View Full Version : Bergger B&W paper

Dan Dozer
20-Aug-2005, 21:56
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.

Kirk Gittings
20-Aug-2005, 22:39
I remember having a similar reaction to the Berger graded papers when I tries it for a show I did in 2003. I chalked it up to the optical brighteners in the Ilford papers. Archival experts frown on optical brighteners as thet are prone to yellowing with age.

However the problem you describe sounds more pronounced-like maybe age fogging. Perhaps the paper is incorrectly dated and is actually out of date. If it is slightly out of date paper I have had some luck in this situation with a little benzotriazol added to the developer.

David A. Goldfarb
21-Aug-2005, 01:41
Last time I compared several of the premium graded papers, I noted that Ilford Galerie had the brightest base, and MGIV FB was almost as bright, so it may just be a result of what you're used to.

I would fix some unexposed paper and compare it to your print to see if you're getting some base fog, or if it's just the color of the base.

If you do have fog, it might be age or the paper/developer combination, too long a development time, or safelight fog that shows up on the Bergger but not the other papers you use. Some papers get foggy with soft working developers or warm tone developers, so if that's what you're using, try something like Dektol and see if that fixes it. If not, try more exposure and less development time--less than 90 sec. if possible. If not that, do a basic safelight test, comparing a sheet that has five minutes safelight exposure to one with no safelight exposure. If the paper is out of date, benzotriazole as Kirk suggests, or Edwal Liquid Orthazite might do the trick.

Michael Jones
21-Aug-2005, 07:31

I used that paper and when comparing to Brilliant or Oriental, it's not as white. That said, I was not unhappy with its image quality. You may have a bad batch; contact the distributor and see if there are other complaints. You also might try keeping your papers (and film) is a cooler environment. 100 degrees is pretty steep for storage. Some photo emulsions are more sensitive to heat than others. Good luck.


michael meyer
21-Aug-2005, 10:54

I just pulled out some prints I'd done on Bergger paper several years ago. The paper is base is not bright white, but I would certainly not call it grey, either. It is about the same whiteness as the paper base of Agfa Classic (though a different color). Less bright than Ilford prints I have here, though.

I had a box of Oriental Seagul that I'd printed on last year that was on the edge of being out of date and some of the prints from that box were slightly grey on the borders, but not enough to look significantly different than the newer boxes of paper. The Edwal Liquid Orthazite mentioned above helped with this paper's (probably) age induced base fog, but, again, the problem wasn't so pronounced as to be a problem.


Jeffrey Scott
21-Aug-2005, 15:28
We used some of the same paper for a client a couple years ago and got very nice results. Yes, the base is warmer than the MG IV we normally use, but the prints had a nice "glow" to them. One thing I really liked was the very nice shadow detail that was revealed. I did not like the fact that the Bergger was almost 2 stops slower and the paper wanted to float in the wash, so I had to put a cover on my Nova washer.

21-Aug-2005, 17:03
Bergger VCNB is lovely paper. While it has a creamier base than Ilford Multigrade, I've always been able to make much nicer prints on it than I can with Ilford papers. It sounds to me like you fogged it.

Dan Dozer
21-Aug-2005, 22:23
Thanks to everyone for the input and advice. In case anyone is still following this thread, today, I did some further testing to try to sort things out and here is what I found.

1 - I checked the date on the Bergger paper - it's smudged pretty badly to the point that i can't read it.

2 - The safelight fog test didn't reveal anything. My safelight has a pretty small bulb, so I didn't think it was contributing to the problem.

3 - The temperature of the developer I was using (dektol) was around 78 - 80 degrees, because that is about the temperature in my darkroom. It turns out that the Bergger paper appears to be much more temperature sensitive than some other papers. The original prints I did that started this whole thing I had devleoped for two minutes. At the time, I wasn't sure how long I should leave them in the developer, because the images came up pretty fast compared to the Ilford paper. Anyway, two minutes stuck in my head that was the time I should be using (I was wrong).

Today I did tests on unexposed Bergger paper at 2 minutes, 1 1/2 minutes, and 1 minute. As the time got shorter, the paper base was whiter. The two minute time showed a definite gray tone, which is what I saw in my original prints. Obviously, 2 minutes at 80 degrees does not work well for Bergger Paper. I went back to the product data sheet that came with the Bergger paper (you know the one that most of us don't pay attention to) - they recommend 68 degrees at 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. I suspect that even the 1 minute time is still considerably too long for 80 degrees.

I tried a 1 1/2 minute test on some old Bergger 8 x 10 that I had a couple of sheets left. It performed just like the 11 x 14, so the larger paper didn't seem to be bad or outdated.

I tried the 1 1/2 minute test on the Ilford paper and it produced a very clear bright white - very noticably brighter than the Bergger. The higher temperature of the developer apparently didn't affect the Ilford at all. However, image came up on the Ilford much slower than the Bergger. Furthermore, the Ilford seems to tone much less than the Bergger.

I tried the 1 1/2 minute test on a sheet of single weight Kodak Polymax Fine Art paper. It is about half way between the Bergger and the Ilford. Perhaps the Kodak is somewhat sensitive to the higher temperature of the Developer also.

So - where am I now? In looking only at this test - the Ilford wins hands down. However, this is hardly a complete test. I also don't think that I have given the other papers a fair test. I think I should actually read the literature that comes with the paper. I also will try and get the Bergger down closer to the right temperature, because overall, I liked the look of the Bergger and it seems to tone pretty well.

Thanks again to everyone for the help.

Scott Davis
22-Aug-2005, 10:54
Do give the Bergger another shot. I have been a dedicated Bergger user for quite some time, and I have never had a problem with fogging like you are talking about. I do all my processing in a Nova vertical slot processor, so my paper is virtually shielded throughout processing from the safelight. I also have used Dektol, and keep my processing temperatures at 68-72F. The reason to buy the Bergger is the control you have over it when toning - it tones remarkably well and will take on a very wide variety of tones depending on the chemistry used. I would definitely store your materials OUT of the garage when not running your A/C if it gets over 100 F inside. That will kill not only your paper but your chemistry as well. You could be running into a fixer problem - the Bergger may not be clearing as well as the Ilford because the fixer is close to exhausted from the heat, and the Ilford just has a lower silver saturation level so it still clears brighter.

Dan Dozer
22-Aug-2005, 14:22
Thanks Scott for the info - I have already moved my chemicals and paper back into the house for the rest of the hot season, and will be changing my methods of doing things. I agee with you that the Bergger seems to tone very nicely. I'm not ready to give up on it yet.

Gene Pollux
26-Aug-2005, 10:33
Lets get this straight: 100 deg. Fahrenheit will DESTROY & RUIN every paper. There is no way one can expect objective test result when storing paper at that temp.

Also, consider testing fresh batches of paper, Bergger is a little fickle when it comes to that.

I develop Bergger VC Warm for 4-6 minutes, to get good shadow and black, and my whites are clean and crisp.

No, not artificially (toothpaste commercial ) white like you may be used to with O.S., but a real nice white and a tonal range that is unmatched by most any paper. Believe me, I have printed every paper one can think of, but this paper is as close to heaven as one can get. You may want to try ADOX, also devine.

Here is the catch: start printing according to what you SEE, not what you're used to. These are papers of a whole new ballgame, they do not behave like the "vanilla", Ilfords and O. S. you're used to.

For the record, I use Zone VI as my "house" developer, but will use any other dev. I can get my hands on, depending on what the negative tells me.

I live in Florida, it gets hot here, but my darkroom stays at 70 F. Anything else will destroy chemistry and paper. NO EXCEPTION.

Good luck. Black and White hasn't been this exciting in many years, with all the new high silver paper and film coming out. As long as we keep demanding and buying good stuff, they will keep making it!

Greetings - Gene.

Gene Pollux
26-Aug-2005, 10:38
Before I forget, VERY IMPORTANT, check your safelights, Bergger does not like a lot of light, and hates yellow green.

Try doing your max white test ( develop an unexposed piece of paper) in total darkness. this may be an eye opener. It opened mine!

good luck - Gene.

Larry Kalajainen
30-Aug-2005, 06:15

When I lived in Malaysia, I had a similar problem keeping the temperature of everything to within even minimal norms. At first I tried setting a plastic bag full of ice cubes in my developer tray, and while that worked, I couldn't keep the temperature, and hence the developing time, consistent.

Then I read an article in an ancient Dignan photographic newsletter about divided development, and it changed my printing life forever. I've never gone back to single-solution developer for printing.

You won't be able to buy it over the counter, but you can mix it yourself using the same formula for Dektol (D-72) or Ansco 125.

The point is, whatever paper developer formula you use, simply extract the activating agent (usually sodium carbonate--same as Arm & Hammer Washing Soda available in your supermarket or pH Plus available at your swimming pool supply store) from the formula and put that in a separate solution. The other ingredients all go into Bath A.

Put your exposed print into Bath A. You only need to leave it in about 20 seconds, but if you leave it in all day, nothing will happen. No image will appear in Bath A, because the alkaline activator isn't in Bath A. Then with no rinse, put it in Bath B, where the image will begin to appear within seconds, and it will develop to completion BUT NO FURTHER, even if you leave it there for a long time.

The latent image soaks up only the amount of developing agent in Bath A as is needed. In Bath B, that amount is developed to completion. No over development is possible. Underdevelopment is possible if you pull it before it's done, but since it's done in under a minute, there's no reason to do that.

Bath A may be re-used indefinitely; it does not become exhausted, but only gets physically used up because each print soaks up a tiny amount. It will keep a year (maybe only six months in a hot darkroom like yours) before oxidation spoils it. Bath B is a one-shot, to be thrown out after each darkroom session. I mix the Bath B right in the tray. Just put 1/2 gallon water in your tray, throw in 1/3 cup of sodium carbonate and stir or let sit for a few minutes until it dissolves. I can usually run about 30 8X10s through a tray before it is exhausted. Weak blacks are the sign of exhaustion. But since sodium carbonate is so cheap, it literally costs only pennies per tray.

The good news is all this, of course, is that no time/temperature considerations are necessary. When the developing agents are separated from the activating agents, the time/temperature part of the equation is eliminated. In the tropics, I even started using a divided film developer for the same reason--essentially divided D-76.

I have a longer article and formulas in the "Chemistry Recipes" section of the APUG forum, so you might want to check it out.

Good luck,

30-Aug-2005, 06:34
One test is to mildly bleach one of those grey-base prints. Does the base return to white?

Gem Singer
7-Jun-2010, 12:28

Check the date on Dan's post.

I'm sure he has solved his problem by now.

However, since it appears that you are trying to sell window air conditioners and avoiding the 30day waiting period, you've just been busted.