(Care has been taken to match the colour and tonality of these scans to that of the original prints, in so far as the technology allows it.)
The arrival in the UK in January 2013 of Russian photographic papers made by Slavich is something to be celebrated. Thanks must go to the team at Silverprint for persevering to arrange import once again as the papers have been unavailable here for many years.
For anyone printing using the lith method, there is double cause for celebration; both the papers available, Unibrom & Bromportrait, ‘lith’ well. These first examples are using Unibrom Smooth Double Weight Glossy 160BP,Grade 2 or ‘semi-soft’ as Slavich designate it, in size 24×30 cm.
The paper itself is a delight to handle. Not too much curl, lies flat in the processing dish almost instantly and is a good weight (250 microns). It is available in glossy and silk and in three grades, 2, 3 and 4. These examples use Grade 2, but for lith printing the actual grade makes little difference. All the Slavich papers are designed for use under red safe-lighting, dark red (Kodak No. 2) being recommended. I used a Kodak No.2 over the enlarger baseboard (Kodak Beehive, 25W lamp, 1 metre from baseboard) and two Kodak No. 1A’s over the processing sink (Kodak Beehives plus one hanging lantern type with top and bottom 1A filters that was only switched on towards the end of development, all about 1.2 metres from the dishes). I had no problems whatsoever with fog, even after the extended lith development cycle.
I have read that some users have found it to be safe to use a Kodak 0C filter, but have not tried this yet myself. I’m happy working under red, but one does have to note that blacks look much blacker and judging prints by inspection is therefore a bit trickier. I find my RH Designs Safetorch invaluable in this regard, even though it’s red too.
The prints: This negative was chosen as I had not printed it before and I thought the lith process would give it the ‘lift’ it needed. First, a print was made conventionally and processed in Ansco 120 Soft-working developer diluted 1:2 at 20°C for 3 minutes. The enlarger light source was unfiltered condenser on my De Vere 507.
I then opened the lens two stops and gave the same exposure on another sheet of the same paper, this time developed in Moersch EasyLith, diluted 1+25 (A:20+B:20+Water:1000ml) at 30°C.
Snatch point was at 2 mins 15 seconds. The lith effect was very pronounced, reminding me of the days when Kodak Transtar paper was available, with the image appearing very slowly and then the blacks rapidly filling. This was my first time using EasyLith and I’m finding it to be an excellent developer. There was a marked colour, but overall not excessive or garish, like Fomatone in LD20 tends to be.
I had read on Wolfgang Moersch’s Flickr photostream that Slavich papers respond well to the second-pass lith process. Also, he mentioned that the Bromportrait paper contains some phenidone in the emulsion, which can have an adverse effect on lith development. He recommends a pre-wash, before development, to remove this. I do not know if the Unibrom emulsion has this accelerator added, but I thought I would do a further print using a pre-wash and then try bleach and redevelopment (the ‘two-pass’ lith process).
This print, shown at the top of the page, looked almost identical to the one above after development and in the wash before bleaching. I used copper sulfate bleach, to completion, and then redeveloped the washed print in the same bath of EasyLith. This is done in room lighting so the print can be pulled at the point when the desired tone is reached.
There is a marked improvement in tone and colour to my eyes, including some subtle two-tone effects in the mid-tones. My conclusion has to be that that, using this simplest method of lith development, the two-pass process will yield some interesting and pleasing results on this paper. The scope for more varied lith development and additional toning also seems vast.
For easy comparison of print colour, here are thumbnails of the three prints in proximity.
More posts will follow of further examples on Unibrom, and also some on Bromportrait.