One of the purposes of this website is to say things as they are, and that includes mistakes. I keep a book of mistakes , noting on the back of each print what I thought had gone wrong. With salt printing, my book of mistakes is expanding very quickly!

I took a picture of Alison at the kitchen table with my Walker 5×7 and Ilford FP4 . I developed the film in PMK at double the recommended strength to give me sufficient density whilst allowing for some compensation of the window highlights.

I used HPR paper pretreated in citric acid to remove soluble carbonates and coated the paper in 2% pure salt. When dried, I coated the paper in 12% silver nitrate.

I exposed the negative/paper under UV light for 25 minutes then treated as follows:

5% salt water wash – 4 minutes

Second 5% salt wash – 5 minutes

Tap water wash – 1 minute

Gold toner – 7 minutes

5% salt water wash

Fix sodium thiosulphate 15%, 3 minutes

Second fixing bath, 2 minutes

Sodium sulphite bath, 2 minutes

Running tap water bath – 30 minutes

I was quite pleased with the result, as this was my first proper salt print. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get a better print.

Alison and Cactus 1

Two weeks later, this is what it looks like:

The highlights have faded and gone yellow. Fogging is probably due to insufficient washing and the yellow stain may be due to insufficient fixing. Also, there is insufficient contrast in the image.

So I decided on a different tack:

I sized the paper in Irish Moss and citric acid, then applied a 2% pure salt solution with 0.25% cupric chloride. The logic of the sizing is to prevent the silver nitrate penetrating into the fibres of the paper. The cupric chloride should increase the contrast. Everything else was kept constant except for the UV exposure time and washing time. Exposure was by eye. Washing was extended to 60 minutes.

Here is the result after 8 days. I like the tonalities of the stone tiled floor, which you can’t really appreciate by looking at it through a computer monitor. However the contrast is too much in the window and the chest of draws. But, I thought, a step in the right direction!

Alison and Cactus 2

I had noticed that the bleaching of the window area occurred during the gold toning. I decided to repeat the process but increase UV exposure time, to burn in the window, but reduce the toning time and the fixing time, which I felt had contributed to the bleaching.

Shock horror:

I don’t know what has happened here. I decided that I must have had some contamination, so I tried again. Still problems:

I over exposed the image to UV, hence it’s too dark. Also, I reduced the toning time to reduce the bleaching, but the colour is too much on the red side of brown for my liking. Also, you can see mottling under the table.

I repeated the process again and got worse results with a lot of mottling. I think the mottling has something to do with an improper balance between salt solution and silver nitrate. I have been using hake brushes with both the salting and silver steps, but it is difficult to keep the silvering brush clean.

So, I am having to rethink how to apply the salting and the silvering solutions. In the next installment I hope that I can report that I have solved these teething problems. But I’m not very confident. It’s very finicky.

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