First time printing problems

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Simonh82, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. Simonh82

    Simonh82 Member

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    On Saturday I made my first (self directed) attempt at black and white printing. I'm very new to printing and my only experience so far has been the 8 hour printing course I went on a month or so ago. Despite this, I generally pick thinks up quite quickly and felt like I had remembered enough of the basics to start printing at home. My first session was a bit of a disaster though and I didn't get a single usable print.

    My set up is a bathroom darkroom, with LPL6700 colour head enlarger with Schneider 80mm f4. I was using Ilford multigrad RC paper and Ilford multigrade developer 1:9. I've checked for safe lamp fogging and general light tightness of the room.

    Basically I was trying to print a frame of 6x6 FP4+ on to 10x8 paper, making a 7.5" enlargement. The negative looked well exposed (may be a little thin) and had previously scanned perfectly, you can see it here: http://www.lomography.com/homes/sim...-with-theo-fp4-plus-test-roll/photos/15678297. I was printing at grade 3.5 which I think equated to 75M, 25Y. I started with the lens at f8 and did a test strip with 5 second intervals, this came out completely black apart from the five second exposure which was heavily over exposed. I closed down to f11 and repeated, but blundered after completing the strip and accidentally gave the whole strip a further 3 seconds. Again the whole thing came out black, not even any detail on the 5 (8) second exposure, which seemed very strange. I went to f16, repeated without blundering and still found the times too short.

    By this time it was about 1am and with my young son up at 6am most days, I tried to make a print at f22 15 seconds (my best guess from the previous test strip). The print was over exposed again. I am really surprised that I wasn't able to make a print even at f22, with a usable exposure time. I know I should have continued to test exposure before making a full print, but time was running out. Are these kind of exposure times something I should expect and it is just lack of experience. If not, can you think of anything that would have caused these kind of very short exposure times, even at the smallest aperture.

    I know I didn't make a couple of noob mistake like leaving the enlarger on white light after removing the filters for focusing, or leaving the lens wide open after focusing. I checked both of these carefully after making those mistakes whilst on the printing course.

    Two other quick questions. The focus scope I have is an small LPL model. When using the focus scope during the training session, I had no problem focusing accurately, but when I tried to use this one, I looked through the eye piece but couldn't see the grain at all and could just see a bright blob of white light that filled most of the view and moved around as I moved my eye around. I couldn't see any detail or grain at all. In the end I just focused the best I could on the easel. The scope has a wavy line to allow you to make adjustments to the eye piece focus and this is sharply in focus. Am I doing something wrong, or is there some missing component from the focus scope?

    Also, I saved the developer after the session, what is the shelf life of mixed paper developer? It was in the tray for a couple of hours and is now in a concertina bottle, will it keep for a couple of weeks, or should I bin it?

    Thanks for you help.
     
  2. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    If your paper is coming out black (or generally too dark), you are over exposing. Instead of 15Sec @ f22, try 5 Sec @ f22.

    It may also be worth your while hooking up with a fellow darkroom user close to you. If you were in my neck of the woods, you'd be welcome to pop over...

    Shelf life of mixed chemicals varies - Dilute developer is generally disposed of after each session, or at most, kept for 24Hrs. Stop can be reused, but it is cheap enough to dump at the end of each day. Fixer can usually be kept for several weeks, but for important work, it is best to mix fresh quantities of all chemicals.
     
  3. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I know this feeling, backed up against a wall, just dying to see something...

    Maybe you need a Neutral Density filter 2 or 3 stops worth. Short times when printing Medium Format to 8x10 is not uncommon.
     
  4. Stan160

    Stan160 Member

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    I've got a similar enlarger, a C7700 with colour head. My normal printing size from 6x6 is 7" square on 8" square paper, so very close to what you're trying to do. With an 80mm lens, I get typically 20-30 second exposures at f/11, so I'm surprised you're seeing so much more exposure is required.

    One thing that occurs to me: How fresh is your paper, and where did you get it from? I've been given some old paper in the past which has fogged so badly that also any exposure will produce a really murky dark image. In fact, a couple of packs were so bad that even the unexposed areas went almost black!
     
  5. Simonh82

    Simonh82 Member

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    Thanks everyone, I will have another go soon. The instructor on the course suggested aiming for a base exposure time of about 12-15 seconds to allow time for dodging, so that was what I was going for. I may try a different image next just so I don't go crazy, but I'd like to come back to this one and crack it. Maybe it really is just massively under exposed, but like I said, it scanned fine.

    The paper is fresh, bought new from AG-Photographic a couple of weeks ago. I did make the stupid mistake of turning the light back on without completely closing the box, but I developed a whole sheet and there was only the faintest bit of fogging on one corner of one edge and it only extend about half a mm into the page. Hopefully that will be the only time I will make that mistake.
     
  6. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    I'm fairly new to printing as well, but one thing I have already found is that once you get the "feel" for your rig, you will find that it all gets very consistent. As you say that a developed paper with no exposure was OK (except for a tiny bit of fogging caused by the very-easy-to-do mistake of turning the light on with the paper box open :whistling:) the only way you are getting black prints is over exposure. I would set-up for grade 2.5 and run some test strips off a neg from say 2 seconds right up to 20 seconds. That way you are going to see straight away where to start.

    If you are using ilford chems, I find their universal developer does keep at working strength for at least a week, and seems pretty OK even after 2, but definitely a week is OK in a closed bottle. Possibly the super-critical might see a difference, but for me, while I'm learning, week-old developer works fine, then I junk it and start again.

    BTW, I wouldn't bother with concertina bottles. Nobody on here seems to have a good word for them - I bought a load of 500ml HDPE bottles off the 'bay, and keep all my working solutions in these. A full bottle is just right for my 8 x 10 trays.

    re the focus scope. Something sounds wrong - it should be easy enough to find the grain - focus without the scope first, line the scope up and fine tune. It should be that easy.
     
  7. anikin

    anikin Subscriber

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    Yes, depending on an enlarger printing times from a medium format can be rather short.

    Next time you try it, do a test strip:

    Set your enlarger on f/22, cover most of your paper except for an 1-2 inch strip
    with a piece of cardboard. Set timer at 32 seconds and start exposure. Count down from 32 and at each of the following times move the cardboard to open another strip of 1-2 inches: 22, 16, 11, 8, 6, 4. At 4 seconds just remove the cardboard completely. After you develop this sheet of paper, you'll know your starting time.
    Good luck, you are almost there!

    Eugene.
     
  8. Simonh82

    Simonh82 Member

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    Thanks Mr rusty, good to hear of some other rookies having success. The concertina bottles came as part of a darkroom job lot and I've also heard the same warnings, although they seem tougher than I thought they might, especially as they are at least 10 years old.
     
  9. Simonh82

    Simonh82 Member

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    Thanks Eugene, that is pretty much what I was doing except using 5 second intervals. I started at f8 which is two stops down from wide open. I understand this is where most lenses are sharpest. I guess if I need to go to f22 then I will need to, but I was suprised it required so little exposure.
     
  10. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I hope the suggested f22 and just a few secs does the trick but I can't help feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with the strength of the illumination. Is the bulb the right wattage? The alternative is that all the stops on the enlarger lens aren't working. Take the lens out and click it through the range to make sure that it goes from f4 or whatever is the biggest fstop to the smallest.

    Assuming that you focus at the biggest fstop for max light are you sure you are then stopping down for the exposure?

    No I am not trying to imply you are an idiot but you'd be surprised how easy it is to forget to do things in the early days. I know I have to make sure I stop down each time after focusing and in my haste I have forgotten to do this several times

    I hope it all works out OK

    pentaxuser
     
  11. Simonh82

    Simonh82 Member

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    Thanks Pentaxuser, I'll check the wattage of the bulb to make sure it is correct. I checked the negative again and whilst I think it is a bit thin, I still think it is a reasonably exposed/developed image. You can see a poor quality digi cam shot here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1938344/20120716_220037.jpg It is held against white paper which probably makes it look a little denser, but hopefully you can see that there should be a usable image there.

    As the enlarger is new to me, I checked all the lenses (it came with four) and put this one on for the printing session. It definitely stops down correctly and you can see the change in illumination as it does so.

    I am also sure that I didn't leave it on f4. This Schneider lens has a useful leaver which allows you to easily flick between wide open and your chosen f-stop for focusing and after leaving it wide open at least once during my training course, I definitely checked that it was set back to the correct f-stop. I'm wondering if it is the wrong bulb.

    If it is, are enlarger bulbs still easily available?
     
  12. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Until you can get an exposure that gives you a "reasonable print" it will be difficult to judge how thin the neg is and thin negs can be due to underexposure and under development or a bit of both.

    Is there any sections of the neg that looks very dark grey or black? If you can see practically see through almost any section of the neg then it is seriously thin. If so are they all like this? If not try to print from a "meatier" neg to see what this does to exposure. If exposure becomes close to say nearly double figures in seconds at about f11 then it would seem that thin negs are the issue rather than wrong bulb wattage


    Very thin negs can be printed successfully but can be a pain and need to be avoided in the future. By and large following developer manufacturers' times avoid underdevelopment. Under exposure means that your metering and/or your film speed is wrong.

    If your negs are really thin then with the next film I'd be inclined to either do a personal film speed and development test or if this seems a bit too complicated then expose each neg at meter setting initially then at 3/4 quarter speed and just over half speed so if the film is 400 then expose at that then 320 and 250 or try 320 and 200.

    Develop as per instructions time for box speed. Finally see which negs produce the best prints in terms of shadow detail. If this is a neg exposed at half speed it is likely that the highlights might be blown i.e. almost pure white. At that point you have your correct speed and can then reduce development to avoid over development.

    However this is probably getting ahead of myself. First step is to check what wattage the bulb should be and then what yours is.

    pentaxuser
     
  13. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    I think one of your problems is your very high contrast.

    In the days before variable-contrast paper, Grade 2 was considered normal; anything higher was used for thin negatives.

    I would suggest changing your filtration to yield a Grade 2, then make your test strips.

    A proper test strip will show your desired exposure around the middle step, with both over- and under-exposure obvious.

    - Leigh
     
  14. David Brown

    David Brown Member

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    There are so many possible variables, it is next to impossible to tell you specifically what is wrong in a forum like this. However, I am highly suspicious of two things:

    1) You said you tested the safelight, but you didn't tell us how or the results.

    2) You have fogged your paper. Sorry, but you have. Developing a sheet without further exposure may show only a "little" fogging, but it is possible that you have "flashed" the paper, so that any additional exposure plus the fogging may push it over the threshold and it goes darker. (edit)

    Buy new paper and do a proper safelight test

    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/techInfo/k4/k4TestSafelite.shtml

    or: http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Webfiles/2011427111757603.pdf (page 2)

    and get back to us. :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2012
  15. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    Fogging does not take you from imperceptible to black.

    At worst it will darken the highlights slightly.

    - Leigh
     
  16. David Brown

    David Brown Member

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    OK, I won't argue this. I'm just saying, we don't know enough of what may have happened. He has fogged the paper, AND there may be safelight fog, AND we have no idea why the enlarger may be too bright. Exposure is cumulative.

    I stand by my recommendation to try fresh paper and do a proper safelight test.
     
  17. Arkasha

    Arkasha Member

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    Here you go, Simonh82:

    http://www.adorama.com/LMESJ.html

    You probably don't like in America, but at least you know the lamps do exist for your enlarger, so you can start looking for them.
     
  18. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Simonh82,

    I have an 0.6 ND filter (2 stops) that I bought for taking pictures of waterfalls, but lately I have been using it in the darkroom a lot. It really isn't unusual to have short times at f/22 when making 8x10's.

    You say you have four lenses, what other lenses do you have? I have an idea that might work - and it will cost you nothing!

    If you have a longer lens, like a 135mm then you could raise the head of the enlarger. This would give you less light, and more reasonable exposure times.

    If this works, you can save the 80mm for when you are doing 11x14 or 16x20...
     
  19. Smudger

    Smudger Member

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    Fit a diffuser to your enlarger to reduce light output, because you do not want to be using f22 for printing.
    When Ctein tested a range of quality 6 element lenses, the optimum fstop for each was one stop down from wide open.
     
  20. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I use the same lens and was going to query if you were stopping it down with the lever... but you seem to be on top of that... and you have verified the aperture blades are moving (although I'd suggest you take the lens out and visually look. Once stopped down to f22 the 'hole' should be pretty small. Maybe it's not actually stopping down correctly. Once all that checks out ok, check that globe!

    Just doing some mental arthmaatic... my enlarger requires 10-12sec @ f8 for a 8x10 from MF with minimal filtration, which at f4 would equate to 2-3secs... re-check that lens, or try one of the others?
     
  21. Stan160

    Stan160 Member

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    Be careful: Only US and Canadian models designed to operate from 120V mains use the 82V/85W lamp in the link.

    If you have a model with a 230V transformer you need a 12V/100W lamp. Probably a good idea to get confirmation from someone that owns a 6700, but if it's the same as my 7700 then the one you need is A1/231. These are widely available, £5 from Maplin last time I needed one.

    Ian
     
  22. Simonh82

    Simonh82 Member

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    Thanks everyone for the further contributions. Leigh, I printed on grade 3.5 because it was a fairly flat negative and when I scanned I had upped the contrast a bit to get the results I liked.

    David, I absolutely take your point about possible flashing the paper causing fogging, but I am fairly confident that this didn't happen. This was a brand new box of paper and the sheets were still tightly stacked on top of each other. The black liner was opened, but then the box lid was resting on top of the liner pushing the opening closed. The light was on for a few seconds before I realised and switched it off. I had also turned the paper over in the box so the emulsion side was face down. After this happened I developed the top sheet and as mentioned there was only a tiny bit of fogging on one edge and it didn't extend into the sheet at all.

    My safe lamp test was essentially creating a test strip but with just the light of the safe lamp. I did this at minute intervals over 10 minutes and the strip came out completely white with no fogging at all.

    Bill, I will certainly look in to an ND filter, I wasn't expecting to have to use one, but that is probably just lack of experience. As Smudge said Ctein's test showed lenses were sharpest at 1-2 stops down from wide open. I've read through Ctein's book (not cover to cover) and am also using Tim Rudman's - The photographers master printing book, which i'm finding very useful. The lenses the enlarger came with were two 80mm and two 50mm, so unfortunately nothing longer.

    Stan and Arkasha thanks for the info on bulbs. I've a Maplin nearby, so hopefully they will have what is needed, if indeed it is needed.

    I've got a weekend away now, but hopefully i'll be able to set everything up again next week. It's not put me off, just confused me!