Montmatre Cemetery – and the love of lith printing

A year or so ago I found myself in Paris for a work conference. Our Hotel was in that beautiful area known as Montmartre. Now I’d been here before but we usually headed straight up hill to the magnificent Sacre Coeur.

An early morning stroll before the conference took me outside the hotel to this intriguing cemetery I’d seen on the way to the hotel the day before. I had an hour to kill and a roll of Rollei Retro 400s from a 100ft bulk roll, a yellow filter sat on the camera which had a 50mm f2 lens.

Id normally rate this film at 200 so with the light yellow filter on I just left it there.

I could have spend hours there it was so very atmospheric, as it was time got the better of me and I had to leave.

Back home I developed the film in ID11 1+1 which is a go to combo for many films, and filed the negs away in a box marked “for use soon”.

The idea to make little 4×5 size lith prints came by accident really, I’d purchased some Fotospeed Lith chemistry and after a little research 10 sheets of Foma MG Classic in matte and semi matte finishes, all the on-line chatter said this paper was a great starting point. The 9.5×12 size of the paper tore easily into 4 small print sizes, initially for economy but as I moved into the project I just loved the “jewel like” quality of each small print. As the enlargement size was minimal print quality remained excellent even for this older style 400 speed emulsion.

The first step in making a lith print is to determine a “normal exposure” – don’t worry about contrast just set the enlarger with no filter in at all, this helps later when you have to make long exposures (trust me)

With fibre papers remember there can be 8-10% darkening of highlights betweek a wet print and a dry print so a print that looks great in the wash can seem flat and lacking in sparkle the next day. After a while you get to learn that a highlight that looks lacking in density when wet will be perfect the next day.

If you are in a hurry make a test strip and put it in the microwave – I did that and here is the result from one of the images I was working on

I have an RH Designs F stop timer so the base exposure is 4.24 seconds and each subsequent step is a 1/4 stop denser. The advantage this gives over a “normal” regular increment step is a continuous and more gentle change in image density from strip to strip.

I’m looking for a highlight – this is always what you should do in the darkroom – remember enlarger exposure controls highlights and contrast filters shadows – I settled on 7.14 seconds then from that you need to multiply the time by 3-4 stops ….

1 stop more is  14.26s

then 2 stops is 28.52s

3 stops is 104s

and 4 stops is 208s

Remember when I said you want to avoid filters in your light path – well this is why, a filter will make your final exposure painfully long.

Fotospeed lith developer comes in 2 parts and each part is made up 1+30 as a starting point and mixed together – so 15ml part A to 485ml water and the same for part B then mix together.

Under a dim red light (test it please) or darkness and occasionally turning the safelight on, put the print in the developer and agitate the tray constantly. It was taking about 10 mins to 15 mins before the blacks in the shadows start to build up and clump together, this is called infectious development and when you feel the result is what you want you “snatch” the print out of the developer and chuck it in the stop bath. Fix in your normal manner.

Might be a good idea at this point to microwave this print to check on those highlights on a dry image. If the print appears lacking in highlight detail or “too contrasty” then you need to give the print MORE EXPOSURE – try another stop or double the time you used before, you get the idea. If the print appears to be lacking in sparkle and a bit flat give the print a stop less exposure.

Here are some images – not all tones are the same, some have been partially toned in Selenium toner to cool off the shadows whilst keeping the highlights warm.

I’m no expert at Lith printing, there are some superb resources out there from Tim Rudman and Wolfgang Moersch (he sells chemicals and paper too).

Thanks for reading


  1. I’m usually not very fond of cemetery photography, but your images here are very soulful and serene, and in lith they’re even more beautiful! Love this!


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