One of the beauties of working in the darkroom, something I struggle with in the digital realm, was the simplicity with which you could create beautiful, rich, dark, brooding BLACKS.
I think this is what made a black and white darkroom print so special. Certainly it's what inkjet printer manufacturers have been chasing for the past decade. And they have achieved it.
What I struggle with these days is setting the black in Photoshop. I feel that I want to retain detail, no matter how slight, throughout the entire image. And of course, with modern technology, this is quite possible with a little attention and skill.
In comparison, it was difficult to keep the blacks on Zones 2 and 3 with barely perceptible detail. It was much easier to burn the hell out of the print and create those rich blacks. Beside, people loved looking at blacks. It was a crowd pleaser all round.
One of the other techniques I enjoyed exploring was ramping up the contrast on the print and increasing the graininess. This print was made using Grade 5 filtration, which more or less says good-bye to all the tones between white and black, plus increases the appearance of the emulsion's grain structure. Again, a big crowd pleaser and a lot of fun to orchestrate.
The final touch was a little local bleaching and toning. A drop or two of potassium ferricyanide on the end of a small paint brush allowed me to lighten up the two windows, then after a really good wash, a little copper toner on a different brush (never mix your brushes) added in the colour.
In comparison to computer retouching, there is something wonderfully ‘fresh' about the imperfections of the hand-made technique.