Skip to main content

New 12"x16" FB Prints and Some Hand Coloring

Its been some time since I have done some FB prints in 12x16" size. I like bigger print sizes but with FB there is always the drying and flattening problem. I wrote an article about a solution for 8x10" prints which I use regularly and like the results. I scaled this up not too long ago for 12x16" and my initial trial resulted in some damage to the paper in the corner. This mimicked a comment made by a reader when he had tried to scale up a similar solution. Though the damage and distortion was limited it did discourage me.

I let the problem roll around in my head until I decided to do more prints. I had an unopened box of Ilford MGIV FB Classic and I wanted to try it. I decided I could reduce the paper tension by clamping the edges with less force. This worked flawlessly. Flat prints with no damage. I will give a complete report in a later post.

For this I chose some photos my brother took while we were on a backpacking trip in the Maze district in Canyonlands in Utah. He used his Hasselblad with an 80mm lens. He shot some color and black and white. I treasure these photos as he died young and not too many years after this trip. I describe our adventure here on my blog. The canyons, though spectacular in their full color, reveal some very nice textures and patinas when seen in black and white. I really enjoy this in the photos I have from these areas.

The first is a cottonwood tree  in the valley floor. I did the conventional split contrast test strips and settled on #5 at 22 seconds and #00 at 16 seconds. This was too light a print which I would use later for some hand coloring work. It  also did not have enough contrast in the rock wall. Next was #5 at 22 seconds and #2 at 22 seconds. Too dark particularly in the tree leaves. I left it there and went on to another print before returning the next day feeling nagged that I had not made my best effort.

Not only was the tree too dark but the slender section of sky above the canyon rim was white. This was because it was overcast that day and over-exposed. So I tried #5 at 22 seconds but dodged the tree for about 11 seconds. and moved to #1 filter for 22 seconds instead of #00 and burnt the sky on the #1 filter for 22 additional seconds. The rest of the print was great but the sky showed no improvement.

Reluctantly I dragged out the paper flashing technique. I say reluctantly because I have to completely change the enlarger setup as I use the enlarger to flash the paper. I also had to create a flash test strip for this paper. The test strip indicated 6 seconds of flash to move up the toe of the curve. So with the flashed paper I repeated what I had done before and the resulting print looked great. I was pleased overall; a little darker than the previous print (to be expected when one flashes the paper) and the sky had a little tone to keep it distinct from the margins. The result is below.

Maze Cottonwood 12x16" Print Ilford MGIV Classic FB
The other print I made was a juniper tree in the same canyon. The juniper is emblematic of the high desert in Arizona and Utah. Its dark green foliage and bright powder blue berries always stand out. This print was more straight forward and after a test strip I nailed it with two prints. The first was good but dark enough that some detail was lost in the tree itself. Slightly lighter and it really brought out the texture and details. No sky in the shot also helped.
Maze Juniper 12x16" Print Ilford MGIV Classic FB
Finally I took the too-light print of the Maze cottonwood to try my hand at hand coloring. I bought some time ago a Kodak set of oil paints for hand coloring of photos. These were available new in the 1930's.

The paints were still good though some of the tubes leak. (I don't think I would recommend this approach if you are serious, it is much cheaper than a new set but also messier.) The glossy paper was not the best to use for hand coloring as the paper needs a little texture or tooth to effectively pick up the paint. However the result was reasonably satisfying. I had color photos from the trip to help  with the color rendering. The scanner does not do justice here as there was some glare in portions of the scan that give the color a washed-out appearance in some areas. Good fun to give it a try though.
Maze Cottonwood 12x16" Print Ilford MGIV Classic FB
Hand colored with Kodak Oils