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Darkroom Diary 12/19/2022 – My First Wild Horse Print on Ilford WT From an XP2 Negative


In today’s video, I share my first test print on Ilford WT FB Glossy paper using my new Ilford XP2 C-41 developed negatives.

I made some straight prints from the XP2 negs today on Ilford WT FB Glossy developed in standard Ilford Multigrade developer, and the prints look great. This was a key validation today because I needed to know that I can trust XP2, not only from a variable exposure perspective, but that I can make good prints from the negatives in the darkroom.

With XP2’s ability to allow me to rate each from anywhere between EI 100 and EI 800, this is a game changer for my wild horse photography. I always work in challenging and often changing lighting conditions, and knowing I can use one film and one simple developer is a big deal to me. If I get the exposures wrong in the field, nothing else matters.

Using fast and glass, i.e., F2.8 and F4, makes all the difference in the world because I can get clean and sharp exposures in lower light conditions. It is terribly expensive to shoot F4 and faster glass, but the alternative is to miss quality opportunities. I buy older versions of lenses because the newer electronic shutters (E) don’t work on my F5 and F6 film cameras anyway. So, instead of paying $15k for the latest and greatest 600 F4, I use the older and heavier G ED VR for a fraction of the price, and the lens works as it should on my film cameras. My most used lens is the 600 F4 G ED VR version. I also use the 400mm F2.8 G ED VR and the 80-200mm F2.8 D ED. I got all 3 of these lenses for less than 1/2 the cost a single lens brand new.

Even if I could afford the latest and greatest versions of these lenses, they wouldn’t work on my film cameras because of the E shutters. Technically, they would work wide open but not allow me to change the apertures, which I do frequently based on the lighting and scenario.

Back to the topic of making the prints today…

The Heiland controller even has a program for XP2 and different ASA rating, groups. Using this and the paper profile for Ilford FB WT, I can make a technically good print on the first exposure without the need to do any test strips.

Based on density and suspected dry-down, I picked an exposure time of about 15% less than the controller suggested after reviewing the first test print. I made that print and selenium toned at 1:25 for 5 minutes and think this will be about right. I will be able to make a final call once I see the print fully dried down tomorrow.

I also did something interesting. I added 5g of sodium hydroxide to the IMG developer and stirred it on the magnetic stirrer for 5 minutes until use. It created a very rich print but was a little too dark and would be even darker with KRST. I will take this print and sepia-tone it, focus on targeting the highlights with sepia and then tone the darker tones with KRST. More to follow on this, but it looks encouraging, and I will have a separate article and video on this.

I kept one print untoned for reference and one print that was KRST 1:25 (5 min).

It was a good day, and I look forward to the next steps.

I share my latest work in the darkroom with you in the Darkroom Diary on my YouTube Channel. If you are interested in coming behind the scenes with me as I work, this is the place for you.

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