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Thread: New to me printing issue

  1. #1

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    New to me printing issue

    Sorry to be so long winded, but I am stumped by an issue I've not had before. I've been printing since roughly 1969. back when I was 14. I changed so many variables from my usual habits I don't know where to begin.

    Our office wants some 16X20 black and white prints and I agreed to do them. All 20 of my suggested images were rejected as, I guess, too interesting or intriguing. Instead I've been tasked with photographing local landmarks. Whatever -- the firm is buying the material and chemicals. I bought a $219 box of Ilford Multicontrast paper, a material I've never used before. I am printing on a V chassis Beseler which still has a minor alignment problem per my earlier post. Light source is a retubed 8X10 Beseler (Aristo) head with a V54 tube.

    First up was a handheld 4X5 of a local landmark. A big flag on a rocky park hilltop with a kid climbing in front of it in the rocks. Camera was a Crown Graphic with a relatively modern MC Symmar 135mm lens. Film was Tri-X. I developed it in HC110 dil B and the negative looked good to me. Development time was my usual 5 1/2m in a tray with slow constant agitation as the method I've used since I read the Kodak F-something publication about development Tmax films. Has also worked fine for me. Exposure was 1/125th or thereabouts, stopped down to f:11 or 16. I didn't take notes. Lighting was hazy sun. The sky behind the rock and the kid and flag was overexposed. I printed it with a grade 2 1/2 Ilford filter, placed under the lens. That placement is also something I've never done before. I usually put the big Ilford MC filters above the diffuser stage. The negative was easy to print and looks fine as to the flag, and the rocks and the kid. Developer was 1:2 Dektol.

    But then I noticed a small bush off to the right, which had dried stems and dried flowers out on the end of the stems. I'll try to attach an iphone photo of this detail. It is against the sky. Against the overexposed sky, the stems basically disappeared and the flowers looked like blobs floating out there. It resembled one of the special effect posterization options on Picassa. "Huh," I thought. Could it really be that the sky is so overexposed it washed out the details of that bush? The last time I blew out a highlight so badly it was unprintable was when I underestimated a spot light on Phyllis Diller when she was performing in a shimmering silver dress, with matching boots. That was 1971. I looked with a magnifying glass at the negative and no, the stems are clearly there. It is an unimportant detail, something nobody will ever notice in these boring photos, but I've not had this problem before. I would expect the flowers to be sharp and stems to show, instead I got fuzzy blobs. I've kind of seen something like it, long ago, when playing around with Agfa Grade 6 paper. But I was at a 2 1/2 filter here. I assume I could have burned in the bush to print the stems, but I'd probably get a grey patch of sky behind it.

    I printed a bunch of other negatives which did not present this bright-sky situation and they are all fine. Boring but fine. I found printing with this paper easy.

    As a lark, and since I was more or less done for the day, I was wondering what a 35mm negative on TMAX 400 would look like printed 16X20. I'd never made a print that big off 35mm. I had a negative I liked of bright fog coming over a mountain ridge line onto a local golf course. Developed in D76 1:1, printed on the same enlarger, taken with a Rollei 35SE with an HFT lens. That lens is no slouch for sharpness or contrast, in case you don't know it. I was surprised how presentable the print was in terms of grain and sharpness, and people at the office actually like it despite it not being a local landmark. From a normal viewing distance the print is quite decent though not, of course, looking like a LF print.

    BUT...same effect as with the first one, but in spades. Where the bright fog was rolling over the hill, and presenting a bright background behind a pine tree. The tree focus was fuzzy disconnected blobs, same problem as before. I think I was printing with a #2 Ilford filter below the lens. Again, if you look at the little negative, the branches are all there, they just print like this. The tree looks sharp, but prints like the attached photos.

    So I'd appreciate any thoughts on why this is happening. Is it something that happens with this paper? I normally use my aged stock of frozen Forte and Seagull, and I would have used it on this project if the firm had been interested in the good stuff. Is using the smaller below-the-lens MC filters a problem?

    Thanks.

    Kevin
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails print1.jpg   print2.jpg  

  2. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: New to me printing issue

    Light bending around the smaller branches. Check your shutter...it might be one of the newer ones where they replaced the M setting with the W setting. You might not have had in on the normal X setting and used the W, or Warp setting, accidentally.

    PS...I would check the neg with a good loupe -- see if the paper is in fact accurately replicating what is on the neg. Being handheld, a slight movement might show up looking like this with very thin branches -- there could easily have been as much open sky behind a moving thin branch recorded than the actual branch. Sorry, a tough scenerio to describe.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  3. #3

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    The details are there in the negative and they are sharp. That's what I don't get. Shutter is regular old black face Copal.

  4. #4

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    Looks to me like you missed focus on the print.

  5. #5

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    Quote Originally Posted by PRJ View Post
    Looks to me like you missed focus on the print.
    This. If you're sure focus was right on in one place, check the alignment of your enlarger.

  6. #6

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    Maybe the below the lens filter, that you don't normally use. Did you focus with the filter in place? Could the filter have some haze that is causing scattered light, perhaps localized to some part of the image?

  7. #7

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    What I attached are iphone shots of a print and look unsharp. On the print, the grain is in focus surrounding these areas. On the one of the tree, the branches below the bright area of the sky look fine. I did focus after swinging the filter over. I will check the filters to see if they are hazed up. thanks.

  8. #8

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    Perhaps Burning with a number 5 filter locally will bring out the branches without affecting the sky.

  9. #9
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: New to me printing issue

    I wonder if an condsenser enlarger would get those looking properly.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  10. #10

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    Re: New to me printing issue

    Check the detail with your grain magnifier; it's a lot better than a loupe if you have a quality one since the magnification is much higher. If you have the Peak/Omega that tilts to see in the corners, just position it properly. If not, you'll have to get that part of the image to the middle of your negative carrier to view properly.

    If the detail is there and the stems are sharp (not blurred by focus error or movement), then you should be able to print them. If they are not sharp, then you'll just have to do the best you can. Maybe a bit of judicious retouching might be in order?

    Things to check:

    Number one on the list is making sure that portion of the negative is really being focused on correctly with your enlarger lens. Alignment issues, negative buckle/bowing, curved field on your lens, etc. can all cause an area on the edge of the negative to be in different focus than the center. A glass carrier solves the bowed negative problem (but does introduce extra care in dust management). Make sure your paper is held flat in the easel.

    Also make sure you're not getting any vibration or movement of the enlarger when printing. Cooling fans can be a pain sometimes.

    If the tonal separation between the stems and the sky is not that large, then you just may have the stems way down on the toe of the paper and the separation won't be that great (happens a lot with VC papers in general; I find I have to print down a lot more to get adequate separation in highlights with VC then I used to with premium graded papers...). Make a test printing the area down and see if you get more separation. If so, then the suggestion to burn the sky area with a #5 filter (or #47 blue filter) will help. Burning with the high-contrast filter affects the high values least.

    Make sure your under-the-lens filters are clean. A fingerprint or scuffing will give you fuzzy results.

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus

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