Guidance Needed for Re-entry into B+W printing : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

After a nearly 15 year hiatus I plan to reenter the realm of B+W printing. I had used graded, FB, DW material called Agfa Brovira with which I was quite satisfied. I want the cold tone, richest blacks available. I have so many questions: 1. VC vs. graded papers? Pros and cons... 2. Ability to tone VC papers 3. Use cold head vs condenser head with VC or graded0 4. If use cold head, need for 40 yellow filter plus the VC filters 5. Which paper? Bergger, Brilliant, Ilford 6. Whcih developer? 7. Will ferricyanide or its congeners work on either type or just on graded paper? Thanks for your help

-- Walter Lemann (, May 03, 2000


Walter, Welcome back!!! First of all I think Brovira is still available. I too love cold tones for alot of my printing. Visually, I think it has more depth... my own opinion. Some things have changed since you have have done darkroom fun (and really, not for the better). I print with an Aristo cold light head on my D-2 and love it! I don't use the 40 Y because I have tweaked my developers to get the tone I want. For the negs, I use a split bath, Divided D76 or Diafine for my TXP 4x5 and my Ektapan 100 4x5 negs. I also like Ilford's HP5+ and FP4+. As far as my print developer, Ethol LPD is great! It can be gotten liquid or powder, has a long shelf life and can be diluted to go from warm tones to cold tones with no contrast build up. For papers, Brilliant, Ilford MG IV, Forte, Agfa, and Luminos are great manufactures. For straight prints... Ilford for me. Luminos has some really nice textures and is a fine paper. I am not familiar with Bergger... Potassium Ferricyanide bleach works well on the new papers but they are faster working so a more dilute bleach would be wise to start out with. Welcome back, if your interseted in some recipes or if I can help... email me. Cheers, Scott

-- Scott Walton (, May 03, 2000.

I would highly recommend the Aristo VCL-4500 dual grid cold light. This, I find allows you to critically control contrast without creating a morass of test strips. It has great range and can easily be fitted to Omega or Besseler enlargers. I'm a big fan of LPD as well for all the reasons previously mentioned. As far as paper goes, I've had reasonable success with Ilford MG IV FB. but I would not classify it as a cold tone paper. For that requirement, I use Kodak Polymax Fine Art. I had problems with that emulsion a few years ago, but I recently had a need to use some and the new batch I got seems to work great. It also has some optical brighteners in it which make images sparkle. Naturally, if the richest dark tones and coolest color tone is your game, I would encourage selenium toning as a routine part of your printing procedure. Good luck and if you get a chance, please take a look at my work.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (, May 04, 2000.

Brovira is sadly no longer available. I have experimented with a lot of papers recently, but my best prints have been on Ilford Ilfobrom Galerie and Ilford MG Fiber. These papers work fine with cold light. The galerie may be the best substitute for Brovira available, but it doesn't change tone much in selenium.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, May 04, 2000.

Ed's right Walter. I wished he wasn't but he is. I used brovira single weight fb for years as my proofing paper and then switched to the warmer portriga. I printed some landscapes last nite(until 4 am, got to work at 8...zzzz! what? oh s'cuze me) on the last of my portriga 16x20 and it has age fogging.... I whupped out the bleach to try and retrieve some whites but it's a little too far along... I nearly cried. I've been looking for a good replacement and Gallerie would do I'm sure but I'm still looking around. Thankfully we're seeing a bit of a rebirth of the love for fiber and I've tried a bunch but haven't settled yet. I use a condensor source so I could speak about papers that look good on mine but you're tastes and equipment will differ. Half the fun is getting there... good luck.

testing, testing, testing!

-- Trib (, May 04, 2000.

One of the major questions I have is whether to go with variable FB or graded FB product. As to type, I am looking strongly at Bergger from France which is available from What is your read on the VC vs graded issue? Is there a major con with the VC; the pro is obvious...less inventory and more contrast choices.

-- Walter Lemann (, May 04, 2000.

The only con I can think of w.r.t VC is the fact that they can initially behave awkwardly with cold lights, especially the older generation of W45 and W55 tubes (the filters are optimized for tungsten sources and the blue heavy W45 can result in much higher contrast). Contrast can be high and the contrast grades are often unevenly spaced. Nothing unworkable or that a little testing (and extra filtration) cannot get around. I wouldn't worry excessively about it. Half the fun is trying a bunch of papers. There is enough subtle differences in the sensitometric curves that a particular graded paper may fit a particular negative beautifully. And vice versa. God luck. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, May 04, 2000.

From N. Dhananjay: Thanks for the answer. Follouwp to that is as follows: Is there any limitation on using toning, bleaching or restraining with the VC versus graded. I am not sure what it means when some say that certain papers do not "take" toner or respond to it. Does this have to do with whiteners, hardeners or just what.

-- Walter Lemann (, May 04, 2000.

The recent book by Ctein "Post exposure" addresses many of the questions you have about VC papers. It is also well written and easy to read.

-- Pat Raymore (, May 04, 2000.

I currently switch between the Iford Multigrade VC FB and the Kodak Polymax Fine Art VC. I have had excellent results with these. I have used selenium toner which cools the image and deepens the blacks. I have not tried any graded papers, so I cannot offer a comparison. I have heard that the reason that VC papers don't accept toner as well as graded papers is that the VC papers have two emulsions,a high contrast emulsion and low contrast emulsion, and they do not tone at the same rate. However, you can get excellent results with the variable contrast.

-- Cameron Mosley (, May 04, 2000.

To get back into the swing of things try Ilford MG FB !! Regards Paul

-- Paul Owen (, May 05, 2000.

Variable contrast papers may tone differently at different contrasts, but unfortunately so do different grades of some graded papers (perhaps less noticeably). One advantage of Ilford MG Fiber is that while it does darken considerably and gain contrast, it does not change color appreciably, so any contrast you choose will look very like another when toned. The Ilford MG Warm does turn rather brown in strong selenium toner, but the color simply isn't as pleasing as the old Agfa Portriga's.

-- (, May 05, 2000.

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