Printing snow

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Kevin Kehler, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I took several pictures of some snow patterns I found interesting but I am having a very difficult time printing them. I tend to either have flat white with the patterns being almost undecipherable or a muddy grey patterns. I have tried high contrast grades (4-4.5), different paper (Ilford RC pearl and some old Kodak RC glossy) and shortening development times. I am attaching a scan of the negative (which is fairly dense) where the levels have been set to give maximum information.

    Anyone got any special tips for this type of negative? Would solarization give me anything usable?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2010
  2. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    Hi Kevin, looks like you have tonal separation in the snow,the print here is pretty dark.Shorting devel. time is going the wrong way, shorting the exposer of the print and extending the development will help with the separation of the high tones in the print (snow). Maybe try lower contrast 3 .
     
  3. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    To me it just looks underexposed. Straight snow like this requires at least a two stop overexposure from what the meter tells you. Increasing the development time should increase the contrast and make the shadows stand out.
     
  4. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    Johnnywalker, sorry bout the confusing ,I was referring the makeing of the print rather than the neg.
     
  5. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Your print exposure should be in between the ones tht gave you "flat white" and "muddy grey". Perhaps you're adjusting your print exposure by too great a margin. That neg should give you a very good first pass on a mid-grade paper, (assuming you haven't tweaked it in scanning) from which you can then adjust paper contrast to taste.

    Bob H
     
  6. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Well, snow can be low contrast, in a high key sort of way. You have successfully turned snow into sand, now you need to turn it back into snow. I suggest taking advantage of the highlights and let them go pure white and forget about having anything close to black...let alone a middle gray. Stand out in the snow (I would think Regina would still have some around!) and look at the tonalities. Patterns in the snow should almost be felt rather than seen...it takes a light touch. It looks like you got all the information in the neg...try printing with lower filters.

    Vaughn
     
  7. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Kevin,

    You are likely running into a common problem when printing whites: the toe of your paper not giving you the separation you want.

    When you print darker, you move the exposure more onto the straight line portion of the paper's curve, thus yielding more separation, but being generally too dark. Trying to expose less ends up losing detail.

    Printing whites is always tricky like this. You are on the right track playing with exposure and changing papers and grades. What you are searching for is a compromise that is artistically pleasing to you. You need to realize that there are some things that the medium will simply not do, and learn to work within those limitations.

    Here are a couple of ideas that you can play with that might help:
    1. Selenium toning will add some extra density to the print. Print a little light and then tone and see if gives you the added detail.
    2. Bleaching with potassium ferricyanide. Use a weak solution and bleach back a too-dark print. Search here and other forums for info on precise technique and dilutions. I have used this technique successfully on ice pictures, etc.
    3. Intensify the negative. You can do this with selenium toner 1+2 for 5 minutes. This may add enough extra contrast to the negative to give you more separation in the print.
    4. Combinations of the above.

    Also, make sure you evaluate a completely dry print. Sometimes highlight areas on a wet print will show no detail at all. When it dries, the detail shows up.
    And, if you are using RC paper, try some fiber-base paper. This is one area where fiber-base paper excels.

    What you are trying to do is the equivalent of a virtuoso performance. Don't get frustrated, just keep trying.

    Hope this helps some.

    Good luck,

    Doremus Scudder
     
  8. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Printing snow is tough, especially with graded paper, in my experience. First off, as Johnnywalker says, be sure the neg is heavy enough. As he says, if you meter the snow, the light meter will want it to be a middle gray (18% reflectance, on average - a whole different topic).
    I have found with snow, that split grade printing helps a lot. I make the first exposure with the low grade, just till I get tonal value in the lightest areas where I want it. Then I come back with a high contrast exposure, not only for the shadows in the image, but to enhance the lower values of the snow that give it texture. Sometimes I need to use a slightly higher filter for the low contrast exposure if I need more separation in the lightest areas. Much trial and error, but way better control than with a single grade paper.
     
  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Might pre-flashing the paper help? If clumped up highlights and contrast is the issue.

    Printing via the split grade method definitely sounds like the best overall approach. What I (and many others, I am sure) do is make a split grade matrix of exposures... exposures with the low contrast filter "A" goes in one direction, and with the second filter "B" in the other, so you get an A versus B matrix. You can figure out the best combination very quickly that way... often in one or two prints.

    The other thing that comes to mind is overexposing the print and then bleaching back (see post #7). You can bleach the whole print or just parts of it- quite a powerful technique, that. You can also intensify local portions by rubbing the developing print with your [warm] fingers... another way to introduce some more tonal detail where there is little.

    P.S. solarization sounds like a cool idea with this one, try it for sure!
     
  10. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Keith,

    Thanks for filling in for my omission. When writing my post I knew there was something I had left out. Preflashing to just under the threshold of the paper will help move things up the curve a bit and may give more detail in the highlights (although the usual effect is to reduce contrast somewhat in the toe area). It may be worth a try. The warm fingers or hot breath treatment might help a little, but I've never been able to see a lot of difference or control it well...

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  11. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    If you did not expose correctly for the snow, you have made the printing extremely difficult.
    The typical problem is that the photographer makes a reading of the scene and takes the picture. The problem is that the snow is now on Zone V when it should be somewhere between VII and IX depending on the light.
    A properly exposed and developed negative makes high key images such as snow easy to print. Incorrectly exposed and/or developed negatives cause great difficulties printing.
    Selenium toning the negative will raise the highlights up some, but not enough if the snow is now on Zone V or VI. Sepia toning will raise the highlights about twice as much as will selenium possibly getting getting it up into the range of Zone VII-VIII.
     
  12. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Pre-flashing will tone down the highlights, that is its purpose, and produce gray snow.
     
  13. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    The image looks reasonable if the provided negative image is inverted in PS.

    I would avoid VC paper like the plague. It has very poor highlight contrast and the highlight contrast doesn't improve until you get to grade 4.5 where all three of the paper's emulsion curves begin to stack up in the toe region. Split grade printing will not help matters one whit.

    If graded paper doesn't give satisfaction then I would try a combination of pre-flashing and Farmer's reducer (AKA Ferricyanide bleaching). You are going to have to experiment quite a bit. A deft eye and hand will be needed to judge the reduction and you may want to work with smaller test prints until you get the technique right or your wastebasket will overflow. You should only reduce/bleach enough to restore the sparkle in the snow - no more.
     
  14. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    What Jim said about getting a good neg is very true. Think of the saying, "You are what you eat".

    In addition, using outdated Kodak paper isn't helping either.

    Printing snow can be tough, but it is doable.
     
  15. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    Sorry, I should of clarified what I did. I took a spot reading of some of the brightest snow (but not the absolute brightest) to give me a V reading. I then added 4 stops for to raise the reading to IX and minused a stop for the yellow filter, so the majority of the snow should be VIII. The scan of the negative was meant to show how much detail is in the negative, and is considerably denser than the scan shows (so toning the negative would be counter-productive I think). I totally forgot about bleaching the print, I will have to give that a shot.

    Thanks everyone, love this forum.
     
  16. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    It is not true that RC papers as a class, or VC papers as a class, necessarily have low highlight contrast, or that RC papers necessarily have lower highlight contrast than FB papers. It depends entirely on the particular curve shapes of the specific brands/types. The old Agfa MCP and Kodak Polycontrast III RC papers had relatively short toes, as did the original Ilford MG FB. In fact, MCP, an RC paper, had a distinctly shorter toe, and correspondingly steeper highlight contrast, than its FB counterpart, MCC. I printed on some of my remaining stock of MCC and MCP just this past weekend, which was a useful reminder.

    Of course, you can control highlight contrast by your choice of film as well. But for this negative you've already made, you might try Ilford MG RC Cooltone or, if you prefer FB, Ilford MG FB Warmtone. At least when developed in the standard Ilford paper developers - Multigrade or PQ Universal - these tend to preserve contrast in the highlights a bit better than their neutral counterparts. (Not MG RC Warmtone, though - that paper has a distinctly long toe.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2009
  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The best "snow-printing-paper" I have found was a pack of long expired Ilfospeed G3. It was just almost fogged, which gave lots of shades from very light grey to paper white, yet still had high contrast from midtones to black.

    So pre-flashing might actually be the best way to achieve this - unless you have a pack of similarly outdated paper.
     
  18. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yep, again, just try preflashing. Amazingly simple way to shift blocks of tones on the curve. Just be sure that you don't overdo it or you'll get posterized grey. After getting your highlight range where you want it, a treatment in selenium might firm up your blacks and give you a bit more separation in the shadows.

    Just to try all that was advised, and enjoy!
     
  19. norm123

    norm123 Member

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    I agree with George, split filtering help a lot. I did some few weeks ago and I was using it.

    Have fun
     
  20. RobC

    RobC Member

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    I expect the snow has melted and the moment lost forever in a 6 year old topic.
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Your exposure is off. See theses two postings. If you use an incident meter you will get a better exposure of the snow.

    Once the film exposure is correct, the printing of snow will be much easier.