I was keen to start darkroom printing, but without a darkroom (or even the space for a darkened room) this would be difficult. The darkroom project in the garage was quite a long way off but I was keen to try some sort of printing first. The obvious answer was to try Harman Direct Positive paper! It was a case of loading the paper into the film holders in the dark tent and then exposing it in the Graflex Speed Graphic. I had the extra
pressure motivation to produce some new work for the Alt Photo Festival as so much of my personal work is family orientated. So the learning curve was to be steep and quick! I planned to shoot Hume Castle and a couple of nearby trees early in the morning. The result from this paper is known to be extremely contrasty if you don’t pre-flash it under an enlarger first. I didn’t have time to experiment with this so I decided to ensure the scene was lit by fairly non-directional and flat light. Fortunately we have that in abundance during a Scottish winter!
Developing the paper is a simple case of loading it into the MOD 54 and replacing film developer with paper developer (I chose Ilford Multigrade). Being a fibre paper the wash time is extremely long (around 1 hour) and it tends to dry very curly. There are various methods for drying this paper to reduce the curl. I tried it face up on some stretched material but the curl was still very pronounced. I placed the prints underneath some heavy books, sandwiched between some clean pieces of paper. After a few days the prints were flat enough to scan.
I have tried ironing some subsequent prints on the lowest iron setting and without steam. I again sandwiched the print between some clean paper and placed a cotton napkin on top. It work very well and is the flattest print I have. I’ll iron the rest some time too.
Here are the results; I’m really happy with them. The contrast is high as expected considering I didn’t pre-flash, but I think it makes the prints really very dramatic. I’m looking forward to shooting more!
Exposure: f/32, 40s, ISO 3
Exposure: f/11, 200s, ISO 3
This one was taken during sunrise and demonstrated the limited dynamic range of paper:
Exposure: f/16, 12s, ISO 3
So that I had a comparison, I took the same scenes on 5×4 sheet film (Foma 100) too!
Exposure: roughly f/40, 5s, ISO 100
Exposure: f/16, 27s, ISO 100
Clearly film is successfully able to record a scene with a wide dynamic range much better than photographic paper:
Exposure: f/16, 0.5s, ISO 100