Following my posts about contrast control at the paper negative development stage, I now look at print development techniques …

Paper negatives open up many possibilities for self-expression. Until a year ago or so, I had laboured under the false assumption that there was limited scope for altering the look of a picture through paper negatives. But of course this is not so.

Yesterday I experimented with two-bath development. I started with a 7×5 paper negative taken in-camera with my Walker Titan 7×5 camera and a 210mm lens. The indoor scene had a limited range of tonality (about a span of 8 stops). The picture was taken using grade 2 Ilfospeed RC paper at an EI of 12. It was processed in 1:18 Ilford Multigrade developer at 20 C.

A quick word about two-bath development. This involves developing the picture in two different developing baths and cycling the print between them. Playing with the chemical composition of each bath, the development time and their dilutions gives you a wide range of results. There are two types of two-bath development: divided development where the active ingredient is isolated in one bath and the activating alkali in a second bath; and true two-bath development where each bath has the full complement of chemicals necessary to develop the print. It is the latter type that I explore here.

A large range of two-bath options are open to us. For example one could use a soft developer in one bath (such as Metol only) and a harder developer in the second bath, such as Hydroquinone coupled with Metol for super-additivity.

I chose to use a Catechol bath and a Lith bath after seeing some interesting results from film-based pictures on social media.

The catechol bath was Moersch SE 20C Catechol. A quick word about the ingredients. Moersch Catechol is a hard working developer with both Catechol and Hydroquinine present as developing agents. The two molecules are related, Catechol being the ortho version of the C6H4(OH)2 molecule whilst Hydroquinone being the para version (therefore more of a redox effect). The primary restrainer is Potassium Bromide which slows the reduction of the silver halide, reduces the contrast and adds a warm tone to the image. A couple of other developers are also present in small quantities.

The Moersch Lith developer only has Hydroquinone without Bromide in Part A. Part B is simply the alkali Potassium Carbonate.

I used the Catechol bath first to avoid any lith effect which would result from using the Lith bath first. I used Ilford FBWT semi-matt paper which does not lith without snowballing. The Catechol dilution was 1:50. The Lith dilution was 20+20+1000. I developed each print by inspection and used two water stop baths between each developer bath to reduce cross-contamination. Using an acid stop bath would have made for less consistency since Catechol is more sensitive to low PHs than is Hydroquinone and therefore multiple transfers between an acid stop bath and Catechol would have reduced the Catechol effect more than the Lith effect.

Here are the results of my experiment (this is not a scientific experiment as not all of the variables are easily controlled. For example the baths change in chemical composition as you push more prints through them). The white squiggle on each picture is there so that ‘paper white’ can be seen (they show white on my prints but not on my screen!). They come from a black marker pen squiggle that I put on the back of the paper negative.

The captions explain the treatment of each picture. I developed one of the prints using Ilford Multigrade developer 1+9 as a reference print for comparison purposes.

These are scanned straight from print. It is very difficult to calibrate my screen to my physical pictures and your screen will show these pictures differently to mine, but it gives an idea of the range of possibilities.