Best way to print a very high contrast negative

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by felipemorgan, Aug 15, 2005.

  1. felipemorgan

    felipemorgan Member

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    I have a portrait negative of extremely high contrast that I am trying to make a satisfying print from (using VC paper), and I would like some advice on technique. First, the negative: It is an unusual lighting situation wherein the sitter was lit from about 7-o'clock (behind her left shoulder in other words) with a honeycombed strobe, and spill from this light was reflected back into the shadowed side of her face. So her left jaw, temple, cheek, hair, and the left side of her nose are brightly lit, and the rest of her face is lit by a lower-contrast reflected light. A print exposure of G2, f5.6, 40s is about right for the shadowed side of her face but of course at this exposure the lit side is white and textureless; rather ghastly looking. A print exposure of G2, f5.6, 90s brings in a hint of texture in the lit side of her face but of course leaves the shadowed side looking dark and macabre. Of course I am well aware that burning in is a potential solution to this situation, but the area that I would burn is highly irregular in shape, and quite small on the print (5x7in print from a 6x7cm negative). My options as I see it are:

    * Create an elaborate burning mask for the lit side of her face, and hope that an accurate-enough mask and careful burning does not create a dark halos around the burned area. Perhaps burn in at low contrast to minimize this problem.

    * Pre or Post-flashing. From Barnbaum's technique manual, it seems that flashing is less preferable to burning in with a low contrast filter, but does this apply to highly irregularly shaped burns?

    * I have never tried SLIMT for print contrast reduction, but the more I think about it this is beginning to look like a poster-child application for this technique. Does this technique maintain local contrast in the midtones and shadows?

    The only reason I think this negative is worth the effort is that the sitter seems to love it: the bizarre lighting actually compensates for a very crooked nose. Any thoughts on the best approach for printing this negative (or more precisely, 5 copies of this negative)?

    Thanks,
    --Philip.
     
  2. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Get some R4 blix. Make a test on the same film type so that you can judge the reducing speed. RA4 blix is the best proportional reducer I have ever used by a very long margin, Depending on the film type it may take an extensive amount of time to bleach,

    You will not believe how good this works until you try it. I have tried it several time with over developed 100 Tmax.

    This is not something that I thought up, it was written up perhaps 10 years ago by Hans Frederich in Photo Techniques and Creative Camera...now called
    Photo Techniques magazine.

    I have also used SLIMT with photo paper and film. I believe this is a much better answer to your problem.
     
  3. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Doesn't sound too bad.
    There are a couple easy things to try before bleaching and things.


    First, try a water bath development. Make an exposure long enough that will print your highlights properly in your normal developer.

    Soup it for 15 seconds in the developer, then drain for 15, and rest it in a tray of plain old water for a minute. Repeat. Try 3 cycles ( no reason, it's just a place to start) and stop and fix and look at it. Try 4 or 5 cycles... doesn't really matter. Of course, your uppper limit is set by when your paper fogs. Three or 4 cycles is seldom a problem. ( change the water every couple tries.... )

    When you're close, adjust contrast, exposure, and development cycles.

    Then, what kind of developer are using ? You could go straight to a good print if you're working now with Dektol or a liquid concentrate.

    Try Selectol Soft, or, better yet, mixing some ansco 120 from scratch. Leave out the restrainer. If you don't have any metol and stuff, or access to selectol soft, try your favorite film developer. It may work just fine; if you have good highlights, but weak blacks, use a second bath in the regular paper developer to perk things up. Just dilute it a bit first. Rodinal, HC-110, D76.... anything works for a long scale image. I particularly like RODINAL 1+15 FOR THIS....

    You might compare the results from the water bath, and soft developer.

    I haven't looked at the Barbaum flash method. A piece of white plexiglass or even a strofoam coffee cup under the enlarging lens lens ( with the negative in place) is a good old technique. You want to find the needed to expose the paper to its white threshold... if you are using a 90 second exposure to bring in the whites, maybe a 9 second OR LESS exposure will work. I would find the threshold time, then make a test strip of the whole shot. It will give different results than either of the development methods.

    The whole bleach thing is ... best approached without the need to get a print out of the darkroom. From what is sounds like, you've got three ways to deal with a negative... without resorting to the Arch Fiend of Composition, burning and dodging.

    GOOD LUCK.

    DON'T FORGET SOOTHING MUSIC.
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    One additional method that you can use is a contrast reduction mask. This is similar to an unsharp mask and does not require the precise registration that a burn mask would entail. One can achieve adequate registration by visual alignment.

    The contrast reduction mask would be an unsharp positive of your camera negative. It is printed in combination with the camera negative. Considering what you have related, I would try to achieve a peak density of .35 to .45 on the mask.

    Additionally this is one place that I would use split filter printing.
     
  5. felipemorgan

    felipemorgan Member

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    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful replies so far.

    Claire: I hadn't thought of reducing the negative although I may hold that option in reserve if other approaches fail me. Thanks for the suggestion.

    DF: Thanks for the suggestions. I'm using Forte warmtone matte paper and Ethol LPD at a 1:3 dilution. Thanks in particular for the starting-point flash time suggestion. That may save me some experimentation time.

    Donald: Thanks for the masking idea. I forgot about that option, and I remember that ctein has a mask making method that involves Polaroid film. I may check in to that. I've never made a contrast reduction mask, but this is a case that tempts me to try.

    JDef: I am printing at grade 2 in order to maintain good local contrast in the shadowed side of the sitter's face (which is not in shadow per se since it is lit with reflected light: really a secondary diffuse light source), which is where the majority of the visual activity of the portrait is happening. I believe that a filter grade low enough to print texture in both the highlights and the shadows of this negative would result in a muddy appearance to the midtones.

    --Philip.
     
  6. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    Maybe my inexperience with elaborate printing methods will show through here, but why not try a 00 or a 0 filter? Seems to me to be the simplest test you could do.
     
  7. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The problem with OO and O is that while they handle the SCALE ( the extreme end of the curve ) but they are gray, flat, and unprofitable... you lose all CONTRAST ( the difference between values ) in the midtones.
     
  8. hka

    hka Member

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    Split Printing

    Why not trying split print. Highlights in grade 0 and the shadows in grade 5. See also Les Mcleans threads on this sublect.
     
  9. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    An advantage of the RA4 blix method is that as the negative becomes thinner..contrast being reduced..the graininess is also reduced.

    Would anyone be interested in my writing an APUG article on this method?
     
  10. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    always will to learn. Please do a write up. If you have experience with spot reduction to a certain area with cotton balls or brush, your comments would also be welcome on that aspect.

    Another method for salvage is to make a tracing paper mask/cover and pencil in the areas that print dark thus burning in the bright area.

    You can also make a contrast reduction mask.
     
  11. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    You can try the Emmermann Process. You expose paper that has been soaked in developer twice, between the exposures the shadow details will develop and act as a mast for the shadows while the second exposure prints for the highlights. Not all paper will work, some I have worked with will solarize, fiber works best as it will soak up more developer and the developer needs to fresh. I use either grade 3 or 4 paper, soak it for 1 to 2 minutes, place it on a sheet of glass that I have placed under the enlarger centered for the crop, turn of the safelight, I give between 1/2 and 1/3 of the normal exposure for the 1st exposure and then let the 1st exposure develop for 1 minute, do not move the paper, 2nd exposure for 1 1/2 the normal exposure, remove the print and develop for 1 to 2 minutes in a tray of fresh developer.
     
  12. Monito

    Monito Member

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    Excuse me for bumping a six year old thread that I encountered when searching for the Emmermann process, .... that I did slightly differently.

    When I did it decades ago, I would arrange for a long exposure, like 90 seconds (not sure, but in the range of one to two minutes). Then I'd soak the sheet of paper, put it under the enlarger, expose it, and then I'm not sure if I developed it more or put it right into the stop bath.

    So, just a single exposure. As the shadows develop, they auto-mask themselves and prevent further exposure in those areas.

    It made for some amazing results with super-contrasty and very contrasty negatives that didn't print well even on the lowest grade of paper.
     
  13. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Yes, David Vestal does mention the technique in his old seminal 'on photography'. He attributed it to a prof he had, Lloyd Varden.
     
  14. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Thanks for waking up this thread! I happen to have just run up against a similar problem, and some of the suggestions, including the Emmermann process, are ones I didn't know about. Unfortunately I don't have an easy way to use that process since I'm contact printing; I'd need to have a thin transparent layer under the negative for its own protection, or something like that.

    In addition to the "one side of the face in shadow" issue, mine has the problem that the harsh lighting made the subject's skin look really bad; it looks fine in reality, but somehow the light caught her cheek just right to show off every tiny skin irregularity to highly unflattering effect. Soft-working developer?

    -NT
     
  15. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    For high-contrast negs to be contact printed, I've been using Moersch Separol Soft at the higher dilution.