Darkroom breakthroughs and setbacks

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by 36cm2, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    What are your most memorable breakthoughs and setbacks in the darkroom?

    This weekend, after months of mediocre results, I tried split grade printing and began consistently producing good-looking prints. It's been my biggest breakthrough in the darkroom by far.

    On the other hand, I've been having a real hard time getting HP5 to produce the look I'm after. During this weekend's printing, one print produced exactly the look I've been after all year. It was thrilling. Last night, I went to confirm it was an HP5 negative. It was one of 3 random rolls of Neopan 400 120 I bought. You must be kidding. Sure feels like a big setback.

    Sorry if this topic has already been visited. If so, just let me know.

    Thanks,
    Leo
     
  2. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    My biggest breakthrough was finding out that you don't need a degree in advanced chemistry to process E-6 at home!
     
  3. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    HP5 has been a disapointment for me. Try as I might, I just don't get the contrast and fine grain I should. Finally settled on Delta 400 for my fast film.

    I'm still struggling with control of Chromodasic-Sabatier toning. Friday I tried to duplicate a print I had sold. Guess I should buy stock in Ilford or something. Finally got a couple, but a real struggle.
     
  4. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Most recently, a read through an old darkroom data guide, where it had a formula for adjusting development time based on lens flare, contrast range of subject, etc.

    I did not have the book at hand, but drew on the information when it came time to process three roll I had shot of head shots of actors Sunday. I though - hmmm.. lighting controlled; contrast range is modest, so lets see how 20% over recommended development time ends up looking.

    It ended up beautifully guessed. Negatives have great mid tone contrast, print easily on grade 2 paper with no dodging or burning needed to make good looking images. I printed last night, and pounded out 18 different head shots, at 2 prints per person in less than three hours, washing and tidy up time included.

    Setbacks - Well trying to overuse a blix in an RA4 roller processor, and having the silver drop out of solution out onto everything in the tank including rollers. There was lots of scrubbing clean to teach me not to do that again.
     
  5. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    Figuring out split-grade printing was my eureka moment. Realising I could process Fibre-base paper in my Nova Quad was also another.
     
  6. filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    It sounds like split-grade printing is something to learn sooner rather than later...

    (a real newbie in the darkroom)
     
  7. hpulley

    hpulley Member

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    Me too, I've been doing things pretty much straight up but noticing how different printing grade 1 and grade 5 are, combining them seems really obvious when one thinks about it. Next session must try it for sure, I meant to yesterday and this morning but got into my usual routine.
     
  8. chimneyfinder

    chimneyfinder Member

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    I used to use the museum supplied HP5 when I was doing archival building photography when I was a curator and the combination of development, printing and paper produced excellent results. That was 20+ years ago and since, using other films, I have never recreated the results with HP5 through my own darkroom, so I have not used it much for 15 years and if I do (its the most readily stocked film in these parts) I am disappointed when compared to Delta 400 or Neopan 400, for example. So, because my equipment, preferred chemicals, paper and enlarger have changed I don't use HP5 by choice, it just doesn't like me any more. If you are struggling with it, don't pursue it, settle on the look from another film that suits your equipment/technique.
    It sounds to me, 36cm2, that you have a recognisable result that is a step forwards rather than a set back, stick with it.
     
  9. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Thanks chimneyfinder. About a month ago, before this printing breakthrough, I decided it was time to move on from HP5 as well. Now it's TMY2 for speed and great enlargement (i.e. 35mm / handheld MF) and FP4 for slower work (4x5 / tripod MF). While I've tried to follow the sage advice that sticking with a film will get it to do what you need, I just wasn't happy after two years. If I had seen what Neopan 400 offered sooner, I probably would have bought a fridge full instead of moving to tab grain film (which I'm not in love with). In any case, I'm getting better and better and that's all that matters.

    Thanks to everyone for the breakthroughs and setbacks. I'm looking forward to hitting more of the former and avoiding the latter.

    Leo
     
  10. redto

    redto Member

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    I have had a few but my most recent was realising that the lever on the left side of the head 'brings in' the filters on the durst 805.

    I would dial in some filteration but it never looked right compared to using the multigrade filters

    I know I know i should have got a book or read on here first but as usual I knew everything.
     
  11. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    Redto, that's hilarious and painful. I figured the same thing out on my L1200 about a month ago. It's such a harmless looking switch, but adding 45 cyan and 45 yellow to everything without knowing it can definitely make your head spin.