Silver Gelatin Printing?

My Silver Gelatine Printing Process

My work bench with enlarger, saunder easel, rolls of unprocessed film, and some 5x4 inch contact sheets, the wall behind is decorated with an assortment of prints postcards and other ephemera. The head of the enlargr is raise showing the cool soft blue light of my Zone VI enlarger head.
My work bench with enlarger, Saunders easel, rolls of unprocessed film, and some 5×4 inch contact sheets.

Here’s my process for making a print on silver gelatine paper. Printing on silver gelatine paper is rewarding and relaxing. It is not cheap however, so my process aims to tease as much detail as I can out of test strips before commiting to a full sheet of 8 x 10 inch silver gelatin paper. It is the ultimate way to relax, if I am  not printing to a dealine, ie and exhibtion.

Process the film.

Two rolls of 120 format film hanging inside a drying cabinet
Two rolls of 120 format film hanging inside a drying cabinet

Dry it and cut into strips.

Two rolls of 120 format film, ready to be cut and sleeved, along with gloves a penci and 2 sleeves, with 2 strips to labelthe sleeves
Two rolls of 120 format film, ready to be cut and sleeved

Set up the sink.

With Developer, Stop Bath, Fixer One.

The first stage of prnt processing, using onlly Developer, stop bath and fixer in my grey sink with tongs in each tray. A white tray for developer a grey one for stop bath and a red one for fixer
The first stage of prnt processing, using onlly Developer, stop bath and fixer.

Make a contact sheet to edge black.

Edge black is the pont where the edge of the film disaapears.  So I start by making a test wedge usually of 3 second bursts. After the stop bath, and fixer a quick rinse. Turn on the lights and look for the time that the edge of the film no longer shows, that is my time for the whole contact sheet. This has 2 disinct technical advantages. I can assess my exposures and development of the film. Noting any deviations that may be needed at the enlarging stage.

A test strip of a proof sheet floating in the rinse water the tray is a modifed print procssing tray with grey tubes feeding water in and holes drilled along the edges to allow water to escape
A test strip for a proof sheet floating in the rinse water

Process the paper, Devloper 2 minutes, Stop 30 seconds, Fix 2 minutes.

Wash the final outcome for 10 minutes.

Dry and anotate, file away.

My filing sytem, showing a box labelled with dates anbd film format and 2 rolls of film with their numbers annotated inclding processing dates and sequencial number.
My filing sytem, showing a box labelled with dates anbd film format and 2 rolls of film with their numbers annotated inclding processing dates and sequencial number.

Choose a negative to print.

Peruse my contacts, and choose a negative. Either form my archive or from the current contact sheet I’m working on.

Set up ealarger making sure the negative is in focus, sometimes, I shoot out focus on purpose.

A Saunders easel with the other tool I use in the darkroom, a Peak Focus finder, a set of Ilford multigrade filters and an anti-static brush.
A Saunders easel with the other tool I use in the darkroom, a Peak Focus finder, a set of Ilford multigrade filters and an anti-static brush.

Print

Expose for the highlights and change filters for the shadows, or split filter, mostly split filter these days. Test until I’m happy with the outcome, this may mean some extra burning and dodging to acheive a ‘balanced’ print.

Other tools used in the darkroom, an opaque board to mask off areas of test strips and prints, glass to hold negatives flat while making a cotact sheet, multicontrast filters, anti-static bruch and top left my notebooks for taking notes as I work.
Other tools used in the darkroom.

Process

Process the paper, Devloper 2 minutes, Stop 30 seconds, Fixer one, 2 minutes.

Rinse.

Print processing, using onlly Developer, stop bath and fixer in my grey sink with tongs in each tray. A white tray for developer a grey one for stop bath and a red one for fixer.

Fixer two, 2 minutes, Hypo Clearing Agent, 3 minutes, and archivally wash [10 minutes for resin coated papers, 60 minutes for museum quality fibre based paper].

Dry, & flatten

Mount if I am exhibitig the work framed.


About the author.

Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He has also nearly 40 years of silver gelatin printing under his belt. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photographs in the 21st century. Photobooks sit quite high on his radar too these days.
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Back in the Darkroom

seven prints at 8x10 inches that Ian Lobb saw that prompted me to enlarge and exhibit all are a mixture or the natural and man made with neither dominating.
Seven  8 x 10 ‘work prints’ pinned to my darkroom wall.

Another cause for recent reflection was an encounter I had with Ian Lobb a few years ago. I asked him to look at some of my silver gelatin prints, which he did, over coffee in Fairfield.

choice of paper for this body of work in not yet final here are some of my options in my darkroom
Choice of paper for this body of work is not yet final here are some of my options in my darkroom. Forte Fibre based on top of Ilford Multigrade Fibre based paper.

He appeared enamoured by one body of work that I have been sitting on since about 2006, as it only consists of 6 or 7 prints.

The body of work was a response to Robert Adams’ book, Summer Nights. The first edition of this book has 38 images in it.  The date of the first edition is 1985. This means I may have been exposed to it whilst studying my undergraduate degree. Ian Lobb would have definitely been aware of it. He knew what I was talking about when I discussed my motivations for printing them. I acquired my copy  of the book in 2003.

I had no specific idea in mind while making the pictures however. I simply went for a walk one morning in a quiet country hamlet 3 hours north of Melbourne, and shot a whole roll of 120 film in that short time.

the contact sheet that I am making up to 9 prints from
the contact sheet that I am making up to 9 prints from

Because of Ian’s response I have decided to print the images to exhibition stage. I have work prints from about 2017 that are 8×10 inches. But in this instance I feel a larger size will really make them shine so I am beginning the process of making the final prints. Paper brand and final size is yet to be determined. I have started with Ilford Multigrade Fibre based paper at 12 x 16 inches.

Re-examing the contact sheet this morning I feel I may be able to push the series out to 8 or 9 prints. This is unheard of for me. I consider one good picture per 3 or 4 contact sheets adequate.

The first print in the rinse tray.
The first print in the rinse tray.

I want to finish with a quote from another of my favourite photographers, Frederick Sommer, that goes some way towards  my reasoning behind making these prints:-

“… When you go out to make a picture you find you are moved by something which is in agreement with an image you already held within yourself.”
– Frederick Sommer


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photographs in the 21st century.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

Wordless Wednesday #2023-11-08 | 004

urban landscape in black and white of the space near the Ted Whitten Bridge in Avondale heights
Rail bridge in urban landscape circa 2013

About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs.
☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

Some Black and White Images From a 1998 Road Trip

I have uncovered the negs that I shot while on my big 1998 road trip. All 5×4 inch film, I’m surprised at how little of it I shot?

5x4 film shot of Port Augusta circa 1998 showing the dock and some factories on the horizon
5×4 film shot of Port Augusta circa 1998
Desert and scrub somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill
Desert and scrub somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill circa 1998
Whyalla Steelworks with the bay in the background
Whyalla Steelworks with the bay in the background circa 1998
Whyalla has a tennis court sport complex
Whyalla has a tennis court sport complex, circa 1998
Reset Landscape somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill, circa 1998
Desert Landscape somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill, circa 1998

 

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr | hipstamatic

Thirty Plus Years Ago

A dark industrail scene from Melbourne's west in the early 1990s, in the foreground a pit of dark water, electric poles occupy the middle ground along with some fences sheds and other infrastructure container and a giant electricity transmission pylon can be seen in the distance, the sky has a smattering of small clouds
West Melbourne circa 1992

I was recently gifted a scanner. Thanks to Gary. This now means I can scan any or all of my analogue work on an as needs basis. All I need is time. This image has always stayed with me since I made it around 1992. It is one my earliest successes using 5×4 inch film. However it never moved beyond a contact print as the emulsion had been damaged  in a couple of places.

Now using Affinity Photo, I am at least able to resurrect it and use it online. I may some day get a commercial scan and make a big print from it.  In what context I’m not sure. I use Affinity Photo because it has a perpetual license and a few technical advantages over PotatoeShop.

I have been photographing this area for a long time and the changes are significant. I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Even after the major infrastructure project is over the mix of light industry along with the decaying  heavy industry and modern  architectural flourishes makes this in my mind an interesting place to photograph.


About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs.
☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr

How I prepare for a physical exhibition?

Prints drying in my darkroom
Silver Geltatin Prints drying in my darkroom

I have been busy the last few days getting my prints ready for my next upcoming exhibition.
The Exhibition entitled ‘Thanks Pandemic’ consists of 24 silver gelatin prints framed and matted.
All up the print finishing took about 12 hours. I don’t recollect how long the actual printing took, as it was done some time ago during several of the lockdowns that Victoria endured from 2020 to 2022.
These lockdowns were the catalyst for me to revisit my archive and print some images that I have always wanted to print. Now with time on my side and changes to materials I was able to produce a series of prints that reflect my skills and knowledge. Basically I like to make work with long tonal scales. This is made possible by using 2 filters under the enlarger, the 00 filter and the 5 filter, from Ilford’s filter pack. Using this technique enables finer control over shadows, midtones and highlights.
After the prints are made they undergo treatment for archival permanence using a 2 bath fixer system and using some dilute selenium toner. In this case it was 1:19 for 3 minutes in the selenium.

My toning setup
My toning setup, I’m using selenium toner 1:19 for 3 minutes

Then into my archival wash tub for one hour. My tub holds 10 prints so I had to undertake this process in 3 batches, 2 at 10 and one at 5 prints. They are then hung to dry in my darkroom.

My archival print washing setup
My archival print washing setup, washed 10 silver gelatin prints at a time

Next I flatten the prints in a warm heat press.
Once they are all flat, I begin the final stages of preparation for matting.

Flattened prints ready for over matting
Flattened prints ready for over matting

This involves making paper corners, 100 in total, then attaching the prints to a backing board that is hinged to the matt. All made using paper archival tape.

Archival paper corners
Archival paper corners, I made 100 of these.

Once the components are assembled the frame is reassembled and the protective corners replaced. Then they are stored ready for transport to the gallery.

A print matted and secured to the backing board, ready for the final touches to make it exhibition ready.
A print matted and secured to the backing board, ready for the final touches to make it exhibition ready.

This body of work is going to use a mixture of frame colours 9 silver 9 off-white and 6 black. How they are how together will be determined once the work is in the space.

All the prints ready for transport to the gallery next week.
All the prints ready for transport to the gallery next week.

About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs.

☛ Website | Flickr | Instagram | Photography links | s2z digital garden | Tumblr