Les: Drydown question

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Flotsam, Mar 19, 2004.

  1. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Les,
    I remember a post that you made a while back where you asserted that the reason that fiber displays more of a dry down effect than RC paper is because FB shrinks as it dries, concentrating and darkening the tones. I looked for that thread and couldn't find it so I'm referring back to it in a new topic.

    Last night I was printing some snow pictures on FB with very delicate highlight tones. The lightest of which were absolutely indistinguishable from paper White while in solution but merely lifting the print and allowing it to drain slightly revealed a perceptable tone in these areas. Blotting the print surface increases the effect further. Of course this darkening continued as the prints completely dried but I was curious, since this effect can not be explained by shrinkage, what would you, as our resident drydown expert, say is the cause of the perceived darkening effect of simply lifting a wet print out of the fixer or water bath?
     
  2. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Neal

    Interesting post and experience. I think that the print in the developer is masked by the colour of the developer so perhaps that explains the difference in tonality when it is removed from the developer. With regard to the print looking darker when it is drained and blotted, I would suggest that you read Barnbaun on his theory of dry down or wet up as he calls it. I have his book and will dig it out and quote his comments.

    For what it is worth, I print my highlights quite light in tone and when the print is wet the highlights are paper base white but always dry down to the tone I want. I regularly test all papers that I use for dry down percentage and apply that using the drydown compensation facility in my RH Designs Stop Clock Pro Timer.

    I can assure you that the reason for drydown is because the paper shrinks as it dries and consequently gets darker. I confirmed that many years ago with the Ilford technical people when I was working with them when doing pre production field tests on Ilford Warmtone paper.
     
  3. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Since I made the first post I've read the section In Barnbaums book, "The Art Of Photography, an Approach to Personal Expression", a good reference book well worth the money. The section on "wet up" as Bruce calls it is too long to quote from so I will scan it and post it tomorrow. Bruce's opinion is virtually the opposite of mine but having said that, his prints are excellent with quite beautiful clean highlights that absolutely glow. I do not wish to sound arrogant or bigheaded but my prints also glow and I do everything that Bruce says is wrong in dealing with "drydown" as I call it.

    The main point that I wish to make is that the methods that we both use work for us so I will not say that Bruce is wrong and I'm right, I respect him too much to do that.

    I'll post Bruce's method tomorrow after I've scanned it and also briefly explain where we differ.
     
  4. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    Here is an observation: Hardly any dry down with AZO paper.
     
  5. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Same with Kodak Polymax Fine Art, which is Big K's MG fiber paper. This is not just my observation but that of several others also. I was very surprised at how similar to Azo's characteristics this paper is, except in tonal scale of course.
     
  6. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    Neal,

    I don't know what Les and the others have experienced, but I find that Ilford MG fiber takes 2-3 days to fully dry down. Like Les, I print highlights very light, and somewhere in that 3rd day, those highlights come around.

    Doug
     
  7. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    SNIP
    end snip

    My experience too.
     
  8. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have a question about this. Is the fact that the gelatin emulsion is wet and swollen during the processing in any way involved with the lighter appearance when wet then when dry? I don't know this to be the case but I wonder if it isn't involved. I could visualize that gelatin would be more transparent when wet then when dry. What are your thoughts about that?

    Apart from the dry down factor, I think that the glow of a print is directly related to local contrast. I asked Sandy King about that awhile back and he thought that was true as well.
     
  9. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Les,
    I didn't mean to give the impression that I was questioning your' attributing dry-down to emulsion shrinkage. It certainly makes sense and I accept this as an interesting piece of photographic knowledge. However it got me thinking, (a dangerous thing to do). I was wondering about the "damp down" effect in which a print will display tones while merely damp that aren't seen, in the same light, while floating in the fixer or water bath. I used to keep a slanted plastic board and a squeegee in my darkroom where I could place a wet print or test strip and wipe off the surface water in order to make a better judgement of where to go with it. You still have to make your compensations for further dry down but at least it will allow you to see whether you have achieved a delicate tone adjacent to a paper White.

    I will read the Barnbaum article and your commentary with great interest. Thanks.
     
  10. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Alex,
    That is exactly the paper that I was working with last night thanks to your recent post. These weren't very good negs to test out a new paper with but I loved working with SW again! They washed and dried nicely with only a moderate, loose curl that I could probably eliminate completely without too much effort if I wasn't going to drymount them. I don't mind saving a few bucks either. These Prints were flatly lit snow and about 90% of the area was in the VIII and IX zones. There was a definite drydown but I'll be interested to try it with more full toned prints and compare the dry down characteristics to Ilford FB MG. Thanks for the heads-up.
     
  11. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    having both les's book and barnbaum's, the polarity of approaches verges on the humorous. but....both take into account the deceptive appearnce of a wet print in the fixer and both deal with it effectively.

    though barnbaum's solution (using a dim light and only later a bright one to evaluate a still wet print after squeegeing to allow for one's eyes and psyche to adapt after more than 10 minutes under the safelight ) seems sound, my 50 something eyes are not so easily calibrated that i can be assured that this technic will be effective consistently.

    les's solution takes more time at first and is just one more of the endless 'calibrations' that seem to loom in either traditional or digital print making, but then it's kinda 'push button' until the next batch of paper needs re-evaluating.

    what pleases me is to have two thorough explanations of the problem and two useful solutions. thanks to both of these guys!
     
  12. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    The "drydown" effect is caused by the paper shrinking as it dries out. Stopping the shrinkage by tapeing the paper to a glass sheet alleviates the problem, and gives a very flat print as well. If anyone is interested I can give a more complete description of the method. The method was well described in "Camera & Darkroom" a few years ago.
     
  13. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    what about the microwave? It's how I judge my test strips, and provided that they have been fixed properly, it seems to work very well. It may not be dead on (and maybe it is) , but it eliminates a lot of the guess work.

    I just made a few prints friday, innaugurating my home darkroom, and looking at the prints today, I'm 'very pleased with the microwave method . In fact, I just compared a test strip with a 2 day old afga multigrade print, and could see no difference. (but this is the only test stip that did not get thrown away, and it has very little highlights in it).

    Any good reasons not to microwave test strips?

    I've seen a video of Ansel Adams doing it, by the way.
     
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  15. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    This is a question for Les: I use PolymaxII RC glossy (neutral black) paper and sometimes I feel that I'm witnessing no dry down effect at all after viewing completely wet then completely dry. Is this possible or it is so slight that my eyes do not perceive it? I still continue the good practice of getting it dry and viewing in white light (with "Reveal Bulbs") before deciding on pertinent changes.
     
  16. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    RC paper being plastic has little or no drydown for the base does not shrink as it dries. I have to say that I have virtually no experience with RC papers, I hate them, this comment is based on information given to me by technical staff of both Ilford and Kodak.
     
  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I was fooling around with lith printing the other night, and saw a great difference between RC and fiber paper. Light tones on fiber paper didn't appear until the paper was dry, while the RC didn't change at all. Wetting a discarded fiber print (drawing a line with a wet finger) showed the reverse effect, a truly astonishing lightening of the values. But only on the fiber paper - the same test on RC showed very little change. Not zero, only very, very little.
     
  18. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    That's interesting to hear Ole. I'm simply not set up for FB printing. It really boils down to a savings in water for washing and a savings in time. I print from my kitchen at night and would find using FB papers very difficult to deal with. I must say though, I have seen some very nicely done RC prints from photographers that are much more experienced than me. I have plans to convert a spare bedroom in my house to a dedicated darkroom, maybe I'll be able to delve into FB printing some day.
     
  19. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    The single biggest challenge for me for Fiber was to flatten it when done. I finally bought a press and cannot imagine being without it. Ole is right on the drydown though. When I do a test strip and am satisfied with the exposure, I reduce the exposure by as much as 10% for the papers I use and when they dry they are right on.
     
  20. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I have tested every paper I use for drydown once a year for the past 25 years and found that they consistently fall into the 9% to 11% bands. If I have to use a paper that I have not tested I apply 10% drydown and the result is generally acceptable.

    Earlier in this thread I said I would post Bruce Barbaum's wet up method and despite having very generous help and advice from John Hannon I still cannot figure out how to get the text into my post. Incidentally John emailed Bruce to ask permission to post the piece and he did agree, I also had to speak to Bruce yesterday on another matter and thanked him for allowing us to post the article.

    I'm still trying to figure out how to get it on to the forum.
     
  21. JHannon

    JHannon Member

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    Hi Les and everyone, here is the article, enjoy!

    John


    Inspection, Evaluation, and the Myth of "Dry-Down"

    From the book "The Art of Photography - An Approach to Personal Expression"
    By Bruce Barnbaum Copyright (c) 1994 by Bruce Barnbaum
    Posted with permission of the author
    .


    All of the techniques of controlling the print during exposure and into development have now been discussed: dodging, burning, flashing, masking, and two-solution development. The final "advanced" technique of print control, reducing (also known as bleaching), takes place after the print has been fully developed and placed into the fixing bath. Before discussing reducing, let us first work our way through the chemical processing and on to the all-important inspection and evaluation of the image.

    After I develop the print, I quickly transfer it to a stop bath for several seconds to terminate development. (I use glacial acetic acid because it is a clear liquid and does not discolor the fix as Indicator Stop Bath does.) Next, I place it in the fixer (I use Kodak's general purpose fixer with hardener) for several seconds with continuous agitation (rocking the tray) then turn on an inspection light to view the image.

    The intensity of this inspection light is far more important than most people realize! My own experience-and my experience with hundreds of students in years of workshops-is that lack of solid thought about the inspection light can undo all of the good printing techniques performed to this point. I cannot overstress the importance of the inspection light!

    Most people feel that any normal room light will do the job. Wrong! Others feel that a good, bright light will show the print best for proper evaluation. Disastrously wrong! The best inspection light is a rather dim light, or an average wattage bulb placed rather far away from the print. The reason for this is basic common sense. Consider the following: you have been in a room lit by safelights from the time you removed the enlarging paper from the box, placed it in the easel, exposed the negative with any extra burning or flashing steps, then developed the print (hopefully for at least 4 or 5 minutes), stopped it, and placed it in the fixer.

    You have been laboring in dim light for ten minutes and your iris is now wide open to gather in the light. Then, you put on a bright light. It's like walking out of a matinee into the sunlit afternoon! If the print is too dark, it will look good! And if it is printed just right, it will look too light! A dim light will give you a far better feel of what the print really looks like!

    What wattage bulb should be used for the inspection light? It is immaterial. The only criterion is this: if your finished prints consistently look too dark under normal lighting, or if they consistently lack the shadow detail under normal lighting that you saw under the inspection light, then your inspection light is too bright. Replace the bulb with a lower wattage bulb or move the light farther away. In other words, balance the way you see the print in the fixer with the way it looks when it is dried, mounted, and viewed under good lighting. It is that simple, and it is basic common sense, but most photographers never realize it.

    After your eyes adjust to the dim light, you can then put on a brighter light for a more thorough inspection. This may seem to contradict the need for a dim light initially, but it does not. The reason for the dim light is to let you see the print initially as you would see it under normal lighting when your eyes are fully adjusted to normal lighting. If the initial light is too bright, you will see shadow detail that will not be visible in the finished print (unless you view the print in mid-day sunlight!). The psychological importance of that initial inspection is critical, for once you see shadow detail in the print under a light that is too bright, it is hard to strike that impression from your mind, and you will always end up fighting that first impression. When you see the finished print you will attribute the loss of detail in the shadows to "dry-down." It is not dry-down, the alleged darkening of an image as it dries, it is an inspection light that is too bright!

    To inspect the print properly for highlight detail, remove it from the fix, place it on an upright sheet of acrylic plastic, and squeegee off the layer of liquid from the emulsion (or let it run off slowly). That thin layer of liquid hides the most subtle details in the highlights. Again, "dry-down" is often cited for the appearance of highlight detail in the finished print that was not visible during inspection, but again, it is not dry-down, it is failure to view the print without the layer of liquid fix obscuring highlight detail.I urge you to try this for yourself by removing a print from the fix after carefully inspecting it in the tray. You'll notice that more detail immediately shows in the subtle highlights as the print is removed from beneath the liquid. Then put it on a vertical surface, such as white acrylic plastic. When you squeegee off the remaining liquid, still more detail appears. No more will appear after the print dries. Now hose it down with water or re-immerse it in the tray of fix and watch those subtle highlights immediately disappear! I call this effect "wet-up!"

    Although no more detail will appear in the finished print then you will see using good inspection techniques, the subtle highlight detail that appears will be more pronounced in the dried, finished print. I believe that the reason for this is due to the slight shrinkage of the print as it dries. A wet 16x20 print may be more than 1/4" longer than a dried print. As the developed silver grains bunch together more closely as the print dries and shrinks, the subtle detail will appear more prominently. This intensity increase in the highlights during drying is the only "dry-down" effect I have ever observed, but I have not observed new detail appearing.

    "Dry-down" is an overused excuse for improper inspection. In fact, if there is a change to be seen, it is the other way. When a print is wet, its blacks appear richest, and they lose some of the intensity when the print dries. This is simply due to the way light scatters off the paper from a wet or dry print. (Matte papers exhibit a dramatic loss of brilliance in the blacks when they dry because of the surface qualities of the paper.) I call this effect "dry-up!"

    Most papers can be inspected effectively within a short period of time after the initial dim light is turned on, your eyes slowly adjust, and then a second inspection light is turned on. One exception is Oriental VC paper, which has a slight yellow-ocher cast to the paper base at first. This yellow cast makes it hard to judge the degree of brilliance of whites in the final print, especially if whites and light tones dominate the image. The yellowish cast gradually disappears in the fix, then completely disappears when the print is placed in a holding tray of water after fixing is completed, but the "whitening" of the base can take ten minutes or more. This is frustrating and time consuming, indeed, but the ultimate brilliance of the paper justifies your wait.

    One final note concerning the inspection light: do not use a light with a rheostat "dimmer" switch for inspection purposes. The rheostat contains two hidden problems. First, unless you have the dimmer permanently set to a fixed brightness level, you will never have the same brightness level for every print you inspect, and this inconsistency will throw your ability to judge your prints out the window. Second, as a rheostat is adjusted downward from its brightest setting, it yellows noticeably, and this, too, will make your judgment of prints more difficult. Stick with a fixed wattage bulb and determine the proper distance of the fixed brightness bulb from your print for good, consistent results.
     
  22. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Cool. Glad you guys got permission.

    The general idea of Bruce's method is that you inspect the squeegee'd print under a dimmer than normal inspection light. You want to print your highlights until you can just barely see detail in the highlights. Then, when the print dries and you inspect it again under normal lighting (whatever that may be), the highlights should look the same. If the highlights are too dark, then you must decrease the intensity of your inspection light - either use a dimmer bulb, or move the light further away from the print. Likewise, if the highlights are too light, increase the intensity of the inspection light.

    This technique is a bit tricky to master, since it relies on your subjective interpretation of the print in the darkroom. However, once mastered, it works quite well.

    Near as I can tell, Bruce's 'wet up' is the same as 'dry down' - the difference is in the perspective. Either way, care must be taken with fibre prints since the highlights do darken when the print dries. This is illustrated with Bruce's technique since you are planning on viewing the final print under much brighter lights than the inspection lights. Likewise with Les' compensating timer - you may view the print in the darkroom under bright lights, but the timer forces you to print the highlights lighter. Different routes to the same solution, I say.

    I had originally thought about purchasing a compensating timer to help out with this, but then thought that it would be difficult to use with dodging and burning. For example, when burning in an area, there's no guarentee that the burning tool is positioned exactly over the area I want to burn, so I can't be assured of getting an accurate burn using the exact time set in the timer. Instead, I set the timer for a longer time, block the entire print, turn on the timer, positoin the tool using the projected image, and while listening to the audible beeps, uncover the tool and burn for the allotted time.

    If my understanding of how the compensating timer works is correct, then this technique would not work. Or would it? Les, care to comment?

    Just curious.
     
  23. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Heh, guess I should have waited a few more minutes for the article to be posted......
     
  24. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    No dry down for RC material makes sense. The base for the emulsion (plastic) does not absorb water and swell up as much as a fiber base.
     
  25. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I have John to thank for getting the Barnbaum method of dealing with drydown posted, these modern computer things baffle me!?@*
    Ken, surely you did not think that I would post without speaking to Bruce, we had a long chat before I decided to post and he was quite happy to help as we both know.

    My method of dealing with drydown involves testing the papers by making a print with the wet higjlights as I want them to be and then making a series of prints with reduced exposures from 8% to 12% in 1% steps and then comparing those prints dried with the original wet print. The dry print that matches the wet print is the % drydown that I use thereafter. The main difference in our respective methods is that I view my wet prints under a 150watt lamp at 4 feet. I don't necessarily think that everyone should do that, it's just the way that I have done it for over 25 years but I do believe that we have to be consistent. If you are happier with less illumination that's fine. No matter whether it's called drydown or wet up it's a known fact that fibre prints do get darker as they dry. Neither Bruce or I am wrong we just do what works for us.

    Ken, your comments re burning in using a compensating timer, I think you are geting hung up and being too precise. I use the program mode to carry out the amount of burning in that is required and as I'm keeping the card moving at all times during the process to protect those areas that I don't wish to darken it's clear that the degree of precision you allude to is unlikely to be achieved. You have seen my prints and also the amount of burning in I do and I think you will agree that the tonality is good with highlights that sing. I think that the Stop Clock Pro compensating fStop timer complete with drydown facilities as well, is the best piece of equipment in my darkroom, but I would say that because some of the features were included at my request.
     
  26. KenM

    KenM Member

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    Well, no, not really. I was wondering a bit since no mention was made, at least iniitally. But, I should have known better :surprised:ops:

    You are of course correct. I did think about that but as usual, only after my message was submitted. :smile: I'll stick with my current timer for now - I use percentages for determining burn-in times, so I'm already using f/stop printing, in a manner of speaking.