Blacker than black?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Kvistgaard, Apr 20, 2009.

  1. Kvistgaard

    Kvistgaard Member

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    Hello my learned fellow luddites :smile:

    This may sound a bit daft, but is there a way of making a paper blacker than max black?

    I just exposed a strip of Ilford MG IV RC glossy to daylight for app 30 seconds, then developed and fixed as prescribed (Moersch warmtone 1+20 dev).

    The idea was to get a "reference black" for use in the darkroom when printing. The problem with that approach is that the max black does not appear very black at all (it's not grey either, it just isn't as pitch black as I want it to be.

    My question is if the "flat black" is an inherent characteristic of this (RC) paper, or if there is a way - through choice of developer, for instance - to increase the blackness of this paper?

    Thanks,
     
  2. trexx

    trexx Member

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    You exposed the paper beyond black, it is a from of solarization that occurred. Expose under an enlarger at a time that gives you max black.
     
  3. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The fundamental laws of physics limit "black" to a density of about 2.2 on glossy paper and about 1.8 on matte paper. This is due to multiple internal reflections which attenuate the light. This effect varies depending on the emulsion thickness. It can also be varied a small amount by addenda in the surface of the coating and by the process. But, that is the best you can get by common measurement.

    If you get less than that, it is indeed solarization or underdevelopment.

    PE
     
  4. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    What I normally do is expose a test strip along an unexposed area of film. When that reaches black (or just beyond) you are at the optimal time without clipping too much of the blacks. You should adjust the filtration to achieve good whites using the same method each time.

    RC black black is very black. (if that makes any sense) when compared to other black blacks like matte fiber paper. don't hope for black black black though.
     
  5. panastasia

    panastasia Member

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    Selenium toning for short time intervals will deepen the blacks slightly without changing the highlights, but you probably knew that already, and it wouldn't be the "reference print" you're thinking of.
     
  6. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    While this obviously works for you and thus is a valid method, I do the opposite. I expose for the whites and filter for the blacks.

    I would not get too trapped by the idea of a max black. How all the tones work with each other within the image is what ultimately matters -- and that may mean a less than max black.

    Vaughn
     
  7. tim_walls

    tim_walls Member

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    Or in other words, if you ask like how much more black could this be? The answer is none. None more black.
     
  8. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Yes, it is!

    The MG IV papers of Ilford, whether RC or FB, just don't have the deep blacks of the Warmtone variants in my experience. This has, at least partially, to do with a higher silver content in the Warmtone variants as I understood it. At the expense of a higher price though... :sad:

    But if you want to see really deep blacks, the Warmtone variants of Ilfords RC and FB papers are worth the try. I love them :smile:

    Selenium toning will help with the MG IV variants, and also do wonderful things with Warmtone papers.

    Marco
     
  9. Excalibur2

    Excalibur2 Member

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    ***How all the tones work with each other within the image is what ultimately matters -- and that may mean a less than max black.***

    So true, people forget this...........a full range from black to white is beautiful to see, and I found difficult to achieve most times as it also depends on how the neg was developed, and of course the subject that was taken in the shot.
     
  10. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Marco,

    Quite a few years ago I read a study done that compared the D-Max as it relates to silver content with different papers. What was interesting was that there was no one-to-one correlation between the two. In other words, papers with the highest silver content did not have the highest D-Max. Probably due to the other factors PE mentioned above. I'll have to track down the article one of these days. Most likely most of the papers in the study are no longer around.

    Vaughn
     
  11. erikg

    erikg Member

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    I remember that study, or one like it. The research tested the D-max of a number of prints made on some legendary papers of old and made by some legendary photographers of old and found that in many cases the D-max was about the same or less than what can be achieved with modern papers. The complaint that modern papers can't get a good black because "they took all the silver out" is really just a myth. That's not to say that the old papers didn't have qualities that may now be lacking, but that is a different issue. Photographic black isn't really all that black compared to other media, but we still have managed to make some pretty good images none the less!
     
  12. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    That maybe true, I don't know...

    It's just my experience that Ilford's Warmtone (MGRC and MGFB) papers give a clearly visible deeper black than the normal MGIV multigrade papers. I find the difference quite pronounced and significant. With the MGIV variants, like the OP suggested, I have always slightly the feeling that I am "lacking" black, it's more a kind of very, very dark grey. Not so with the Warmtone variants. And a small bit of seleniumtoning, will enhance this even more. The black of MGRC Warmtone with a minor amount of seleniumtoning is of another planet... but don't overdo these Warmtone papers with Selenium, as they will go brown or purple than.

    And the Warmtone variants in case of Ilford are quite a bit more expensive, if it's not due to a higher silver content, what might cause this?

    Well, I guess there maybe other reasons for the price, like difficulties in production, but any insights might be helpful...

    Of course a scan sucks as an example of DMax, but this one was printed on MGRC Warmtone (un-toned by the way):

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2009
  13. Terence

    Terence Member

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    Took the words right out of my mouth. Or out of Nigel's, anyway.
     
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  15. naeroscatu

    naeroscatu Subscriber

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    Marco that is beautiful!

    if there would be a color blacker than black then we would call black something else, don't you think?:tongue:
     
  16. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Yeah - like Really, Really Black :D:D:D

    I've found that the quest for the absolutely blackest black paper tends to distract from the more important issues of tonality and highlight separation. The "feel" of a photograph depends less on the depth of the black than on other issues. The only reason I want to know the max black of my paper is so I can "nail" my proper proof exposure and then judge the paper from that.

    Bob H
     
  17. erikg

    erikg Member

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    I totally agree with Bob. So much more goes into the impression a print makes than just the technical measurement of D-Max. Platinum prints aren't usually known for having a high D-Max but well made platinum prints are often praised for the fullness and richness of the tonal scale they display. What matters is what is relative within the world of the print.
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    Do you recall how the testing determined the actual silver content of the papers? I recall seeing a number of such studies, some relating to film, but they all seem to compare modern papers/films with vintage papers/films on the assumption that the vintage papers/films were more highly loaded with silver. But I don't remember any study that established as fact exactly how much silver was in any given paper or film.

    Sandy King


     
  19. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    Sandy - dig out your copy of "Controls in Black and White Photography" by Dr. Richard Henry. I believe he compared papers of the day (1980s) and then dissolved the silver from the prints with nitric acid and then used atomic absorbtion spectroscopy to measure the silver concentration. He then plotted it against Dmax.

    I highly recommend this book for the more technically minded photographers out there.
     
  20. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    I fully agree with you and Bob on this. I regularly tone my prints, for example in sepia, and clearly, the DMax changes in such cases :wink:

    So, black by itself is not the quest, but the OP asked for comments on his observations regarding MGIV paper and its particular DMax or max black, so that was what I tried to give input to.
     
  21. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    I think the community of painters and artist already tackled this one, there you have "Lamp black", "Ivory black", "Mars(!!!) black" (the artist that invented that name must have been drunk :D:D:D)... and the list probably goes on if you dive into the history of painting.
     
  22. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Sandy, I found the article -- unfortunately just a single page photocopied out of a larger work -- with no identification of author, date, etc. It was a hand-out at a Friends of Photography Workshop ages ago. It was page 91, but that is all the info I have on its origin.

    "I analyzed 10 different papers....for silver content of the emulsion using the volumetric, potentiometric method of Bush et al (49)." Unfortunately the reference pages are missing.

    The author's conclusion was...

    "...the silver content of the papers studied was not related to the maximum black obtainable."

    Some selected data.

    Mg sliver/sq inch : RD of Max Black, then paper type Note...third figure in amounts estimated from chart.

    1.68 : 2.18 Kodabromide (grade 5)
    0.88 : 1.84 Kodabromide (grade 1)
    1.02 : 2.48 Gallerie
    0.92 : 2.47 Portriga Rapid
    1.26 : 2.27 Seagull G-2
    0.87 : 2.20 Brilliant
    1.20 : 1.95 Varigam (but may have been past date)

    Vaughn

    PS...I seem to remember getting the hand-out as a warning not to fall into the "more silver, the more better" trap.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2009
  23. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    Vaughn is right - don't get too hung up in getting big meat blacks, as the rest of your print will suffer.

    To get the maximum black out of a paper, it needs a HUGE amount of exposure - and the rest of the print will be dragged down to deep shades of grey

    As an experiment, make a test strip without a Neg in the Carrier and double the exposure of the previous step in the strip.

    The max black you get with any paper will be impressive - but work out how many times more exposure was required than to produce a good deep (but not max) black.

    Remember, the curves they show for paper are logarithmic, not linear

    Good luck :smile:

    Martin
     
  24. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    That doesn't look very warm to my eyes.
     
  25. reub2000

    reub2000 Member

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    For the most part yes. But I don't think O Winston Link's prints would look some marvelous with a muddy gray as the darkest tones.

    Be aware the pushing tones too close to the edge means pushing the darker tones onto the shoulder of the curve, where there will less definition. Also when judging wet prints, always be aware of the dry down effect, which is always unpredictable.
     
  26. Kvistgaard

    Kvistgaard Member

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    Scholars,
    thanks very much indeed for all the insights on this. I do try to take a holistic view of how the tones in a print play together, but still thought a reference black might be handy. I've changed that last perception now.