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Thread: Developing Negs N+ / N-

  1. #1
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    Developing Negs N+ / N-

    I'm finally somewhat comfortable with shooting and developing black and white film (35mm, 120, and 4x5). I've made a lot of mistakes but things are going well enough that I'm ready to start making new mistakes

    I intentionally went out looking for a scene where I could try N+ or N- developing. As it turned out I found a scene that needed N-2 developing. No problem. I made the image and brought my test film home to develop it. I started trying to figure out what N-2 equated to in units of time. Well... there are a lot of rules of thumb on the web but the bottom line is I need to test my film. Ilford HP5+ (4x5) in this case.

    One sheet was fine with normal developing and the other I winged and instead of developing at 9m in DD-X 4:1 I developed it for 5:34 (that might not be the exact time but it's close). The two negatives are drying and it'll be tomorrow evening before I can scan them. I'll post results when I get them scanned.

    What is the process for coming up with N+ or N- times for a specific film and developer?
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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    Let me sell you a copy of my book. The last chapter tells you about N times...

    http://beefalobill.com/imgs/20150812...dAttention.pdf

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    A physical copy of the book would come with a Stouffer scale...

    So that scale is the first thing you need to buy.

    Make a contact print exposure of that scale onto about 5 sheets of your film, and develop the sheets for a variety of times, like 4, 5, 7, 11, 15 minutes (assuming somewhere in the range is a time you normally use). Then read the densities of the different steps of the different sheets and fill out a spreadsheet or draw paper graphs. From that point forward you have the information you need to interpret "N" times.

  4. #4

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    I learned this craft from The New Zone System Manual (White, Zakia, Lorenz. 1078). I see there's been a later edition, which I should get.

    N+, N, N- development goes hand in hand with testing to determine an ASA that is suitable for use with the system (usually about half of Mfg. recommended), and it goes hand in hand with exposing for the shadows. White, et.al., does an excellent job of explaining how all of this comes together.

  5. #5

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    You might check with Fred Newman at The View Camera Store. I know he used to do film testing and many used the service. If he still does it you can really cut the time to get your processing down.

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    Might I suggest a more empirical approach based on printing to find your N- and N+ development times?

    The object of N-1 development is simply to get all the luminance values in a rather contrasty scene to fit on the negative so that they print well on a medium grade paper without a lot of dodging and burning. The goal is to reduce development time enough to get a luminance value that falls on Zone IX to print at Zone VIII. So, when you find that contrasty scene, shoot three negatives instead of just one (I'd give a bit more exposure too, maybe 1/3 stop to support the shadows since N- loses you a bit of film speed; just figure this as an E.I. adjustment for N-1).

    Now, since you have "N" development nailed down, develop one of those negs 20% less and print it, aiming for faithful reproduction of the shadow value(s) you placed. If it's fine and your Zone IX luminance prints Zone VIII (white with a bit of detail), you've lucked out. If not, you have two more negs to fine tune with. Adjust development time till you get the values you want. That's your N-1 time.

    Do the same for N-2 and the expansions, i.e., place a shadow and change development times to move the high values around till they print Zone VIII. For example, N+1 wants a luminance of Zone VII to print Zone VIII, etc.

    Fine tune your development times as you work; if N-1 is consistently too contrasty, reduce the time a bit more and vice-versa.

    That's all there really is to it. Sure, it's fun to play with the step wedges and plot the curves, but it's not really necessary. My approach is basically that mentioned by Neil above. I learned from "The New Zone System Manual" and recommend it too.

    Best,

    Doremus

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Lloyd View Post
    What is the process for coming up with N+ or N- times for a specific film and developer?
    In general, it depends on the type of enlarger (condenser vs diffusion) and your grade of printing paper. Many, including Ansel Adams and myself have had good success using multigrade paper and processing all negatives to 'N.'

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    In general, it depends on the type of enlarger (condenser vs diffusion) and your grade of printing paper. Many, including Ansel Adams and myself have had good success using multigrade paper and processing all negatives to 'N.'
    Yes! In the past when photographic paper came as a fixed contrast grade it was important to "bend" the negative to fit the paper. This was done by N+ and N- development. Today the really excellent variable contrast papers enable the paper to be "bent" to fit the negative. Going up a contrast grade is the same as N+1 development. Go up two grades and it's a close match for N+2 development. Contractions work the same way, just in the opposite direction.

    The big advantage of N development is that it doesn't close off the options of going up or down the contrast scale merely by changing paper filtration in the darkroom. For example if you have done a N+2 development and your visualisation changes toward a lower contrast version you're sunk. The negative won't easily go there. The N developed negative is more versatile.
    Photography:first utterance. Sir John Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society. "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..".

  9. #9

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    Might I suggest a more empirical approach based on printing to find your N- and N+ development times? . . .
    Interesting.

    Since Ansel Adams recommended (typically) selecting from only five (N-2, N-1, N, N+1, N+2) of the infinity of possible development times, there was never the expectation that the development time be "perfect," only that it be reasonably close.

    I prefer doing all the curves, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. . . !

    Perhaps what Doremus Scudder suggests will accomplish the same goal.

    Adding a little detail to "exposing for the shadows":

    Select an area that you want to be about Zone II in the scene and meter it. The meter is designed to render it at about a Zone V. So to make it darker in the print, you need to expose the print to darken it by 3 stops so that it prints as an actual Zone II versus a Zone V.

    Summary:

    1] Select an area that you want to be Zone II.

    2] Meter just that area. (Often, one needs a spot meter to get only that area.)

    3] Observe the recommended aperture and shutter speed suggested by the meter, and change the settings to make the print 3 stops darker by some combination of increasing the shutter speed and decreasing the size of the aperture.

    4] Expose the negative.

    COMMENT: Some (like Ansel Adams, or White et. al.) recommend selecting a Zone III area and darkening the photo by two stops. I typically prefer pivoting on a Zone II area as I've described above.

    COMMENT: As for developing everything to an N, and "compensating" using paper VC filters: In my experience (at least, to my taste), no amount of doing this will compensate for not having a properly developed negative in the first place. The print is just not the same.

  10. #10

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    Re: Developing Negs N+ / N-

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    COMMENT: As for developing everything to an N, and "compensating" using paper VC filters: In my experience (at least, to my taste), no amount of doing this will compensate for not having a properly developed negative in the first place. The print is just not the same.

    N+1 and N+2 increases negative contrast, useful for flat scenes... if N development with a "flat scene" with can be compensated with VC paper, but perhaps if not the same...

    N-1 and N-2 developments are more powerful and solve critical issues. A lot of times we have an scene with high dynamic range, placing shadows at Z-III still highlights can be at Z-X, so an N development would burn those highlights as that area will reach max density "DMax" that is near 3.0D in TXP or T-Max. A N-2 development will extent film latitude 1.5 to 2 stops, as Z-X areas then fall at Z-VIII, while shadows at Z-III still are there.

    For high dynamic range scenes I had good results with N-3 and N-4 developments, but pulling 1 stop not with reduced time, but with reduced agitation. Reduced agitation (every 3 min, for example) has a compensating effect as developer exhauts a bit on the highlights. With Xtol I develop (with reduced agitation) in trays, this prevents bromide drag stains. With rotary this is no as selective.


    An then you can obtain a very difficult negative to print, with a lot of difficult burning/dodging.

    My chalenge now is printing this negative https://www.flickr.com/photos/125592...posted-public/

    With PS I arranged easily to obtain a digital image, but after spending a lot of time in darkroom with it I think I have a lot of foraseable work to obtain a decent contact print with a lot of selective burning.

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