How to do Tonal Reversal and Solarization
Anyone who's made the mistake of turning on the darkroom light while
the print is in the developer will have noticed the strange tonal
reversal this produces. With a little care, you can harmless this error
to create unusual landscape images.
This tonal reversal, usually called solarization, is characterized by a
darkening of the lightest areas of the print, and by a wiry line that
traces abrupt changes in density. You can produce the effect on film,
but solarizing paper is more predictable and repeatable.
Some basic steps for reference is shown below:
Start with a negative that has bold
shapes and high contrast - fiddly detail soon gets lost in the process.
Make a test strip in the normal way on
hard resin-coated paper (grade 4 or 5) to determine the correct
exposure, but develop the test in undiluted paper developer.
Remove the negative from the enlarger and
make a second test strip - of plain white light. From this test, note
the aperture and shortest exposure time that just causes the paper to
darken. This is your "fogging exposure".
Return the negative to the enlarger, and
expose a print for the time determined in the first test.
Remove the negative, and prepare the
enlarger for the fogging exposure. Put the print into the developer,
and as soon as the image starts to appear, transfer the paper to a dish
of plain water.
Now place this under the enlarger, and
give the fogging exposure.
Finally, return the print to the
developer, and process as normal.
You'll probably find that the resulting
print is very dark. If so, rinse and dry the paper, and press it into
contact with a fresh sheet, emulsion-to-emulsion. Cover both sheets
with a piece of glass, and shine light from the enlarger through the
sandwich to make a contact print. This process usually creates a copy
with a lot more contrast.
Negative printing creates images which resemble those produced by
solarization. If you shoot color transparencies, you'll have no
difficulty making negative prints - just put a transparency into the
enlarger in place of a negative, and print on ordinary black and white
paper. You'll need a soft grade, preferably. This will not give a
tonally correct result - red areas of the transparency. For example,
print as white - but in negative form this hardly matters. If you don't
use transparency film, simply copy a negative onto black and white film
to create a positive monochrome transparency, then use this in place of