Loss of continuity of tone

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by polyglot, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Hi all,

    I've been using Pan-F at ISO32 in Rodinal on 35mm and it works very nicely - prints decently to 12x18". Looks better at 11x14" than HP5 does at 8x10".

    However, I recently ran 2 rolls of the same through my RZ and got poor results, specifically the shadows look as if the density is heavily quantized - areas of quite flat, constant density with sharp boundaries with their neighbours, nothing smooth. Now, the negatives were pretty contrasty as I was photographing waterfalls surrounded by dark unlit wet rocks (the rocks and grass are the problem), so I was printing at about grade 0.5 to get highlights and shadows all onto the print. Inspecting the negative tells me there's plenty of detail in the shadows but they've been lost in the printing process.

    Is the problem that I'm printing at such a low grade, causing small variations to be lost? How does one go about printing such a contrasty negative? The pattern of the waterfall is pretty complicated with a lot of misty subtlety so I'm not sure how I'd go about burning it down and using a higher grade.

    Would developing less help with the global contrast problem without destroying local contrast? I exposed for ISO25 (probably over-estimated reciprocity failure on a few), souped in Rodinal 1+49 for 9:00 but the negatives are too thick; previously I'd used ISO32 and 1+49 for 10:00 with good results.

    Is there some other newbie error I might be making?

    I can post a digital photograph of the print but scanning the neg is a little interesting as I haven't finished making the missing neg-holder for my film scanner, though I could maybe scan the offending part of the neg using the 35mm holder. Let me know if you think images would help.

    thanks...
     
  2. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    On second thought, the prints. First one:
    [​IMG]
    and the second one:
    [​IMG]

    Have a look at the horribleness of the shadow detail in the upper right corner in each case.
     
  3. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Wirelessly posted (BBBold: BlackBerry9000/4.6.0.167 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102 UP.Link/6.3.0.0.0)

    Something lost in the translation. Looks fine to me.
     
  4. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    PanF+ is not the easiest film in the world to work with, and I've never been terribly pleased with the results I got when developed in Rodinal. To get a reasonably easy to print negative, I've had to rate the film at 1/2 box speed and pull back a little on development. However, when I tried D-76 1+3, at Ilford's recommended time, things improved considerably. I was able to get full box speed with good shadow detail. It is still a contrasty film, but this combination proved very successful for me. When Freestyle was clearing out the last of their Arista Pro 50, which was rebadged PanF+, I bought 800 ft. of the stuff and I love it. I have no problems with it in some of the most difficult lighting conditions, provided of course that there is enough light to work with. Try it. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
     
  5. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Christopher: um, OK. You'll have to take my work for it that it looks badly posterised. Admittedly the lighting and reflectivity of the subject weren't helping but it really doesn't look right at all - all the subtlety in the rocks is missing, yet they're nowhere near transparent on the negative and not pure black on the print.

    Is it possible for shadows to "block up" into solid greys that are not solid black? (obviously other than by losing the shadow detail on the neg and then not printing long enough) That's what I think I'm seeing.

    Frank: thanks for the tip, I'll have to try it with D-76 next time. When pulled with Rodinal, what times were you using? With D-76, what sort of difference do you see between using 1+1 and 1+3?

    thanks.
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Overexposing your negatives should give you more shadow detail and separation. But EI 25 in Rodinal might be 'normal'. My experience with it is that you lose speed with it no matter how you use it, except for extreme minimal agitation (highly dilute developer, long processing times of 30minutes, and perhaps two agitation cycles, but this is a tough one to master for other reasons than you mention).

    Have you considered that your metering and/or shutter mechanism might be calibrated differently from camera to camera, and that this might constitute a significant difference from system to system?

    The D76 makes sense to me too. But Rodinal 1+50 with this film should be fine, and you may wish to tweak your development times more. Different lighting situations require different exposure and processing if you want absolutely optimum results, and it seems like your lighting situation above had a very long brightness range from deep shadows to very bright highlights. It could well be that this situation requires EI 12 and more reduction in processing.

    D76 is a solvent developer. Stock it makes for very beautiful and smooth negatives with glorious tonality. The more you dilute it, the less solvent action you will see, and you will likely gain in sharpness some while you should keep most of the tonality but gain some grain. Since you're using Rodinal, I'm sure you will not mind the grain from D76 1+3.

    Good luck. Your prints look fine to me, but it's difficult to interpret what looks right to somebody else. I think I understand what you mean by 'blocked up' shadows, where the tonal range in the shadows are compressed, but it doesn't really look like it to me in your scans. What time of day did you expose your film? How were the lighting conditions?

    - Thomas
     
  7. psvensson

    psvensson Member

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    I don't think the problem is with the film. A few VC papers reportedly display discontinuous tones in parts of their curves, with certain filter settings. I believe there was a story about this in Photo Techniques a while back. In short, try another paper, or print your shadows with a harder grade!
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thing is, though, OP was using 35mm Pan-F+ with great results, and it wasn't until with 120 that there were problems. Perhaps it was printed on a different paper, who knows...
     
  9. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I agree with the above posts that it could be the paper.

    Jeff
     
  10. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    Welcome to the difficulties of trying to print a contrasty negative.

    Ansel Adams said it's easier for him to start with a less contrasty negative and work his contrasts up. He said he found it more difficult working with high contrast and trying to print down. I'm like that too.

    You're on the right track - if there's alot of contrast in the negative, you really don't need to add any more.

    Maybe water bath development of the print will help slow down the chemical part so you can control your micro contrast areas a little better by buying yourself a little bit of additional time. It also keeps highlights from being blocked out.

    I've had a hard time with Pan F having alot of contrast. I also have some personal trouble printing Pyro stained negatives.

    Surprisingly, I've had more success darkroom printing with "second grade" films like Neopan in standard developer like Ilfosol S or D76 which created flat, ugly looking negatives, and then incrementally adding contrast one step at a time, making a test strip, then a test print, then writing notes, and then comparing dried test prints under daylight. Then refer back to my notes to replicate the test print I found most pleasing in order to continue with the printing process.

    I've only had success with exotic combinations inside of digital scanning so far. For example scanning pyro, because the stain sort of acts as a built in filter.

    You should be able to get the same blacks and whites out of both a high contrast and a low contrast print. Only the range of the tones is compressed. So if your looking for more range in the shadows, use less contrast ie. less compression.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 21, 2009
  11. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    With Rodinal, I used about 10% off the recommended time and I still wasn't happy. With D-76, I never tried 1+1 with PanF+, so I can't say for sure. But boy oh boy, at 1+3, the negatives are beautiful. I get nice clean whites in the print and good shadow separation on the equivalent of grade 2 paper. Someone is bound to say oh, the grain is going to be more noticeable and you'll get edge effect. Bulls**t! If you examine a photograph with a microscope, yeah, you may see it. It doesn't show in the finished print.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Could the difference arise as a result of either the difference in the cameras and lenses used, or differences in the enlarging process?

    Could the Mamiya's lenses be higher in contrast or exhibit less flair?

    In reference to enlarging, I mean changes in the lens used, the condensors (if any), etc.

    Just some thoughts.

    Matt
     
  13. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    thanks for all the answers everyone... it's the same paper (Ilford MGIV RC Pearl) but from different batches and the problematical prints are on far newer paper. However, the 120 negs I'm printing have a lot more contrast in them, simply due to the lighting situation. The 35mm ones that worked so well were printed at Grade 2 whereas the problem ones are on Grade 0.5 to get the highlights and shadows to not be clipped.

    psvensson: that's exactly how I would describe my problem, not that I can find any references to discontinuous tone while googling. I will certainly try printing my neg harder with some heavy dodging.

    WolfTales: welcome indeed :smile: ... it's all an adventure, though I do want to get one of these printed at high quality for a competition in 2 weeks. wrt your last paragraph though... surely using a lower contrast filter (lower grade) will compress the tones, i.e. put a wider range of tones-on-film into a given range of tones-on-paper? And higher contrast filters expand the dynamic range: narrow range of tones-on-film into a wide range of tones-on-paper. So my problem is that to get my highlights and shadows without clipping one or both, I used a very low grade, but in doing so I compressed what would have been detail into basically one tone.

    Is it perhaps to do with the two contrast curves that VC paper has? Is it possible that at an extreme grade like I'm using with lots of Y filtration (nearly no blue gets through) that the high-contrast layer is both in reciprocity failure and suffering from a threshold-of-exposure effect? If so, it could be that the high contrast layer goes from completely transparent (below threshold) to quite dense (coming out of reciprocity failure and crossing its threshold) quite rapidly and only does so in the shadows of the print where it suddenly gets enough exposure. That would maybe explain why the print transitions from black to a not-particularly-dark grey.

    Edit: Frank: OK, I'm definitely trying the D-76 1+3 next.

    MattKing: I reckon I'm probably using higher-contrast lenses on the 35mm shots (top-line Minolta primes) than the Mamiya lens I was using. The 50/4.5 that I have (not the ULD version) is actually pretty disappointing wrt flare, contrast and very soft corners. Same enlarger & contrast filter pack, condensor adjusted for format size, EL-Nikkor 50/2.8 with horribly soft corners vs an old Zebra Rodagon 105/5.6 but neither of those should be producing any flare or contrast loss.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 21, 2009
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  15. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    I had another thought and think I've figured it out. Due to the extreme grade, I am exposing the low-contrast layer so much that it is reaching its own D-Max and all my Zone-III shadow detail disappears into a muddy gray that is a fully-exposed low-contrast layer with no exposure at all on the high-contrast layer due to thresholding. Finally with a little more exposure, the high-contrast layer breaks its threshold in the shadows and a few details pop up to black.

    Any thoughts?
     
  16. wogster

    wogster Member

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    You may need a contrast mask, I've never tried producing one, but essentially you need to print a weak positive on film, then sandwich the two in the enlarger so that the positive counteracts some of the contrast. This may still compress some of the tones though.
     
  17. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Yes, you have pretty much got it. The high contrast and low contrast emulsions of variable contrast paper each have 1/2 of density required to reach d-max (although MGIV actually has 3 emulsions). At very low contrast filtration the 3 "S" shaped HD curves pull apart so that the overall contrast is very low. As the 3 curves pull apart the overall HD curve develops a hill-and-dale shape with flat spots in between.

    MGIV Warm Tone is probably the worst offender, see its HD curve for low contrast grades. At 00 the curve has a huge flat spot in the deep shadows. But even the 0.5 contrast curve has a segment between a print density of 1.5 and 2.0 where it's contrast falls to half of its nominal value.

    You can see that the paper really has three sets of curves: 00 - 1 1/2 where the contrast change is due to a drastic cut in shadow contrast; 2 - 3 1/2 where the contrast grades are well spaced and the overall shape of the HD curve sharpens with increasing contrast; and grades 4 - 5 where the contrast change is mainly in the highlights.

    All VC papers exhibit the same characteristics to one degree or another. For low contrast without the roller-coaster curve you are better off with a #2 graded paper and Selectol Soft or DeBeers developer.

    Compounding the problem in this instance is the use of Rodinal as a film developer. Although the developer has a cult following for its particular 'look', it is not a good developer by generally accepted standards. Apart from the grain issue, Rodinal has very low shadow contrast - about 1/2 the contrast it has for highlights - and is not suited for situations where you want a good deal of shadow detail.

    This example also points out the fallacy of trying to determine paper grade by finding a paper that will fit a negative's highlight-shadow density span. You want to select the paper grade based on the important tones in the image - in this case the highlights in the water and the wet rock. You would be much better off using a #2 or higher contrast grade and dodging the shadows as needed. To pick up extra contrast in the water you may want to print the image down a bit to grey highlights (that have decent contrast because they are off the toe of the paper curve) and then use a light overall ferricyanide bleach to recover the sparkle.

    As a point of self-promotion, the Darkroom Automation system and enlarging meter will help a lot when printing scenes like this as you can find the correct contrast filter and exposure for the highlight to midtone range and also the filtration and exposure for the midtone-black image you desire. The meter will also quickly and very accurately determine any dodge and burn exposures.

    With difficult to print negatives it is not uncommon to use a mask that allows you to print the shadows apart from the rest of the image. Such a mask is easy to make: make a smaller size print; mount it to thin cardboard and cut out the regions; place a sheet of glass at the right height above the paper so the mask, when placed on the glass, will block the appropriate regions; make two exposures, with different filtration and exposure through each mask set - one for the highlights/midtones and another for the midtones/shadows.
     
  18. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    Hello polyglot,

    since your negative has so much contrast, why not give split grade printing a try? I too had some negatives that refused to print nicely with a single grade (delta 100 + rodinal) and finaly got some nice prints using grades 0 and 5 (for the same print). I doesn't mean that dodging/burning won't be needed, but it can certainly help.
     
  19. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Nicholas: fantastic answer, thankyou.

    Anon: indeed and that is the next thing that I will be trying (been doing a lot of googling today, discovered that "split grade" is the name for what I was pondering anyway). I'm just worried though that the dynamic range of the neg exceeds the dynamic range of the low-contrast layer so that even at Grade 00, the low-contrast layer may block up before I get highlight detail. If that occurs I can still get a better-looking print than I do now because I can bring detail into the blacks with the high-contrast layer, but the dynamic range available for those details will be reduced.

    I'll post again once I've tried a 00/5 split-grade print. I've seen some ppl say that split-grade printing is no better in its final output than just choosing the correct grade, it's just that you're exposing the two layers independently instead of concurrently, and the way you generate 2 test strips (one for highlights then one for shadows) gives you a good way to pick the effective grade rather than running strips on each grade one at a time. However if there's reciprocity failure or severe threshold effects in the paper, then I can see that doing the split-grade print will give a better result because the high-grade layer is exposed more rapidly.

    Will also give burning a go. Contrast mask - maybe, but I don't have a dark-enough room to do printing to film
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Your are printing on grade 1/2. Therefore, your neg has two grades too much contrast for what you want. Therefore if you had given two more stops of exposure, and taken 30 or 40% off of your development time, you would get the same basic contrast on a grade 2-1/2, and have more detail and separation in the shadows.

    The weirdness in the shadows is caused by lightening the tone of the shadows via printing when there is little detail there on the neg. As such, you get large blocks of tone without detail; Quite a cartoonish look in the dark areas, for good or bad. Kind of looks like ink paintings in a way (e.g. http://wip.vancereeser.com/images/Ink-painting1.jpg). Not only this, but IMO reducing contrast via filtration can lead to some strange tonal relationships; way weirder than increasing it via filtration.

    So, the culprit is a far-less-than-ideal level of contrast on the negative, followed by a bailout in printing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2009
  21. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    When you do this, don't try and get the whole image to print well.

    Concentrate on the waterfall and get it the way you like it and let the rest of the print go where it may.

    Then make another print where you concentrate only on the shadows and get them the way you want them.

    You then need to dodge/burn the shadows in both the 00 and 5 exposures to transform the waterfall exposure into the shadow exposure.

    Say your waterfall exposure is #00 10 seconds, #5 7 seconds; and the shadow exposure is #00 3 seconds, #5 12 seconds.

    Using the waterfall exposure as your base, you would then dodge the shadows for 7 seconds in the #00 exposure and burn them for 5 seconds in the #5 exposure.
     
  22. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    This definitely looks like a paper issue, combined with maybe a bit unfavourable development.

    But you might be better of trying a split grade at grade 1 and 4, since it is clear that at least one of the layers in your VC paper is not responding well to grades below 1. Some papers simply do not support the entire modern filter range from 00-5, and you may actually end up with a worse result than you already have.

    Other papers may be more suitable. I have just yesterday printed a number of negatives on grade 0 and 0.5. Paper was Kentmere Fineprint VC. None of the issues you describe, and good tonal range both in highlights, midtones and shadows.

    Marco
     
  23. WolfTales

    WolfTales Member

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    I'm working on Ilford MGIV RC too. I think it's fine paper. Cheap and easy and quick to use. Especially when you need to make a lot of mistakes while learning contrast control.

    Lower contrast filters are essentially more clear then high contrast filters. They allow more light from the negative to pass through.

    So if your negative is already blocking out tons of light, you wouldn't want to block out any more of the little light that is left in the shadow details.

    I have also found the two contrast layers seem to work a little more independantly then I would like on a high contrast print. Almost as though wrestling with two problems instead of one. I have found it easier to have a grey negative and gently separate the blacks and whites out in a print, especially on llford Multigrade RC.

    I would also recommend selenium toning. This lets you print a little flatter then necessary, and the selenium pumps up the blacks and whites and really helps seperate and image and then re-tie it back together again. Selenium can give you a little breathing room. So the contrast in the final print itself doesn't have to be absolutly perfect as some more post chemical work is possible.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2009
  24. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    It is hard to draw any conclusions here, though, as the print is the combination of negative and paper. If the paper characteristics suit the negative then all goes well - but it says nothing about the paper all alone by itself.
     
  25. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear polyglot,

    Make the room dark enough. A contrast mask is what you want. Even then, you will still probably have to dodge.

    Neal Wydra
     
  26. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Yeh, you are probably right, and I must admit my negatives were deliberately over-exposed and under developed to curb contrast. Still, with fresh developer, they slightly unexpectedly still needed a grade 0.5 and even 0 to print... but the resulting prints were good on Fineprint VC.

    I also noticed Polyglot seems to be using a color enlarging head. Are some color heads maybe less good or suited for printing at extreme grades than ordinary condensor heads with filters???