Having read Tim Rudman’s article on lith printing, and seen the author’s images, I had to try it.

The main difference between regular processes and lith is that, whereas in normal B&W development the developer becomes exhausted sooner in the blacks, giving the midtones and highlights a chance to come out, lith accelerates into a kind of chain reaction in the shadows; the more the developer has to work, the more exicted it gets, and the faster the darks come out. It’s nice to work with a process that’s simple and yet completely backwards from what you have been practicing.

To develop a lith print, then, you have to give the highlights a fighting chance to catch up with the rapidly developing blacks. You do this on two fronts. First, you overexpose the print by two or three stops (do a regular test print to find out and then go from there). Second, you use a highly diluted developer to slow things down. Bonus points for re-using nearly spent developer from the day before (“old brown”) as, say, a quarter of your developer.

Don’t bother setting your timer for two minutes. Put on some music and relax. Watch the print develop under normal safelight, and when it’s ready (and it could be 15 or 20 minutes), quickly snatch it out and drop it in the stop. People say this process is repeatable, but I don’t see how. The developer gets exhausted so quickly, and it’s hard to know what the real potential of your “old brown” portion is. (And I really do recommend re-using some old brown; I don’t know what’s going on, but you’ll see the difference right away.)

The results are shimmering and glistening highlights with crushed blacks. It’s contrasty, but it glows like it’s on fire.

SF street; lith print

I’m using Fotospeed LD20 lith developer and Fomatone 131 glossy paper. If you get into this, you’ll quickly find yourself obsessing over papers. They all behave differently. There are some awesome Foma papers. Ilford work fine. The glory days of Kodak lith papers are long gone. I can only read about them and envy people who have some of that paper in their fridges.

Otherwise, these are normal photographs. Normally exposed on 400TX, developed in XTol diluted 1:3.

Oaxaca washing pools; lith print

Above, toned in gold chloride to bring out some blues.