Processing Pan-F+ using DDX and controlling overall contrast

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by veedub472, Jul 30, 2013.

  1. veedub472

    veedub472 Member

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    Hi,

    Having searched through the existing forum posts on Pan-F+ and reading the general advice on Pan-F+ I've a couple of questions for those developing in DDX. I'm also a relative newcomer to traditional photography so the answer to some of these questions may be down to general technique.

    I started experimenting with 35mm film photography in the Winter time so I've been doing most of my photography indoor and in low light (energy saver bulbs in pubs etc). After some experimenting with Delta 3200 I'm now using Delta 400 (metered at 1600) and push processed for around 12 mins (short of the 13.5 mins recommended in the Ilford guides). This gives me a negative with a nice contrast which I can print around grade 2 using multigrade filters on 8" x 10" paper (image size approx 6.6" by 10") on either my LPL 6600 or C6700 enlargers.

    Now we've got some good weather in the UK I've just run my first roll of Pan-F+ through my Spotmatic - metering for the main part at 50 ASA using a Pentax Digital Spotmeter and my limited experience of the Zone System. I've developed it in DDX at 22 deg for 6.30mins using a spiral tank and Ilford's recommendations for agitation and found the resulting negatives need printing using a grade 1/2 (half) filter on 8" x 10" paper.

    For a first attempt I'm quite pleased with the results and overall image quality but I now need some advice to tame the contrast by a filter grade or so.

    Solutions posted so far range from reducing agitation, shortening development time and/or metering at a different speed which is a quite a few variables to begin with.

    So for those of you who use Pan-F+ and DD-X, how do I reduce the contrast so I can print at around grade 2 at 8" x 10"? What combinations of EI/development time/agitation work well for you?

    There's a couple of flatbed scans of the 8x10's below (which haven't had any post-processing apart from minor tweeks to try and match the physical print's black/white points) to give an idea of where I'm at exposure wise.

    On a more general point - how many of you tailor your exposure/development to give an expected amount of contrast at a predetermined final print size - ie expose/develop specifically for negative size, 6" x 4", 8" x 10", 16" x 12"?

    Any comments or suggestions greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Matt

    StAndrews.jpg
    Metered at 50 ASA (darkest foliage shadow details on Zone 3) - 1/15 sec at f9 (including one-stop added for Hoya HD circular polariser).
    Print exposed for 64 seconds at grade 1/2 (half) on 8"x10".

    55mm_f2.8_60th.jpg
    Spotmatic meter - 1/60sec at f2.8.
    Print exposed for 48 seconds at grade 1/2 (half) on 8"x10".
     
  2. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    You'll get all sorts of different answers to a question like this. Based on the scans it looks like you're doing fine so far.

    Here are a few thoughts on Pan F+ assuming you use DDX (an excellent developer) without getting too complicated:

    1. It is always important to keep the inherent characteristics of a film (and developer) in mind when shooting a scene. Pan F+ is inherently more contrasty than medium speed films, so to some extent you have to accept that if it is the film you want to use, particularly if the lighting conditions are contrasty to begin with (as is the case in your first scan). For example if the lighting is contrasty it is ok to end up on grade 1 rather than grade 2.

    2. Reducing contrast by reducing agitation/increasing dilution with a general purpose solvent developer such as DDX will generally require more substantial changes in process than people think. It can also change film speed, and will change image structure characteristics.

    3. The easiest thing to do is simply reduce development time to reduce the contrast index. DDX tends to give good film speed, but generally as you reduce development time you may find you need to give a little more exposure. You'll have to test for yourself. Start by reducing development time by 30s or 60s and go from there. Based on your scans it doesn't appear drastic measures are required.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2013
  3. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    You could pull the film too...rate it slightly lower than box speed and develop accordingly.

    Personal taste is what it is -- I love Pan F+ and never found it too contrasty, but then again my tastes run to snappier, contrasty images.
     
  4. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    As Michael has stated, reducing developing time is the easiest way to reduce overall negative contrast.

    I advise to do a test, where you expose your film like you normally do, one entire roll of a 'typical' scene. Cut the film in thirds before you process, and develop only one third at a time, at different developing times. 6m30s for the first, to give you a reference to what you have done so far. Develop the next one at 6m flat, and if that contrast reduction isn't enough, try the last third at 5m30s. At one minute less time, you will have reduced developing time by roughly 15%, which should help you.

    If you still have too much negative contrast, shoot one more roll and do it over until you find a developing time that works for you.


    With that said, the contrast in your first print (church/chapel) is really very low. I see no bright whites, and also no deep blacks. It may be a trick of viewing it on screen, but to me it seems way too low in contrast.
    The shot of the baby is not as bad, but lacking severely in print contrast to have much visual impact.
     
  5. veedub472

    veedub472 Member

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    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for the reply - the test roll idea is a good one which I'll definitely put into practice.

    The scans are a bit hit and miss - what you describe seeing on screen is kind of what I've got on the physical print.

    When I print at grade 2 I get lots of lows and highs but no midtones - I've reduced contrast to grade 1/2 (half) (ideally this would be zero) to give me better range of midtones but now I'm only seeing the middle part of the exposure curve (loss of lows and highs). Any small adjustment of contrast filter results in a huge contrast shift when printing. My thinking to give me more control is to reduce the contrast in the negative and give me a more gentle exposure curve with which to print with.

    Thanks again,

    Matt
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    OK. As long as you find something that works for you. With your prints, you could try at Grade 1 and Grade 1.5 filtration also. The difference between Grade 0.5 and 2 should be a fair bit, but not as crazy as you describe. Are your contrast filters fresh?
     
  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    To test the filters, try making a print with just white light, and then one with grade two filter. Exposure time will be different, but contrast should be largely identical.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2
     
  8. veedub472

    veedub472 Member

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    I use two LPL enlargers set up next to each other - the condenser uses the multigrade filters and the colour enlarger is the dichroic type. Both give pretty similar results on the church print after adjusting exposure length. The scans came from the colour enlarger and I might try and reprint them with a few grades in between 1/2 and 1 using the dial-in filtration. I might just check all the drop-in filters though as they were a second-hand buy.

    "The scans are a bit hit and miss - what you describe seeing on screen is kind of what I've got on the physical print." - from my previous post, I was trying to say (rather badly) that the effect you describe is correct but not as extreme as saying that the contrast is really low. On the print where I would like it to be black it's a very dark grey, and the highlight on the clouds doesn't quite reach paper white - same with the picture of my baby girl (chairback in the top left corner and highlights from the window next to her).

    I'm pretty confident that with a little less development I'm going to be able to get a more controllable final print and get the midtones that I'm looking for.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply and for the suggestions.

    Best wishes,

    Matt
     
  9. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Matt,

    The reason I was persistent is that the difference between Grade 0.5 and 1 is about the same as between Grade 2.5 and 3. So even if you get a negative with less contrast in it, the dynamic of the contrast filters is roughly going to be the same, regardless of where on the contrast scale you end up, if that makes sense.

    But, it's a good thing to see what happens when we develop the negative to different contrast indices, so see what effect it has on the print. How the negative affects the print is, to me, one of the most wonderful things to understand, and learning how to control it is the best thing that has ever happened to my darkroom printing. It makes everything so much easier and predictable.

    Have fun, and good luck!
     
  10. veedub472

    veedub472 Member

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    Hi Thomas,

    I think I see what you're getting at regarding the dynamic of the contrast filters - a half grade difference is a half grade difference wherever it's applied.

    Would it be correct to say though that if you begin with more mid-tone detail on the negative (less gradient on the exposure curve) and then increased the contrast that you would retain more detail in the mid-tones than if you began with a steep gradient on the exposure curve and expanded that by decreasing contrast?

    I agree all this is fascinating and for me being able to portray light the way silver prints do and being able to do this at home is quite an amazing thing.

    Cheers,

    Matt
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Well, the slope of the curve determines overall negative contrast, the toe determines film speed / shadow detail, and the shoulder (and its slope) determines highlight contrast and density.

    The most important thing for the mid-tones is to make sure you have enough exposure in your negative to well define all those tones that you find important. Then develop the film so that they print the way you want them to. Keep in mind that different papers (and paper developers) exhibit different tonality too, so it's best to keep those constant.

    My own method is to target Grade 2 to Grade 3, printing on Ilford MGIV matte fiber using replenished Ethol LPD. That requires a negative of high contrast in order to make the blacks convincing without making the rest of the tone spectrum muddy and flat. I don't have equipment to measure any of it, just a method that I work with to get what I want. I always target the paper with everything that I do. That's where it all begins.
     
  12. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Over-exposed negatives print with midtones too light (if you use your darkroom skills to print darks and highlights correct). Likewise underexposed negatives print with the midtones too dark (if you use your darkroom skills to print the darks and highlights correct). As Thomas points out, variations in negative development don't have much to do with it.
     
  13. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    I get better results if I avoid negatives of such high contrast that they require a very low contrast setting on VC paper. It might have something to do with the comments on "pathologic condition" in this article:

    http://www.darkroomautomation.com/support/appnotevcworkings.pdf

    Of course, it depends on the look you want and your enlarger's characteristics.
     
  14. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    A lower gradient doesn't imply more mid-tone detail.

    If you're thinking about it in terms of curves, start with some basic sensitometry. It will help you get an understanding of film and paper characteristic curves, and the relationships between them. The path from exposure to film processing to print tonality is called tone reproduction. Both Kodak and Ilford have helpful primer publications on sensitometry and variable contrast printing.
     
  15. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    If one carries through a peg point from scene to paper, say a mid-tone instead of a highlight or shadow, then the mid-tones will typically print essentially the same, not too light, not too dark. This assumes development remains constant and that the mid-tones remains somewhere on the straight line. In this case the highlight and shadow detail will change around the mid-tone peg (moving lighter or darker as they fall off the film curve) and the mid-tones will print normally.
     
  16. veedub472

    veedub472 Member

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    Hi Michael,

    I'm struggling to explain myself properly with this.

    I guess all I was trying to say is that if I've developed the film for too long then information that should've fallen at a mid-tone value may have been shifted up in density value as the curve became steeper/gamma or contrast index increased - In the end I have lost mid-tone detail. The lower gradient that should have been produced by correct development contains the ability to capture a wider spread of exposure values in the mid-tones.

    When I develop Delta 400 too far I get the same effect - I always stop short of the recommended times now.

    My roll of film has a variety of under and over exposed frames - I bracketed quite a few by a stop either way. All frames require a grade 0 or grade 1/2 filter to print the mid-tones (either dark when under-exposed or light when over-exposed), and after reading the attachment about variable contrast paper in john_s's reply I'd really like to get back up to grade 2 or thereabouts.

    I work a lot with response curves digitally (both in photography for exposure and in audio for dynamic compression) and don't disagree with anything I've read in the replies so far - but due to unclear communication seem to have dug a hole for myself!!

    Thanks for your patience.

    Matt
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Adjusting the development of the film (+ or -), changes the relationship to the paper, how much info from the negative prints. You do not loose detail on the negative.

    To print the mid tone detail you may need to adjust your printing process. Say change your peg, or burn and dodge, or ...

    How are you pegging exposure for the print?
     
  18. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    One of the most helpful things for this sort of question is to take a sample strip of negs in your left hand, a digisnaps camera in your right hand, hold the negs so they are lit from behind (by a window + sky for example) and make a focussed picture. Then people can comment on what your negs look like in comparison to theirs, and discuss actions to change the results. Secondly, make sure your paper isn't ancient and/or cooked, as that can have unfortunate results on what can be printed successfully!
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Forget everything you know from your adventures digitally and with sound, and start with a blank sheet. Don't even worry about curves.


    1. Is your paper fresh? If not, acquire fresh paper.
    2. Is your paper developing chemistry fresh? If not, acquire fresh developer.
    3. As mentioned earlier, your paper and paper developer have a certain range that it's capable of, and how the print looks is a relationship between the paper/developer/print developing time, and what you do to expose and develop your negative.
    4. So, do a film exposure test, where you meter normally and shoot a typical static scene, but you bracket your exposures, say at EI 12, 25, and 50. Then develop it 'normal'.
    5. Now print all three brackets at Grade 2, to a point where you have good black (meaning shadows that appeal to you, how you like them to look). Do NOT worry about highlights at this point.
    6. Pick the exposure index you liked, say EI 25, and shoot an entire roll at that speed, metering normally, a static scene that is preferably the same as what you shot in the first part, in similar light.
    7. Now develop one third of this roll at a time, and print one of the negs. At 'normal' film dev time, do your highlights look like they have enough detail, or too much, or are they perfect? If the negative is too dense in the highlights and you can't get enough detail in the highlights, you need to shorten film development time, say 20%. If the highlights are dull and gray without beautiful variations of almost white, you need to increase film development time, about 20%. Now print the negs again.
    8. Continue doing this adjustment of film developing time until your negatives print with satisfying blacks and whites, and your mid-tones will be beautiful by default.

    This really is the only way to get a feel for how you need to expose and develop your negatives so that they print well. Keep paper and chemistry fresh. Do not change paper or chemistry types at any time during this test, and do not be tempted to change from contrast grade 2. Keep all other things equal. The only thing that changes is how you expose and process film, and your paper enlarger exposure time will also change due to changing negative densities.

    When you learn how to treat 'normal contrast and lighting' you will discover that low contrast scenes and high contrast scenes may require different treatment. You will also discover that no matter how consistent you try to be with film exposure and development, different negatives on the same roll of film will require changes in how you print them, and it's at this point you break out the other contrast grades, to compensate for these naturally occurring differences (or, if you simply want more or less contrast out of a scene than you had originally envisioned). It's good to get tuned into a mid grade as your 'target' or 'peg' (as Mark calls it), because then you have a lot of 'wiggle room' at the time of printing. If you're already at an extreme grade, like 0 or 5, if you need 'more' you are making it very difficult for yourself.

    Just forget about curves, and go find out how to make your negative fit the qualities of the paper. That is all that really matters.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 31, 2013
  20. veedub472

    veedub472 Member

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    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for taking the time to put your last post together, it's much appreciated and I'll be giving it a go as soon as I get some more supplies.

    I've always made prints in the past between grades 1.5 and 2.5 from straight 400 and pushed 400 with little trouble, although, I doubt I'm getting the best results without undertaking the process you have described.

    So thanks again and to all who've taken the time to reply.

    Cheers,

    Matt
     
  21. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Of course any carry through of tones from negative to print is arbitrary, those values are all established by the printer. Which is to say the midtones only "print the same" if the printer intends it to be.

    The point I was actually making was that you can make a crude judgement on severe-over and severe-under exposure based on how the mid tones look when the darks and highlights are printed to look appropriate.
     
  22. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    I don't have the slightest clue about printing so forgive me, but, have you also considered developing with a different developer that delivers less overall contrast?

    I also believe pulling might help.

    Also developing with less agitation.

    Again, I know nothing about printing.


    Sent w/ iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Not necessarily, in many shots I do I expect to burn or dodge a bit to change the relationship of say the face (and other subject matter) to the background.

    As long as the background and the face (and other subject matter) have fallen on the straight line portion of the curve my camera was acceptable.

    Printing test prints to both pegs, background and face, is needed to see if there is a problem with the film exposure. Printing one peg or the other only shows "what the paper saw" in relation to that peg.