First darkroom experience

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by zackesch, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. zackesch

    zackesch Member

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    Yesterday, I had my first experience. I must say it is very easy to loose track of time in a dimly lit room. :tongue: It was quite fun even though my prints did not come out as I have hoped.

    Here are a few new guy questions. I am using ilford paper developer and some brand of paper that I have not heard of before that I picked up at Arts Camera. I developed the paper at a minute and a half, stopped and fixed for 3. The safe light is OC Amber.

    What I am wondering is when I created the test prints, a print calculator was used. The best print times were 5 and 8 seconds depending on the neg. when it comes time to make the actual print using the chosen time, the print comes out dark, darker then what was shown on the test print. I did not try the standard method of creating a test print. A 2.5 contrast filter was used. Is this common when using a print calculator?
     
  2. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    Get into the habit of developing your paper for a full three minutes. A minute and a half isn't generally enough.

    5-8 seconds is also too short an exposure time. Just a slight bit more or less could have a huge effect on your print; so short a time also doesn't give you any time for dodging/burning. Try stopping down your enlarging lens so that you achieve an exposure of at least 15-20 seconds. That way you can more easily fine-tune your exposure if you find your prints are too dark or too light.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    First of all: Congratulations! I hope you had a lot of fun, and that you'll go back to making more prints soon.

    Did the print calculator work in 'bursts', so that the light was turned on/off several times, and the exposure time was cumulative?
    If so, the light intensity when the light bulb gets energized is not the same as when it's at normal operating temperature; it takes a little while for it to be warmed up to perform as specified.
    That could be a contributing factor, and if you do your test strip this way, you should also do your final print the same way.

    Another thing that comes to mind: Did you compare completely dry test strips with completely dry work prints? There is the matter of dry-down to worry about, where a print will darken as it dries.

    Finally, did you develop the prints the same amount of time exactly?
     
  4. zackesch

    zackesch Member

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    Terry, What I did for my aperture was open it wide, and back it off 2 stops. What is an aperture that you recommend? Also, I assume that contrast filters should be used with a test print. Is that correct? I'll develop the prints for 3 minuets next time around.

    Thomas, this is my print calculator. You expose the print calc for 60 seconds. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/15711-REG/Delta_12610_Projection_Print_Calculator_Scale.html
    Yes, I did compare the two dry. The test print is how I wanted it to be whereas the final print is darker.
     
  5. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I would recommend doing regular test strips for now. Use a piece of opaque material to cover up the print, moving it in increments across the paper surface, to get different exposure values to look at.

    http://www.ephotozine.com/article/making-a-test-strip---traditional-darkroom-ideas-4654
    (In the link a test strip is fairly well explained, but I would stop the lens down enough so that my exposure was more in the region of 20-40 seconds, which helps you when you start to dodge and burn certain areas of the print. You want to allow yourself enough time to make that happen a little bit slower than the 5-8 seconds you've given so far. It is true that enlarging lenses usually perform best at two stops from wide open, but remember all of the apertures are there to also make your exposure times practical).

    Take that exposure calculator out of the equation for now until you know it isn't something else.

    I agree with Terry that developing time of at least 2 minutes gives the best tones, but that you may want to adjust that to even longer, like 3 minutes. With experience you will learn to see what happens to the tones when you leave the print in the developer longer.
     
  6. zackesch

    zackesch Member

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    I was also wondering, my safelight is hanging above my enlarger. I do turn it off during the exposure, but is it ok to have it above?
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Safelights don't last forever, and become 'unsafelights' after some time.

    But realistically, the test strip and the work print should be affected equally. You can test it by making two identical prints, one where you have the safelight turned off during the entire process, and one where your safelight is turned on. If there's any difference between the two prints, you need to replace the safelight, or use a different kind (some papers are not compatible with OC filters and need red).
     
  8. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I don't think we can say anything meaningful about OP's development time without knowing what kind of paper is being used, developer dilution, temperature etc.

    Proper, informative test strips/prints are essential in my opinion.

    zackesch: If you are just starting out, I suggest some printing basics from Ilford and Kodak. Below are some links - including how to properly test your safelight. It is difficult to be specific about safelights and where to have them because it depends on the filter, how bright it is, what kind of paper you are using etc. But generally speaking a typical rule of thumb is for it to be at least 4 feet away from where your paper is. The Kodak reference document talks about safelight placement.

    Printing - basics/beginner
    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Webfiles/20114271321242292.pdf

    Printing - any level

    Contrast control
    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Webfiles/2010628932591755.pdf

    Black-and-White Tips and Techniques for Darkroom Enthusiasts
    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/o3/o3.pdf

    Darkroom design for beginners
    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/ak3/ak3.pdf

    Safelights, placement and testing (menu at bottom of document)
    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/techInfo/k4/k4Facts.shtml
     
  9. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Hi Zakesch - shouldn't be any problem with the safelight over the enlarger, In due course you can do some safelight tests to check if its OK. When starting out the trick is consistency - don't introduce too many variables. If you stick to one paper and developer, use the same size paper all the time and the same lens aperture say F8 or maybe even F11 if your times are short. Pick a good density negative with say sky buildings and foreground across the neg, and using either grade 2 or 3 (which most negs should print at) run a set of test strips across the negative by either progressively covering up or uncovering - doesn't really matter which provided you know what accumulated time each strip has had. (and think about this - it isn't totally intuitive - as you uncover the accumulated times go down with each strip, if you cover up each strip gets a longer time (i.e. the first covered strip has less time than the last - seems obvious, but lots of threads on here about test strips!) The reason to pick a neg with a good spread of tones across the image is that it makes it easy as you cover or uncover the test strips to see a complete range on each strip. One of your strips will have the highlights just right and the shadows just right, and that's your time. After a bit you will get a "feel". If you keep everything else the same, you will soon discover how to manipulate the time to best effect. This is quite helpful http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com/2013/05/glenshee.html, although I don't necessarily agree with 2 bath developers - stick to e.g. Ilford materials because all their times and temps work. Once you have a setting that you like from test strips, without touching anything try also printing your print calculator and see if you get the same result. Also, without touching anything else, re-run the test strips using a different contrast filter if you started on 2 say try 3.5, which is significantly harder and see what times you get. You will find that different negatives print at different times due to the differences in density caused by film and processing. While you are learning, keep it simple, don't worry too much about dodging and burning - those skills come later.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2013
  10. zackesch

    zackesch Member

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    Here's another new guy question. Bare with.

    For contact prints, would using polycarb plastic or plexiglass be ok instead of glass? I used a glass sheet yesterday and was nervous of breaking it.
     
  11. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Plexiglass should be OK for contacts, but it will show any imperfections on the prints, whereas glass tends to be optically much cleaner. I use a bit of ordinary glass for contacts - it's tougher than you think! If you are worried, you could always get a bit of toughened from the local glass supplier.
     
  12. zackesch

    zackesch Member

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    The only piece of glass that was big enough was from a picture frame, pretty thin stuff.
     
  13. omaha

    omaha Member

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    Can't offer any suggestions, but as a fellow newb, just wanted to say I'm walking the same path with you and loving every minute of it!

    Looking forward to comparing notes as we go.
     
  14. zackesch

    zackesch Member

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    Good to know that there is another new guy in the darkoom. :smile:
     
  15. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Glass is nice as it resists scratches much better than plastics, and its weight helps to keep good contact. I find that a piece of 1/4" glass is a nice thickness. Ask the glass shop to sand the edges (you may not find this service at hardware stores) -- sanding reduces the chance of the glass breaking and makes it much easier to handle.

    Vaughn
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    A consistent developing time and temp is important. I use fresh or well replenished LPD normally at 70ish degrees for 1-1/2 minutes and it works just fine with most all my papers.

    If you watch the print in the tray you get to see the image pop from blank to visible as development crosses a rough low threshold, it isn't "done to completion" there though. Somewhere after you reach that low threshold, which might be at 30 or 60 seconds or whatever, you will pull the print and stop development. Development can be allowed to continue out through 6 minutes or more if you please.

    Longer development times mean you will probably need to reduce exposure, and vice versa.

    Adams watched the print come up and applied a mathematic "factor" to adjust that specific print's time in the soup on the fly. This factor corrected for changes in developer strength/exhaustion, minor exposure differences, and temp changes. Read "The Print" for more info.

    I normally use a JOBO so I can't see the print come up, that means I need to care for my chemicals differently than Adams and mind my temps and times more closely.
     
  17. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Glass shop. Ask for double weight and sand sharp corners.

    Plexiglass works but marks easily.

    contact strips are made at 8x . 8x10 prints will be around the same exposure 5 or 10 % less for no glass.

    5x7 are one stop less, 4x5 are 2 stops less, 11x14 are one stop more. Go by enlarger height , not by cropped picture size if you crop.

    If you are using exposures that short, then film development is not giving you enough contrast, ie whites in print are grey, or the safelight is fogging paper which dulls the highlights. Just move the safelight away to start. It may also be the wrong kind of safelight for the paper.

    you want to print to get detail in the whites, then look at the darks. If they are grey, then the neg has too much contrast. If they are way black, then the neg needs more contrast, develop longer. Develope RC a full 60/90 sec, fiber 2/3 min. If you jerk it out too soon because it getting too black, then it is overexposed.

    Quit printing in bursts of light. There is no advantage.
     
  18. lightwisps

    lightwisps Subscriber

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    Proof sheets

    Get your self a proof sheet maker. They are easy to use and inexpensive. They are glass plates, hinged to a frame that has a foam base on it. Put your paper emulsion up put the negatives shiny side up, pointing at the light source and lower the glass. Done deal. You can either lay the negs down 1 by 1 on the felt, or be lazy like me and just leave them in the negative sleeve. Works well. Don
     
  19. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Plexi is also more dust-prone than glass.
     
  20. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    zackesch,

    I've been in your boat... Still have the picture frame I used to take apart to do contact prints... The picture frame is hanging by the front door with the same print in it... But no glass because the glass broke long time ago.

    It's fragile but if you are like me it won't break while you are using it, it'll break when you put it away.


    For a nice touch, a little masking tape on the edges will save your fingers.
     
  21. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    These are good to give you some idea of exposue when you have no idea to begin with. However, the gaps between the wedges are too large and you really need to do another test with times between the two wedges that you think look the best. Also the wedges may not cover areas that have similar density thus tricking you into believing something that's not quite right. If you do a test using the full 60 seconds and it comes out too dark you can half the time (expose for 30 secs) and halve the segment times, etc.