I just tried out some new paper for me (Bergger Prestige Variable NB) for some 11 x 14 prints. In the past, I've mostly used Kodax Polymax and Ilford Multigrade. I had made a couple of 8 x 10's on the Ilford of a new image and new it could be something special. So - on to the Bergger 11 x 14. After many test prints with dodging and burning in just the right places, I finally came up with what I thought was just right. The prints came out very nice and after toning in Selenium toner I was ready to look at mounting one. I cut a couple of different sized mats with some scrap white crescent board to look at the dimensional proportions of the final piece, and something just didn't look right. The whites in the prints just didn't seem bright enough. When I compared the 11 x 14 Bergger to the 8 x 10 Ilford, I about freaked. The paper base on the Bergger final prints was a grayish tone compared to the white tone of the Ilford. So much so that I have no desire to try to mount and display the Bergger images. What's more, every piece of Bergger paper I used for the test prints has the same problem.
I even compared the prints to an old Fred Picker Zone IV print that I purchased over 20 years ago. The whites in it looked very similar to the Ilford, and the Bergger looks awful next to them.
What could have gone wrong????
1 - I'm somewhat "abusive" to my darkroom supplies because it gets pretty hot in my darkroom at the back of my garage. I have a small air conditioner in it, but when I'm not working in it, temperatures can get up to 100 degrees. Could the heat have had an effect on the Bergger paper? It didn't on the Ilford because it looks fine.
2 - Could I have just gotten a bad batch of paper. Does this even happen?
3 - Could I have done something wrong in the processing to cause the gray tone to the paper? I'm sure that I gave it plenty of wash time both before and after the toning process, so I don't think this is the problem. I did everything the same way as with the Ilford 8 x 10's.
4 - Could the paper have gotten fogged somewhere along the way? This seems like the obvious problem, but this was a new unopened package. Could my Safelight have fogged the paper? I don't think so. I didn't test the Bergger with the safelight, but I've never had a problem with any other kinds of paper before and my safelight is at the opposite end of the darkroom from the enlarger. I do get a small amount of residual light off of some cracks/joints in the enlarger head (old Besler 5 x 7 with Cold Light head). I know I should make a shroud to cover the head to eliminate it, but it has never seemed to affect any other paper before. Could the Bergger be that more sensitive to this "extra light" than other paper manufacturers?
I'm at a loss about this. Does the Bergger just have a grayer base than other manufacturers? If so, I don't know why anyone would want to use it.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.