After some 15 years of my darkroom sitting in various attics quietly hoping for the day it would return to use – that day has finally come. A couple of nights ago, I printed a couple of basic photos on 10″x8″ and 12″x16″ Ilford Multigrade IV RC paper. I was really rusty, but I took my time and everything turned out okay. Even though it’s been a very long time, the process still feels quite natural to me – including the dodging and burning.
I printed sample images from Ilford HP5+, Adox Silvermax and Kodak Tr-X. All the films looked good on the photographic paper. As expected the Tri-X gave fantastic rich blacks, Silvermax a great tonal range and HP5+ the classic slightly flat look it is famous for. What I mostly noticed was that grain is much less apparent in an actual darkroom print than a digital scan. The image posted here does very little justice to the original print. I had read that scanners tend to enlarge grain on film, and this seems to be the case from my very limited experience here.
In terms of the photographs I printed, HP5+ has been my favourite to print. The images have a classic photojournalistic look – because the film is, of course, a classic photojournalists’ film!
Over the coming months I will use it some more, but not often as time is limited. A single decent final print can take several hours (test print; straight print; adjustments to grade and dodging and burning, etc.). However, the process for me is about enjoyment and taking photography back to basics.