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Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by Black Dog, Dec 4, 2003.
Any tips on designing an AZO area for my darkroom?300 or 150w bulb etc? Thanks for any useful 411.
I print AZO in my garage with a clip on halogen work lamp clipped to the exposed rafter beam, and my contact printing frame sitting on top of a plastic garbage can (the kind with the flat lid) It can be done very cheaply and just about anywhere that is reasonably dim. The only major expense is the paper. I develop in Rodinal (which I also use for my film) with great results and it is quite inexpensive and easy to mix.
Same space is needed for a 150 or a 300 watt bulb. All you need is a small, dry, three feet of counter space, and some space above for the light. A clip-on reflector (cost less than $10 will work), but I just use a bare R-40 light bulb. One bulb has lasted now for over 25 years. I prefer a brighter bulb--easier to see through dense negatives to see where to dodge and burn.
The dry counter where I make the exposure is at the end of the sink; not opposite it. One step. Quick. Easy. Nothing complex or expensive needed at all. The exposure counter top is on the long side of "L" shaped counters. To my left is the voltage regulator and a space to put the boxes of paper. I transfer paper from a 500-sheet box to a 100-sheet box and work out of that. No "paper safes" needed. No wrapping on the paper needed, except for longer term storage--certainly not between each print. Your set up should be such to keep the the work process flowing with minimal wasted motion and time.
I use a standard 100 watt bulb with a standard desk lamp reflector about 24 inches above the exposure plane. Nominal exposure time is 30-40 seconds which seems to be about right.
I use my LPL enlarger for enlargments from 4x5 to 8x10 I get times from 50 seconds to 3 minutes because I don't like to take a 8x10 into the field!
I have been using the R lamps in 45W and 120W (Ge misers). They are a lot cheaper than the 300W R lamps. I have a fairly standard printing time (proof time) of about 11 seconds with the 45W on grade 2.
Would a normal 200-Watt Phillips Classictone spotlightbulb work with AZO and keep the exposure times relatively low, in particular with dense negatives?
Francesco, I don't know how close you will have the bulb to the paper, but I found spotlights to be too narrow beamed - flood lights spread the beam properly.
I'm using a 120-watt now, so 200 should work.
Hi Juan, planning to keep it between 2 to 3 feet above the frame. Whichever gives the best light cover. What height and what kind of times are you starting with using 120 watt?
My bulb is only a foot-and-a-half above the paper - far too close for a spotlight to give even coverage. That's why I have to use a flood light.
When I started with Azo, I was exposing and developing by the Fred Picker "thinest negative" principal. Then my exposures were running 10-30 seconds. Now that I've adopted the dense negative system (discussed here and at michaelandpaula.com at length) my exposures have been from about 50 seconds to 3-minutes. I consider myself still at the experimental stage with this system. These negatives are so dense they'd break Don Miller's densitometer (ha) but they print well if I expose long enough.
After experimenting with a few things, lately I've been using a cheap halogen desklamp with the UV filter removed and a little over a foot from the paper (8x10"). Exposure times are around 20 sec., but I've burned in a few very dense highlights for as long as 3-1/2 min.
There is another reason to use a bright bulb besides keeping the exposure times short, and that is so that you can see through the negatives, especially the dense ones, so you know exactly where to dodge and burn.
Just finished my first trial with Azo and I realise how important a properly exposed dense negative is. I started out with a 200w bulb but moved on to a 60w bulb in order to keep the exposure times not too short (i.e. less than 15 secs). My thin negatives did not show as much detail as my denser negatives. But what a glow those dense negatives printed out. Beautiful prints and tone and detail and etc.. By the way, I used the two bath Moersch Amidol plus kit (the second bath being Catechol). Works very well indeed.
What criteria are you using to determine that they're properly exposed (i.e. dense enough)?
I make four negatives of the same scene exposed differently and developed differently. One of the negatives being exposed and developed as I always do and the others follow a procedure described by Michael Smith in the forum. I visually compare all 4 negatives on the lightbox before contact printing them on AZO. In all cases, the most dense of the four (that is, the one that appears the darkest on the lightbox, and yet also appears to have the greatest amount of highlight and shadow detail) is the one which prints out the best (and easiest?) on AZO. This negative turns out to be the one which I gave 1 to 2 stops more than my metering would suggest and 20 per cent more development time. It took a lot of faith for me to try this procedure as I was afraid to overexpose the negative. No such luck. Plus, the film I use is Efke PL100 which I believe handles such extra exposure and development well.
Jdef, I too do not understand the densitometric qualities of this procedure but it does show some interesting results and matches the longer scale of AZO well. Have you checked this thread from the AZO Forum - www.michaelandpaula.com/mp/startframe.html? The discussion here is about density and is quite in depth. I use Pyrocat HD 2:2:100 and this I think is an important factor to consider. Other used ABC Pyro. You are right when you say that shadows are moved up (e.g. Zone IV instead of II). And you are also right when you say highlight are moved up too (e.g. Zone XII instead of VIII). What is clear is the difference between these negatives and those I expose as I normally do. The latter do not print so well in AZO, which is really the reason for making such negatives. Let me know what you think of that thread in the AZO forum because maybe you can explain it better to me.
I think the thread Fansesco is talking about is the 'ABC, pyrocatHD, film choice' one located in the 'Developing Film' section.....but I could be wrong.
SPixel is right. Go to the Developing Film section and look for the thread ABC, Pyrocat HD, Film Choice".
I have followed this thread with a great deal of interest. There seems to be an awfully lot of "black magic" and very little of sensitometry as I observe some of the people who expose film for and then print it on Azo paper.
In the midst of all of this confusing information I decided to conduct tests of the materials to see what the materials themselves indicated. I began these tests with the paper using a reflection densitometer exposed to a known density in the form of a Stouffer calibrated step tablet. My reason for doing this was that the Azo paper is a fixed grade material and for that reason it's sensitometric performance is fixed.
What I found was that Azo grade two has an exposure scale that will accomodate a negative of 1.60 density range (high value density minus low value density and not minus film base plus fog). I found that grade three Azo will accomodate a camera negative having a density range of 1.10.
The matter then becomes one of selecting a film and developer that will produce a density range that matches the paper. Not all films are equal in this respect. Furthermore not all of the same speed from differing manufacturers are equal in this respect. There is one way to know the film's characteristics and that is to test the film. Everything else is hearsay, rumor, and rethoric.
When some people indicate that they are rating a 200 speed film at an EI of 100 and placing their shadows at Zone IV and then further state that this indicates a two stop decrease in speed from the mfg rating I find that I must question their reasoning. This doesn't represent a two stop decrease but rather a four stop decrease from the manufacturers rated speed. If the film exposure breaks at Zone three then the film is incorrectly rated.
When we move the lowest values four stops up the characteristic curve of a film what happens is that we move the entire exposure up the curve. This would not be a problem except that film curves for the most part have limited straight line portions to the curve. In the case of a four stop overexposure we would place our highlights on the shoulder of the curve. This leads to poor highlight separation at the expense of better shadow separation. This is further complicated by the fact that the compressed highlights located on the negative's shoulder are then placed on the toe of the papers characteristic curve. This serves to increase the compression of highlight tonal scale still further.
Additionally for those who use staining developers the beneficial stain aspect of a camera negatives density is proportional. What we find in this consideration when film is overexposed is that the stain density is further compressed from what would be the case in a properly exposed negative because we have a higher value in our low density to show the stain density effect.
I have no argument with those who wish to expose film in whatever way that they choose. I just don't buy the fact that the rules of the sensitometric characteristics of film, film developers, and paper have somehow been magically repealed.
I must say I would really like to understand why my negatives (Efke PL100) exposed and developed for more than my metering would suggest prints better on AZO than those that I give no extra adjustment (these ones dont print as well or as easily).
You ask a valid question. I will do my utmost to provide what I think to be true to answer your question.
According to the tests that I did on Azo paper which have been verified by my experience in exposing and printing film to the density range that the paper will support, the paper really does not care what the general density of the negative is. I would offer this example to illustrate the invalidity of the general density argument. If we had a scene in which there were three zones of luminance and we exposed the lowest zone at a Zone V placement and gave normal development, we would find that our negative would exhibit an overall dense appearance but it would lack density range (contrast). This negative certainly would take longer to print but the print would appear flat. We would have a print that exhibit tonal values of I to IV or we could also print it to exhibit V to VIII The only effect of this increased overall density would be longer printing times.
The paper does have the ability to represent a given density range. If the negative is exposed so that the shadow densities are placed higher (off the toe of the film curve) then better print shadow tonal separation occurs. However if that is the case and the negative is developed to the density range for the full potential of Azo paper then the highlights will go onto the shoulder of the film with most films.
I could imagine a scenario in which one placed the shadow values at a Zone IV luminance (for instance) and the low densities would be .65-.75 (for instance). The negative then would appear to be very dense if we developed the negative to a high value density of 2.05. In fact it would look to be almost bullet proof. However our density range in this case would be 1.30 to 1.40 instead of the 1.60 that the paper will hold. The negative would print easily and it may give a nice print. It would however fail to reach the potential of the paper. Either the shadow values or the highlights or both would be compromised. Certainly there may be images that can not or should not have the absolute dmax or dmin that this paper will exhibit. But there are others in which scintillating high lights or deep black shadows are important. It depends a great deal on the image, the photographer, and his vision.
This is exactly the paradox for me - how to avoid making the print look flat with shadows being bumped up the Zone. Using Grade 3 does not really help. Maybe it is in the developing times or the developer used. In any case, why shouldnt my so called "thinner" negatives not print better on AZO? They look great on the lightbox although not as dense as those that I add extra exposure and devt. They certainly have nicer contrast.
I would guess from your assessment that your difficulty is "muddy or inadequately separated shadows. However there are several other conditions and considerations. If you have a thinner negative with greater contrast then the possible problems that may exist fall into certain areas as I see them. The basic conditions all originate with the camera negative since the paper is a fixed known and we must work within it's parameters. The possible failures that originate with the camera negative are either the negative is under or over exposed and it is either under or over developed.
Taken from the standpoint of the appearance on the print these would appear as follows.
1. The print exhibits a tonal scale that exceeds the papers ability. This would be blown out highlights or shadows lacking in any detail. The negative shows adequate shadow detail.
2. Shadows values that are too deep and depressed. With the shadows exhibiting inadequate tonal separation. Negative shows inadequate or no shadow detail.
3. Highlight tonal values that are compressed. With inadequate highlight separation. Negative shows adequate shadow detail and highlight blocking.
4. The print exhibits inadequate contrast. Either the shadows are weak or the highlights are gray. Negative shows detail throughout.
The remedy for these conditions are as I see them:
1. Decrease negative development time in the future. For this negative use water bath or other means of compensating development.
2. Rate the film lower or place the shadows higher in the film exposure. Both effectively accomplish the same thing since we are giving more exposure. This will place the shadow values further up the characteristic curve.
3. Decrease negative development. Decrease film exposure if the shadow densities are high.
4. Increase negative development. Print on higher grade paper.
Apart from that is the issue of developer choice. Michael Smith's Amidol formula works. It has been proven in my experience. Other choices may not and probably will not give the same results.
There may be other conditions and considerations that do not come to mind at this time. However this should give a general course of action.
It is indeed a mystery. I have never owned a densitometer. I do not know what the theoritical ideal scale of anything should be--negatives, paper, you name in. All I know is what to do to make the prints look the best (for my taste). It seems that many others, doing the same thing as I do, more or less as I do, are getting what they also think of as their best results.
There is a problem, however, for carrying what I do, too far. I use the long discontinued Super XX film, which has a far longer scale than any other film. So I'd be a bit careful. On the other hand, when I do print other's negatives in our workshops and occasionally when I invite someone to send me one, the best prints (let's for the sake of argument assume they really are the best prints and that it is not just my taste at work here), are invariably those from the densest negatives.
I believe the Ansel Adams "perfect negative" syndrome that mandates what densities negatives should have (Zone VI should be 1.10 or whatever), is the cause of a lot of "West Coast" style printing--contrasty, rather than long and smooth (and remember his recommendations were for prints made on enlarging paper). Not everyone wants to print that way.
How one makes prints is a function of one's way of being in the world. It is not an abstraction whereby there are certain desired densities to be achieved. So my recommendation is to throw away the densitometers and look at the prints. How they look is all that counts. It doesn't matter what the negatives look like according to the "authorities."