Winter Lith! Caffenol Fail!

Pacific Lith

You know, I really like making lith prints, because I am so into the MAGIC of it – it pleases me so damn much that one can, through use of a diluted developer, produce images that have beige, brown, gold, olive, red, or other tones to it on black and white paper. How freaking cool is that?

What I’m not especially crazy about in regards to Lith printing is how incredibly long it can take to make a print. That part sucks. If I had a great big darkroom area and could put out a gigantor tray of lith devloper so I could process multiple prints at once, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but instead I’m working in my narrow bathroom, stuck between the table with the chem trays on it and the bathroom sink, in the dark, alone, and scared. And, of course, it’s winter, and I didn’t think to try to rig up a heating pad under my lith tray to bump up the temps (warmer lith developer temps will allow the image to develop faster). My house is around 68 degrees right now, and the developing times were sloooooow, like around 20-30 minutes for a print. Kill me now.

Savoy Lith

I tried out a few new old papers to lith this time. Some stuff didn’t work, but this paper, circa 1951 Ansco Indiatone Kashmir paper, lithed like a dream. Of course, it makes regular prints like a dream, too.

Savoy on Indiatone

Love this paper. SO MUCH.

I also tried out my Kodak Polymax Fine Art paper that seems to be fogged. This is the 16×20 paper that I cut a few pieces down for experimentation. It kind of lithed…

Orca Lith

I’m not sure why it came out so splotchy. Maybe the paper had some kind of slight water damage to it? At least it did something, and I’m willing to give it another go with warmer chems.

Finally I whipped out some of my Agfa Cykora Kashmir paper that gave me such a good result with this lith print last year:

Tree and Dunes, lithed

I used 3 minute long exposure under the enlarger and had it in the lith devloper for 9 minutes. As a contrast, I did this test strip for the new lith print:

Cykora test strip

I used 20 second increments and wound up going with the darkest strip (80 seconds) to base my exposure on. I ultimately did a 5.5 minutes enlarger exposure for the lith print, which is a crazy long time to listen to my Gralab digital darkroom timer beep every second. I felt like I was on ’24’ waiting for the bomb to go off.

Here’s the resulting print, about 25 minutes later (see! I told you my chems were cold! And probably exhausted, too!):

Wapa lith

On a different subject, Travis has been interested in using Caffenol lately as a developer. For the uninitiated, it’s an instant-coffee based developer. The base ingredients used are instant, caffeinated coffee, water, washing soda, and Vitamin C. We used soda ash in place of the washing soda (I’ve previously used soda ash interchangeably for washing soda when I was dying cotton fabric), and citric acid in place of the Vitamin C. We took some shots on 3×4 sheet film to test out, and began to develop.

Where I think we went wrong, in retrospect, was that I had the brilliant idea to try developing the sheets of ortho lith film we had shot first. The ortho film is able to be handled under a red safelight, so I thought, great, let’s try developing this in trays first so we can watch how the film develops and judge how long it takes. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is that apparently the developing takes longer with a slower speed film… and we were shooting our ortho lith film at ASA 12.

About 25 minutes later, we saw only the barest hint of development in the negatives, and finally I just said “Screw it,” and whipped up a quicky batch of print developer (fortunately, I had the concentrate stored under the bathroom sink… in case of emergencies, I guess?), and we threw the caffenol-soaked negatives in there. They developed about 2 minutes later, looking no worse for the wear.

Samoca and apple

Travis tried developing another pieces of sheet film (100 speed this time) in the Caffenol in a tank, but it just came out completely blank. I think the Caffenol had gone weird by that point – I guess it has a really short shelf life. So, anyway, a FAIL, but something we’ll probably try again. Just not with ASA 12 film.

Since I wound up making a small batch of the print developer anyway, I put it to good use making some cute little contact prints using some circa 1970s FSC Contact paper.


This is another paper I love, even though it’s glossy (I kind of hate glossy paper). It’s weird, some prints tend to go brownish, and others made on the same paper went a lot colder in feeling.

Buick Regal

Same paper. Weird, I know. It probably has something to do with the time spent in the developer.

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