Fomabrom N113

When Foma discontinued Fomabrom Variant IV 123 they suggested two papers for Bromoil as a replacement, Foma Fomatone 133 Classic VC FB Warmtone and Fomabrom N113.  I was able to obtain the former and offered it for review, but as far as I could tell the latter was not available in the United States.  I contacted Foma and they were kind enough to send me a few 5×7″ packs to test.

The paper bleached almost completely, leaving just a bit of brown in the shadow areas.  This is oftentimes not too much of a problem, as deep shadow areas are normally completely covered with ink.

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I inked the paper with Senefelder’s Crayon Black 1803 ink, which the paper accepted.  The shadow areas filled very quickly, which I am accustomed to seeing, but did so quickly to the extent that by the time the midtones began accepting ink the shadow areas were blocked up.  During the second soak the sponge removed the ink from the midtones and highlights, which was expected due to the experience I had with Foma Fomatone 133.  Re-inking did not give me acceptable results.

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For the next print I tried using Senefelder’s 1796 ink, which had offered me success with Foma Fomatone 133.  As this is a thinner ink I was very cautious during the application because it is very easy to place too much ink on the paper.  The shadow areas filled even more quickly and remained completely during the second soak.  When I re-inked those areas remained blocked and the print unworkable.

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I decided to try a final print returning to the Senefelder’s 1803 ink.  Instead of using a sponge to clear the highlights I simply allowed the print to soak, hoping to be able to clear as well as deal with the shadow areas with a brush.  This did not work and the shadow areas remained blocked with an unacceptable print.

One thing I noticed with the two latter prints was that the ink did not adhere well close to the border.  I normally test using 8×10″ paper and create at least a 1″ border, but since this was 5×7″ paper and I wanted to use as much as I could for the image I only made the border about ½”.  If the border had been wider I am guessing that I would not have noticed the inconsistency, which can be seen in the images offered here, especially the third print.

Advantages

I did make a couple of straight prints with this paper and can state that it really has a pleasant tonality.  Although I believe that it is only available in a single contrast, the straight prints I made looked quite nice.

Disadvantages

This paper is not a candidate for use with the Bromoil process.  This may be because the surface is semi-gloss.  With the exception of Imago paper (made specifically for the process), a glossy surface simply does not work with the Bromoil process.  Foma Fomatone 133 has a semi-matt surface and (with the proper ink) works just fine.  This shows that there is a difference between semi-gloss and semi-matt, unlike the non-difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny.

Conclusion

I was hoping that this would be an additional possibility for use with the Bromoil process, but in my opinion this is just not the case.

Imago Bromoil Paper

I was not going to include this paper but decided to just in case it becomes available again.  I bought all I could a while back because the shipping to the U.S. was so great.  I was told that the paper was a single run but then heard that it was available Through Firstcall.  However, that website indicates that the paper is temporarily unavailable until a month ago, so that may be it.  I decided to go ahead and review it here just in case it comes back to market.

If one were to Google conversations I have had in the past then somewhere they would come across cases where I noted that the Bromoil process does not work on RC paper and does not work on glossy paper.  With Imago Bromoil paper, the latter is no longer true.  This is a glossy paper that actually works with the process, and quite well at that.

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Following the initial soak the paper takes ink as if it was meant for it … oh yeah, it was.  Actually, with my first print I accidentally applied way too much ink in the first run across the paper, but fortunately was able to recover from that mistake.

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The ink holds in the shadow areas following the second soak and the highlights and midtones can then be filled in.  One should be careful with initially applying too much in in the shadow areas during the first inking, however.  In one print (not included in this article) I filled in those areas with too much ink and ended up with considerably too much contrast in the end.  This may just be a matter of differently exposing the paper to accommodate this possibility.

The examples show that I was able to get rather close to what I was seeking by using the standard procedure (see the About section), so this is an exceptionally easy paper to use.

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Advantages

Image Bromoil paper is the only glossy paper I have ever used that works with the Bromoil process.  This gives the paper a unique position when selecting the paper to use for a specific image.

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Workarounds

The paper is available in a single grade.  Use of a digital negative may be necessary for those negatives that do not have the proper contrast.

Disadvantages

Apparently this paper is no longer available.  If anyone knows of a source then please post it here.

David Lewis Bromoil Paper

Please read the About section for an explanation of my procedure and list of caveats.

There was a time when photographic paper was made specifically for the Bromoil process. They were very easy to use and produced wonderful prints. Things became more difficult in the 1950s when the manufacturers began supercoating the paper. This is a clear hardened gelatin layer that lies above the emulsion and protects the paper from scratches during processing. The addition of the supercoat makes the process more difficult for the Bromoil printer because it hampers the swelling of the gelatin upon which the process depends.

David Lewis Bromoil Paper is made specifically for the Bromoil process, thus no supercoating.  He describes his paper thus:

David Lewis’s Bromoil Paper is a double weight non-supercoated chlorobromide paper with a printing speed of ISO 320. The paper has a thick emulsion with a smooth matt surface and has a normal contrast (grade # 2). This chlorobromide emulsion produces incredible gradation of tone and shadow detail when developed in amidol. After bleaching the emulsion produces a coin-like relief, reminiscent of the bromoil paper from the 1930’s! It is the only photographic paper on the market today that has the coin-like swelling relief.

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I used Selectol-Soft (no Hydroquinone) to develop the paper.  David recommends 30 seconds in the stop bath as well not using quick fix, so I used two five minute baths of 10% hypo.

The paper bleached completely in eight minutes at 70F (21C).  The soak time is stated to be 15 minutes.

It was suggested that I wait 60-90 seconds before starting to ink following the initial soak, which I did, though I would recommend a slightly longer waiting time.  No big deal, the first couple of passes take little ink but within a couple of minutes the shadow areas begin to respond.

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This is a paper that loves ink.  Once the paper starts to accept ink it soaks right into the paper and has a tendency to stay during the second soak.  This offers some additional possibilities, allowing one to use a sponge to clear the highlights during the soak, then the brush to continue building contrast following the soak.  As one who likes to use a sponge during subsequent soaks, I greatly appreciated this.

Advantages

Anyone who has worked with the Bromoil process, even for just a few years, knows the difficulty in obtaining paper that works well with the process (thus the whole reason for this blog).  Pretty much all other papers are supercoated to some extend, and the only real question is how to best deal with it.  That is not an issue with this paper.

Additionally, since David Lewis created this paper for this specific use, there is not the common problem of worrying that the manufacturer will dicker with the emulsion to “make it better,” which oftentimes results in the paper being more difficult to use with Bromoil.  This is a big deal.

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Workarounds

This paper is only available in a single grade.  One might think that this forces a marriage between the contrast of the negative and the paper, but not only can one employ a different non-MQ developer to alter the contrast of the print, but another option is to use a digital negative.  Digital negatives are an important part of the darkroom these days, and I would highly recommend learning this technology.  Information about digital negatives.

 

Disadvantages

Alas, this paper is only available in the 8×10″ size.

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Conclusion

Overall, this is an excellent paper that is specifically made for the process.  Anyone who has worked with this process for a long time without the benefit of a freezer dedicated to storing paper lives with the fear that their favorite paper will go away.

Not long ago I wrote an article named Papers for the bromoil process for alternativephotography.com and today none of those papers are available in the United States.  I would be willing to bet that as long as David Lewis is around, the paper will be around, and it is nice to be able to cross that worry off the list.