We’ve spent many hours in the darkroom developing the look that we have today. One of our adventures was the world of Lith printing.
A lith print is a print which has been overexposed in the enlarger in the darkroom a couple of stops and it is then developed in special developer called, lith developer. The lith developer is very dilute in its working solution and development of the image can take a relatively long time. The fact that this is all done under a red safe light also makes it difficult to see when to remove the print from the solution. Suitable photographic paper is a must for lith printing as not all papers give a good result. The visual appearance of a lith print is decidedly grainy, with dark shadows and the highlights can take on various tones. The lith solution itself can be quirky. It does not last very long in an open tray without some type of additive and, even then, can lose its effectiveness without any warning (five hours is about all you can expect from the solution). You can pretty much sit there for 40 minutes with a print in the developer only to find out that it has died on you and you need to replenish it.
There is a book on lith printing that a lot of people use. Marks and I found it to be lacking in some of the finer details. Lith printing can be rewarding, if you have the time and the money to play with it. The results are virtually impossible to duplicate (i.e. no two prints will be exactly the same). Turning out good results was frustrating and lengthy without any type of consistency. We would end up with one good print a day. For our needs, the process was too time consuming (we shoot a lot of film), hence we ended up with the split toning method that we embrace today. We did, however, want to share some of our images that were lith printed with you.
Notice the grain as well as the tones of the above image. None of the posted images will show the same tone. The tones they take on depend on a couple of different things – the paper (warm tone, neutral or cool), the strength of the lith developer and the temperature of the developer. There are more variables to consider but those are the main ones. The developer starts to die as soon as it is exposed to air.
Another grainy result with some warm tones. Note they are not as warm as the tones in the image above it.
Amazing how different the tones are in all three images when you see them together like this.
This one turned out relatively cool looking compared to the images that precede it.
All of these images were scanned from the silver gelatin prints without any editing other than dust removal and tone adjustment.
All the above were taken with the Mamiya 645, either the Mamiya 645 Pro or Pro TL.
We hope you enjoyed a small peek into our adventures in our darkroom.
From a damp and grey Florida (sigh), have a great Sunday.