upload from smartphone to web at the other. He coated his own negs, coated his own prints and even went to the trouble of inventing the whole process.
We ourselves stand somewhere in this spectrum and where we stand is a matter of choice and opportunity.
I do agree entirely that the experience of making a print is very desirable and should be done by every photographer with ambitions to be taken seriously. As always, there may be exceptions because not everyone has a darkroom, not everyone has a computer, not everyone has a local audience.

Alan C. said...

David, I am intrigued by your comments on Thomas Joshua Cooper. Is he, I wonder, an "art" photographer because he only makes one exposure when he goes out? Or is it the case that, because he is an "art" photographer, he only needs to make one exposure?

I can see some advantages to being an "art" photographer. Less work for a start, and a lot less outlay on materials. I have just loaded up eight double dark-slides. If I was an art photographer I would have only needed to load one. And when I get back from tomorrow's photography trip I would only need to develop and print one. I might give it a go, although I'm not sure how to go about it. Any ideas? And is there a difference between an art photographer with a small a, and one with a capital A? And what about a "Fine Art" photographer? Is he something different again?
I'm getting confused now. Maybe I'll just stick to being a "photographer"....with a small "p" (or even a small "f"...)

Alan

DavidM said...

Alan,
Neither.
I mention him because he's famous and in Scotland. His habit of taking only one exposure is unique to him and not a badge of artiness, but he does have a good deal to say for himself and about the work. Other "art" photographers have other practices.
I don't like quoting Saint AA but he intended to make a second exposure of Moonrise, as you almost certainly know.
Bruce has only one dark slide so he would be would find himself in a similar position. We don't know what he intends to do, other than make contact prints. Other photographers may also make one or two exposures of a scene, principally LF colour photographers. You may care to see the blogs of Ben Horne, who plans his shots rather carefully.
The question of how something qualifies as "art" "Art" or 'Fine Art" baffles me too. Photographers tend to have a chip on their shoulders, a kind of class envy, it seems to me, but there's no doubting that if you can call it art, you can charge more for it. There's also the category of "Artists using Photography." No doubt there are more.
"All art is quite useless.' of course.

Alan C. said...

David,
Thank you for your reply to my tongue-in-cheek comments. Not knowing a lot about Thomas Joshua Cooper I looked him up on the net. I have to say that I was really moved by his photographs, and can barely imagine what they must look like in reality. I would love stand in front of them and see them properly.
Just like you said, he does have a lot to say about what he does. And, up to a point, it is interesting to hear about his approach to his work and the concept behind it. But nothing he says, or what gallery owners trying to sell his work say, touch on what is at the heart of the photographs, because they deal with things that can't be explained in words. The painter George Braque put this better than me when he said that you can explain everything about art except the bit that matters.

Alan

Anonymous said...

I really like the North Sea picture, the atmosphere and mood. I've never been there, but imagine it might "feel" like your photograph of the place. Bill Wheeler

Tony Cearns said...

Yes, I like Silvermax. Just replenished my stock on a trip to Berlin. I notice that film canisters have a screw-top lid to take the film out. I don't remember this in earlier canisters so this must be new?