Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lith Prints -The Trial Run

Started Lith printing a couple of weeks back and it took a few runs to work out my darkroom work flow. Still far from perfect, it has been a rather enlightening journey, one that certainly was made more enjoyable with a glass of Vola Sangiovese from the local Trader Joes at times. It has been said Lith printing appeals to the artist in you, I can certainly attest to that as no two prints are alike. One notable point is the constant "agitation", a gentle tilting of the developer tray back and forth that is needed to get a good print. This is perhaps the most boring but necessary part of the Lith process in order to coax the image to come alive in your Lith bath. One may decide to steal a few winks while setting one's fingers to "automate" the motion, hopefully to be "awaken" at the right moment to snatch the print from the Lith developer.

Below are two Lith prints from my trial runs. The quick digital scans do not do them justice but you get the idea :)

"Printed from Kodak 125PX B&W neg of a red guitar still life, Oriental Seagull FB Warmtone paper, Moersch Lith Developer"

"Lith print, Two friends, Cinco de Mayo 2009, Oriental Seagull FB Warmtone paper, Moersch Lith Developer, Kodak 125PX film, this one could use a little dodging and burning I think"

A couple of advice I can pass on at this early stage:

  • Prepare your Lith developer as per manufacturer's instructions with respect to dilutions, fresh batch for each run if possible. Otherwise pepper fogging will plaque one's prints and you will be sorry. If you find yourself wavering, remind yourself that darkroom photographic paper is more expensive than developer!

  • Set up your darkroom work flow optimally so everything is in the right place, from exposing the film to tray development. This way objects are not in the way as time is the essence with Lith. The image takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes to develop then things progress rather quickly at that point. Developer dilution and recipe/temperature of bath are all variables that can affect developing time and the Lith effect. A chair in the darkroom is a must so you are comfortable.

  • Get a Maglite with red filter or better still, I bought two sheets of Rubylith film on eBay and tape them over an LED torch light. That did the trick for me and I did not have fogging for the 15-30 minutes when the prints are in the developer and I had to check it from time to time.

  • Good darkroom tongs so you can snatch the prints out of the developer at the right moment as it becomes critical at that stage. One second too many can alter the look of the print.

  • Fresh Fixer solution is a must. Exhausted fixer will bleach the precious highlights out of the print to your horror.

  • Fiber paper definitely prints better in Lith, Ilford RC works but the color lacks punch. Same can be said about bleaching an old B&W print and dipping it in Lith bath, the resulting Lith image is simply flat. Definitely no shortcut here.

  • If your black and white negative has nice contrast, printing without contrast filter renders better Lith results. This is probably a matter of personal taste/opinion, depending the look and mood you are trying to achieve.

  • This is a total darkroom development process much like traditional black and white wet room printing, unless one opts to take the short cut, bleach an old print and re-develop in Lith, that can be done in the daylight of course. I find the latter not very satisfying as the results are rather flat to say the least even if the paper has sufficient latitude for one to re-work.

  • Can you Lith print from color slide and color negative? Definitely, be prepared for interesting wildly different end results. I am not sure if there is any hard and fast rule as I have not gone that far with experimentation but blue and green will print closer to black better than red which will print as shades of gray essentially.

  • Most important of all, experiment, explore, have fun.

If you are interested in Lith printing, get this book by Tim Rudman, Lith guru The Master Photographer's Lith Printing Course: A Definitive Guide to Creative Lith Printing

Buy Moersch Lith Developer and other darkroom supplies here at Freestyle Photographic Supplies , definitely my favorite store!!