Dumb questions about contrast - first attempts at enlarging

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by mrtoml, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    Hello again. I set up my 'new' C7700 enlarger yesterday and got it working. Thanks to everyone for their advice so far. I have ordered a couple of books on this topic (Tim Rudman's book as recommended by FrankB and Lee Frost's Simple Art of Black and White Photography). Unfortunately the postal disruption here has meant there is no sign of them so I am in the dark in more ways than one.

    I attempted a few prints last night and thought I would share my first efforts and solicit more advice. I have scanned the prints and adjusted them (on a calibrated monitor) to look like they appear to my eyes. The first 2 were taken with a fairly low contrast lens (1959 Leica Summaron) and developed using Prescysol (staining developer). I printed at grade 2 on multigrade paper with multigrade dev (no filtration on the head), but they seem unduly low in contrast. Is this because the diffuser enlarger I have is lower contrast than I used to expect from my old condenser or is it something to do with the effect of stain (or just bad technique on my part).

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    The last one I was much more pleased with. It is again at grade 2, but the negative was FP4 developed in a non-staining developer and taken with a Mamiya c330. But it is still not contrasty enough for my tastes and as I used the same procedures to produce this I suppose that I will need to up contrast a lot on the stained negs and a little on the non-stained ones. Does this make sense? Sorry if these seem like stupid questions, but I am eager to progress.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Is that grey fog due to your scanning or is that what the photos look like ?

    You say they match the prints, either your papers old & fogged or you have an unsafe safety light because the borders are grey.

    Unless there's something wrong with your Summicron that in itself isn't the cause of your problems. My 50's Summicron has plenty of contrast, no different to my Pentax or modern Canon/Tamron lenses.

    So are the borders really grey ?

    Ian
     
  3. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    No the borders are not grey. That was to compensate for the scanner making its own adjustments (which I cannot turn off). I adjusted the brightness and contrast controls to get a rough approximation to the appearance of the actual prints. Should have cropped the grey out - sorry. The borders on the actual prints are white.

    I don't have a summicron. It is a summaron and compared with my Planar it has lots less contrast. Don't know whtehr this should make a difference here, but it does when I scan and print digitally.
     
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  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Summaron/Summicron. My mistake I read the post realised Leica lens, I can only speak of my own Leica lenses and they are fine. You may need to adjust your development times in Prescysol, give them 10-15% longer.

    OK back to the prints, I guess they are just too flat, you probably need to use Grade 3 or even 3½ fitration. You might also be over exposing and under developing the prints that drops the contrast too, make sure your developer temperature stays constant too.

    Have a look in your local library, see what darkroom books they have while the postal strikes delays your new books.

    Ian
     
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  5. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    It's always hard to start out if the negative has issues. Pick the best negative you have for now and concentrate on that.

    Low contrast negative is often just an underdeveloped negative.
     
  6. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    Thanks for your replies. I guess one issue is that I find it hard to see what a 'good negative' looks like. For example, my stained negs always look a little pale in comparison to my normally developed ones. The scans of these negatives all have lots of detail in the shadows etc... Consequently I thought the square negative used above was rather dense in comparison , but I have no idea whether it is or not!
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Maybe there's an APUG B&W worker near you who'd be prepared to give you some help. It is quite difficult starting with B&W printing in isolation.

    There are some excellent PDF files on the Ilfor/Harman website about printing & processing which I guess you might find very useful.

    Ian
     
  8. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    A couple of additional thoughts: you say that "the scans of these negatives all have lots of detail in the shadows..." What do the negatives themselves look like? If you're judging contrast from the scans, perhaps the scanner is changing the contrast? It might be helpful to analyze the negative itself for contrast level. Second, it sounds like you are more familiar with non-staining developers. If that is the case, perhaps you need to use a standard developer for awhile and get your exposure/developing/printing technique down before introducing another complicating factor. Finally, what do your contact sheets look like? If you make contact sheets using the minimum time for maximum black, you should have a clue about the contrast of the negatives and be able to adjust developing time from there.

    Dan
     
  9. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    If your developer is giving you low contrast negative, then develop longer.

    Development controls contrast; exposure controls density. Fundamentals.

    Test, test, test.
     
  10. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    I think my main problem is that I have been scanning and printing digitally for a while, and obviously lots of adjustments can be made within the scanning workflow. Consequently I do not have the know-how to recognise a negative's suitability for traditional printing yet. I have been using Prescysol for a while using semistand development and just scanning the negatives. I have also dabbled with ID-11 and a few others. I haven't done any serious tests, but I guess now I will have to. I tried to test Tri-X last weekend and used my scanner as a densitometer, but it was very confusing and I don't think this is going to work very well.
     
  11. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    Do a SAT test to see what you picture looks like.
    Place a blank negative(or piece of it) into the enlarger.
    light the paper so that it just turns black (longer lightning would not make it more black than it is). This is your sat time for this negative.
    now put the negative in the enlarger and light/develop just like you did with the piece on the sat time.

    What you did not is determine what time is needed for a blank neg to get black. So if there is a blank part in your negative, it should be black.
    Now you can see what happens to the image...
     
  12. RH Designs

    RH Designs Advertiser Advertiser

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    But you do have a colour enlarger which means you can easily vary the contrast on Multigrade paper, and that can compensate for negative variations. Dial in 30 magenta which will give you approx grade 3 and try again - you'll need to increase the exposure by about a stop (i.e. double the time) to compensate for the filter factor. If the print still lacks contrast, dial in more magenta.

    If you don't mind longer exposure times, it's best to use dual filtration (Y+M) because exposure then doesn't vary so much from grade to grade. You can find these filter settings on the datsheet with any packet of Ilford paper or here. (Use the Kodak settings for your LPL.)

    At the basic level, print exposure controls the highlight density and paper grade controls the shadow density. Use a test strip to get your highlights right, then examine the shadows. If they're too dark, you need a softer grade, if they're too light, you need a harder grade. This is analagous to Pinholemaster's fundamentals of negative exposure and development.

    Hope that helps!
     
  13. Pim Warnars

    Pim Warnars Member

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    I should start with the things Ian said, try printing on grade 3, 31/2. Something else, do you have a set of ilford mg filters? If so, print 2 1/2 with your colorhead and 2 1/2 with an ilford filter, there may be quite some difference between the two. When a color enlarger head has been used a lot over the years, some filters tend to lose strength. Second, there is quite some difference between multigrade developers aswell, with some it's easier to get deep blacks and give a harder contrast. It take a lot of practise before you have a print that gives you satisfaction.
     
  14. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    I think I have made some progress this afternoon.

    I followed several bits of advice and got to a good solution. I worked out times to get maximum black on each grade of paper (2, 3 and 4) at a set height of the enlarger at a set aperture with a blank piece of Acros negative developed in Prescysol (one of my usual combinations).

    I then printed the first picture again at each of these grades and times. The grade 3 picture was better, but still muddy, the grade 4 picture was fine.

    I then printed some other shots off the same and different rolls (but the same combination of film/dev) at the same settings and they were much better. I think I now have a much better place to start from for future attempts at printing.
     
  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    If your having to print with grade 4 then think about increasing your film development times by about 20% in Prescysol. That should give you better negatives to start with.

    Ian
     
  16. mrtoml

    mrtoml Member

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    Thanks, Ian. That's just the sort of thing I need to start thinking about.