Grey Prints

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by andyaitken, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    Help!

    I know this has been discussed many times before, but and I haven't been in the darkroom regularly enough it seems as I keep on getting grey prints dispite what ever I do.

    The current set up is a Vivitar V1 enlarger (with Dioptic Light source and colour cast control for yellow, mangenta and cyan - colour cast control I am not curently using) old I know but it has been known to produce the right results. Ilford multigrade filters which are/have been used. Ilford MG VC (Light) paper, Ilford PQ Developer, IlFORD stop and fix.

    In addition, to this along with the enlarger came a photometer and control unit: on this (the control unit) is a dial control for speed and seconds, when you place the sensor on the projected image you can move either or both the speed dial or seconds dial and when an adajacent light switches between green and red it has gauged the correct speed or seconds respectively.

    If this process is followed (with a 3 grade ilford filter in) then the subsequent image is within the grey midtone range consistently either light or dark. So subsequently, I have tried to reduce the exposure time which was 32 seconds to 25 seconds, speed remains the same. This has produced a better print, however there seems to be a lack of any real blacks and the lights are getting darker, in summary the contrast range is quite narrow. This is despite what I do, if I reduce exposure then is gets worse and if I increase it just gets burnt out, so this is the best that I can seem to get.

    Any thoughts? please!
     
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  2. tim k

    tim k Member

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    I have read your post twice, and I am not sure what your question is? Can you post a picture? Or is your issue how to use the control unit?
     
  3. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    It sounds as if the meter only gives exposure and not a recommended grade. So how do you decide what the correct grade is? It seems that you are using a grade that isn't compatible with the neg or negs e.g the neg requires grade 3/3.5 and the paper is giving grade 2.

    If you aren't using the Y and M or the under the lens filters Ilford MG paper will default to grade 2.

    If I have misunderstood what you actually do then it might be best if you describe it in more detail.

    I have assumed that your paper and chemicals are fresh. Very old paper and chems might give "grey" prints.

    pentaxuser
     
  4. K-G

    K-G Subscriber

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    A few things to check :
    1. Is the dioptic light source set to give you white light ? If the yellow filter is in, it will reduce contrast.
    2. Is paper and developer reasonably fresh ? Old paper can show fogging and lack contrast. Old developer
    can also give you prints lacking contrast.

    I would start testing by reducing exposure time even more and use maximum contrast filtration ( either filter no. 5 in the Ilford set or by using maximum magenta with the dioptic light source ) . In this way you should be able to get completely washed out highlights and pitch black shadows. From thereon stepwise increase exposure and reduce contrast filtration ( lower filter numbers with Ilford or less magenta and more yellow with dioptic light sorce ) until you get the wanted print tone . Don't care about the control unit during this test. If this doesn't help, get fresh paper and developer and do it all over again.
    If things aren't going your way, don't feel bad. Most of us need to practise a bit when we have been away from the beloved darkroom for some time.
    Good luck !

    Karl-Gustaf
     
  5. Grainy

    Grainy Member

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    Sounds like the same things I'm dealing with, started printing one week ago. So far I have not gotten real "punch" in the blacks and pure enough whites for my taste. To much of the picture is in the grey area. I'm printing on Ilford Multigrade IV RC deluxe with Durst CLS 500 head. Tried to increase magenta, but with the same exposuretime the picture only got brighter, not more contrast as I expected.

    Don't know if I should increase exposure, increase development, decrease development, decrease exposure, more magenta, more dodging, more burning and so on.
     
  6. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    I will upload four images two of each of the same subject. Two will be untouched scans of the negative and tweo will be prints of the same subject - this is the best that I can seem to achieve at the moment. Unfortunately, I do not have a url to upload from so will upload to the gallary if that is OK.
     
  7. K-G

    K-G Subscriber

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    Most VC papers have reduced sensitivity when you reach the highest contrast grade. I am not quite sure about Ilford Multigrade, but I think you have to aproximately double the exposure time at grade 5 ( Max contrast ).
    There is also the dry down effect to consider. A dry print looks slightly darker than when it was wet. This is a common problem and if you make a print that looks perfect in the fixer, make a new one with around 10% shorter exposure time and the dry print will be OK. The 10% is a good starting point for your own testing.

    Karl-Gustaf
     
  8. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Is the developer fresh, and how long are you developing?
    If you aren't getting any black, then the exposure is too short, or there is a problem with the developer.
    Possibilities include
    Developer too old
    Developer diluted too much
    Contaminated dev.
    Processing time too short.

    From what you describe the exposure seems like it should be plenty. I'm not sure about the Ilford PQ, but most print developers need at least one minute, and usually a bit more. If you're pulling early because the print is looking dark, that might be the reason for weak blacks.
    If this is the case, try reducing the exposure by at least 1 stop (i.e. 16 seconds), and processing for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes and see what happens. Use the same filtration you've been using.
     
  9. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    With a colour head, when you increase the magenta, you have to increase the exposure, darker filters decrease the amount of light. Ilford get around this by adding some nd filtration to their lower grade filters to keep the exposure constant, at grade 4 and up you double the exposure.
    I'll dig up the Kodak colour darkroom data guide for the exact percentage later.

    Edit: According to the book, add 10% to the exposure if you add 10cc in magenta. No changes needed for yellpw filtration. Of course this applies to colour printing, so YMMV. :smile:
     
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  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Have you checked for safelight fog?
     
  11. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    Sorry all, thankyou for your replies so far. I have now posted the four images in the technical gallery. There is an untouched scan a, and developed a, and the same for image b. As can be seen from the scan's whilst the images aren't great and some twenty years old there appears to be no reason as to why I should not be able to replicate this and better via traditional methods. But currently I at a loss as to where to go, and I don't want to end up using the computer.

    Many thanks, in advance.
     
  12. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    We are all throwing questions at you and are having to home in on possible causes without as yet knowing what you do from putting the neg into the enlarger onwards.

    Tell us in some detail the exact steps you follow and we stand some chance of giving you some decent advice.

    The kind of Q and A the tread is already generating might or might not get you to a solution but I guarantee it will be a slower route than the one I have suggested. For instance you still haven't said whether you use filters and if you do how you decide on what filters.

    That was just a "for instance". Don't simply reply that you do or don't use filters, That gets us back to 100 Q and A posts which is the "slow way" to getting you to a solution.

    Tell us exactly what you did that resulted in a "grey print". A scan that represents what the grey print looks like will help if you can manage one

    pentaxuser
     
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    First things first: show us a backlit picture of the negative, please. 99% of the time, everything you need to know about a print is there.
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    If the borders are white, then it is not fog. If it is fog, then the problem is rather obvious, either safelight fog or overdevelopment, but if they are not fogged, then the prints have been made with a very low contrast grade. You should increase the grade by at least 2 units. I cannot judge from the prints any more than this. I did not see a negative scan, but they are not very revealing due to the changes that are often made by most scanner software.

    PE
     
  16. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    I start at inserting the negative and running at test strip, at 4 seconds each strip/slice unfiltered and this has given me variable success by variable it gave me very light strips through each sequence and the longest exposed was a weak mid tonned grey. So given that I decided that as no filtering either the colour head on inserts had been used ( a default grade of two for ilford filters) I decided to use a grade three filter with the Massodax Photometer. I placed the filter in it holder and then placed the photometer in the centre of the projected image to get a film speed index of 6 and an exposure of 32 seconds. Ran this which gave me a lighter grey image of "developed B" . So then I thought ok, it is perhaps to long an exposure so dropped to 25 seconds which produced the developed b you now see in the technical gallery (the "best" image produced so far). There appears to be no safe light fog that I've discovered so far. Dipoter is set for and producing white light, Developer was bought new four months ago, new solution mixed every time I use it today for example when these were produced. In addition to which I developed some paper negatives last week that reached dense black. Grade 3 filter has been used to produce "developed b" today if I go higher then I get more grain, which isn't wanted at this stage. The enlarger lens is stopped down one step from wide open from the beginning.
     
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  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Andy;

    You have to get more filtration in there to up contrast to about grade 4 if these prints were made with zero filtration or even with a filtration equivalent to a grade 2. Make sure that the filters are working properly if they are above the lens and set by the enlarger mechanism. My enlarger recommends a 30 Magenta for grade 2 with Ilford MGIV.

    PE
     
  18. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    PE

    The filters are set above the lens in the Projcetor head below the condenser lens. A filter grade 3 was used to produce developed b. In addition, I have taken out the filter and used the colour grades which in this instance were Yellow 5 and Magenta 40 for Ilford grade 3 which gave me a similar print.
     
  19. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    What developer are you using, and at what concentration? Are the borders white?

    PE
     
  20. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    OK It looks as if we can rule out old dev. Have you had any success previously with current paper and other negs or is this the first time you have used your current set of equipment? If so how do you know it is OK?

    As PE has asked: Are the borders of the grey prints white - no hint of grey?Test a piece of paper by taking it straight from box in darkness and dev and fix in darkness. Do not use the safelight. This should be white. If it is then it suggests that the safelight may be unsafe? Tell us about the safelight. Was it previously safe? Try another piece of paper from the box. Have you some other negs to try that you know produced good prints in the past ?

    Choose a neg with a good range of whites to blacks. Do a test strip of exposures. Based on current exposures try at least 5 exposures at 10,15, 20, 25 and 30 secs at whatever f stop you are currently using. Use a part of the neg that has textured whites and textured blacks. Are you getting good whites and blacks as well as greys or is everything still grey?

    If so and as you have used the grade three under lens filter without success, try the dichroic head filters instead. Use the dual filters as per the Ilford recommendations for grade 3 based on the kind of enlarger you have.

    The correct exposure will be more than the correct exposure unfiltered so start at the unfiltered exposure and increase by 5 secs each time.

    You should be beginning to get close to a reasonable print. If it is still grey and low contrast move to grade 4 and try again.

    Do not use your analyser/ meter at all. If the greyness has gone then it points to the analyser/meter being probably faulty if you have eliminated the safelight as a possible problem.

    Have you only just acquired this equipment? Have you been able to produce good prints previously?

    It isn't clear to me what prints you were making before you acquired your current equipment.

    Are you sure that the dev is correctly diluted? Are you using Ilford dev times?


    pentaxuser
     
  21. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    Ilford PQ Developer 1+9 at 22 degrees. Yes the borders are white, I normally process in developer for a minute as developed b was push any further beyond say 1min 20 secs and borders begin to turn grey also.
     
  22. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    Ilford development times. I have used this equipment previously acquired some three years ago, I have produced near good results previously but by no means perfect. Then I investigated the light source bulb itself about a year ago and replaced it with the recommended one, the same as the one I removed. Safelight has always been fine, borders on all images are still currently white, although the bulb was replaced a week ago. for a pygmy (same bulb again).
     
  23. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    That does not sound right. PQ is so similar to Dektol that you should be able to get to 2 minutes with MGIV. The temperature is a tad high though so that might compensate. In any event, the prints look overexposed and underdeveloped, or as I said originally, exposed with the wrong filter. The light from your enlarger should have a distinct Magenta or Reddish cast. There should be no Cyan filtration in use.

    It might be that we cannot solve it at a distance and that you will need to do some tests.

    PE
     
  24. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    PE & Pentaxuser

    Thanks, for your help so far, there is enough there for me to work on later today, (after some sleep). I will update you with progress, but this is so frustrating, and I can't help but think that there is something blindingly obvious here that I'm missing.

    Once again thanks for your help it is greatly appreciated.
     
  25. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    A photograph of the negative on a light box, adjusted to look like it actually looks, would really be the first thing to examine in this case IMO. Don't start pulling your engine apart to check why it stalled, without first checking to see if you have fuel in the tank.
     
  26. andyaitken

    andyaitken Subscriber

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    2F/2F

    Will do later today and post. It's ten to one in the morning here, so its a bit late at night to start that now.