Tag Archives: Selenium toner

Modern Monochrome: Three Views at Carneys Point, New Jersey.

On my visit to Carneys Point, New Jersey earlier this month, I exposed a few select frames of Kodak Tri-X using my Canon EOS-3 with 40mm pancake lens.

Previously, I posted a selection of the digital color photos that featured Conrail Shared Assets freight CA11. See: Bright Day on the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. https://wp.me/p2BVuC-59B

I processed the film yesterday (Monday, 27 November 2017) using my two-stage development recipe:

By starting with ‘presoak’ solution that features a very weak developer, I allow for increased development in the shadow areas. My primary developer for this roll was Kodak D-76 stock solution diluted 1-1 with water.

While I intentionally  under processed the film to avoid excessive highlight density, following stop bath, fixing baths, and rinse, I then soaked the negatives in selenium toner (mixed 1 to 9 )for 8 minutes to boost highlights to my desired ideal.

The results are these broad-toned monochromatic images with delicate silvery highlights.

A side effect of this process is the exceptionally archival quality of selenium toned original negatives that without any expensive storage conditions should long outlive my digital photos.

Conrail Shared Assets CA11 works at Carney Point, New Jersey.
The old Bell Telephone logo is a blast from the past.
My special ‘presoak’ developer aids in greater shadow detail.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.



Making use of a dull Morning—Another Take of 608.

So, if I called this Stafford Springs, Connecticut Part 3, would you be interested.

In truth, this is less about Stafford and its morning freight train and more about lighting and technique.

In two previous posts [see: New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again, and Going Against the Grain  I’ve detailed my efforts at photographing New England Central 608 working through Stafford Springs in harsh morning sunlight. This post depicts the same train on a dull morning, but also in black & white (Sorry Dave Clinton, but it has to be done).

I’m using the same camera-lens combination; a Leica IIIa with a screw-mount f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens. This time loaded with Ilford HP5. My process is about the same as in my earlier post New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

This time, I processed it using Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for eight minutes, rewashed and scanned.

 One small change; in this instance, I gave the film a little more toning than previously, which should make for slightly more silvery highlights. This is a subtle change, and probably barely perceptible on internet presentation.

New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs at 7:20am on May 10, 2017 ; exposed using a Leica IIIa with f3.5 Nikkor 35mm lens at f4.5/f5.6 1/200th second on HP5.
A slightly closer view of New England Central 608 at Stafford Springs. I’ve made this on at a slightly lower angle.

Compositionally, I’ve made an effort to include the village and not just focus on the locomotives.

I’m by no means done with this project, and I’ll continue to post with more photos and insights over the coming weeks. (Including some color views to please Dave and others morally opposed to black & white).

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!

New England Central at Stafford Springs, Connecticut—Again.

Call this ‘Part 2’—More hard light.

A few days ago, I displayed black & white photos I made at Stafford Springs, Connecticut in hard morning sunlight. See: Going Against the Grain.

Where the earlier images used an unusual film type (Foma Retropan), today’s image was made on Ilford HP-5, but with some special processing.

On May 9, 2017, New England Central freight 608 works timetable northward through Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Exposed on Ilford HP-5 using a Leica IIIa fitted with a Nikkor f3.5 35mm lens. Film was processed in Ilford Perceptol developer diluted 1:1 with water; after fixing and rinsing, negatives were toned in a 1:9 selenium solution for six minutes, then rewashed and scanned. The sky area received some localized exposure adjustment in post-processing, while there was some overall contrast adjustment to improve the appearance of the image.

In both posts, black & white photos feature New England Central 608 (a freight that runs between Willimantic, Connecticut and Palmer, Massachusetts) passing downtown Stafford Springs shortly after sunrise.

Today’s image was exposed from Main Street in Stafford on the opposite side of the tracks from the earlier photos, which provides a different perspective on the train and village.

Part of this exercise is aimed at demonstrating black & white photographic technique, however I’m also hoping to show how different angles at the same location can result in significantly different photos.

Also, that it’s possible to make interesting photos in difficult lighting situations, if you apply a creative approach to your photography.

I’m done here yet! To be continued on another day.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily!





Striving for Tonality.

Last month I made this photo of a tram near its terminus in Basel, Switzerland.

To achieve deeper tones, I’ve adjusted my photographic process, shortening the development time, then boosting highlights by toning the negatives after development.

Working with my Nikon N90S with f2.0 35mm lens, I exposed a roll of Ilford HP5, rating it at 320 ISO. I processed the film in Agfa (formula) Rodinal Special (mixed 1-30 with water) for 3 minutes 25 seconds at 68 degrees F.

By design, this resulted in acceptable negatives, slightly on thin (light) side. Then, after fixing (two stage) and a thorough 10 minute rinse, I toned the negatives in selenium (using a 1-9 mix) for nine minutes with regular agitation.

Selenium toner is poisonous, so I wear latex gloves and perform the toning outside to avoid breathing the fumes, and pre-rinse the film prior to bringing it back inside.

Toning the negatives in this way boosts the highlights, giving the images a slightly silvery glow, while improving archival stability.

For this photo, I made some additional changes in post processing.

After scanning, I imported the file to Lightroom, and digitally lowered the contrast and highlight density of the sky-area in the top 1/3 of the frame.

My intent was to produce an image with a darker moody tonality and glistening highlights. I wonder if this will translate to the internet well?


Agfa Rodinal Special and selenium toners can be purchased from Freestyle in California, (see: http://www.freestylephoto.biz).


Tracking the Light posts daily.

Installment 6: Black & White revisited; Old Tech for a New Era part 2—Secrets Revealed!

New England Central milepost 65, Palmer, Massachusetts, July 2012. Exposed with Leica M4 and f1.4 35mm Summilux on Fuji Acros 100; unmodified scan.

Technique: Customizing process for optimal tonality with minimal post-process adjustment

I promised to reveal secrets! While I won’t tell you which American railroad CEO is a serious railfan, nor will I divulge which North American railway company is on the verge of centrifugal destruction, I will spell out the details of my proven black & white process!

Windsor, Connecticut, July 30, 2012. Exposed with Leica M4 and f1.4 35mm Summilux on Fuji Acros 100; unmodified scan.

 In Installment 5 Black & White revisited Part 1, I elaborated on my philosophies and theories behind my traditional black & white photography. I’m not going to rehash that any more than necessary, instead I’ll detail the formulas and specifics of my process so that other photographers may take advantage of my experimentation, and perhaps further refine the process. I go into great detail, so hopefully the specifics will be easily understood.

Back in the late 1980s, I’d refined my B&W photography using Kodak Tri-X and other period films. Typically, I’d overexpose by a stop (basically by rating ‘400 ISO Tri-X’ at 200 ISO—a one stop difference, although in actual practice my system of exposure was more complex). Then, using a diluted mix of Kodak D76 or Ilford ID11 (1:1 developer to water), I’d under-process the film by about 20-25 percent from recommended time. My intent was to produce negatives that while appearing on ‘thin’ side in fact offered adequate detail to produce beautifully rich prints with deep blacks, and a full range of grays with minimum visible grain (in an 8×10 inch print). At that time I preferred prints with relatively low contrast and lots of gray, yet which retained clean, white highlights.

Today my process is different. First of all, I now expose film with the intent of scanning the negatives and not for making chemical prints. Secondly, I’ve altered the process to produce a higher contrast image, one that I feel is better suited for digital display. Instead of Tri-X I’ve been largely working with Fuji Neopan 100 Acros  (ISO 100). While initial experiments required a bit of post processing manipulation in Photoshop to adjust the gamma curve of the film image, ultimately I aimed to produced negatives that don’t require this time-consuming post processing adjustment, and more to the point, look great on a computer screen; the intended output is Apple’s iPad.

Southward Vermont Rail System freight at Inwood, Vermont July 11, 2012. Exposed with Leica M4 and f1.4 35mm Summilux on Fuji Acros 100; unmodified scan.

As I mentioned in Installment 5, Black & White revisited; Old Tech for a New Era part 1, I experimented using my antique Leica IIIa with a 21mm Super-Angulon; with these tests I exposed Acros at its recommended 100 ISO, while using a hand-held Minolta Mark IV light meter in reflective mode to calculate exposure (and fine tuning the exposure aided by more than 25 years of my experience working with that unforgiving medium called ‘color slides’). With my exposure calculations my goal was not just to get a satisfactory exposure for each individual frame, but to maintain consistency through-out the entire roll of film, as I would with color slides. (Just for reference my typical daylight exposure with 100 ISO film in ‘full’ New England sun would be f5.6 at 1/500th of a second.)

Amtrak’s westward Lake Shore Limited (train 449) at West Warren, Massachusetts on August 3, 2012. Exposed with Leica M4 and f1.4 35mm Summilux on Fuji Acros 100; scan modified slightly using Photoshop to improve sky texture.

I then processed the film in Kodak HC110, using the as-recommended ‘dilution B’. (HC110 is a syrupy developer with a variety of different recommended dilutions; dilution B, as I mixed it, is one part HC110 syrup with 31 parts water. Since I require 32 ounces of developer, this makes for a relative straight forward mix. )

[Note: While a metric equivalent needs only to maintain the ratio; for reference: 1 ounce = 29.6 ml; 32 ounces = 946.2 ml]

 From start to finish, my black & white process goes like this:

 1)   Load film on plastic reels into plastic tanks (in total darkness); cover tank and turn on darkroom lights.

 2)   Bring all chemistry to ideal developer temperature (in this case 68ºF/20ºC).

 3)   Pour 32 ounces of water into tank as a pre-bath, soak for 1-2 minutes (with very gentle agitation every 30 seconds; three slow inversions, then a firm tap with the tank at a 45-degree angle to dislodge any air-bubbles, sometimes giving a second tap if bubbles appear).

4)  Drain pre-wash, and add developer, agitating to start for about 15 seconds (constantly, but very gently), then returning to the 30 second agitation interval as noted. My total process time at 68ºF was 4 minutes 45 seconds.

5)  Drain developer, and quickly add stop-bath, agitating for 30 seconds total time.

6)  Drain stop-bath, and add First Fix for 2-3 minutes. (My First Fix is typically already been used, and is ideally Ilford Rapid Fix mixed 1:4 with water). Agitate in same manner as developer.

7)  Drain First-Fix, add Second-Fix (same mix as first fix, but freshly mixed) for 2-3 minutes.

8)   Drain Second-Fix.

9)   Rinse in running water for 3 minutes.

10)   Inspect negatives.

11)   Add Perma Wash/Hypo Clearing agent for 3 minutes.

12)   Rinse in running water for 10 minutes.

13)   Add Kodak Selenium toner solution (mixed 1:9 water), agitate very gently once every 30 seconds; total time for toning not more than 9 minutes. (Caution: Selenium toner is unhealthy; extreme care is required to avoid contact with the solution and toning should be done in a well ventilated place, typically outside. Wear gloves.)

14)   Rinse in running water for 10-15 minutes.

15)  Final rinse in clean de-ionized water with a few drops of Kodak Photo-Flo 200 (wetting agent).

16)  Remove from reels and hang dry.

I’ve scanned the negatives at 3200 dpi using an Epson V600 flatbed scanner. After making hi-res TIFFs for my archive, I scaled selected images into the JPEG format for Web display. (While my initial application is computer/iPad display, I want a hi-res image for future use.)

Black & White Photo of Berlin, Connecticut Railway Station; Amtrak timetable rack.
Amtrak timetable rack, Berlin, Connecticut, July 2012. Exposed with Leica M4 and f1.4 35mm Summilux on Fuji Acros 100; unmodified scan.

Using this process, I obtained satisfactory results for the iPad, but the negatives required too much post processing to adjust the gamma curve for desirable contrast. Specifically I needed to improve highlight and shadow areas. Also, I found that the peculiarities of the 21mm lens were complicating matters. This lens has almost a polarized contrast/color-palate which made for some challenging black & white images. Some of the photos are pleasing, but my success ratio was less than hoped for.

I found two more pleasing alternatives: One was my Nikon F3 with traditional lenses (topic for another post), the other was working with my Dad’s Leica M4 and a 35mm f1.4 Summilux lens. Using this latter camera/lens combination, I then further refined my processing. Specifically, I increased development time by 30 seconds to 5 minutes 15 seconds, then ultimately to 5 minutes 30 seconds while making two other small changes:

First, I added a very small amount of developer to my pre-bath. This is a technique I use for other B&W processes that seems to have helped here as well. In theory, a very small quantity of developer in the pre-wash should get the development process underway which allows for slight better shadow detail without a dramatic increase of overall negative density.

Second, I cut my Selenium Toning from 9 minutes to 5 minutes, then further to 4 minutes 30 seconds, in order to reduce the effect of the toner on the highlights.

Amtrak station at Berlin, Connecticut
Amtrak station at Berlin, Connecticut, July 2012. Exposed with Leica M4 and f1.4 35mm Summilux on Fuji Acros 100; unmodified scan.

Using these final process modifications, I found that most of the resulting negatives made with the M4/Sumilux required virtually no post-processing and some were ready for display directly from the scanner. All of the photos displayed in this post were exposed and processed as described using the Leica M4 with 35mm Summilux lens with Fuji Across 100, and processed using the basic formula as illustrated. As always, I’ll probably continue to make adjustments to this formula as needed.