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  #1  
Old 28th August 2014, 07:54 PM
SanMiguel SanMiguel is offline
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Default Printing question from newbie

Hello all,

I've recently joined the forum, getting back into the darkroom after a (very) long time. I've had a couple of printing sessions in my as yet un-finished but functional darkroom with reasonable results but I'm looking for someone with more experience than me to cast a critical eye over my process.

I apologise in advance for the long post but I think it helps to describe my process in some detail.

I'm using 35mm, FP4+ developed in Ilfosol3, Ilford Multigrade IV pearl paper and new below-the-lens Ilford filters. I use an RH Stopclock (earlier model) connected to my (diffusion) enlarger which means my timing is consistent. A rather battered Nova processor ensures my chemical temperatures are correct and I'm erring on the side of caution with regard to replenishment.

I'm stopping down 2 stops on my 50mm lens. On one negative with fairly even contrast (outdoor portrait on an overcast day) I got a decent print (16s) at grade 3.5. I was even able to burn in the foreground by 1/4 stop and the sky by 1/2 stop and I was pretty happy with the resulting print.

I then selected a negative with a wider range of contrast (some deep blacks and white highlights) and eventually settled for grade 4.5 and got a nice punchy print that I like.

To arrive at two decent prints took a lot of time, a lot of patience and a lot of test strips. Firstly, a test strip (or two) using grade3 filter to get a time that looked good (not too dark nor too light). And then another set of tests to arrive at a grade that looked good (not too murky nor too harsh). If this meant moving to grade 4 or above then I would need to re-do a test print for the times (although I'm aware that a x2 factor is mentioned with regard to grade 4 and above filters, this clearly isn't exact, or at least not for me and my setup).

So the final half-decent print arrived after perhaps 4, 5 or maybe more test prints - all of which I washed (as quickly as I dare - 5 mins max) and dried (microwave, low heat, slowly) before examining carefully (I'm not sure if 'dry-down' is an issue for RC papers, it seems to be mentioned more in relation to fibre paper). The 'examining carefully' part I find very challenging - are those blacks too dark/not dark enough? Are those highlights the 'correct' tone? Sometimes what appears decent on the test strip doesn't seem to work on a full print - I've taken to using my Comask to produce 4 small (4x5) test prints of the important area of the negative at various grades/times before committing to a final print at 10x8.

Does my process seem appropriate? Is there anything I'm missing or can improve upon? I'm deliberately avoiding the use of exposure meters - these might come later but for now I want to learn my craft manually, so to speak.

Finally(!), are there any generic printing tests I could (should) do which would help my understanding of (a) what tones are achievable with the various paper grades and (b) how to achieve them? I'm happy to put considerable effort into this to get me started on the right track - I find the whole process absorbing as well as challenging and getting a decent print at the end of a few hours is very rewarding.

Thanks,
Michael
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Old 28th August 2014, 08:15 PM
Mike O'Pray Mike O'Pray is offline
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Michael, it sounds to me as if you are proceeding correctly. My understanding of Ilford under-the-lens filters is that you do double the time for a print that you want to print at grade 4 and above.

If you use RC paper then on test strips you can get away with maybe 30 secs washing and even on finished prints 2-3 mins washing should be enough. Nothing wrong with 5 mins but if you want to speed things up without compromising longevity then consider cutting washing to 2-3 mins.

It might help if you show us your prints in either this thread or in the discussion gallery.

Glad you are enjoying the experience

Mike
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Old 28th August 2014, 08:17 PM
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cliveh cliveh is offline
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This is just my personal opinion, but when you are printing and making test strips at various exposures and contrast variations, the complexity of variables are vast. Add to this a few other factors like developer temperature, dilution, type of enlarger and it gets even more complicated. If you can get the original negative exposure correct for the given lighting conditions and develop it accordingly, there should be little need for contrast control through enlarger filtration. You may find that by fine tuning the exposure time on your enlarger at zero contrast will give you a better idea about how you are exposing and developing the negative.

Last edited by cliveh; 28th August 2014 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 28th August 2014, 09:02 PM
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Miha Miha is offline
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I agree with Clive. Try to make your negatives as consistent as possible, it will save you a lot of time at the printing stage.

Otherwise your process seems appropriate if not a wee bit too complicated. I judge my prints (FB and RC) wet, for instance.

Have fun!
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  #5  
Old 29th August 2014, 12:15 AM
CarlH CarlH is offline
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I've just started in the darkroom too and agree with Clive getting the negative right makes the printing a whole lot simpler. I find the contact print a good initial step in choosing the contrast needed.
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Old 29th August 2014, 07:12 AM
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dsallen dsallen is offline
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I would agree with Clive that striving for consistent negatives is the key to fine print making. The best way to do this is to take a day to do some boring tests that will fix the correct Exposure Index for your film (this is the setting that you use for your film when metering as opposed to that indicated by the manufacturer), a consistent film exposure regime, a consistent film processing regime and a fixed minimum printing time required to achieve a full black on the print.

Despite this being very boring, in one day you can quickly move your technique significantly forward and is far preferable to spending years making interesting but badly exposed/developed negatives.

The system that I have used and taught over many years can be found in my post number 12 in this thread:

http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.or...dsallen&page=2

http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.or...dsallen&page=2

Where I would personally disagree with Clive is the idea that “If you can get the original negative exposure correct for the given lighting conditions and develop it accordingly, there should be little need for contrast control through enlarger filtration.”

Doing the above tests will enable you to consistently achieve well exposed and developed negatives that will give a faithful representation of the scene with minimal need for varying contrast or burning and dodging (for example all of my negatives print fine at #3 on fibre paper exposed with an Ilford Multigrade diffusion enlarger head).

However, whether this represents the scene how YOU want it to look / how you visualised it as a finished print is quite another question. Given what I wrote in parenthesis above, I usually print at #4 - 4.5 with localised dodging and burning (often at a lower grade) to achieve the interpretation of the scene that matches how I visualised it at the time of exposing the film. Put simply, I am not at all interested in creating a ’straight’ rendition of the world as it is but how I want it to look in my photographs.

To give another example, when I was at college, many teachers dismissed Ansel Adams’ work as ‘technically highly proficient postcard images.’ Adams’ great achievement as both a photographer and an environmentalist was getting people to believe that his spectacular prints with rich blacks, brilliant whites and a dramatic range of mid-tones all topped off with Wagnerian skies was how the West (and Yosemite in particular) actually looked like his photographs in reality. Now Adams was technically proficient enough to have rendered the scene absolutely accurately but this is not what he wanted to achieve in his photographs.

Best of luck with the development of you photography. It is a great journey that never ends.

Bests,

David.
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  #7  
Old 29th August 2014, 07:31 AM
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MartyNL MartyNL is online now
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Some people swear by split-printing. That might be something for you?

Les McLean
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is considered preferable to waiting for inspiration.”
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  #8  
Old 29th August 2014, 02:29 PM
Adrian Adrian is offline
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I'm a relative newcomer to darkroom work Michael and use MGRC with a Nova slot processor same as you. You didn't mention what developer and development time you use. I just want to pass on probably the single best advice I've received in darkroom work to you, because I wish someone had with me earlier.

I once had the fortune to meet with an ex picture editor of the Guardian newspaper (he was judging at a competition) who'd shot and printed film for decades. I showed him one of my prints and said I wasn't happy the blacks were strong enough. He agreed they werem't. I had developed the print in Ilford MG for 1 minute at 20C as per manufacturer's recommendation. He suggested 2 minutes - and cut back on exposure and/or contrast if you start to loose the shadow detail, but always at least 2 mins in the developer. Well I did some tests - it transformed my prints! I now develop for 2 minutes in IMG. What is more, it made the prints far less susceptible to developer exhaustion - always a potential problem with Nova processors - even if you religiously replenish.

There will no doubt be those that have a different opinion but it works for me. Try it and see.
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Old 29th August 2014, 04:02 PM
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dsallen dsallen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
I'm a relative newcomer to darkroom work Michael and use MGRC with a Nova slot processor same as you. You didn't mention what developer and development time you use. I just want to pass on probably the single best advice I've received in darkroom work to you, because I wish someone had with me earlier.

I once had the fortune to meet with an ex picture editor of the Guardian newspaper (he was judging at a competition) who'd shot and printed film for decades. I showed him one of my prints and said I wasn't happy the blacks were strong enough. He agreed they werem't. I had developed the print in Ilford MG for 1 minute at 20C as per manufacturer's recommendation. He suggested 2 minutes - and cut back on exposure and/or contrast if you start to loose the shadow detail, but always at least 2 mins in the developer. Well I did some tests - it transformed my prints! I now develop for 2 minutes in IMG. What is more, it made the prints far less susceptible to developer exhaustion - always a potential problem with Nova processors - even if you religiously replenish.

There will no doubt be those that have a different opinion but it works for me. Try it and see.
Very good advice - underdevelopment of prints is far too common. RC prints should have at least 1.5 but preferably 2 minutes. Fibre prints should have at least 3 but preferably 3.5 minutes.

Bests,

David.
www.dsallen.de
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  #10  
Old 29th August 2014, 04:22 PM
Richard Gould Richard Gould is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
I'm a relative newcomer to darkroom work Michael and use MGRC with a Nova slot processor same as you. You didn't mention what developer and development time you use. I just want to pass on probably the single best advice I've received in darkroom work to you, because I wish someone had with me earlier.

I once had the fortune to meet with an ex picture editor of the Guardian newspaper (he was judging at a competition) who'd shot and printed film for decades. I showed him one of my prints and said I wasn't happy the blacks were strong enough. He agreed they werem't. I had developed the print in Ilford MG for 1 minute at 20C as per manufacturer's recommendation. He suggested 2 minutes - and cut back on exposure and/or contrast if you start to loose the shadow detail, but always at least 2 mins in the developer. Well I did some tests - it transformed my prints! I now develop for 2 minutes in IMG. What is more, it made the prints far less susceptible to developer exhaustion - always a potential problem with Nova processors - even if you religiously replenish.

There will no doubt be those that have a different opinion but it works for me. Try it and see.
That is the best advice for any newcomer to printing, I always in developing to completation, and tend to develop my prints for 4 minutes, RC paper in developer diluted 1/14, and the results speak for themselves, the old saying of more haste less speed applies very much in this case, as far as the rest of the OP method goes I see nothing wrong, certainly on the right path and, as with everything, Practice makes perfect,
Richard
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