Jul 18 2020

Darkroom Printing from Colour Negatives.

For most of my photographic life I have shot colour film of one type or another only straying into Black and White occasionally. Recently though I have been printing in the darkroom and have even set up my own minimalist darkroom at home. So naturally there are images in my archive that I would want to try to print. Most of them though are in the form of C41 colour negatives. When the photographic ecosystem was more diverse there were Black and White photo papers that were designed to be sensitive to the entire spectrum of light so it was possible to render a scene more naturally (If you consider Black and White to be natural). What I have available now for printing paper is Orthochromatic or specifically only sensitive to the Blue to Green end of the spectrum and is insensitive to the red end. This is the reason that you can use it under a red safelight in the darkroom.

Trying to figure out which objects in a scene will render darker or lighter because of their colour is not a simple matter because a colour negative is not a simple inversion of colour levels. It works in a very different way, the red layer forms cyan dyes while the green layer forms magenta and the blue layer forms yellow dyes. Additionally there is an orange mask overall, fortunately it tends to just cut down the total light and not effect the balance between the different colours.

What I found was that selecting a negative that lends itself to high contrast works best and then either setting the colour head of the enlarger for grade 4-5 or by using an appropriate filter. (Using multigrade paper of course) The increased contrast in a way over shadows the variations in contrast caused by the colours in the negative itself. The next three images represent a colour negative printed with the light set for grade 2 contrast followed by Grade 5 and then a final printing where I dodged the lower ground.

Print from colour negative Ilford MGIV grade 2
Print from colour negative Ilford MGIV grade 5
Print from colour negative Ilford MGIV grade 5 bottom 3rd dodged.

So the conclusion? Yes you can print from C41 negatives onto orthochromatic paper. No the results will not be the same as if you had used panchromatic paper but since that isn’t an option there is no need to fret about it. Additionally no it will not look the same as if you had shot the image using black and white film either panchromatic or orthochromatic but if you select the right negative and are willing to play with contrast and dodging and burning you can get good results.

B&W print made from C41 negative
Original scan of C41 negative
B&W print made from C41 negative

Jul 5 2020

Portra 160 in the MZ6

While I haven’t bought Portra 160 for a while I do have some rolls in my fridge so between shooting expired films and the ones I really like I pull out a roll of Portra 160 and feed a camera. In this case it was my Pentax MZ6 an all around good camera that I have numerous lenses for. I don’t have much new to say about the film that I haven’t already said. Portra 160 or the camera either. MZ-6 search so on with the show.