Low contrast surprise from sunny scene.

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by jon koss, Jun 25, 2005.

  1. jon koss

    jon koss Subscriber

    Messages:
    675
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2004
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Here's a weird one from last night in the darkroom. I decided to print a photo of a nephew standing in front of a shingled seaside shed. He was grinning and holding a net "American Gothic" style, to give you the idea. The seaside sun was shining across at just the right angle so l knew I had a bright and cheerful portrait in the making. Well, the lad is a brown as a berry and the shed was of course silvery grey - you can guess the rest of the story. The black and white print is, in a word, grey and grey. The boy's skin has exactly the same value as the shed. Even his blue shirt fell on the same value! The only things that keep the print from looking like a washed-out gray card are his teeth and black hair. I would not have thought it possible to make such a flat print from a sunny scene.

    Tonight I will go back in and burn the shed with a vengeance, to see if I can get the subject to pop out of the background. I may also try to print on hard paper so that the all the fleshtones come up and I can burn the shed a bit less.

    j
     
  2. dr bob

    dr bob Member

    Messages:
    871
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Annapolis, M
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You have not given us sufficient data to help analyze the problem. Camera, film, meter, development and printing techniques?

    However, I might hazard a guess that you probably used an in-camera meter or an averaging reflection meter. Either can give a scene as you described a definite flat exposure depending on several other factors such as the color rendition of details. A yellow filter will help, and giving a stop less exposure and increasing the development will increase contrast. Good luck….
     
  3. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Sunlit does not necessarily equate with high contrast. If all aspects of the scene are lit then it could easily be as low contrast as a shaded scene.
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

    Messages:
    9,422
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    Sunny Southe
    Shooter:
    Multi Format

    We've all been disappointed by flat contrast at some time or other, but there's no need to resort to arson. :wink:
     
  5. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,739
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is quite true! Here in the Southwest the average scene at mid day has 2 to 3 stops of contrast. In the situitation you described you can use a light green filter to lighten the skin tones. I usually increase development by 10 to 20 percent to increase contrast.
     
  6. jon koss

    jon koss Subscriber

    Messages:
    675
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2004
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for the tip on the green filter. I must confess that I never would have thought of a filter, especially green, even after the problem. I am indebted. Too late for this series, so I will keep it in mind for the future.

    j
     
  7. noseoil

    noseoil Member

    Messages:
    2,898
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2003
    Location:
    Tucson
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jon, one other thing to keep in mind is that your in-camera meter can actually help in this situation. Get close enough to shoot the full background, then place the subject in front and meter just the subject, same exposure? If so, look for another background, lighting or subject. With the darker skin tones you have described, try several filters. The green may or may not give sufficient separation of brown tones with this skin and sun.

    This happens a surprising amount with objects against a clear blue sky here in the southwest. Ev of the sky can be about 14 1/3 without clouds, so can an object against the sky. While we see color as a division between values, the film may not! Filters are the best thing to change easily. tim
    P.S. Sheet film really helps in this situation.
     
  8. mkravit

    mkravit Member

    Messages:
    3
    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Why don;y you selenium tone your negative. 1:1 or straight selenoum for 5-7 minutes should pop the highlights failry nicely. I find that selenium can do wonders for a problem (flat) negative.

    Give it a try, you have nothing to lose.

    Mike