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Thread: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

  1. #11

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mamu View Post
    you'll definitely want to use split contrast printing and even variable contrasts for burning or dodging. Before we had contrast emulsions, we had fixed grade paper and had to get the best possible image through burning and dodging. If you really like the wet darkroom as a learning experience, you might want to stick with it. "Better living through chemistry," as we use to say. Good Luck!
    I have been reading and in some cases experimenting with this dodging and burning using filters. Where I seem to get confused is knowing which end of the filter scale to use for both dodging and burning. Take my white flower for example. Once I have the whites where I want them but feel I could get more detail out of the petals, would I reach for a low contrast or high contrast filter to start burning.

  2. #12
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    I'm not sure about the 'no-filter' exposure. I can't think of any time one would do that, unless one was doing proofs or something or did not have any filters. If making a fine print, the information gleaned from the no-filter print in terms of contrast or exposure leaves one 'in the dark' as they say.

    There are a hundred ways to work up a print...but...

    Before any printing to perfection can take place, the negative has to be printable. If not, no matter what you do it will not look right.

    Printable negatives are most frequently those with enough detail (as measured by sensitometery) such that the visible shadows in the print have a density that is 0.3 times the gamma to which the film is processed. If that condition is not satisfied, the novice printer will likely have an unsatisfactory print. To obtain the pre-requisite shadow density one can follow a thousand exposure techniques; some of which will yield the correct negative and some of which will yield a poor, or unprintable negative.

    I believe there are thee ways to determine if you have a printable negative; none of which are 'easy.'

    1) If you know the gamma to which the original negative was processed, or if you can process a control strip exposed to an identical sheet of film with identical development to get the gamma, you can measure the shadows with a sensitometer and see if it meets Jones' criteria above.
    2) You can try printing it with everything you have at your disposal, any grade or type of paper or enlarger light source type or developer type and dilution until you get the best print.
    3) After years of experience printing one could just look at the negative on the light table and know if it will make an excellent print

    BTW if you do #2 enough times, you get to #3
    Most people need to be at #3 before they can understand what #1 means. In which case they don't need #1

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #13

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    I'm not sure about the 'no-filter' exposure. I can't think of any time one would do that, unless one was doing proofs or something or did not have any filters. If making a fine print, the information gleaned from the no-filter print in terms of contrast or exposure leaves one 'in the dark' as they say.
    I ought to have mentioned in my original post that I am using a color head enlarger and when I said "White Light" I meant that all the filter dials were set to zero and no filter under the lens. I was under the impression that this scenario was more or less equivalent to a Grade 2 using Ilford MG paper but I may be wrong and probably are

  4. #14
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    I ought to have mentioned in my original post that I am using a color head enlarger and when I said "White Light" I meant that all the filter dials were set to zero and no filter under the lens. I was under the impression that this scenario was more or less equivalent to a Grade 2 using Ilford MG paper but I may be wrong and probably are
    To make life easier, the middle tones stay the same when changing between #2 filter and the others (except the highest two). If your first exposure is on white light, not only do you not know if it is #2, #2.5 or something else, the exposure for the next filter higher or lower will require a new series of test prints.

    If you are really printing for the first time, maybe someone on the forum can send you a perfectly exposed scene on a 4x5 negative and you can print it with every filter in your filter set to see how the paper responds. It is all about seeing rather than reading.

  5. #15

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    If your first exposure is on white light, not only do you not know if it is #2, #2.5 or something else
    racer, with white light (tungsten) you get exactly Grade 2 .

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    See here page 3: https://www.ilfordphoto.com/wp/wp-co...Multigrade.pdf

    With that table you can obtain any grade with a color enlarger, but additional exposure correction has to be made when changing the grade, this is "single color settings" mode.

    If using "Dual colour filter settings" then we only have a minor exposure change, as explained in the same page of the pointed document.

  6. #16
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Yes, those "maximum bright" settings can be useful in special circumstances! I'm not keen on using those all the time because of the inconvenience in re-establishing a base exposure with each change in contrast. Seems the OP has at his disposal the convenience of the filter set and may or may not have a tungsten lamp.
    Indeed the older Ilford filter sets used white light as one of the available settings using an exposure compensation of 1/2, but the latest filters have a specific #2 to simplify exposure settings between contrast settings. Again, outside of 'special circumstances' I don't see why one would not want to use the #2 filter.

  7. #17

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    I have been reading and in some cases experimenting with this dodging and burning using filters. Where I seem to get confused is knowing which end of the filter scale to use for both dodging and burning. Take my white flower for example. Once I have the whites where I want them but feel I could get more detail out of the petals, would I reach for a low contrast or high contrast filter to start burning.
    Using a color head does make it easier to change. That's a great question which I hope you'll test for yourself and let me know your results. It depends on the tonality of the details you're trying to bring out. If you want shadow detail with minimum effect on the higher values I'd increase the contrast. If you need midtones or highlight detail and don't want to block up any darker areas or details, I'd decrease the contrast. In practice though, if you use a split contrast method by doing a test at G1 and find the exposure to see the first hint of highlight detail, then expose a second test strip at G1 for that time, increase to G4 and give a second exposure at 1/4, 1/2, and equal to the original time on your second test you should get more detail without having to use much burning or dodging. That's what works for me but you might find others who swear by some variation that turns out to be your way.

  8. #18

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    I ought to have mentioned in my original post that I am using a color head enlarger and when I said "White Light" I meant that all the filter dials were set to zero and no filter under the lens. I was under the impression that this scenario was more or less equivalent to a Grade 2 using Ilford MG paper but I may be wrong and probably are
    Use the color settings recommend my Ilford for your enlarger. I suspect you've actually been printing at around G3. VC papers have a low contrast emulsion sensitive to yellow and a high contrast emulsion that is more sensitive to magenta. Without color balanced light, they can be all over the place. They are engineered for the color pack so definitely use it. Making negatives optimal for printing is absolutely necessary for getting good prints on graded papers and for alternative processing. There are some who stick to graded papers even today. It is much harder to get a really spectacular print, but when you do, they're amazing. If you want to optimize your negs, you'll need to do a series of test negs and prints with your materials in your darkroom such as described in Ansel Adams books. That's the only way to lock down all the factors and see what under, normal and over exposed negs with -1, normal and +1 development look like printed at different exposures and contrasts. Three rolls or nine sheets of 4x5 should get you your negs. Ten 8x10 sheets cut into 4x5's would cover the paper. Once you've done those tests, you'll be able to expose and develop your film to print just like you want and expect it to.

  9. #19
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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    Check out Tim Layton's YouTube channel, many of his recent videos are exactly this type of print.

  10. #20

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    Re: Beginner Darkroom Printing Question

    I also agree that white light exposure of MG paper provides no useful information, rather I always start with contrast filters in place grade 2 or 3 and make a series of whole frame prints at different exposures and different contrasts, maybe four or six prints, to find out what I have on my negative. By inspecting these prints I find out about the range of midtones, whether there is detail in the shadows that I want and how dense the highlights are, and from this I arrive at the choices of how much dodging and burning can contribute and what contrast filter to use and what exposure to use for the next series of prints. This may require ten or more experimental prints to arrive at a printing plan for the final satisfactory print.

    This can all be done at 8x10 size to lower cost and then be scaled up for larger sizes once the contrast and dodging and burning have been figured out.

    Sometimes the evolution of the final print variation can require half a day of work during which a number of possible ways of printing the image have been attempted and evaluated.

    Sometimes I prefer not to make a choice of final print variation till later, I "live with" a number of experimental prints checking how I feel about each variant a number of times spread over days or weeks before making a choice.

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