U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: lith film

Re: lith film

  • To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
  • Subject: Re: lith film
  • From: Keith Gerling <keith.gerling@gmail.com>
  • Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 10:37:07 -0500
  • Comments: "alt-photo-process mailing list"
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  • Reply-to: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca

I've received two off-list requests for how I make low-contrast
negatives, so I'll share it here.

I make really big negatives and I make a lot of them, so I need an
inexpensive approach.  Most methods I've seen use some sort of
expensive concoction of chemistry.

I've used variations of the same method with several different
developers over the last 10 years.  All of them were proprietary
super-strong concentrates intended for use in the printing industry,
the last one being Radcon from this place in Chicago
http://uniformgraining.com/ that costs about $80 for two gallons.  My
guess is that there are similar needs in your region, so there will
likely be similar developers.  I'm told that the developer I'm using
now is mostly hydroquinone and that this will change because of
environmental concerns.

This is not a method that will go over well with fussy control-freaks
(which perhaps leaves out most readers here), but since developing is
in trays under red lights, it is essentially a "by inspection"
approach which leaves quite a bit of leeway for tweaking, and very
little in the way of consistency.  (BTW, I like that.  On a side note,
I have to say I'm having a really hard time making the transition to
digital negs because everything is so darned consistent and easy and
factory-like.  I'm working on ways to re-introduce chance...)

This is what I do:

Flash the lith film with one or two "pops" under a dim room light.

Make the exposure under the enlarger.

Pre-wet the film to wash off all of anti-halation backing.  Do to
size, I do all of my processing in one 48x48 inch plywood "tray" (boy,
is this thing ever ugly)

Here come the part where I lose the squeamish:  I never discard the
developer.  I have a bucket with 2 liters of very dark developer that
I started with several years ago.  Like Theseus' ship, it isn't really
the same, I lose developer every time I use it, and I keep adding
water and concentrate, as well as occasionally discarding the sludge.
But it is the same 2 liters and somewhere in that bucket floats a
molecule or two that I started with (I think).

Prior to developing a sheet, with a syringe I extract 6cc of developer
concentrate (obviously, this amount will very depending upon your
concentrate,  One concentrate I used needed 10, and another needed
about 4), add it to the bucket and pour it onto the film.

Rock the tray as usual and watch the magic unfold.  If it doesn't
unfold to my expectations (in 2 minutes or so), I pour the developer
back into the bucket, add another squeeze of concentrate, pour it back
in the tray, and resume.

Obviously this method is pretty crude and could probably be refined.
The gist of it is, like any other silver b&w process, you expose for
the shadows (helps with the flashing) and develop until you get the
blacks you need for your highlights.  The trick is the very weak
developer.  I have no idea why it seems to work better using exhausted
developer, but whenever I've tried coming up with a ratio of fresh
concentrate to fresh water, I've always got bad results.


  • References:
    • lith film
      • From: Keith Gerling <keith.gerling@gmail.com>