how can one develop a decent photograph at grade 1 or 2?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by phritz phantom, Dec 21, 2006.

  1. phritz phantom

    phritz phantom Member

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    honestly, i've been asking this myself for quite some time now. and reading all that talk on here about the low gradations and that the zone system is there to make negatives printable at grade 2.
    i can't get a decent black at grade 1 or 2. i usually start at grade 3 and print at 4 most of the time, many times at 5.
    i've done my fair share of zone system testing and while my negatives aren't perfect, i don't think they are that far off.
    i get good shadow detail at low gradation, but it's all a mushy grey. looks awful to my eye. grade 4 looks way better, better separation, sharper and deep blacks.

    i'd have to add, i like the prints of w. eugene smith a lot and think that's what a good print should look like. so i am a fan of contrasty images. but is this the answer? or is there something wrong with my process?

    btw. does someone know at which grade w.e. smith printed his work? i tried to find out, but couldn't find any info on that.
    according to his article in "darkroom" by lustrum press, he used polycontrast f paper (from kodak, i think). this seems to be variable contrast paper, so i doesn't say anything about the grade he printed at.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The paper grade will depend on the contrast of the negatives, the paper, the developer, the light source, the degree of enlargement, and potentially the lens and other factors like fog and reflection in the darkroom.

    If you find you always need grade 3, there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to target your negs to grade 2, then increase your film development time. If you always have to print at grade 4, then you might run out of room at some point, so it would be better to find a film development time that produces negs that print well at grade 2 or 3.

    If you shoot 35mm, there is a case for targeting to grade 3, because a thinner negative will show less grain.
     
  3. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I can't answer, but I generally use grade 2 or 1. Rarely 0, extremely rarely 3.

    I generally use unfiltered MC for test prints, and graded for final prints.

    I get enough contrast and separation, and my blacks are certainly black enough. Maybe I just develop more?
     
  4. phritz phantom

    phritz phantom Member

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    maybe it's the water here.
    my development times are usually a lot longer than those suggested on the box or at internet sources (digitaltruth, unblinkingeye...).
    i develop trix at 200asa for 9,5minutes in hc110 dil. H.
    and 400asa for 17min. -- for n-development.
    (although i don't agitate much, 3 inversions every 3 minutes)

    i should run a test using distilled water.

    edit: thanks for the replies & suggestions.
     
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  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't use Tri-X, I don't like the negatives it gives me...

    But with FP4+, Hp5+, APX100, Delta 100, Efke 25 and 50 I just follow the instructions for Ilfotec HC (at the moment) or any other developer. I usually give about 10% extra since my 35mm/MF enlarger has a diffuser (colour) head; but now I've got in the habit so I do the same with LF films which are to be printed in a condenser enlarger. I feel I get better results when taming a "slightly high" contrast than when I try to force life into a flat negative.

    I'm not saying this is the correct way to do it, only that this is the way I prefer to work.
     
  6. Zathras

    Zathras Subscriber

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    I would try increasing the developing time to 18 or 21 minutes for the TRI-X at 200, making no other changes in your process until you can print the test results and evaluate them. It sounds like your negs are seriously under developed, especially with the reduced agitation. See if this will get you the contrast you need with your chosen paper. If you have too much contrast, reduce your dev time by 15% on the next roll, or increase your dev time by 15% if the contrast still needs to come up. Change only one variable at a time, and you will get to where you need to be a lot faster than if you make a bunch of changes at once.

    W. Eugene Smith manipulated the hell out of his prints, so you need to find a film speed and dev time to give a straight unmanipulated print from your negs that will get you into the ballpark before you try a lot of dodging, burning, bleaching or other manipulations.

    Hope this helps....

    Mike Sullivan
     
  7. phritz phantom

    phritz phantom Member

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    funny, i was just thinking about doing the opposite thing, after trying to tame highlights in a night photo. to underdevelop as standard and open the highlights with bleach. but i haven't tried yet.

    i was developing a concert photo lately, a situation which is known for contrasty images, and i was printing at grade 4 as well.

    i shoot medium format, 6x7, mostly trix. have a colour head enlarger too (durst m707). various papers (all at high grades).
    and i do check my negatives with a densitometer. and although i could never get it perfectly right and repeatable, my negatives are usually in the normal contrast range, I: 0,10, VIII: 1,10 (trix 200asa, 9,5 min. hc110 dil.h).

    here's a link to the concert pic. this is a scan from negative, then treated in photoshop. i printed the real one on kentmere paper at grade 4 and it looks pretty similar.
    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c367/phritz/wh01.jpg
     
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  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Interestingly enough, I have never seen this mentioned before on APUG, but at one time, most paper manufacturers suggested the use of grade 3 as the standard for enlarging due to the flare encountered when enlarging negatives.

    And, they suggested going up in contrast grade as magnification increased.

    Has anyone else heard of this from way back when?
     
  9. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    This is what I was taught in college, I consider grade 3 normal grade 2 soft and grade 4 hard. But each lens is a little differnt, and I do find a differnce in enlager heads, my ancient Omega cold light, grade 4 is normal, my point sorce for 35 grade 2 is normal.
     
  10. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I have printed my roll film on a condenser enlarger with a contrasty enlarging lens at grades 3 to 3 1/2 for years. I find that it gives me really good contrast at that stage.

    I would expect thin negatives with that little of agitation. Do a test roll with the same time and agitate twice every 30 seconds and try a print. I think this will give you an idea of how the development goes.

    Most times on Digital truth are for those who agitate much more than every few minutes.
     
  11. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    It's been so long since I used HC110 that I don't remember what dilution E is. When I did use it, it was at 1+31, and TRI-X at about 8 minutes runs in my mind as about what I used. I do remember getting some good shots of guest artists from my principal oboe chair at dress rehearsals. Oboes often have long rests. This was before 1980, mostly. Stage lighting is rather harsh, but not too strong, so there is a conflict between exposure and development. You want to get the most shadow detail you can without blocked up highlights. Maybe I can post an example later.
     
  12. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    It's doubtful that it's the water. You don't mention anything about your darkroom method so its impossible to tell what's wrong. Expose and develop a roll of film using the box instructions for exposure and development. Forget anything like the zone system. Then tell us the details and the results.
     
  13. phritz phantom

    phritz phantom Member

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    the concert pic was developed in hc110 dil. h (1+63 - half of dil.b -therefor doubling the development time gives approximatively the correct time), for around 30 minutes, because it was exposed at 1600asa, agitation: 3x every 3 minutes.
    i think the picture looks fine, pretty much as i wanted it to be... ok there are some minor flaws, like the face is a bit too dark and there could some more detail in the chest area. but those are only in the digital one, they are fixed in the real print.

    i'm only wondering why i have to use such a high grade under those circumstances: hard concert light, push processing... everything that gives a lot of contrast usually. and i would expect to use a lower gradation than normal under those circumstances.
    and why would developing longer help my dark tones? since the zones 1,2,3... pretty much stay the same, even during extended development. my highlights are fine, only the dark tones at low gradation trouble me.

    and my enlarging lens is a rodagon 1:4 80mm

    and i just checked, i'm sorry, i confused the dilutions. i use H not E.
     
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  15. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    for one thing, cutting the dilution in half does not yield a 1:1 time ratio increase - I'm not sure what the exact factor is, but it is probably at least 1.25:1. When your negative already has such a contrast range as it does in a concert photo, it is more likely to work well printed contrasty, because the tonal ranges are not continuous - they're in peaks and valleys. You've got a bunch of tones in the blown-out highlights, past Zone 9. Then nothing. Drop down about three or four zones to zone 6, and you pick up density ranges again, to about Zone 4. Then you've got nothing until Zone 2, then nothing again. Because of the peaky nature of the lighting, trying to print at a lower contrast grade is going to make the image look really bleah, because it won't reproduce what's in the negative. You're trying to put information on the print that is just missing altogether from the negative.
     
  16. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    I was taught that from 1 to 5, 3 is normal 2 is soft and 4 is hard. 1 and 5 are extreme. PE, what you said sounds very familiar; fact or myth?
     
  17. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    My times with Tri X are 6 min 15 seconds with dilution B. The attached image is made from a Tri X negative developed as indicated and printed on grade two. To answer your earlier question of how to develop a print at grade one or two, increase the density range of your negatives. That means increasing time, agitation, temperature or decreasing the developer dilution.
     

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  18. Zathras

    Zathras Subscriber

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    I suggested more time because I use reduced agitation, and for me, the first variable I would change would be the time. However, increasing the frequency of agitation, leaving the time the same is also a sound suggestion. I guess there are as many methods as there are photographers, and in the end, the results are what matters most. I think that the best suggestion I can offer phritz is to only change one variable at a time in order to avoid confusion about how the results were obtained. And take lots of notes so you don't forget what you did when you finally do get results that you were trying for.:smile:

    Mike
     
  19. eric

    eric Member

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    This is the way I learned it too.
     
  20. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Likely you are using a diffusion enlarger AND a VC paper.
    Your specific combination may be working against good
    contrast at normal grade. Your dial or knob may read
    4 or 5 but you may actually be printing lower. Your
    negatives may be ball-park grade 2 for a genuine
    grade 2 paper and provide good blacks.

    I've seen one set of VC curves where grade
    differentiation did not occure untill dark gray
    densities developed.

    Try a Graded paper; they differ also. Don't forget
    the diffuse light source. Maybe Grade 3? Dan
     
  21. phritz phantom

    phritz phantom Member

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    sounds interesting. i was thinking about trying to rule out the enlarger.
    i do have a pack of maco "expo g" paper, which is grade 2. so i'd have to use a different enlarger, only using white light (without the filter box) won't be enough?
     
  22. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I learned to print on grade 1 for the longest tonal range. Makes sense & works for me. I don't like the idea of going to grade 3 just to get a decent black.
    You could try leaving the print in the dev for longer as that will affect the blacks more than the mids & whites.
     
  23. Petzi

    Petzi Member

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    I remember when I used graded paper, e.g. Agfa, that the grade 3 was titled "normal", while grade 2 was named "special", so there has got to be something to this story.

    Grade 1 was "soft" and 4 was "hard" of course.
     
  24. phritz phantom

    phritz phantom Member

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    i wrecked my brains how i could explain what i am talking about. and finally found some prints from yesterday night, which were meant to be thrown away, that could maybe explain it. mushy blacks could mean a lot.

    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c367/phritz/teststrip01.jpg
    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c367/phritz/teststrip02.jpg

    the first one was done at grade 3,5 or 4. and the second one at grade 1 or 2.
    sorry, i can't remember exactely. and they were not exposed for the same amount of light.
    plus, to make things worse, it was taken at night.
    but i think it shows the mushiness that i always get when i print with lower gradation. there's no way i could get a tone like in the first one using a lower grade than 3.
     
  25. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    As I learned it, it was to keep the grain of small negs from being obnoxious. The more contrast inthe negative, the more grain. High or low contrast paper have about the same grain.

    The attached photo is of Alicia Delarocha (sp?) taken around 1970 when she was a guest of the Norfolk Symphony, now known as the Virginia Symphony. It could have been developed in one of several developers. I didn't keep that kind of record. I do know that I used 1/60 at f/2.8 for all my pictures. The paper grade is of no consequence here because this jpg was scanned from the original negative. The picture doesn't prove a lot, but it does show what is possible. It might have been more enlightening if I had scanned a print from that negative. If anyone wants, I will do that next time.
     

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  26. dslater

    dslater Member

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    It looks to me like the shadoes in these images were underexposed. If you look at the grade 1 print, you can still see blacks in the shadows cast by the rocks on the shore.

    I think your best bet would to do some film testing to determine your film E.I. and development time. www.viewcamera.com has a free article describing a simple way to test your film/paper combination. it is aimed at LF photographers, but if you shoot roll film, I'm sure you can easily adapt it.

    Testing your film is somewhat tedious, but well worth the effort.