Complete lack of contrast. B&W printing

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Hlop, Apr 2, 2006.

  1. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Hi everyone!

    Yesterday, I did something I didn't do for about 15 years - wet B&W printing. Enlarger DeVere 504, Dichromate Colour head, paper Agfa Multicontrast, developer - Ilford multigrade. Everything seems to be OK except contrast - instead of being black and white, my prints come out greyish-grey. Accordingly to Ilford's "Fact Sheet. Contrast Control" I can use magenta and yellow filter of colour head to control contrastness and to get max grade, with DeVere, I have to use max. magenta (160) with min yellow (0) and cyan (0). So, it doesn't work for me :sad: Under red light everything looked OK but when I brought them out - my prints were horrible. I scanned these negatives recently and they are OK and I could reach desirable contrast without PS or other tweaking.

    Possible thoughts:
    1) Faded magenta filter (enlarger is quite old) but it doesn't look very faded)?
    2) Old paper? I've got stock of papers from the guy who sold me the enlarger and he says he didn't print for almost 2 years
    3) Developer? Should not be old and was sealed
    4) Paper underexposure?
    5) Something wrong with my head or hands? (Don't ask, I'm not going to change anything) :smile:

    Thanks for your help and time in advance!

    Best regards,
    Mikhail
     
  2. BarryWilkinson

    BarryWilkinson Subscriber

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    Hello Mikhail,

    It sounds to me that either your paper is fogged or your safe light is not 'safe'.

    You should be able to get a print without any filters dialled in (equivalent to grade 2).

    Get some new paper and test your safelight. Try putting a new piece of paper with a coin on it in your darkroom for a few minutes, process it and see if the uncovered area is showing signs of exposure.

    Barry
     
  3. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Thanks Barry. Seems to be like a good idea and something to start with to narrow a problem
     
  4. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    You did say, "Under Red Light". I assume that you are using paper filters and not a lithographic film filter, which is also red?

    I used to use copious amounts of Litho film under red safelight and then change the filters over for paper.

    Sometimes I forgot to change one of the filters ( I have three lights in the darkroom) and often ended up with a grey looking print, due to fogging.

    Mick.
     
  5. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Hi Mick,

    I'm using Paterson Safelight with A Dome. The Dome is red. Actually, I forgot to tell that I've got this safelight with enlarger and the other stuff including paper from the same guy and he, most probably, used this safelight with the same paper. Anyway, I'm going to test safelight with a coin tonight to check if it affects my prints
     
  6. ras351

    ras351 Member

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    It would also be worth checking your paper for fogging out of the box. Tear a sheet in half and dunk half straight in the fix, put the other half through your normal processing (developer,stop,fix) and compare the two. If the paper is already fogged it'll be fairly obvious.

    Roger.
     
  7. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    I'd do a step strip also to see if you are getting Dmax from the paper. If the steps start out good but the shadows never get any darker than grey it can be developer or old paper. If the paper starts grey and gets darker from there, well you know the story.
     
  8. glennfromwy

    glennfromwy Member

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    Most paper these days call for an amber (OC) safelight. I have been using a red safelight all along with no problems, though. Make sure your safelight is far enough from the paper. Did you make a test strip to determine exposure time for maximum black before making your prints? If the paper won't give you a solid black, then it's likely bad. Are unexposed areas such as borders gray, or paper white? If unexposed areas are gray, the paper is bad. As mentioned, you should get a fairly full tone print even without filtration. How are you determining your exposure time?
     
  9. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Thanks for your time and help, guys!

    I did test strips to determine exposure time but I cut strips from the roll of the same type of paper, not from the same pack! That was, probably, my mistake but can't tell for sure - I didn't fix these strips. Unexposed areas (from under easel frame) are white. I'll do a test for solid black tonight
     
  10. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    That probably rules out safelight fog if your light is closer to the trays than the enlarger.

    At the risk of teaching Granny how to suck eggs... I don't know how you decide on exposure and grade, but I use the time honoured "expose for the highlights, grade for the shadows" method that seems to work well. Start with grade 2, do a test strip to find the highlights how you want them (ignoring whatever the shadows look like). Now do a test print at that exposure and have a look at the shadows. Too grey means you need to increase contrast, too blocked up means you need to reduce contrast. Usually takes me a couple of iterations to get it where I want...

    Generally though, I split-grade print using only 00 and 5 grade filters, but you might want to leave that for another time until you know your equipment is working OK...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  11. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Hi Bob,

    I'm quite familiar with this method but here is the point where the problem comes out:
    I can not increase contrast as my magenta dial is at maximum position of 160
     
  12. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    One thing that has not been mentioned is the film negative contrast. It is entirely possible that you have inadequate density range in your camera negative.

    There is no amount of magenta that will take a .55 density range (for instance) camera negative and have it print with anything other then what you have described.

    There is no amount of split printing that will provide the desired result if the camera negative is lacking something approximating the proper density range that matches the exposure scale of the paper. This applies to overly contrasty negatives and also to flat negatives.
     
  13. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Looking at your options:

    1)Faded magenta filter (enlarger is quite old) but it doesn't look very faded)?
    *Possible, but dichroic filters are very long-life & you should be able to see if the magenta comes in as you add more with the enlarger light on.

    2)Old paper? I've got stock of papers from the guy who sold me the enlarger and he says he didn't print for almost 2 years
    *Also possible, but MGIV has a good shelf life - Ilford data says "up to 2 years" but practice suggests much longer before noticeable deterioration but I guess it depends a lot on how it was stored.

    3)Developer? Should not be old and was sealed
    *If unopened and under a year old should be OK - possibly not if over 2 years old (Agfa datasheet says "at least 12 months").

    4)Paper underexposure?
    *You've done this stuff before so unlikely...

    5) Something wrong with my head or hands? (Don't ask, I'm not going to change anything)
    *No comment! :wink:

    Don't suppose you have any of your old negatives around to try? A scanner can handle low contrast negatives easily - your recent negs may be lower in contrast than you think. Unless you can get a handle on it I guess you are going to have to get some fresh paper and developer...


    Good luck, Bob.
     
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  15. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Hi! Thanks for your replies, people!

    Here is a couple of examples of scanned negatives:
    http://www.hlop.net/gallery.new/d/3340-1/20060325_DY_Lagoon_FujiAcros100-006.jpg
    http://www.hlop.net/gallery.new/d/3334-1/20060325_DY_Lagoon_FujiAcros100-003.jpg
    On prints, I'm trying to achieve something similar or bit more contrast but when I'm getting proper blacks, whites are grey and vice versa

    I'm certainly doing something wrong - I've tested paper (exposed without negative half covered) and safelight (two minutes beamed coin at paper) - everything is OK and as suppose to be. Exposed to clear light paper comes out with pure black and pure white areas and there is no trace of coin on safelight exposed paper.

    Also, I've bought some fresh paper and developer (fixer and stopper were fresh from the very beginning). Another, thing I've tried - Ilford multicontrast filters (below lens version). Old paper - Ilford MGIV and Agfa multicontrast. Fresh paper - Agfa multicontrast. Same result.

    Bob F.,
    Do not over-estimate my experience :smile: Yes, I've done stuff before but it was really long ago and now I'm lost and accepting any tips for a dummy-beginner
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    In consideration of what you have related, I would examine the camera negative. Does the negative have adequate shadow detail? If it has shadow detail then the exposure is probably adequate to look toward the amount of development that you are giving the film as the source of your problem.
     
  17. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    Hi Hlop. Your neg scans look just fine.

    Try an exposure with NO filtration. With negs like those you should get an acceptable print. Try some short exposures times. Try 2 secs at a time on one inch strips across an 8X10 sheet. You will have 2,4,6,8,10, secs across the sheet. (5X2 sec exposure on the first strip gives 10 sec.)

    Good luck.
     
  18. glennfromwy

    glennfromwy Member

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    One more possibility - have you checked your enlarger bulb to make sure it's the proper type? I have run across folks who could not get a good print, no matter what they did. It turned out that the enlarger had a regular household bulb in it. That just doesn't work. It must be a bulb made for use in enlargers. Good luck.
     
  19. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    When we eliminate all the things that are impossible, the one remainder, although *highly improbable* must be it.

    What should give you maximum contrast is giving you the exact opposite, minimum. What would happen if...?

    The more I read this, the more I suspect a mix-up between the Magenta and Yellow filters. Try one thing: print using only MAXIMUM Yellow, and see what happens.
     
  20. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    It has no bulb - there is very specific projector lamp (little light source bulb with reflector) and I'm sure it will be too hard to find different lamp with the same connector type and form of reflector to fit into the socket :smile:
     
  21. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Negatives are not contrast - developed for 35 minutes in very diluted (20 ml of T-Max concentrate for 485 ml tank) developer to get all details in shadows and highlights. If you have a look to examples above you can see that they are quite good for scanner. But I really doubt that scanner (especially mid-range like Epson 4990) could do better job than enlarger. I didn't do any post-processing to those scans, except downsizing for a web
     
  22. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Will be even less contrast. I've already tried this with enlarger's head and with Ilford Multigrade filters as well. No miracles
     
  23. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Well, it seems that you have eliminated about everything else. Do you have access to a densitometer? I would be happy to read the density range of one of your camera negatives if you are willing to check this as a possible source of your problem. If getting to the bottom of this is important to you, you can message me and I will give you a mailing address.

    Detail in highlights does not equate to the required density in highlights. Nor does it equate to the optimum density range required from the negative.

    One more thing, who and where gave you the information on the developer dilution and times that you are using? I checked the Kodak site and it appears to me that they recommend 45 ml minimum of developer per roll of film. This seems to me that you are not using the required chemistry nor are you developing in the manner that they recommend. That is if I read their information correctly.,

    Of course you can keep chasing the printing side of things.
     
  24. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Well... the only technical thing left that I can think of is the filter...

    Switch the enlarger on with no filtration and white paper on the baseboard. Dial in the magenta and see if the light changes colour and becomes deeper magenta as you dial more in. If you see no colour change (or very slight change for part of the dialing-in) it may be that the filters are toast or are not moving in to the light path properly. Check the yellow and Cyan too while you are at it.

    If you have not already done so, I would suggest making two prints with as similar highlight values as possible: one with maximum magenta and one with no filtration - getting the sky in one of the scans you linked to the same might be a good starting point. The one without will be Grade 2 as others have mentioned. If there is little or no difference in the shadows then it looks like your filters are dead or are not moving in to the light path fully. If dead, you are in for a shock when you find out the cost of new dichroic filters :sad: .

    The final test would be to borrow some Ilford or Kodak VC filters and try the Grade 5 one sitting on top of the negative (assuming the enlarger does not have a proper filter drawer).

    Cheers, Bob.

    [EDIT *** Ah - sorry: missed your post saying you already tried VC filters... I am at a loss... I think it more or less has to come down to low contrast negs. Try a new roll of film but this time use the manufacturer's recommended time, temperature and agitation method rather than the semi-stand you seem to have used this time (I assume you did agitate from time to time?) - this should work as a benchmark.]
     
  25. Hlop

    Hlop Member

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    Hi Donald,

    I'd be happy send you a stripe of negatives for density measurement. I'll send you a PM in few minutes

    But you haven't red my message carefully - I mentioned 20ml of concentrate which is about 100 ml of developer (1:4), so, my method complies with Kodak's requirements.
    Time was choosen by "try and error" method from few test films and this developing works quite well for scanning negatives
     
  26. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Back to basics:

    You mentioned that you cannot get "contrast" ... that there are neither "white" whites or "black" blacks ... everything is an intermediate shade of grey.

    CAN you get a "black" - completely BLACK, black? Try a piece of the paper in question - exposed to ambient room light for a half-hour or so, and immerse it in the subject developer. It *should* turn *absolutely black*. If it does not, if it is still grey after an hour or so, try a sample of paper from a different lot.
    If both remain "grey", your chemistry is shot. If only one sample does, the paper in that lot is shot.

    If both turn "black" in a reasonable length of time, try masking one-half of another sample to ambient light and 'way overexpose the other half. If the unexposed half is white, and the exposed half is solid black, either you do NOT have enough negative contrast (no matter how they scan), or something weird is happening with the enlarger/ filters. Try placing one of the gelatin filters over a contact print, in ambient light. If you still cannot get decent contrast after "playing" with the exposure ... you have to have a uniquely sensitive scanner that will correct for unusually thin negatives.