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Jim Cole
19-Sep-2009, 17:02
Ok, time for some newbie questions. I'm outfitting the WP and Deardorff cameras for use, the house will come off the market (again) by the end of October and then I will convert the guest bathroom to a simple darkroom for contact printing. I have never printed traditionally before. My goal is to eventually get good enough with subject material and technique to use Lodima paper for my sellable prints.

Assuming that Lodima (and amidol as the developer, I assume) is the endgame, what suggestions do you folks have for an affordable paper/developer combination that will put me in a good place for the eventual transition to the expensive stuff? I want my learning curve to be applicable to where I want to end up.

Thanks for any help here if the question is even answerable.

Jim

Bill_1856
19-Sep-2009, 17:53
If you already understand what a good print is, then you might as well start with LODIMA. The technical aspect of printing ain't that difficult, it's the artistic side that's difficult.
If you insist on starting with a "standard" paper, Roman Loranc uses plain old Ilford Multigrade, and nobody makes more beautiful prints than his.
I would suggest, however, that instead of starting with AMIDOL, you would consider ANSCO 30 which is nearly as beautiful, and lasts forever even after it's mixed and diluited (Photographers Formulary), and doesn't stain.

Jim Fitzgerald
19-Sep-2009, 19:42
Jim, I used to print on Azo/Amidol and I can tell you from experience that when and if I print silver again I would use this combo. I have a good stock of Azo.

I would start with the Lodima and Ansco 130 and then transition into the Amidol. Yes, you do have to mix the Amidol from scratch but it does make a difference. The Lodima is not that expensive if you look at the price of Ilfords papers.

Contact printing on Lodima will be easy. The learning curve is not that steep and you can get some great prints in no time.

Jim

Jim Cole
19-Sep-2009, 20:10
Jim & Bill,

I had my shopping cart filledwith a few hundred $$ worth of Lodima a couple of hours ago and then cancelled the cart. The paper should be available about the time I'll be ready for it so I may go ahead and order it. Sounds like you both are of the same mind about the paper and starting with the Ansco.

If I can only buy one grade for now, would you suggest Grade 2 or Grade 3. I know I will probably want both, but if I have to start with one, should it be the Grade 2?

Thanks again,
Jim

Jim Fitzgerald
19-Sep-2009, 20:40
Jim, I have found that for my images I like the grade 3. You should really get both. Depends on your images and the contrast of your negatives. The great thing with grade 3 and the Lodima/Amidol combo is that you can use a water bath to hold back the contrast a bit and bring it down to a 2 1/2. Takes a little practice but the water bath is a good thing.

Jim

Jim Cole
19-Sep-2009, 21:01
Great info, Jim. Thanks.

Jim Fitzgerald
19-Sep-2009, 21:13
You're welcome. I hope it helps.

Jim

jeroldharter
19-Sep-2009, 21:44
Probably a dumb question answered elsewhere, but I wonder: why is Lodima not a variable contrast paper? Is that impossible with silver chloride papers?

Jeff Corbett
19-Sep-2009, 21:54
I would also encourage you to go straight to the Lodima paper. When I started in my darkroom I bought a bunch of Ilford RC paper because it was cheaper. I still use it for some proofs, but it is so inferior to the fibre based paper that I requet buying the RC paper every time I use it. For contact printing I have used AZO with amidol and that is truely an excellent combination. I also have Lodima paper on order.

Jeff

John Kasaian
19-Sep-2009, 22:19
I like contact printing on Fomabrom N111 with Ansco 130. YMMV or course. :) Freestyle stocks Fomabrom N111 (and also the softer and harder versions) I've also used Emaks, Slavich and Galerie but for contact printing N111 is now my "fave" (which is probably a curse---what faster way to "doom" a photo paper than by finding at long last a favorite graded fiber base? I'd better stock up!)

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 07:53
Thanks for the imput folks.

Jeff,
It looks like another vote for Lodima.

John,
What do you like about the Fomabrom? Have you printed with Azo/Lodima for comparison to the Fomabrom?

Jerold,
That's a good question for someone else to answer.

Just noticed that except for Bill, everyone else that is represented in this thread has a "J" name. What's the odds?

John Kasaian
20-Sep-2009, 08:16
Jim,
I can't comment on Lodima but I've used AZO (I still have a small stash of the stuff for special negatives.) I like the tonality of Fomabrom N111 with Ansco 130---great blacks---but it isn't AZO. Of course 99% of this is personal taste and individual capabilities. With Ilford, I can't get my contacts to look anywhere near as good as Roman Loranc's and as far as my Fomabrom/130 combo I feel like I've only scratched the surface of what is possible with these materials. I'm merely tossing out the suggestion for your consideration. :)

ic-racer
20-Sep-2009, 08:53
I have never printed traditionally before...

If you have NEVER printed before, I would start with a pack of the cheapest fiber paper, like expired paper or anything. I'd just plan on using that cheap paper up, so don't worry about re-doing exposures etc. Just print, print, print! Even if you were to luck into some good looking 'keeper' prints with your first batch of Lodima , you may not be so lucky with the fix/wash part of it all.

Make sure you test some of your prints for adequate fixing and washing.

After you used up a pack of paper, if you can't get a good print, or the fix/wash tests fail, then get another pack of cheap paper and keep working.
Otherwise, then move on to the Lodima .

If you have never printed there are so many things to address like size of trays, volume dilution and temp of solutions, tongs or not, washing paragdime, contact frame or glass, pressure, dusting, light source, distance from paper, safelight safety, light tight darkroom, etc etc...

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 09:01
Thanks, John. I appreciate the additional info.

To everyone again,

What Amidol are you folks using with the Lodima? Photographer's Formulary has "Amidol Developer for Azo Paper" which I should assume would be the correct one?

Mark Sawyer
20-Sep-2009, 10:01
If you have NEVER printed before, I would start with a pack of the cheapest fiber paper, like expired paper or anything. I'd just plan on using that cheap paper up, so don't worry about re-doing exposures etc.

I disagree. Old expired paper will give you muddy fogged prints, and will mostly teach you to be frustrated.

My recommendation is you start with a fresh pack of variable contrast RC paper, as it processes faster and is a bit more forgiving. Prints on it can be quite beautiful. I like the Ilford MGIV in the pearl surface, which is the closest to an air-dried glossy fiber surface.

That will get you into printing with the least pain, and will teach you a lot. You can figure out what grade your negatives like to print at. You'll get a feel for burning and dodging and all the little intricacies, and it will go much faster in the processing and washing phases, which increases how much you can do and learn in a set amount of time. Nearly all of what you learn on RC will transfer directly to FB.

I'd say go through two 25-sheet packages. Even if you don't like it, it will teach you how to print, and when people talk about the differences between RC and FB, you'll know what they're talking about. You owe yourself that as a photographer.

Then move to a fiber base. The big difference is about three times the development time, an hour in an archival washer at the end of the printing session, and finding a good way to flatten them. And FB prints are more delicate when handling.

Regarding Azo/Lodima, it's a beautiful paper, and I can understand why quite a few very respected photographers made it their paper of choice. But it's not the only beautiful paper out there, and a lot of other very respected photographers use a variety of other papers. If you do go with Lodima, you'll want it in grades 2 and 3, and probably 1 and 4 if they ever make it. Not many photographers can honestly put all their negatives on the same grade every time.

And I think the transition from a more conventional developer to Amidol is going to be a bigger transition than the one from a conventional FB paper to Lodima.

Don't even think about the cost difference between papers or developers. When you actually look at it, the difference is piddling, and you just don't get into 8x10 contact printing to compromise on the quality or nature of your materials. You do it because you won't compromise.

And the 3005 drum is packed and being dropped off at the post office tomorrow morning! :)

Brian Ellis
20-Sep-2009, 10:03
. . . If I can only buy one grade for now, would you suggest Grade 2 or Grade 3. I know I will probably want both, but if I have to start with one, should it be the Grade 2?

Thanks again,
Jim

Grade 3. You can always get the contrast lower by developing for part of the time in a water bath or a Selectol Soft bath (if it's still made) but you can't get a Grade 2 paper higher than the paper will take.

I'd suggest that you not lock into Lodima/Amidol. While that's a popular combination, a VC paper will give you greater control if you have a way to use the filters under your light source and even if you don't, you still may just prefer the look of another paper/developer combination. I used Amidol/Azo for a while but eventually switched to another combination because I didn't care for the warmish tone for most of my photographs.

Merg Ross
20-Sep-2009, 10:04
Jim, I agree with some of the points made by ic-racer above; Mark is correct, use fresh paper. If you have never printed traditionally before, I would save the contact printing experience with Amidol for later. As John suggested, Ansco 130 will give you excellent results on some of the readily available papers. It can be modified (for instance, additional 10% bromide) to change print color; different toners will do the same.

The Amidol that I use is from G. Gennert, probably manufactured at least 80 years ago. It would be difficult to find these days. A few years ago, a large order was put together (search this forum) for the purchase of Amidol from China. I see it for sale quite often, sometimes on this forum. The Formulary would be a source for small quantities. If you get hooked, you will want to mix your own, at a great saving.

Just a reminder, there is no silver bullet, it all comes down to personal taste and the look that you like in a print.

Have fun, I think you will!

Brian Ellis
20-Sep-2009, 10:10
Thanks, John. I appreciate the additional info.

To everyone again,

What Amidol are you folks using with the Lodima? Photographer's Formulary has "Amidol Developer for Azo Paper" which I should assume would be the correct one?

I'd buy the chemicals and use Michael Smith's formula unless PF's is identical or has the same properties. The working solution you get with Michael's can be used for hours. Some other versions only last for about a half hour in a tray. You also should be able to save money by buying the chemicals and mixing them yourself, which is easy to do. PF is very expensive in my experience. I used to buy a lot of darkroom chemicals for different kinds of toning (thank you Photoshop) and never bought from PF, they were always much more expensive than other suppliers of the same chemicals. However, you obviously can compare prices yourself.

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 10:37
More great help. More great suggestions. Thanks for all the info!

I just ordered some Grade 3 Lodima (thanks Brian & Jim), but I may take the advice of IC-Racer and Mark and blow through some lesser expensive (new) paper while learning the process before starting in on the Lodima. I need to read up more.

Merg and Brian,
I think I will also start with the Ansco 130 as it seems to be easier to work with, and then decide if I want to "mix my own" with the amidol. I don't know if Michael and Paula are going to do another order of the Chinese Amidol or not. There might be some more info available by the time I'm ready to try it.

Another question:

One thing I'm confused on is the suggestion to use multi-grade papers for starting to contact print. I though MG papers were designed for enlarger printing and required the use of filters to control the contrast. How can one do this with a bare bulb contact printing setup?

Getting there,

Jim

Mark Sawyer
20-Sep-2009, 11:15
One thing I'm confused on is the suggestion to use multi-grade papers for starting to contact print. I though MG papers were designed for enlarger printing and required the use of filters to control the contrast. How can one do this with a bare bulb contact printing setup?

Getting there,

Jim

Many (probably most) people who contact print use an enlarger for the light source, so the light is either coming through a lens or a small enough opening where the lens was removed (my choice). Either way, a filter can cover the aperture. They come in sizes up to 6x6 inches.

I'd recommend you get an enlarger as a light source. They're very convenient and very cheap these days. If that won't do, make a housing for your bare bulb that has an opening for a 6x6 filter.

aduncanson
20-Sep-2009, 11:19
Jim,

I find that when contact printing onto enlarging paper, an enlarger makes a great light source with reasonable exposure times. I use a bare bulb (a 50 Watt Halogen) at about 4 feet for Lodima and get exposure times between 8 and 32 seconds.

When I tried the bare bulb to contact print with Oriental graded paper, I quickly retreated to using the enlarger. I recall that the exposures with the bare bulb were under 2 seconds and were not manageable with my mechanical timer.

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 11:28
I'd recommend you get an enlarger as a light source. They're very convenient and very cheap these days. If that won't do, make a housing for your bare bulb that has an opening for a 6x6 filter.

House for sale...eventual move...small bathroom for a darkroom. I think an enlarger is out of the question, for now at least.

Maybe I'll just use some graded papers and not have to deal with the filters. I'm trying to make this as simple as I can while I wait to move.

Thanks for getting the 3005 shipped out.

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 11:31
Jim,

I find that when contact printing onto enlarging paper, an enlarger makes a great light source with reasonable exposure times. I use a bare bulb (a 50 Watt Halogen) at about 4 feet for Lodima and get exposure times between 8 and 32 seconds.


Thanks for that. It's a very helpful suggestion.

Merg Ross
20-Sep-2009, 11:52
House for sale...eventual move...small bathroom for a darkroom. I think an enlarger is out of the question, for now at least.

Maybe I'll just use some graded papers and not have to deal with the filters. I'm trying to make this as simple as I can while I wait to move.

Thanks for getting the 3005 shipped out.

Ah, the small bathroom darkroom! I remember the days. Yes, you will want to keep the process simple. As was suggested, for a light source make a housing for 6"filters, invest in a good contact print frame, 8x10 trays will work (I prefer 11x14), safelight, timer (with footswitch, if possible) tongs (or nitrile gloves). If the bathroom has an exhaust fan, so much the better. You can use a siphon washer set-up in the tub. Buy, or make, some fiberglass screens for air drying your prints. That should get you started.

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 12:02
Ah, the small bathroom darkroom! I remember the days. Yes, you will want to keep the process simple. As was suggested, for a light source make a housing for 6"filters, invest in a good contact print frame, 8x10 trays will work (I prefer 11x14), safelight, timer (with footswitch, if possible) tongs (or nitrile gloves). If the bathroom has an exhaust fan, so much the better. You can use a siphon washer set-up in the tub. Buy, or make, some fiberglass screens for air drying your prints. That should get you started.

Starting soon with your suggestions. Thanks. I am fortunate that the bath has a vent and I will put a light tight louver in the bathroom door so the vent has someplace to draw from.

Will red LED lights like the PAR20-R36 in Red shown here be OK for a safelight?
http://www.superbrightleds.com/cgi-bin/store/commerce.cgi?product=MR16

Thanks

csant
20-Sep-2009, 12:29
Allow me to briefly jump in with a question…


Regarding Azo/Lodima, it's a beautiful paper, and I can understand why quite a few very respected photographers made it their paper of choice. But it's not the only beautiful paper out there, and a lot of other very respected photographers use a variety of other papers.

Could you elaborate on that, please? Maybe with some examples? I am fairly new to contact printing myself, and am still trying to learn and collect info. This thread is a very interesting reading…

Merg Ross
20-Sep-2009, 12:34
Starting soon with your suggestions. Thanks. I am fortunate that the bath has a vent and I will put a light tight louver in the bathroom door so the vent has someplace to draw from.

Will red LED lights like the PAR20-R36 in Red shown here be OK for a safelight?
http://www.superbrightleds.com/cgi-bin/store/commerce.cgi?product=MR16

Thanks

Good, I was going to suggest a door louver for air circulation.

The choice of a bulb will depend somewhat on the paper. Either a red or amber should be okay, I am not that familiar with the led type. I used 7.5 watt incandescent amber bulbs in my early darkrooms; they worked fine.

Mark Sawyer
20-Sep-2009, 13:32
Jim, if you'd like, along with your drum, I'll include a kodak safelight housing like this:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Kodak-Vintage-Safelight-Wratten-Filter-Series-OC_W0QQitemZ290350294138QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item439a39e47a&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

It makes a great lightbulb holder for contact printing. Just put in whatever wattage bulb you need and leave out the safelight filter. Use a standard bulb, NOT a CFL. 7 watts to 15 watts for conventional paper, maybe 40 watts for Azo/Lodima.

If you want to use filters, get some like these that just went for $5:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ILFORD-Mulitgrade-Filters-6-X-6-Set-of-12-Great-Buy_W0QQitemZ200385100699QQcmdZViewItemQQptZCamera_Filters?hash=item2ea7e1fb9b&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

You can make a little filter holder for below the safelight housing and use the square filters, or you can cut them out round and put them in by unscrewing the filter ring.

Let me know if you want it!

ic-racer
20-Sep-2009, 14:41
I disagree. Old expired paper will give you muddy fogged prints, and will mostly teach you to be frustrated.




Yes, probably best to just go with new paper to be sure.

Jim Cole
20-Sep-2009, 16:01
Jim, if you'd like, along with your drum, I'll include a kodak safelight housing like this:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Kodak-Vintage-Safelight-Wratten-Filter-Series-OC_W0QQitemZ290350294138QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item439a39e47a&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

It makes a great lightbulb holder for contact printing. Just put in whatever wattage bulb you need and leave out the safelight filter. Use a standard bulb, NOT a CFL. 7 watts to 15 watts for conventional paper, maybe 40 watts for Azo/Lodima.

If you want to use filters, get some like these that just went for $5:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ILFORD-Mulitgrade-Filters-6-X-6-Set-of-12-Great-Buy_W0QQitemZ200385100699QQcmdZViewItemQQptZCamera_Filters?hash=item2ea7e1fb9b&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

You can make a little filter holder for below the safelight housing and use the square filters, or you can cut them out round and put them in by unscrewing the filter ring.

Let me know if you want it!

Mark,

Thanks for the additional info on the filters. Always welcome.

PM sent on the safelight.

Finally, what developer would you suggest on the Ilford MGIV paper?

Mark Sawyer
20-Sep-2009, 18:12
Mark,

Thanks for the additional info on the filters. Always welcome.

PM sent on the safelight.

Finally, what developer would you suggest on the Ilford MGIV paper?

Most welcome! Hope it works for you.

I like Dektol and MGIV FB. It also works well with the MGIV RC. While other developers have the same look, prints made in Dektol seem to tone just a little nicer...

We use the liquid Arista Premium paper developer at school, and it also works very well, and the prints tone as nicely (I think), but a little differently. To be honest, I'm kinda back and forth between them. BTW, I usually use a sulphiding sepia toner, but a dilute bleach for a short amount of time so it doesn't go too far.

(We talk a lot about how certain papers work with certain toners, but we generally leave the developer out of that equation.)

Jim Cole
21-Sep-2009, 08:57
Thanks for the developer info, Mark.

I'm looking forward to starting all this.

Bill_1856
21-Sep-2009, 09:09
One item that never seems to be mentioned -- it's more important that you have good negatives than what paper/developer you use.

John Bowen
21-Sep-2009, 09:29
Jim,

Nobody else seems to have mentioned this yet, but you may find Lodima cheaper then you expected. Let me explain. Many of us who use Azo/Amidol will tell you we can get to a final print using fewer sheets with Azo. One of my friends, Peter Schrager, has referred to it as "cheating." I've been using Azo/Amidol exclusively for the past 4 years and seldom use more than 4 sheets of paper to obtain a final print (I mostly contact print 8x10 negatives, but also use 5x7 and 7x17). This is both a time and $$ saver. With Azo you will find yourself doing less dodging/burning compared to other papers. I remember seeing a post on APUG where PE (a retired Kodak scientist) mentioned that anyone who understood how to "read" a paper curve would immediately see why this is true with Azo.

I would suggest you spend some time on the Azo forum http://www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/AzoForum/default.asp
I found it a wealth of information and it really helped me in working with Azo. There are some very good discussions about film/developer combinations for contact printing with Azo. YMMV, but I decided on TMY/Pyrocat HD. One of the advantages of making negatives that print well on Azo, is these negatives are also good for platinum printing (just in case everybody stops making B&W papers in the future)

My apologies for repeatedly referring to Azo, but Azo is the closest thing to Lodima, both being silver chloride emulsions.

Welcome and have fun!

Jim Cole
21-Sep-2009, 10:05
One item that never seems to be mentioned -- it's more important that you have good negatives than what paper/developer you use.

Thanks, Bill and a great suggestion. I have been working recently to move from a good scanning negative to a good printing negative. I will dial in my process over the next few weeks before I can begin working in the darkroom.

Jim Cole
21-Sep-2009, 10:13
Jim,

Nobody else seems to have mentioned this yet, but you may find Lodima cheaper then you expected. Let me explain. Many of us who use Azo/Amidol will tell you we can get to a final print using fewer sheets with Azo. One of my friends, Peter Schrager, has referred to it as "cheating." I've been using Azo/Amidol exclusively for the past 4 years and seldom use more than 4 sheets of paper to obtain a final print (I mostly contact print 8x10 negatives, but also use 5x7 and 7x17). This is both a time and $$ saver. With Azo you will find yourself doing less dodging/burning compared to other papers. I remember seeing a post on APUG where PE (a retired Kodak scientist) mentioned that anyone who understood how to "read" a paper curve would immediately see why this is true with Azo.

I would suggest you spend some time on the Azo forum http://www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/AzoForum/default.asp
I found it a wealth of information and it really helped me in working with Azo. There are some very good discussions about film/developer combinations for contact printing with Azo. YMMV, but I decided on TMY/Pyrocat HD. One of the advantages of making negatives that print well on Azo, is these negatives are also good for platinum printing (just in case everybody stops making B&W papers in the future)

My apologies for repeatedly referring to Azo, but Azo is the closest thing to Lodima, both being silver chloride emulsions.

Welcome and have fun!

John,

Over the last couple of days I have been looking at the price of Ilford FB papers and frankly the $0.85 savings per sheet of paper is attractive while I'm learning. But, I have spent considerable time reading on the AZO forum and what you say about "final cost per final print" seems to be true and an accepted fact among the users of Lodima. I think that if I take my time and start with Lodima, the cost savings to learn one paper/developer and then switch to another may be eaten up in the double learning curve.

I still have to ponder all the pluses and minuses here. There are a lot of good suggestions here.

Thanks for your valuable input.

Philippe Grunchec
21-Sep-2009, 10:49
Jim you could try Emaks (Fotokemika) / Nuance (Adox) -same paper- G3: pretty cheap and very nice tonality!

William McEwen
21-Sep-2009, 12:19
Just a reminder, there is no silver bullet, it all comes down to personal taste and the look that you like in a print.

A very important piece of advice!

Jim Cole
21-Sep-2009, 12:54
Philippe,
Thanks for the suggestions, I'll give them a look.

William,
Thanks for the re-iteration of a very valid point. I think experimentation will be the key.

mcfactor
21-Sep-2009, 16:14
I will second Philippe, Emaks is a great, very inexpensive paper. The tones are beautiful, especially in Ansco 130 lightly toned in selenium. Its also about $54 for 100 sheets (an unbeatable price). And the graded paper will get you used to judging (and altering) grades of paper.

Robert Hughes
21-Sep-2009, 19:30
I've just started contact printing on cyanotypes - what fun! I feel like a photo pioneer, brushing up the papers, exposing outdoors, watching the paper turn from yellow to green, deep blue, then mottled gray - then watching the image jump off the page when I pour water on it. It's BLUE!

Bruce Barlow
22-Sep-2009, 04:54
John,

Over the last couple of days I have been looking at the price of Ilford FB papers and frankly the $0.85 savings per sheet of paper is attractive while I'm learning. But, I have spent considerable time reading on the AZO forum and what you say about "final cost per final print" seems to be true and an accepted fact among the users of Lodima. I think that if I take my time and start with Lodima, the cost savings to learn one paper/developer and then switch to another may be eaten up in the double learning curve.

I still have to ponder all the pluses and minuses here. There are a lot of good suggestions here.

Thanks for your valuable input.


I use about 12 sheets of Ilford or Forte to get an enlargement (arguably harder than contact printing). I now use one sheet on Lodima sliced in half for a 5x7 contact print. Two tries and I'm ready for finial prints. This is stunning to me, but I understand it: I've got a completely fixed setup for contact printing, with fewer variables. So, assuming my negs are good (which they are, and now tuned to Lodima), I should get consistent results. The variations come from my mood at the moment and how I want to print to feel.

Personally, I don't really care about the cost. I care about what the print looks like, and how quickly I can escape the darkroom with good results. That said, do the math on costs.

And, it's time for you to get going and try something. You're speculating here based on, apparently, little actual experience. Such as "learning curve of a paper/developer." Maybe five sheets if you're attentive. Fewer if you have reference prints from the last one you tried - same neg, same size. Hold the two up: what's different? You'll see it immediately and learn a lot.

Go forth and print!

Jim Cole
22-Sep-2009, 07:17
Thanks, Bruce. The reason I am in pure speculation mode is that the house will not come off the market until the end of October and I can't really use the guest bath as a darkroom until then. So, all I have is time to read as much as I can, absorb what I can, ask questions here at this great forum and overthink a relatively minor issue.

I will not care about costs either once I have dialed in a proceedure. I never have in any of the paper costs on my production digital prints where I always use the best possible paper for the best possible results for a given print. The paper costs are lost in the overall actual cost of getting the image to begin with.

"You're speculating here based on, apparently, little actual experience. Such as "learning curve of a paper/developer. Maybe five sheets if you're attentive. Fewer if you have reference prints from the last one you tried - same neg, same size. Hold the two up: what's different? You'll see it immediately and learn a lot."

This is exactly due to inexperience. I didn't know the learning curve was that easy until you just told me. Evidently, experimentation is relatively cheap.

That said, I am leaning more and more to just starting with Lodima, which I will not have for a while anyway until Michael and Paula start shipping the new batch. Then I can "Go Forth and print".

Thanks for your help,