Great shadow detail

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by mfohl, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. mfohl

    mfohl Subscriber

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    Hello Folks, I'm not sure this is the right group for this, but I'm sure I'll find out if it's not.

    When I look at some older (30s, 40s, etc.) street and documentary photos, like FSA stuff, I notice that there is terrific shadow detail and seemingly low contrast. When I shoot people scenes outdoors, I have high contrast owing to bright sunlight, which makes for really dark shadows.

    So I'm going to try to fix that by overexposing and underdeveloping. I normally shoot Tri-X with an EI of 250, and I now develop in D-76 mixed one to one with water (now that my Microdol-X is no longer available). I develop for about 10 minutes at 68-70 degrees. And I'm going to expose at 125, which should give me better shadow density. Does anybody have any experience or suggestions about development times? I'm thinking maybe a 25-30% reduction?

    Any input would be appreciated.

    Tnx,

    -- Mark
     
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    You may actually not get more shadow detail, but it'll get easier to print it, most likely. It also depends on how you meter the scene. If you use a spot meter and take readings in the shadows, you should be able to get ample shadow detail at EI 400. If you do incident metering, depending on the difference between the brightest tone on the people and the darkest tone on the people, you may have to overexpose a lot and reduce development.

    25-30% less development time might be a bit too much reduction, but try it and see how the negatives print. If you find you need more contrast, increase development time somewhat until it looks right.
     
  3. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Negative for scan and negative for print usually require different workflow.
    In my opinion TriX + d76 is very far away from the 30s look especially if You only scan.
    You might wanna try the slow Efke / Adox films + Agfa Atomal / Adox Atomal 49 or any compensating developer, in the print department Efke Emaks / Adox Nuance would do the job.
     
  4. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Mark,
    what lenses are you shooting with?

    I'm thinking the older lenses gave a bit better shadows due to the coatings not being as advanced as todays modern biting lenses?
    Could this be a factor?
     
  5. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    My recommendation is to use a simple two-bath developer. All my work is done in the urban environment (but not traditional 'street photography') and I simply meter the darkest area that I wish to retain shadow detail and place that area on Zone III (I have tested my personal EI and this is 200 with Delta 400 in the two-bath developer). I never have to worry about the highlights as they are retained by the compensating effect of the developer.

    As an example, there is a photograph called 'Greifswalder Straße, 2011' on my website in the gallery called 'Berlin Prenzlauer Berg 2011' that had a metered tonal range of 10 stops between the shadow at the bottom right and the white door (which has tone on the real print). The shadow was metered and placed on Zone III and the film was developed in Barry Thornton's two-bath for 4.5 minutes in each bath. The negative prints straight at grade 3 on Adox Fine Print Vario-Classic glossy fibre paper developed for 3.5 minutes in Dokumol at 1 + 6. The actual final print was made on Grade 4 with a couple of seconds at Grade 2 on the brightest highlights as I wanted a more 'punchy' look.

    Thornton's developer contains only minimal ingredients, is easy and cheap to make and I would recommend it highly. In contrast, over exposing and pulling the development with conventional developers delivers muddy mid-tones in my opinion/for my tastes.

    Best of luck with your photography..

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  6. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I'd suggest bracketing a scene and then trying a pyro or compensating developer.

    Less agitation will provide some of those compensating lower contrast qualities, as long as you don't cut back so much as to produce uneven development or insufficient development.

    With PMK, I can expose for the shadows and not worry about the highlights, as the highlights develop/print differently with such a developer. To maintain film speed pyrocat-HD will deliver rich shadows, but with my personal use, it maintains more contrast than PMK.

    As for printing, I find FB paper sometimes provides nicer shadow detail than RC paper. The plastic smoothness isn't so well suited to shadows as it is to midtones and highlights. Having a consistent time in the print developer is important too. You don't want to pull it before it's done developing, as that will hurt the shadows. Expose the print right so it can develop to completion.
     
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  7. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    I would say YES. Older lenses are better in those regards and in a few others I care about, glow, bloom, flare etc. etc.
    Hook them with a hood and good set of filters and You are on the path. :wink:
     
  8. ROL

    ROL Member

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    1. Avoid shooting in high contrast, full sun and closed shadow situations. You may have to make a choice, shadow or highlight detail, when the contrast range exceeds your film's latitude. Since you have not provided specific photographic examples, I will go out on a limb and suggest that you are looking at harsh, Depression (I) oriented "dark city" oriented stuff (Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, etc.), where highlight detail may have been subjugated, not necessarily the full contrast you will find in brightly lit western landscapes (Adams).
    2. Learn (and use) the Zone System. It is a logical and proven approach to exposing film, developing, and printing in normal, low, and high contrast lighting.
    The exposure and developing schemes you currently employ, while a good start, aren't likely to ensure the results you're after. Chemistry alone, is unlikely to get you the results you desire. Some VC papers may allow you to close in on your goal. But nothing beats a good negative, exposed with the scene in mind (previsualized), developed accordingly, and executed on paper (by employing the (a) ZS).
     
  9. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I've always been curious about the old FSA photos. Was the film different back then? I've heard of old emulsions like Kodak Super XX has thicker emulsions which was better for compensating developers. Does anybody know if old style film emulsions made a difference with shadow detail? Or maybe old school photographers are more skilled than today's. No chimping with old school cameras.
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It is for sure true that lenses were different back then. I often use a 50mm Summitar f/2 lens, and the shadows are a lot more open than with a modern Nokton, for example.

    That is a big difference that I didn't catch to mention in my first response. Modern lenses have a lot more contrast, so overexposing by as much as two or three stops could help you get all of the shadows off the toe of the film if you use a more modern lens. The highlights would have been different as well, with the lenses a lot more prone to flare. A lot of this can be avoided with a great shade, of course, while putting a filter on them will possibly also help in eliminating some UV problems, etc.

    Also consider that films back then probably didn't have as sophisticated antihalation properties. Shoot a film like Foma 200 or Foma 400, which still have some of that old highlight bloom that Tri-X 400 and TMax films don't have today, and you might get even closer in results.

    But I also wonder if some of what you see isn't also how it's presented on the web. I've visited many photo exhibitions with photographs of Gordon Parks and Dorothea Lange, for example, and the prints are full of really rich, deep, and borderline charcoal toned blacks as well, which is difficult to reproduct online on a monitor.

    Finally, the prints were made on all sorts of media. Silver gelatin was just one of them, but a lot of the negatives back then were developed to much higher density and contrast to suit the materials available then.
    Look at this picture by Dorothea Lange, for example: http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsa/8b32000/8b32400/8b32429v.jpg
    Source, The Library of Congress. There is flare all over the place, borderline blocked up highlights, but also some pretty deep and impressive blacks.
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It's all in the effective EI (Film speed) and dev time you use. Remember that the ASA/BS speeds were doubled in the early 60's these along with the German DIN speed make up our current ISO speeds.

    Because I've done my own Zone system tests I foundn that to get good shadow tones I needed to use most films (Agfa excepted) at half box speed in Rodinal or Xtol (D76/ID-11 would be no different). My main films were APX100 at box speed and Tmax100 @ 50EI andd that actually matched the small print in Kodaks recommendations for best tonal range.

    We can't match 30's/40's tonality exactly with modern films (& papers) and lenses because emulsions have changed quite significantly and also they were using uncoated lenses. I addition papers have changed as well.

    Over the past two decades I've seen two possibly 3, major exhibitions of Kertesz, one at the Barbican in London was original contemporary prints small, jewel like and exquisite - made around the time he shot the images, another was of modern prints off the same negatives but while good they were lacking, the modern papers used didn't match the negatives.

    Ian
     
  12. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    I haven't done this for daytime situations, but about half my "Haarlem by Night" photo series has been shot with over-exposure and under-development using TriX and D76. I usually bracket (35mm and stationary subjects like buildings), but think that most of the shots work best at some 1-2 stops overexposure, and development curbed by about 25-40%, probably with a preference for more overexposure (2stops) and more under development 40%. I wouldn't hesitate to reduce to 50% if properly over-exposed and if the contrast of the scene needed it, based on my admittedly somewhat limited experience up to now. I have measured contrasts of up to 12 EV, a shot of which I show here printed on Kentmere Fineprint VC with a partial sepia toning. Notice even the light (some EV14) has detail, while the darkest parts were closer to EV 2-3). Of course, the light needed burning in, but not excessively. It was far better printable than if I hadn't done this. Extra bonus of the under development is a finer grain.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I saw Kertez's show on people reading books. The old prints had a special quality that I couldn't put my finger on and now it starting to click and make some sense. I also think old school papers were mostly graded papers and didn't have any florescent brighteners. Thomas also enlightened me on lenses and anti-halation properties of old film.
     
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  15. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    You can still use old lenses. They are mostly cheap and nobody respects them (unless you get into proper soft focus). I often use an old uncoated triplet (trioplan) on my speed graphic. I got a 150mm zeiss tessar with a pre-war speed graphic that I paid $100 total for. I bought a monster 400mm tessar for an 8x10 or bigger camera for $100. Old lenses aren't magic bullets, but there have been major changes in lenses since WWII and the differences can be noticeable if you've got a handle on the other challenges of film. Old lenses aren't Lomo either; they are just of slightly different character.
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The mistake is that you think in terms of over exposure and undervelopment when in fact you've given the correct exposure and development for the situation.

    It's about realising that the effective EI and also the development time needs to change to suit lighting/contrast conditions and in your example recopticity.

    Ian
     
  17. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    I have only one Leica left out of my kit, a 1956 M3 with both a Zeiss 50/2 Planar and 50/2 collapsable Summicron. The former negates the flare I get with the latter, the Summicron imparting a much lower contrast scene than the Zeiss.

    If I were going with that look, the lens would be the first place I would start...
     
  18. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Ian, you are fully right!

    It took me a long time to realize these things, and I still grapple with it at times (of course, Ralph Lambrecht's "Way Beyond Monochrome" book is a big eye-opener and help). Talking about "over-exposure" and "under-development" is only useful in the context of needing to correct, and using, auto-metering options on cameras set to a fixed film ISO. Options only really suitable for "average" conditions. But it is probably better to leave out the "over-" and "under-" completely in this discussion...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2012
  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I think you are on the right track. I generally give an extra stop of exposure and reduce development by 25%. It works for me but I use Ilford HP5+ rated at EI 200.


    Steve.
     
  20. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    I've had decent success doing the "over-expose, under-develop" thing in contrasty situation that did pretty well in showing good shadow detail. Disclaimer: most of this was with the idea of scanning which I do with my negs on a Nikon 9000.

    Here's two search results/sets on Flickr where you can see what came of it. Both very bright sunny days.

    Film, camera, lens, developer, temps and times in the title descriptions:

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=38698047@N00&q=Half

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rich8155/sets/72157594171439870/

    This one shot worked out pretty well too:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rich8155/5642637484
     
  21. chimneyfinder

    chimneyfinder Member

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    To combine two opinions in this thread I am reminded of a photographer I greatly admire - James Ravilious - who almost exclusively, I think, downrated film and compensated development for softer open shadows in his images, (which I heard weren't necessarily straight forward to print) along with a preference for the older less contrasty Leica lenses. His resulting pictures of rural Devon life, in particular, demonstrate (in many peoples opinion) amongst other things a magical way of opening up the light falling on a scene. You can use developers to tame contrast, but I would suggest that the right lenses play a large part in the first place: some of my favourites include quite humble examples such as the Schneider Xenon and Reomars on the Kodak Retinas and Retinettes, 50mm Leica Elmars and Summitars and many medium format lenses from the mid 1950's to 1960's.
    I find that talking to my lenses and coaxing them to show me their best can help alot.
    Regards, Mark Walker.
     
  22. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Scanning or enlarging?

    If you take the noble path, try working with a diffusion enlarger and see if that gives you the tonail quality you are striving for

    Another way of lifting shadow contrast is with very careful wiping with dilute Pot' ferricyanide reducer, or the modified version which is the bleach part of sepia toner - This is what gives the highlights to the muddy grass at Severn Beach and Steart Flats in thse late 1970s images

    jbaphoto790918D7.jpg jbaphoto770729A1.jpg


    In my experience older lenses do have more flare which fills in the shadows a but, but also softens them, so if you modify your processing too much the shadows may become muddy - However only testing in your environment will give you true answers

    John
     
  23. mfohl

    mfohl Subscriber

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    Thanks for all the good info, Folks. I have a lot of experimenting to do!

    Cheers,

    -- Mark
     
  24. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    Some developing techniques such as using a water bath to cut contrast would have worked better with older thick emulsions. Also, old optics exhibit flair slightly raising the density of low values. We don't know what developer was normally used. D-23 may be a guess for brightly lit conditions. The lab men may have used development by inspection given the variables of equipment, photographers, and location.

    With your normal EI and developing time the look will change if you use a condenser vs diffused light source. An EI of 125 may go too far but it depends on your equipment. For an EI of 125 a 20-30% reduction in development time seems a good start.

    Fiber paper provides better shadow separation. Also, older papers did not have the D-Max current papers have.

    I find it curious many vintage prints are printed down (dark low tones) with pearl highlights vs white. Maybe its the museum lighting.
     
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  25. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    It is often museum lighting that makes things look that way. Once in a while you'll find a museum that doesn't exhibit photography in a dungeon.
     
  26. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Typical lenses were uncoated Tessar or three-element types, although more complex lenses were often used. The uncoated lenses had enough additional flare to reduce the contrast noticeably and to flash the shadow areas a bit.

    Films of the time had thick emulsions, often double coated with more than one emulsion. The films varied quite a lot, from relatively low speed, wide range films like Ansco Supreme and Isopan (ASA 50) and Kodak Panatomic-X (sheet) (ASA 40) through Ansco Superpan Press (ASA 125) and Kodak Super-XX (ASA 100) to high speed press films like Kodak Super Panchro Press Type B (ASA 250). The film speed measurements were different then, as well, so that films generally received fuller exposure than they do now. Development was also a bit different. Many still used D-1 (or its equivalent) pyro developer. D-76 and Ansco 17 were recommended for many films, but Ansco 17M and DK-50 were probably more popular. DK-60a was frequently used in press work.