Flat grey images - What am I doing wrong?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by teekoh, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. teekoh

    teekoh Member

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    Hi, I've attached two images from the same negative showing one printed from a professional lab and the other by me. I'm struggling with short exposure times and flat dark images. I'm using a Durst M605 diffuser enlarger with a GE EKG 80W 19V bulb. My print was enlarged at f11 for 5 seconds while using a Ilford Multigrade #4 filter. I'm guessing 3 or 4 seconds would have been a better exposure time but I thought that was quite short especially with a filter already in place. Do extremely short exposure times impact contrast?

    Thanks for any tips you might be able to share.
     

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  2. Fixcinater

    Fixcinater Subscriber

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    Is the negative flat/exposed correctly? Did they print it optically (wet lab) or scan it and print it with an inkjet?

    Looks like you need less time, but contrast level looks good. I'd hazard a guess that your negative is thin (overexposed) hence the short times.

    Printing larger would give you longer times, did you try a test-strip at 8x10 enlarger head levels?
     
  3. teekoh

    teekoh Member

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    The negative should be correctly exposed as I used a light meter and they printed it in a wet lab. I didn't do an 8x10 enlarger test strip unfortunately but the picture that I uploaded is actually 7x7 so it's not a small enlargement.

    I'm losing details in the shadows and don't really have any highlights.
     
  4. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The negative is probably pretty thin if your printing exposure is that short with a diffusion head and MG filter in place. Next step is f16 at 5 sec. After that you can sandwich a piece of neutral density material with your contrast filter (if above the negative). Can you show a picture of the negative? You probably don't have any way to measure the density of the shadows or highlights, right?
     
  5. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Your exposure does seem very short...you can net yourself some extra time by using a longer lens...I'm assuming this is from 6x6? If you have a 105mm or 135mm lens lying around, the extra head height will buy you a longer exposure. If not, just close the aperture more...diffraction shouldn't be a problem with a print this size.

    It looks like a combination of both a slightly thinner than normal neg, a bit too much exposure under the enlarger, and perhaps not enough contrast. I'd go to F/16, and change to a 4.5 or 5, and exercise some dodging on the jacket to keep the detail there.

    I had a similar issue a while ago with my under-the-lens filters that I use with my Beseler 45M, turns out my 4 filter was really giving me about the same filtration as a 2 due to degradation of the dyes...tried a 4 filter from another set I had lying around and it was much snappier...so it may be worth looking at your filters too.
     
  6. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    This is false. A longer lens may stop down farther but that is not a given.
     
  7. JLP

    JLP Subscriber

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    A thin negative usually is the result of under exposure not over exposed.
    Missing shadow details means that you underexposed the negative and therefore get a thin negative.
    The good think here is that the lab made a nice print so you should have a chance to do the same. Stop down your enlarger lens one more stop and expose for the same time and you will get closer. You might have to go to a grade 5 filter but that will only make shadow details even more distinct.
     
  8. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    I meant using a longer lens will require him to physically raise the enlarger head higher for the same given print size, resulting in more falloff in brightness intensity. I use an 80mm or 105mm to make smaller prints from 35mm negs when I'm using my beseler or Omega because my times are too short at f/5.6 or f/8 with the small distance a 50mm provides...
     
  9. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Actually if the projected image the same size with each lens (even though the enlarger is higher) there would be still 'conservation of energy and matter' so the light intensity is about the same in each case, assuming the F-number on each lens were set the same. The 'effective aperture' is also the same in both cases because if the projected image size is the same then magnification will be the same in each case.

    Another way to look at it: Would you expect to use a different exposure with your camera when going from a 80mm lens at f8 to a 150mm lens at f8 when you moved the camera back to frame the image the same size.
     
  10. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Could you post a scan of the negative, please? It sounds like it may be underexposed a little, but I may be wrong. Other than that, close down the aperture or expose even less, and see what happens. Is your paper fresh?
     
  11. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't the inverse-square law of light determine that if the head is twice as high, the intensity would only be 1/4 as bright? I know that inverse-square gets weird when involved in optical systems, but as far as I know only a Fresnel type lens makes it irrelevant.
     
  12. teekoh

    teekoh Member

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    Hi ic-racer here is a photo of the negative held up to my computer monitor. I'm not exactly sure how to calculate density...
     

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  13. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    It looks like the shadows are a little thin, but otherwise it shouldn't be a difficult neg to work with. Less total exposure over a longer time period will give you time to do a little dodging on the shadow detail as well...
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    That applies to unfocused light from a point source.

    However, if you use an optical system to focus the light, the intensity of the light at the plane of the easel will depend on the magnification, which is a function of both focal length of the lens and the distance between the negative and the paper.

    If the light from the negative is spread out over the paper, it matters not whether the cone of light is tall and narrow (long lens) or short and squat (short lens).
     
  16. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Is the one printed by the lab produced through a wet black & white process? Also and perhaps a silly question, but are you printing onto multigrade paper?
     
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  17. Lyn Arnold

    Lyn Arnold Subscriber

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    Is your paper fogged??
     
  18. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Thanks for the explanation. I always knew that while shooting (obviously not adjusting exposure for subject distance) but I guess it takes some brain twisting to reverse it in the darkroom!
     
  19. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Are you pulling the prints before they are completely developed? People tend to do this when they find that the prints are becoming too dark. This results in muddy looking prints. Most paper developers recommend a development time of 1.5r to 3 min. Try a shorter exposure time and 30 to 60 sec more in the developer.
     
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  20. Kawaiithulhu

    Kawaiithulhu Subscriber

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    Anything to bring up the contrast!

    To match that you would follow Gerald's advice and print on a contrasty paper, maybe a grade 4, with less exposure and more development. Concentrate on getting the face right, it's the part with the best mid-tone and the focus of the picture.

    I did a quick and cheesy copy+paste of that negative into Paint.NET and did the following to test that theory:

    spread out the levels to full range because the negative isn't dense enough (it needs more development from the low initial exposure?)
    goosed the contrast up 30% and lowered the brightness -15% (this brought out the face really well)
     
  21. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    If a lab made decent print, it is your process that has an error. Old depleted developer or fogged paper.
     
  22. teekoh

    teekoh Member

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    Yup I'm using Ilford Multigrade RC paper fresh box of 100 bought from B&H last week.
     
  23. teekoh

    teekoh Member

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    Oh hmm I'm using Ilford Multigrade paper developer at 1+9 for 1:00 minute as recommended in the tech sheet. But i start taking it out with 10 seconds left and then drip dry before putting into my water(stop) bath for 30 sec. TF-4 Fixer for 30 sec. and then back to the wash for 5 minutes. I've been pretty consistent with the temperature keeping at +/- 1 degree from 20 C/68 F

    I'll give 1:30 a try next time.
     
  24. teekoh

    teekoh Member

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    Shouldn't be the developer just mixed it fresh for this session. The paper is new too...
     
  25. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I believe the Durst M605 has a colour head. If you are using a Multigrade 4 filter, does that mean you are using the head with the filtration switched off/zero filtration values and using the 4 filter underneath the lens?
     
  26. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    I'd suggest a range of possible factors.

    Pulling the print early is always a sign of a problem - give 90 seconds and adjust exposure and contrast, not the time in the developer.

    The developer should not be colder than 20C as this will have pretty much the same effect as pulling the print out early. A couple of degrees over is not a problem.

    Check your safelight and any other lights in the darkroom (light leaks round doors, red lamps on extension cables etc.) as any fogging exposure can interfere with the light you are choosing to squirt on to the paper. Even if the fogging exposure isn't enough to make a tone on it's own it will affect highlights especially.

    How are you filtering? With a colour-head or filters? Confirm the values with the instruction leaflet in the pack of paper.

    Use stop bath (as recommended by Ilford). Paper carries over far more developer than film and remember that water-bath development (google it) was once a way of reducing contrast. Developer carryover will also quickly kill your fixer.

    Thirty seconds in the fixer is the minimum time at a minimum temperature of 20C. Where you are using easy-to-wash RC paper you can safely allow a little more time and give constant agitation. Be very certain that you are using a 'rapid' fixer at film-strength (1:4 for Ilford Rapid) and not the older hypo-fixer (in either case you would need a much longer fixing time). Under fixing isn't going to help the print in a few years time . . .

    Read Bob Carnies enlarging thread, here.

    For this particular neg, there is tone even in the jumper so you should be able to get that barely visible in the print too. Start with Grade-3, take a stop and a half off the exposure you previously used (remembering to also allow for the speed-change across grades, if you are using filters), to see what you can do with the subjects face, it is where everyone looks in any portrait, adjusting time until the face looks ok. Only then adjust the contrast, if necessary, to change the darker tones towards where you want them - additionally the dark jumper and jacket could be burnt in with grade-5 a little, in order to make the darkest parts go just to black for example. The plain background might also want slight darkening in the corners, for example. Remember that you can add tone and black by burning in, with appropriate filtration, so the basic exposure is the one that just gets you the starting point of (for example) the face - of course, sometimes it is more practical to dodge a small area than to burn-in, it depends on the scene.

    Make notes of everything which you are doing. You can usefully make a short series of prints of the figure, with half a sheet of paper centrally, at grades 1 to 5 while adjusting the time to keep the face about the same tone. It will help you as a comparison for your next test-print to suggest the direction for you to adjust in.

    I have no clue what I'm doing, so read what everyone has said. :wink:
     
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