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PaulG
10th December 2008, 08:43 AM
For want of a better expression, is there a particular ethos attached to contact printing?

I'd be interested to know how much time/manipulation people use in producing contacts. If it works for an enlarged print, is it fair game or is there a point where the 'purity' of a contact print is lost?

Just pondering after an evening in the darkroom that yielded some not entirely satisfactory results.

B&W Neil
10th December 2008, 09:38 AM
For want of a better expression, is there a particular ethos attached to contact printing?

I'd be interested to know how much time/manipulation people use in producing contacts. If it works for an enlarged print, is it fair game or is there a point where the 'purity' of a contact print is lost?

Just pondering after an evening in the darkroom that yielded some not entirely satisfactory results.

Hi,

First question: as long as it takes for me, mind that goes for all types of printing not just contacts. Often it takes a long time to get what I want!

Second question: I think not - contacts have a charm of their own and I approach them differently seeking out subjects that will work well at small size (4x5). In fact quite a different approach to negs I am planning to enlarge.

Ponder factor: just use your experience of last night to move foward as these things are never easy. Even when you think you have cracked it something can still crop up and cause you problems.

Neil.

Trevor Crone
10th December 2008, 09:53 AM
For want of a better expression, is there a particular ethos attached to contact printing?

I'd be interested to know how much time/manipulation people use in producing contacts. If it works for an enlarged print, is it fair game or is there a point where the 'purity' of a contact print is lost?

Just pondering after an evening in the darkroom that yielded some not entirely satisfactory results.

Like what Neil said, contact prints have a certain charm. They resonate a different emotion to what I get when looking at my projection prints. It's like listening to different types of music. Being small (4x5) they draw you in, you have to get closer to appreciate the delicate details.

Usually I find them much easier to print with perhaps the odd burning in of the sky. I print on normal graded and VC papers plus I produce palladium/platinum prints which usually don't need any manipulation of the image. They have a much softer and longer scale then when printing on silver based papers.

RH Designs
10th December 2008, 12:29 PM
Like what Neil said, contact prints have a certain charm. They resonate a different emotion to what I get when looking at my projection prints. It's like listening to different types of music. Being small (4x5) they draw you in, you have to get closer to appreciate the delicate details.


Trevor, do you think that a 4x5 contact print would look different to a 4x5 print made with the enlarger (assuming all other things, like contrast, neg format etc., equal)? Is it the technique itself that changes the resonance, or purely a matter of print size? Enlarger lens flare and other factors will have some effect when making a projection print, but I'm wondering, if they are tuned out to as far as possible match the contact print, there would still be a noticeable difference? Having never made any contact prints, I'm just interested.

Dave miller
10th December 2008, 12:39 PM
I don’t think it’s a question of ethics, more one of practicality. As I don’t do reality, I neither expect or require my finished work to resemble the original scene. In fact I would be disappointed if it did.
I have to separate 5x4 from 10x8 in order to reply further. With the larger negative size normal dodging and burning techniques are quite feasible and I would expect to use them to move the tones where I want them to be. With the smaller size this is less easy, although still possible.

Once one leaves the silver gelatine processes behind however it changes and becomes less feasible. Waving ones hands about under an ultraviolet lamp for 20 minutes whilst exposing a cyanotype print for example is not to be recommended.:)

Trevor Crone
10th December 2008, 01:06 PM
Trevor, do you think that a 4x5 contact print would look different to a 4x5 print made with the enlarger (assuming all other things, like contrast, neg format etc., equal)? Is it the technique itself that changes the resonance, or purely a matter of print size? Enlarger lens flare and other factors will have some effect when making a projection print, but I'm wondering, if they are tuned out to as far as possible match the contact print, there would still be a noticeable difference? Having never made any contact prints, I'm just interested.

Richard, I think it's probably subjective for I've never done a side by side 4x5 contact print vs. 4x5 enlarger print. However I do get a different feeling from my contact prints then I do from my projection (enlarged) images. I think the enlarger light train and optics of the enlarger lens may have a part to play in this. My 4x5 contact prints (I haven't got an 8x10 enlarger so I can't compare these) do seem to have a smoother tonality grade for grade over projected (enlarged) prints. It's certainly not a quantum leap but something very subtle. Needs further investigation.:)

RH Designs
10th December 2008, 01:43 PM
My 4x5 contact prints (I haven't got an 8x10 enlarger so I can't compare these) do seem to have a smoother tonality grade for grade over projected (enlarged) prints.

This is probably due to a small change in contrast caused as you suggest by the flare in the enlarger optics. These effects are indeed subtle but my gut feeling is they can be tuned out (at least with VC paper) by tweaking the filtration. You're right, it does need further investigation, but unfortunately I haven't anything larger than a 6x7 neg to investigate - nor do I have an LF enlarger. I wonder if a small contrast increase (maybe 0.1 or 0.2 grade) on the enlarged print might result in a similar tonality to the contact?

I remember Les McLean and I doing something similar when comparing his Zone VI cold light enlarger to my LPL colour one to investigate the old argument about whether cold light is "better", as is claimed by some. I found I could exactly match the print (from my negative) from the Zone VI by tweaking the filtration on the LPL. Les will tell you mine wasn't as good, but I could see no difference. I'll now take cover while Les prepares his reply :D

Trevor Crone
10th December 2008, 02:28 PM
SNIP; I wonder if a small contrast increase (maybe 0.1 or 0.2 grade) on the enlarged print might result in a similar tonality to the contact?

That's crafty, you must have known that my Multigrade 500 control panel only allows 1/2 grade increments:D I shall have to consider investing in one of your Stop Clock 500 units sometime;)

RH Designs
10th December 2008, 03:03 PM
That's crafty, you must have known that my Multigrade 500 control panel only allows 1/2 grade increments:D I shall have to consider investing in one of your Stop Clock 500 units sometime;)

Aha! Well no, I didn't know you were using a MG500. I prefer a continuous contrast control either using a colour head (which I normally do) or split-grading. The StopClock 500 will give you 0.1 grade increments in fine mode (0.5 grade otherwise). I'm currently calibrating the split grade mode of a standard StopClock using the colour head filters, which is a bit tedious and drifting off the topic of this thread. If there's anything interesting to say about it afterwards I'll start a new thread :).

Les McLean
10th December 2008, 05:34 PM
?

I remember Les McLean and I doing something similar when comparing his Zone VI cold light enlarger to my LPL colour one to investigate the old argument about whether cold light is "better", as is claimed by some. I found I could exactly match the print (from my negative) from the Zone VI by tweaking the filtration on the LPL. Les will tell you mine wasn't as good, but I could see no difference. I'll now take cover while Les prepares his reply :D


Ross, I was always suspicious of your eye, particularly the right one. :D

On a serious note I'm afraid I don't subscribe to the "purity" approach of a contact print. Regardless of whether it's a contact or enlarged print I believe that we should do all that we can to put the best possible interpretation on to the paper. If that includes burning and dodging a contact print then so be it. Interesting comments made here relating to enlarger lens flare and all that stuff which may have a bearing on any differences that show. Perhaps Richard should pay a visit to the borders and we could make some comparisions between contact prints and enlarged prints of the same size using both LPL diffusion and Cold Cathode enlargers. We could also muder a very nice bottle of single malt I have just waiting for his visit. Obviously we drink the malt after all judgements have been made and agreed. :p

B&W Neil
10th December 2008, 06:03 PM
Just to add a bit more :)

We must not forget the creative use of toners with contact prints and expecially the creative hand washing of POP papers to reveal their image. Although I am not an expert on this I know a lot of the toners used by photographers of years gone by, in the production their contact prints, were probably home brews and their formulas were often kept secret by those who used them - as they produced their mark. A lot of these toners are now used by those who make contact prints today and it is worth noting that these toners are not widely used with projection printers in the same way, but of course there is no reason why they should not be tried. As far as I can see the photographers who use alternative processes to make contact prints also may use a selection of toners to get the creative result they are looking for.


Neil.

Argentum
10th December 2008, 06:12 PM
the original question seems to come from the viewpoint that an image should be unaltered, but that is impossible. The camera always lies. After that it depends on what your purpose is. Documentary where, as a photographer, perhaps you have a duty not to manipulate but that is debateable. Or fine art, in which case anything goes. Since when was anything creative limited to being unmanipulated.

RH Designs
10th December 2008, 06:53 PM
Ross, I was always suspicious of your eye, particularly the right one. :D

The right one is getting a bit squiffy these days certainly. I may have to go AF ... :eek:

Perhaps Richard should pay a visit to the borders and we could make some comparisions between contact prints and enlarged prints of the same size using both LPL diffusion and Cold Cathode enlargers. We could also murder a very nice bottle of single malt I have just waiting for his visit. Obviously we drink the malt after all judgements have been made and agreed. :p

We'd best post them here before we open the bottle then, Les :). It would be an interesting comparison though, if the enlargers can print small enough to make a 1:1 "enlargement" which is the only valid comparison with a contact I think.

Trevor Crone
10th December 2008, 06:56 PM
SNIP; Obviously we drink the malt after all judgements have been made and agreed. :p

Les, I think you should drink a fine single malt before AND after any tests are carried out.

I've noticed since I've stoped drinking spirits my work has taken a down turn;)

CarlRadford
10th December 2008, 07:51 PM
I helped Tim Soar make some plt/pd prints from 10x8 in camera negs earlier this year. He has a uv light source that comes from three uv bulds inside an overhead canopy above a vacuum contact printing frame (Parker?). As the light is shaded one could get your hands between the light and image in much the same way as you do under an enlarger - so yes manipulate away - just judiciously :)

Les McLean
10th December 2008, 08:37 PM
Les, I think you should drink a fine single malt before AND after any tests are carried out.

I've noticed since I've stoped drinking spirits my work has taken a down turn;)

Trevor, Been there done that! A friend and I drank a bottle of Highland Park once when we went into the darkroom to print. We took the bottle into the darkroom with us when we started and the first prints looked excellent as we were making them. When we went back the following morning we found an empty bottle and a tray full of crap prints which we destroyed immediately. The darkroom smelled like a distillery too. :D

B&W Neil
11th December 2008, 07:39 AM
[QUOTE= .......The darkroom smelled like a distillery too. :D[/QUOTE]


Les, have you thought of improving the darkroom's ventilation system ;)

Cheers - !!! Neil.

PaulG
11th December 2008, 08:43 AM
Thanks. There are some interesting thoughts/comments here.

The reason for me asking the question was to take a view on the relation of the contact print to the negative. For smaller formats (as I see it) contacts are 'simply' a utilitarian means to assess an image prior to deciding whether to print from it or not.

As has been pointed out in previous posts, large format contact prints can (and do) also have an aesthetic quality to them and seem to be viewed as distinct from enlarged prints. I was canvassing the views of contact printers as to how they saw them and went about making them.

If I've caused people to stop and think about the "why" as well as the "how", maybe that's no bad thing.

Dave miller
11th December 2008, 01:39 PM
Les, have you thought of improving the darkroom's ventilation system ;)

Cheers - !!! Neil.

Ventilation! :eek:

Hes even plugged the keyhole. Anyway it would distract from the ambience.

Ian Leake
13th December 2008, 10:39 AM
For want of a better expression, is there a particular ethos attached to contact printing?

I'd be interested to know how much time/manipulation people use in producing contacts. If it works for an enlarged print, is it fair game or is there a point where the 'purity' of a contact print is lost?


I'm not sure whether contact prints have 'purity' as such. But I do think that choosing to contact print has implications for the way you work, how you see, and hence what you create.

In all fields of human endeavour, specialism leads to depth. If you want to go deep into a subject then you need to specialise in it.

Choosing to contact print is one way of specialising. Contact printing imposes a number of constraints, such as having to consider the size of your print when you make your negative, and, depending on your process, it can make print manipulation difficult. But at the same time it can be liberating because there are fewer decisions to make.

I think that labelling contact prints as being somehow more 'pure' than enlargements is perhaps more about marketing than photography...