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Thread: pull detail from shadows

  1. #1

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    pull detail from shadows

    Looking for a little feedback on pulling detail from shadow area black and white tmax 100. I'm sure you pros have methods for this. I really like this print, simple, shot close with a long lens,old farm machinery. The neg has plenty of detail in the shadow area. I like the overall feeling of it with the Schneider S lens, and my MCRX 45 with a dichro head. I cranked the magenta to 80 for contrast, and when the paper is wet, after selenium toning, I am very happy with shadow detail. However once the full matte double weight paper is dry, my shadow detail could be sharper. I would like it sharper. I'm thinking maybe 15 seconds in fresh Ilford developer, then water bath. Then back into developer again then water bath, and again, until I've gotten my full 2 minutes develop time. This may stop the silver from going all the way in shadow? I am 9.5 seconds, at f16 on the enlarger lens. I thought I had this print down, until I looked at the dry prints today. Any ideas, things to try would be appreciated. I thank you for your response in advance. Robert

  2. #2
    おせわに なります! Andrew O'Neill's Avatar
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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    Not quite sure what you mean by "pull detail from shadow area". Do you want the shadow areas to be more luminous? The method you describe, developer to water to developer, repeated for duration of development time is known as water bath. It's a good way to reduce contrast. You could try that, but if you are using VC paper, you could pull back on the contrast a bit by using less magenta. A method that I often employ is printing with an unsharp mask. This illuminates your shadows and sharpens the image at the same time.
    It also sounds like you may be suffering from a bit of dry down. Have you ever done a dry down test?

  3. #3

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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    Thanks Andrew for your reply. I found that when I printed this with RC glossy paper, I was able to see all detail in the shadow area. Using the matte paper is more of a challenge. However there is a texture (perceived?) when using the absolute flat matte. I particularly like the paper when selenium toned, and placed within an olive green mat. I have never tried a dry down test. I will tomorrow in the darkroom. I am also originally from B.C. I remember those little churches from the times I stayed with native people when hitchhiking through the interior in the early seventies. I was just a kid, and those people would invite me in for supper, rather than let me stay out on the road after dark. Sometimes the wolves would scare me a bit, especially up at Ashcroft when I worked in the Lornex copper mine. I worked at Moresby camp,as a chokerman too. Still remember the baseball diamond. And remember where old cars and donkey engines rot in the bush to this day. I lived with the Haida off and on, and still have friends in Skidegate. Must get back up there. Thanks.

  4. #4
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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    Check out http://www.maskingkits.com/ for some ideas on how to pull out shadow details. I have used these ideas, and the kit, and they really work!

  5. #5

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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    I don't see that the development method you mention is going to do anything for you in terms of shadow detail. That's a method used in the old days of graded papers to get between paper grades (e.g. to make a grade 2 paper an effective grade 2 2/3). Since you can get any grade you want between roughly 0 and 5 with your dichro head and your VC paper I don't see much purpose in combining developer with a water bath.

    Part of the problem is that matte paper doesn't produce quite as rich blacks as glossy, as you've observed. I don't know any way around that if you continue using matte paper.

    The most common culprit for lost shadow detail is inadequate exposure in the camera. I can't see whatever image you're referring to and I don't know how you meter your subjects. But maybe you're just underexposing for the paper you're using so that areas in which you wanted detail are showing up as solid black. You should be metering the darkest shadow area in which you want detail using a 1 degree spot meter, then reduce the metered exposure by one stop instead of the normally recommended two, reduce development time accordingly if necessary depending on the highlights, and see what happens (sorry if this is something you already know). If you do this it should be combined with film speed tests and development time testing, which hopefully you've already done.
    Brian Ellis
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    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  6. #6
    IanG's Avatar
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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    Sometimes you need to use a slightly higher grade to separate the shadow details and use pre or post flashing to bring back the highlights.

    Many of my images have deep shadow areas and this works well. Split grade printing is another option or two bath development first in a low contrast dev, then a contrast dev. All quite simple but effective.

    Ian
    Last edited by IanG; 25-Jun-2010 at 11:51.

  7. #7
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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    I should also have added that choice of paper makes a vast difference when printing images with subtle but important shaow detail, the best paper for this was Record Rapid, but Poly warmtone was better after Agfa replaced RR with MCC.

    Foma 111 is excellent as well, and probably Ilford Mutigrade warmtone, but it's the added flexibility of Chloro-Bromide papers than help enormously.

    Ian

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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    I thank all of you who have responded to this thread. I decided to sepia tone some of the six prints I made from this neg today. Interestingly, when wet, and viewed in sunlight, all the detail returned. It is fine detail, but sufficiently there, and very nice. Subtle. My paper is 4 years old. Kept cool, but perhaps has lost some of it's luster. I know that if I print this using RC it will be OK, but darn it, I love the texture and feel of matte finish. Perhaps I will buy some fresh paper, and see if I have better luck pulling good value from the shadow areas. Robert

  9. #9
    IanG's Avatar
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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    My guess is your actually over printing slightly, maybe slightly over developing as well and not allowing for the slight increase in density in the selenium toner and much more importantly the dry down factor. This doesn't really occur with RC papers and is greater with some FB papers than others,

    It's best to dry your test strips to see what's actually happening, cut one in half thenleave one part wet & dry the other. Ansel Adams in an old video I had used to dry the strips in a microwave

    A hair dryer works too.

    Ian

  10. #10

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    Re: pull detail from shadows

    It's certainly a good idea to do a dry down test. However, I don't think dry down is the cause of your loss of detail in the shadows. Dry down primarily affects highlights, causing what started out as nice brilliant whites when wet to end up as a slightly duller shade of gray when dry. Drying can cause blacks to look a little flat or less "rich" compared to how they looked when wet but that's a result of the difference between the paper surface when wet and dry, not a loss of detail as such. And of course the difference between wet and dry is less obvious when using glossy rather than matte paper, which I think is one reason why you like the blacks in your RC paper better than the matte (the other probably more important reason is the fact that glossy paper inherently produces richer blacks than matte as I mentioned before).

    You mention toning in sepia and then viewing the prints in sunlight and seeing that "all the detail returned." Setting aside the obvious difference between a toned and an untoned print, my guess is that's just a result of viewing the prints in bright sunlight, not any difference in the detail that's present in the print. The light under which prints are viewed obviously has a major effect on how the prints look. It's not a surprise that you'd see more detail in some areas of the print when viewed in sunlight rather than in normal room light. In fact it would be a surprise if you didn't see a difference. In John Sexton's workshops John often takes a student print that looks kind of dull and flat in normal room light and holds it up inches a way from a very bright light ("blasting" it is the term he uses) to demonstrate the huge difference that lighting makes and the need to set up a proper viewing area for wet prints in a darkroom. Again, it isn't because the print is any different, it's because things (shadow detail in your case) can be seen in very bright direct light that can't be seen in dimmer, indirect light.

    There's plenty of literature about setting up a viewing area in your darkroom, written by people who know a lot more than I do, so no need to go into that here, it should be easy enough to find on the web.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

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