Lith! (part deux!)

I went back into the darkroom yesterday to try lith printing again for the third time. I was especially excited to try lithing the Prinz Bromal Linen paper from 1975. I thought it had potential to turn out pretty neat. I had kept the enlarger at the same settings as I did the 5×7 contact prints the other day, so I already knew how long a regular exposure was on that paper. To do the contact print, I made an exposure of 4 seconds onto the Prinz paper.

Argonnes, 1917

Since lith prints require a lot longer exposure, I exposed the paper for 32 seconds, which was a three stop increase. From what I’ve read, people recommend overexposing the print for 2 or 3 stops for lith printing. I went for three in hopes that, since this would be the first lith print of the day, the increased exposure would kick my lith developer into gear and start making magic right away.

I put it into the developer, and seven minutes later I had this (Whoops! Just now realized that I had flipped my negative!):

Argonnes, lithed

I had not anticipated how the texture of the paper would affect the way the final lith print looked. I’m not too keen on this print, because a lot of detail is lost in the texture, however, you can see that the paper actually liths well. Notice how the print that was developed normally has all of that light gray fog to it? The lith process, because it develops the dark tones in the paper earlier than the light tones, actually cuts through that fog. Which is awesome! I might try using this paper again for lith prints, especially since it reacted with the developer quickly, but probably for images that aren’t as detail heavy as this one was.

While I was developing the Prinz lith prints (I made two), I was also trying to get a 5×7 lith print on Arista II Grade #3 paper to develop. That didn’t go so well. I wound up getting only a faint olivey-peachy tone on that paper. Other paper that didn’t work: Luminos Flexicon VC RC Pearl. That’s a paper I haven’t ever used before at all, and even though it didn’t work for lith printing, it looks like it might be great for regular printing.

Since I was waiting for the Arista II paper to do, well, anything, I went ahead and did a contact print with another paper I haven’t tried before: Kodak Kodabromide F2 postcard papers that expired in 1970. This is really neat photo paper that is postcard sized (hence the name), but also has a standard postcard design on the back, with an area for a stamp and an address. I hadn’t worked with this paper before, and probably really should have made a test strip to see what kind of exposure the paper needed, but I figured that it was the same grade as the Prinz, and only a few years older, so I did a contact print of one of the 5×7 negatives with a 40 second exposure. The 5×7 negative was larger than the paper, so parts of the original image were cropped.

After 22 minutes in the developer, it looked like this:

Civil Defense

That’s the kind of result I’ve been looking for! Kodabromide for the win! I have more Kodabromide in various weights and sizes, so it’ll be interesting to see if it all liths this well, or if I just get this result for the postcards.

Next, I wanted to try using some 70 year old Agfa Cykora paper. I hadn’t ever gotten into this, either, so I didn’t know what to expect. My first print, while problematic, was also promising:


This was in the developer for 17 minutes. I would have yanked it a lot earlier, but the rhino’s head hadn’t developed at all. The paper did this weird develop from the middle thing, and also had lines running the length and width of the print that didn’t develop at all. I’m guessing that that came from a seam in the protective black envelope that held the paper.

So, I gave the Cykora another shot. Just so you can see how fogged this paper is, here’s my test strip that I did for the next print. I exposed the paper in increments of ten seconds.

Test strip for tree picture

That’s what the paper looks like developed in regular paper developer. I figured a regular exposure of 25 seconds was as close to correct as I could get with this. I decided to expose the paper for the lith print for a total of 3 minutes, a little bit under a 3 stop increase.

After nine minutes in the developer, I yanked the print. This is the final result.

Tree and Dunes, lithed

Yay! How awesome is that? It’s so cool to think that this process can make papers that are outdated and fogged produce fantastic, toned prints.

I think I’m going to do one more day of regular black and white printing, another day of lith printing, and then move on giving color printing a shot again. I’m excited about all of it.


Pinhole Colorado

I think I threatened to talk about doing lith prints before, but never actually followed through, probably because I still haven’t gotten a result I’m real happy with yet. I’ve only tried it twice, though, and I am ever hopeful.

Lith printing, for those who don’t know, is a wonderful, weird, magic process that not only imparts color to black and white paper, but also does wonderful, weird, and magic things to the highlights and shadows in your print. For example, here is an example of a good lith print. Magic things have happened to this print!

I like magic, and I like weird, wonderful processes with unpredictable results, so, lith printing, yay! Count me in! I did a little bit of reading about it on the intertubes, and came across this article, weitten by Tim Rudman, who apparently a master lith printer. Seriously, the dude should just walk around wearing a top hat and calling himself Grandmaster Lith. I have no idea what he looks like, so I’ll just imagine that he already does that. Anyway, the article was helpful and informative, and answered the big question that I had, which was, what kind of developer do I need to do this?

The answer is that in order to lith print, you need a magic developer, referred to as an A+B (not to be confused with Diafine, which is a film developer with a part A and part B – it took me a while to realize that Diafine wouldn’t work for lith printing… but maybe? In a heavily diluted formula with film? Has anyone ever tried this?). I digress. Anyway, this developer was designed for graphic arts applications, to be used with ortho lith film. I guess if you develop exposed ortho lith film in A+B developer at the regular concentration level, you get a pure black and white image, with no gray tones whatsoever. I haven’t actually tried this yet, so I’m not speaking from experience here.

But, if you dilute the A+B developer more, like 1:24 instead of 1:6, then you get a weak developer ready to do all sorts of crazy stuff with your image! I’ll let Gradnmaster Lith explain, because he’s far more knowledgeable about this than I am:

The whole process of Lith printing relies on a property of Lith developers known as ‘infectious development’. This is different to the way normal developers develop a black and white image. In simple terms, infectious development means that the darker a tone becomes, the faster it develops. The faster it develops of course, the darker it becomes, and so it develops even faster still. This leads to an explosive chain reaction where the shadow tone development speeds away from the slowly progressing light and mid tones, which lag way, way, behind. The print is ‘snatched’ from the developer when it reaches the point required by the printer.

See? Magic!

You have to expose your print differently for lith printing as opposed to making a regular print. Basically, you want to overexpose your image by 2 or 3 stops onto your paper. So, make a contact strip, develop it in some regular paper developer, pick whatever time seems to look the best, double that time, and then double it again. Make your extended exposure onto whatever paper you’re going to try and lith, and then dump it into your diluted A+B developer. Easy, right?

Well, maybe. Because although Grandmaster Lith warns that “fresh lith developer often gives unexciting results,” he doesn’t come out and say, “oh, and by the way, you might want to settle into a comfy chair and listen to an exciting book on tape, because what seems like an eternity will pass before an image appears.” He should have said that, but no, not so much.

So, the first time I gave lith printing a go, I set up the darkroom with boundless enthusiasm, mixed up my lith developer, using, as I always do with black and white prints, room temperature water, exposed my print, and waited.

And waited.

Time passed.

(insert stock footage here of movie scenes where clocks speed forward, and long taper candles burn down to nubs)

It was dark inside the darkroom. And lonely. I had no idea if the outside world still existed.

I prodded the paper with my tongs, flipped it over and over again, unsure if I had the emulsion side up anymore. I may have wept.

Finally, *finally* after more than a half hour, I got this:

The tree pic, lithed

Yeah! Hey, it’s that tree pic! And it looks… brown. Not ethereal or transcendent or anything. Just brown.

I tried again, using different paper. This time, I just said screw it, and actually just up and left the darkroom for about 45 minutes. I came back and saw this hideousness:

Multiple lith FAIL

All righty then! That whole session was a FAIL! I was bummed, and put the lith stuff away, not to return to it for a while.

What I did do, though, before I packed it in, was save a small amount of used lith developer in a container. Used lith developer is known as “Old Brown,” as if it were a hound dog that periodically shows up on your land and rifles lazily through your trash. “Hey, hon,” you might say with a grudging amount of affection in your voice. “Old Brown is back again.”

“That dog’s trouble.”

And then you’d both watch as Old Brown strolls away from your yard with an empty pizza box in his mouth.

That Old Brown is nothing like this Old Brown. It doesn’t go through your trash, for one thing. Also, it’s a liquid, and lives in a plastic bottle. But, much like how the hound dog Old Brown will periodically kill a gopher that’s been marauding your garden or bark at the weirdos in the car with the 4×5 cameras that want to take a picture of your barn (ahem), the liquid Old Brown might do you a favor, too. Because if you happen to add a bit of Old Brown to your fresh lith developer, it makes your lith prints better! I guess it speeds up the infectious development. Or something. Note: they don’t call me Grandmaster Lith.

So, that’s what I did for the second attempt at lith printing, back in October. I added some Old Brown to my fresh lith developer, and also used a lot warmer water to mix it up. Grandmaster Lith does note, “Again, a wide range of dilutions (and temperatures) may be used for different effects,” and from some other things I read online, other people doing lith prints said they were working with developer around 80 degrees or so.

I had better results the second time.

David's van and garage, lithed

Okay, nothing too exciting going on there, but at least it was a little toned, and, more importantly, didn’t take an aeon to develop.

This picture and the one at the top of this post were lith printed using old Kodak papers from the 1950s – one of the things that is neat about lith printing is that old, slightly fogged papers can sometimes give awesome results lithed. But probably the result that showed the most promise was done with just a few year old Arista II paper.

Dodge Dart

I probably should have kept that in the developer for longer – note the dark blacks I was starting to get, but I got paranoid and yanked it. Still, the color is nice, kind of peachy.

Anyway, I’m going to try Epic! Lith Printing! Session! tomorrow again. I’ve got an assortment of different papers I want to try out. Hopefully, I get prints that only take about 7-10 minutes to develop instead of several years. I’ll post the results, providing I get any. And that it doesn’t make me sob in despair.

(Note – I’ve run across these two articles lately, and they might be worth perusing as well.)

A Fortunate Confluence of Events

We bought a few things lately that, happily, wound up complimenting each other quite well. The first thing is a few packs of X-ray film.

X-ray film

One of my Flickr contacts, the pinhole wizard Wheehamx, uses X-ray film all the time in his wacky pinhole adventures. I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me this long to score some and try it out – I’m not even entirely sure why I bought some this time. I have been ebaying late at night and bought it without thinking. Weird! Regardless, it showed up at my house, so I had to find something to do with it.

The X-ray film is meant for, well, X-rays, and as such contains no information about how to handle it for regular (or experimental) photography use. Wheehamx gave me some tips. Apparently, most X-ray film has a double sided emulsion, which is weird, but nice – you can’t accidentally put the wrong side towards the lens. He said that he’s been rating the film he uses at about 100 ISO, but since the film can be developed in paper developer under a red safelight, that’s kind of less important – you can develop it by inspection.

Of course, I didn’t read his information until after I stuck a sheet of the Kodak X-ray film into a pinhole camera and took a picture… with an exposure time of one minute. Yeah. That was kind of overkill. Here’s the first shot:

Test shot

I also discovered that the Kodak X-ray film, at least, needs gentle handling. The marks all over the picture are tong marks, since I’ve gotten in the habit of just randomly jabbing film or paper that I’m tray developing with my tongs. Probably not the best habit to get into. Oh well. Live and learn.

What I didn’t realize when I purchased the X-ray film is how well it would go with something else we bought. Meet Watson, our new 5×7 large format camera:


We’ve kind of been wanting a 5×7 camera ever since we didn’t buy one at an auction last year, and have been kicking ourselves because of it. It was the one that got away! Anyway, we randomly bought this one on a whim. It came without a lens, but we figured we could find something that we already had that would work. Our house is sort of a graveyard where camera parts come to die and/or miraculously come back to life!

We sorted through our camera bits and came up with this lens/shutter combo:


The shutter is pretty flaky. It works more or less on the 1/100 setting (although it probably actually shoots at around 1/50 or so) and the Time and Bulb setting, and that’s pretty much all we absolutely need. The lens is 170mm, and covers the entire field of view, but I’d definitely like to get a bigger lens at some point. And a shutter with more than one speed.

We (again, randomly) have accumulated 6 5×7 film holders, which is lucky. I also bought a pack of 25 sheets of Arista Ortho-lith 5×7 film a while ago, so I had both film and paper. Ortho-lith film is a lot cheaper than regular black and white film, and can be developed in paper developer under red safelight, like the X-ray film. However, as much as I heart Freestyle generally, their ortho-lith film is really… flimsy. To be generous. The film base is extremely thin, and I find it a lot less pleasant to deal with than “real” film, which normally has a thicker, more durable base. But that’s where the X-ray film comes in! It’s faster speed than the ortho-lith film (ortho-lith film tends to be really slow, like around ASA 12), but can also be developed in the same manner, and, more importantly, has a lot thicker base, so is easier to deal with.

Coincidentally, the Fuji X-ray film I got happened to be exactly 5″ wide. Since it’s safe to handle under red lighting, I was able to trim down the sheets of film into 5×7 pieces, and then cut the remaining 5″ square pieces into 4×5 for our 4×5 cameras. Yay! The Fuji film is also a lot less resistant to tong marks, by the way. (double yay!)

So, it was time to actually try out the camera! After one extremely lame test shot taken looking out the window on an extremely dark day…

Watson's first photo!


…we gave Watson his first official test run. Travis got out our collection of nuclear apocalypse themed crap, and we went into the backyard and did a Fallout themed photoshoot.

I used the Fuji X-ray film and shot on the 1/100 (which, remember, is actually a lot slower than that) using apertures between f16 to wide open. I would have closed the aperture down more, but we accidentally screwed the lens in too tight on the lensboard, and can only close the aperture ring part way. Whoops!

Because the 5×7 negative is large, my scanner can’t even come close to scanning in the entire thing. I can only scan something that’s about 2.25″ wide, like the scan of the test photo above. So, I tray developed the X-ray negs, let them dry, and then made contact prints of them.

I used two different photo papers to make the contact prints. The first paper I tried was some Arista II Graded RC Lustre paper, grade 3. Grade 3 is used for negatives of medium to low contrast, and normally works really well for me, since, well, my negs seem to come out low contrast a lot. However, the X-ray film – especially the Fuji X-ray film – is high contrast. The prints from the X-ray film came out like this on the grade 3 paper:

Travis, watching out for supermutants

Not too bad. But there were a few of the prints where Travis was in shadow, and wound up looking like a big smudge of black. So, off I went to rifle through the paper collection, trying to find some lower contrast or variable contrast 5×7 paper.

What I found was the paper that’s on the top of this pile:

1975, as seen in photographic paper

It’s Prinz linen bromide enlarging paper, grade 2. It expired sometime in 1975. I’ve never even heard of this before I got this box, so I’ve been looking forward to trying it out. This finally seemed like the perfect subject.

Checking for radiation

The paper is a bit fogged, but I did get more gray tones (probably because of the fogging), and I actually liked the tint that the fog gave the paper. And the texture is just plain cool.

Argonnes, 1917

As far as the actual camera goes, shooting pics with Watson takes a little bit of patience. It’s not much different than using a 4×5 press camera like the Speed Graphics, but it’s one of those cameras where you have focus by throwing a dark cloth over the back of the camera and your head. It’s not that big of a deal, unless you happen to have long hair and are a big staticball in the winter anyway. But Watson did a good job!

Looking down the barrel of a gun

Ooooh, shallow depth of field, just the way I like it!

Photomicography film!

It’s not like I haven’t developed Kodak’s Photomicography film before. I have, twice. Both times we wound up developing the E4 film in cold C41 chems, and results have been amber colored negatives. The negatives were difficult to scan in, but when they did, they revealed cold toned pictures like this:


So, I was excited to finally try developing the Photomicography film in cold E6 chems! I was looking forward to seeing what the film looked like processed as close to normal as I could manage.

After a small eternity in the Paterson tank, we hung the film up to dry only to see an entire roll of images like this:

Pointy bird

Um. What?

Yeah, so I guess the entire time I’ve had this stockpile of Kodak Photomicography Film, I never bothered to look at the info sheet beyond reading the words “E4” and “use an exposure index of 16.” I got the sheet back out and read through it.

Sleepy cat

“Kodak Photomicography Color Film 2483

High-definition, high-contrast, slow-speed color reversal film.

Extremely fine grain and very high resolving power.

Not designed for general pictorial photography.

This film is particularly useful to photomicographers because its image-structure characteristics allow them to take fuller advantage of their microscope optics. The enhanced color saturation of both the reds and the blues will greatly improve the rendering of the most widely used histological stains…”

Oh. Well, I guess I was kind of warned. It’s just so odd, though, because when the film is cross processed into a negative, it turns out semi-normal.

Flower with light leaks

Still, though, the aqua and purple color scheme is kind of awesome. I’ll probably develop more of the rest of the photomicography film in C41 chems rather than E6, but it might be fun to respool some of the 35mm film onto 127 or 120 backing paper and shoot some aqua sprocket hole weirdness.

Also, the aqua pictures looked nifty when I converted them into black and white.

Shock the monkey!

It’s almost like some areas were solarized, and some weren’t.

Pointy bird in black and white

I might try enlarging a slide onto ortho lith sheet film, and then making a black and white print from it.

Of course, if you want to amp up the weirdness, there’s always Photoshop.

Monkey in a tree

Black and white monkey

Monkey, all Miami Vice-ified

Film is magic!


Travis and I have developed So. Much. Film. over the past week. Some things came out great, some things came out like ass, and some were just… weird. And it’s all amazing. I just love film so much. I mean, I’m not one of those ‘Digital SUXX!11!!!!’ people at all. I love my digital cameras (the Nikon D40 is still, thankfully, hanging in there). But man, film? Is awesome.

Chase Motel

Stereoscopic film.


Color infrared film.


Sprocket hole film.


Nighttime film.

Lamp and clouds

Daytime film.

Bird in shades of aqua

Photomicography film.

Time Traveler

Backing paper film.

Zombie-eye view

Even zombie film!!

I still have a gigantor stack of film to scan in. More about some of this stuff in detail in the next week or so!

Two negatives should equal a positive, right?


I’ve had this idea I’ve wanted to try for a while now, involving multiple film lunacy. You see, I’ve got a small stash of Kodak EDUPE 4×5 slide film. EDUPE is a very slow film, and its main purpose is to be used under an enlarger to make large format duplicates of slides. It’s process E6, just like regular slide film.

I bought it a while ago not knowing what the heck it was, and then proceeded to use it in pinhole cameras, and, later, large format cameras. It has a weird color cast, since it’s designed to be used with an enlarger with color filters. Here it is processed E6:

Running sheep

And here it is cross processed in C41 chems:

When in doubt...

Last year I tried using EDUPE in the actual way it was supposed to be used, and made some enlargements of slide film. It worked, in a way – colors seemed accurate, although a little contrasty, but I had screwed up when I made the enlargements. I forgot to try focusing on a piece of paper or something the same thickness as the film, and instead focused on the enlarging easel. So, everything turned out blurry. Epic FAIL!

But, at least I knew that the process, in theory worked, and that I had a pretty big latitude as far as exposure times (a half second exposure didn’t seem hardly any different than a second and a half exposure).

The more I thought about the EDUPE, though, the more possibilities seemed to appear. Sure, I could enlarge slides and process in E6 chems and make large duplicates. But, what if I enlarged negatives onto the EDUPE, and then cross processed them in C41 chems? Would I get a big, weirdly colored positive?

So, today I dragged the enlarger into the bathroom and started embiggening. First, though, I had to fix my focus issue. I cut a piece of junk photo paper that looked to be close to the same thickness as the EDUPE film, and focused my image on that before making a test enlargement. I picked a cross processed negative for my test, hoping that I would get really sharp lines to focus on.

I made a 2 second exposure, and then developed the sheet of EDUPE in Diafine. I used that black and white developer since it was already mixed up, and I didn’t have to worry about getting out the color chems. The developed film is what is at the top of this post, scanned in as a positive image. It could maybe be a little sharper, but I think that’s probably the best I’m going to get with this enlarger.

So, after the test sheet, I went ahead and did a ton of exposures with the EDUPE. I’ve got piles of film to develop both in E6 and C41 chems. I’ll probably start developing some of the C41 film tomorrow. Yay!



So, last week I did some Diafine developing since I had a stockpile of found films I needed to develop. I had a small amount of Diafine left over from this summer, but not enough to fill an entire Paterson tank, so I had to order some fresh Diafine from Freestyle. I mixed that up a day ahead of time, and then the next day went about my developing, combining both the old Diafine and the fresh.

A while ago I had gotten a hold of 3 old exposed Ansco Memo 35mm cartridges. I tried to develop one of the rolls in HC110b, but all I got was a bunch of fog and no images. I developed the other two rolls of Ansco Memo 35mm along with a roll of 127 Kodak Verichrome Pan in the same tank. Happily, when I took the film out of the tank, I could see images on all three rolls. I hung them up to dry and went along with the rest of the developing day.

Later on, I went to scan them in. The cartridges had notes written on them, indicating that the film was shot in 1949, so I was thrilled when I began scanning and the first images scanned in like this:

In the park

Yay! Epic old film WIN! Couldn’t ask for a better result than that. I continued scanning, and noticed that some of the images were starting to get a little weird.


It’s a lot lower contrast, and if you examine the picture closely, you can see the white outlined edges on the trees in the background and along the shoulders of the woman. And then I scanned in the picture at the top of this post and realized what was happening – the film had somehow solarized.

Bewildered, I kept scanning in images from the two rolls of Ansco Memo film.


And then I scanned in this:

This is a positive image

Confused, I pulled the film out of the scanner to check it. And yes, this frame had somehow reversed itself altogether. Instead of having a negative image on the film, it was a positive, like a slide. Here it is scanned in as a positive image.


Weirdly, the entirety of both Memo rolls were like this. Frames either scanned in correctly as negatives, exhibited solarization, scanned in as positives, or, in some cases, had become a positive image with solarization.

Another positive

There was no rhyme or reason to this at all. It didn’t seem to be caused by a light leak in the Memo cartridge or the Paterson tank – the different effects limited themselves to a frame, and didn’t bleed over into the sprocket holes or film between the frames. I scanned in one strip of five negatives, all pictures of the same subject. 4 pictures had reversed themselves to become positive images, and the fifth was a normal negative.


I have no idea what caused this. The other roll of film in the tank, the 127 Verichrome Pan from the 1960s, was unaffected by the solarization and reversal entirely.

So, okay. It was just something odd what that specific film, then. Weird, but okay. At least, that’s what I thought until I started scanning in the photos from my roll of 124 film that I shot in the big Brownie box camera. Here are the first two images on that roll, both scanned in as color negatives (since that helps cut through the fog).

Negative scans

As you can see, it happened again. The second image on the roll reversed itself, just like what happened with the Ansco Memo film. Here it is scanned in as a positive:

Dead end positive

Three other pictures on that roll reversed themselves as well, becoming very low contrast positive images.

So, here’s another roll of old film, shot 60 some years after the Ansco Memo films, on an entirely different brand of film altogether, developed in a different batch, that gave me the same results. WTF?! The only thing I can think of that might help explain this whatsoever is that the two photos that came out with moderate to normal contrast on the roll of 124 film were the two pictures I shot using extended exposures. The other four photos I just used the regular instant setting on the box camera, and I don’t think that was long enough exposure to cut through the fog. So maybe only low contrast images were susceptible for reversal and solarization?

Anyway, the whole thing was bizarre, but kind of neat, too. It was one of those moments that made me really excited about shooting with film, because sometimes weird, unexplainable, unplanned things just happen, and I think that’s neat. I’ve since used the same batch of Diafine to develop more film (including some film from the same vintage as the ones that went weird on me), but everything has turned out normally. /shrugs