Oriental's New Seagull family of black and white
Photos © Tom Fuller, 2000
It seems the faster digital
imaging technology leaps forward, the stronger the rally becomes for
traditional cameras and sensitized materials. Regular Shutterbug readers
are aware of the new interest in rangefinder 35mm cameras--the
last one I owned was an SB UGLY "collectible" in the late
1970s--as well as the rise in popularity of conventional and even
antique photo processes. Black and white certainly has a new and secure
lease on life, with developing tanks and enlargers as plentiful as the
latest version of Photoshop.
It is therefore not surprising that Oriental, makers of the paper Ansel
Adams, Brett Weston, and a host of other masters printed on, has reintroduced
and expanded its New Seagull line. The almost legendary ability of these
Japanese-made papers to produce truly dense blacks and really brilliant
whites continues to set them apart from the crowd. The wider selection
gives printers of every creative orientation the choice of returning
to familiar material or the chance to try something new and exciting.
New Seagull G, Oriental's flagship, features a cold-tone, silver-rich
emulsion on a robust double-weight fiber base topped with a protective
coat. The paper is made in grades 2, 3, and 4, with ISO speeds/ranges
of P640/R100, P400/R80, and P200/R60, respectively. The manufacturer's
recommendation of a 15w yellow-green safelight at a minimum distance
of 3' should be taken seriously, as this sensitive emulsion is
quite prone to fogging. A 90 sec developing time in Dektol 1:2 at 68ÞF
is a good starting point, and while the image can be widely manipulated
through exposure and development variation, the risk of fogging creeps
in at soup times over nine minutes.
Papers able to reproduce the jet blacks and brilliant whites
demanded by serious photographers have returned with the
New Seagull line from Oriental. Made on Select VC-RP, one
of their fast-working resin protected papers, this print
has an image range and depth typical of traditional fiber-based
papers. Oriental makes New Seagull in graded and VC versions,
on fiber and RP base, in a choice of surfaces.
The variable contrast version
is the New Seagull Select VC-FB. This emulsion spans the full grade 0-5
range when exposed with dichroic heads, dedicated VC heads, or individual
filters, although testing and fine-tuning will naturally be required.
ISO speed/range varies from P100-400/R60-160 depending upon printing method,
and the paper must be handled (again briefly) under dim amber safelighting.
Care must be taken not to overfix New Seagull G or Select VC-FB so as
not to bleach the shadow areas, and natural or low-heat drying should
be used to prevent maximum density shift. The deep, rich image is beautifully
enhanced with selenium, a toner to which both smooth glossy papers take
The medium-weight base of Seagull RP-M is protected against chemical absorption
by thin layers of polyethylene, the top one mixed with titanium oxide
for cleaner whites. This fine matte paper requires the same safelight
as New Seagull G and has an ISO speed/range or P640/R110, P400/R90, and
P320/R70 for its available grades of 2, 3, and 4. Developing time is 60-90
sec in most standard developers. Fixing and washing takes five minutes
each, although gentle wash agitation is necessary to keep the sharp, stiff
corners of the RP base from gouging neighboring prints. A medium-heat
hair dryer finishes RP-M quickly and flat. New Seagull Select VC-RP, available
in smooth glossy surface, is the variable contrast equivalent with an
ISO speed/range of P125-400/R50-120.
New Seagull RP is a general-use graded paper with a resin protected medium-weight
base made in smooth glossy and smooth luster surfaces. The ISO speed/range
of grades 2, 3, and 4 is P640/R110, P400/R90, and P320/R70. Again, the
high sensitivity requires a dim yellow-green safelight and careful handling.
Development is 60-90 sec, with fixing, washing, and drying the same as
for other RP papers. Despite the similarity of the specs to other fast-working
materials on the market, the dense blacks and glistening whites of the
Seagull RP series clearly separates it from much of the competition--these
are papers that truly must be used to be appreciated.
Finally, while I have not yet had the opportunity to try it, I'm
very excited about Oriental Hyper Seagull. Processed in RA-4 color chemicals,
this unique resin-coated paper yields black and white prints from color
or black and white negatives. Image tone can be varied from neutral black
to deep sepia by changing color filtration in the printer or enlarger.
Originally produced only in long rolls for machine printing, sheet sizes
of Hyper Seagull are in the works and may be out by the time this issue
For more information, contact International Supplies, 945 W Hyde Park
Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302; (800) 999-1984; fax: (310)-673-5988; www.orientalphotousa.com.