Question about VC papers

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Tammyk, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. Tammyk

    Tammyk Member

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    I hope that I can pose this question accurately. My writing very seldom goes along with my thoughts these days.

    I am beginning to print my own negatives for the first time (since some straight printing "tries" some 18 yrs ago). I have zero experience with VC papers, but I would like to try some.

    I frequently shoot Trix at 800-1600 on 35mm format, developed in very dilute HC110. My subject is very often people (children particularly). So my printing question relates to these situations for the moment.

    I made some test prints last night using Kodaks RC, grade III, and the contrast is a bit more than I care for, increasing the appearance of the grain, and uneven skin tones, etc. Also, this paper is a bit cooler than I would want. Keeping in mind my negs are quite contrasty to begin with, I still have excellent shadow and highlight details.

    Before I run out to get a gradeII paper, I am wondering how the VC papers work. I understand that the contrast is further controlled by filtration, but what is the relation of unfiltered VC paper to graded paper. And are there different "grades" of VC?

    I would like a paper that will give me a slightly warmer tone than the Kodak also.

    The enlarger is my early Christmas gift and a wish-list of books on the subject is hanging on the fridge, so currently, I'm "winging" it.

    (Thanks to bmac for sending me his enlarger all the way from Callie. It is on my bathroom floor, but it is really awesome!)
     
  2. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    There aren't different grades of VC, there are a set of filters that control the contrast range of the paper. For instance, in this example, you would just change the filter to lower the contrast range of the print. It is hard to compare graded paper to VC papers as they are not consistent from manufactor to manufactor.

    I am not a lover of VC papers but others "swear" by them. You will need to get a set of filters to go along with the paper.

    To help warm up that paper, put some postassium bromide in the deverloper. Make a 10% solution and put about 20ml of it in 1 liter of developer. This is similar to using a warm tone developer which may help warm up your present paper.
     
  3. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I would try a small pack of Ilford Warmtone (multigrade) RC. It has a great look (IMO) and have used it for years as a proofing paper.

    RC paper without filtration is a grade 2 to 2 1/2, this would give you a little less contrast without filters.

    Ilford has a set of filters, about $25, that one sets under the lens or some enlargers have a tray in the head for these. My Besseler has a tray that I slide them in to use.

    RC paper has 2 layers of emulsion (simplified description). One layer is sensitive to green light, the other to blue. One layer give hard contrast the other soft. by varying the filters, yellow for the softest to magenta the hardest, one controls the resulting contrast of the image.

    I've used VC fiber paper for years. I even have an enlarger that has a gree and blue tube in it and I control the output to them to control the contrast.

    Dr. Tim Rudman has a great book on Printing and darkroom techniques. I would recommend it.

    Best of luck,
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2004
  4. Tammyk

    Tammyk Member

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    Thank you.

    I have a set of filters- also thanks to bmac.

    I will try a few filters and see what happens then. (The Rudman book is top on my list).

    -Tammy
     
  5. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Hi Tammy,
    I don't know where you are in terms of how 'advanced' your technique is, but if you are a 'learning' amateur, like me, VC papers with filters are probably perfect. At my level, I cannot really justify having a darkroom full of different grades of paper, because I probably would not be able to exploit them to full advantage.

    In my experience, albeit limited, Ilford RC Pearl gives me about a grade 2.5 when I use it without filters.

    I hope that this helps,
    Kent
     
  6. steve

    steve Member

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    I'd suggest reading the thread further down in this forum on split grade printing. Variable contrast papers give the ability to make two separate exposures for one image. Generally, you expose low contrast first for detail in the highlights, and then add the high contrast exposure second to get a full range of tones. Great technique, easy to do and makes getting all of the detail out of a negative much easier with much reduced dodging and burning.
     
  7. Tammyk

    Tammyk Member

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    Thank you very much, Steve. I will check out that thread.

    In my particular case, I'm more interested in smoothing out skin tones (upper midtone values) and reducings some of the apparent grain in those regions of the print. I use TriX as I do enjoy the look of it, but am trying to find out how to expand the range of this look based on paper choice. So many variables can come into play in making the image, and then again in developing the negative, and I'm certain there's just as many variables when it comes to presenting the vision on the final paper.

    I know very little about papers in general and would enjoy a side by side comparison of the different types- perhaps the book suggested will give me this information.

    And I realized I should have posted in the other printing forum.
    -Tammy
     
  8. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    quick explanation about filters. the lower the nuber the less contrast you get. The higher the number the more contrast. Start at a 2 or 2 1/2 filter to ss if you need more or less, and go from there. If it is a big change go a full set in filter. If it is a small one try a in between like only a 1/2 grade difference. Once you get familiar with filters, VC papers are much easier to work with. (as opposed to not knowing filters)
     
  9. Tammyk

    Tammyk Member

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    Thanks, Aggie,
    So there's a filter in there that will get my unfiltered contrast back down to where I want it? This is probably the dumbest question every put up here. I understand about the filter changes (low to high, etc), but I assumed that they added contrast in a variable way, and did not diminish contrast of the original paper speed. Keep in mind that I'm using a Grade 3 paper as it is.

    Hmmm, back to the dark I go~!

    I swear I knew all about this once upon a time, but it's like it all went into a blackhole of my brain.

    I'm about out of this paper in any case, and would like to find a more suitable replacement quite soon.
     
  10. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    The kodack Rc paper you are using is the third generation, not a grade three paper. As for filters, #2 is considered nuetral filteration. From it you can add or subtract contrast.
     
  11. Tammyk

    Tammyk Member

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    DUH=Aggie, you are right, but also I finally read on the spec sheet that my particular paper without filtration=2.5. More specifically it is Polycontrast E (lustre). Helps to know what things are. :confused:

    It is a nice paper, by the way. Discontinued by Kodak, of course. For gen IV.

    Anyway, it seemed a lot of contrast (closer to 3 and very fast (still exposing in less than 10 sec @ f/11), and I wasn't sure how to dial it down with filters as I don't have the experience with filters. I will play around with it while my supply lasts.

    Thanks again for the replies. Things make a lot more sense to me now, and I can plow forward.
     
  12. jpersson

    jpersson Member

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    Another piece of advice -- don't forget about local contrast. Many beginners are too busy with the overall contrast if you ask me.
     
  13. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    As others have mentioned, Tammy, VC filter sets usually include from 0 to 5 in half-grade steps, so you can vary the print contrast as needed. Split-grade filtering (exposing parts of the total exposure with different filters) provides even more control, but may be overly complicated for you at this stage. Essentially, by split-filtering, combined with dodging/burning, and varying the percentage of the total exposure under each filter, you're able to control both local contrast and achieve grades in between the half-steps. But, I'd suggest keeping it simple for now, and then explore split-grade later, as the need arises.

    The VC filter you use is really determined by the contrast range of the individual negative. Using filtration that doesn't match the negative will result in prints that either look washed-out, muddy, or overly harsh. The objective of smoothing out skin tones and grain is perhaps better handled by film/developer choice and/or softening filters, either at the taking stage or during printing.
     
  14. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    VC papers incorporate two differing emulsions as opposed to graded materials which have only one emulsion of a known spectral response.

    These two differing emulsions on VC paper react to differing colors of light to which they are exposed. These colors basically amount to blue for the higher contrast emulsion and green for the lower contrast emulsion. Or they can be magenta for the subtractive componant of green for the higher contrast emulsion and yellow which is the subtractive componant of blue for the lower contrast emulsion.

    In the color printing filters that you have there are varying shades and mixtures of these two colors. At the grade one (low contrast) level you will have a purer yellow or green colored filter. At a grade five you will have the purer magenta or blue colored filter. Between these two extremes lie the mixtures of both colors.

    One does not remove contrast...rather one exposes a greater amount of the exposure to the lower contrast emulsion and a smaller amount of the exposure to the higher contrast emulsion. By the same token what one would attribute to adding contrast is nothing more then exposing a greater percentage of the exposure to the high contrast emulsion and a smaller percentage to the low contrast emulsion. This proportional exposure is controlled by the colors of the filters that you have.

    I agree with Ann in her response about graded materials. There is undoubtedly a difference, by my testing, between VC and graded papers. VC papers do have a definite benefit when one is beginning and does not have a well defined technique for exposure and development of the camera negative.

    I also agree with those who indicated that split grade printing was more complicated then what a beginner should indulge. At this stage, I would not recommend involving myself with that. Rather get a "feel" for how the materials react and then when you begin making prints that please you, begin exploring some of the more advanced techniques...or not...
     
  15. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I totally agree with this. Perhaps you would like to explain to the enquirer what local contrast is, how it differs from overall contrast, and how one obtains that in full consideration of the limits that overall contrast imposes.
     
  16. Tammyk

    Tammyk Member

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    Donald, thank you so much for the detailed explanation of the emulsions and how the filters work. I needed to have that understanding for things to "click". This is the sort of information that really helps a person out.

    I think I know what is meant by "local" contrast rather than overall. But, further explanation is appreciated too. I am very much interested in a soft contrast in skin tones and a different type of contrast overall.
     
  17. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I like to think of it in this way. Local contrast is the contrast that exists within broad general tonal ranges which lie within the realm of the overall contrast of the negative and/or ultimately the printing paper. It is local contrast which imparts the "glow" to a well crafted silver gelatin print.

    The problem that exists is this...in an effort to achieve improved (enhanced) local contrast we are at the same time struggling to keep from exceeding the overall contrast of the materials. Therefore certain compensating procedures are needed to compress the overall contrast in order that local contrast can be achieved.

    These compensating procedures will usually address one end of the characteristic curve of the materials (either shadows or highlights). Rarely will both ends be addressed. The effects are a compression of tonal scale at either the highlights or shadows in order that the local contrast within the mid tonal range can be expanded.

    These procedures for overall density range compression can be generally classified as preflashing or masking of the materials used. Within those broad general classifications exist several specific procedures.
     
  18. jpersson

    jpersson Member

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    You managed to answer yourself before my book was done :smile: I can you some of the highlights though:


    Some, especially beginners, seems to think it is a goal in itself to be able to print detailed shadows and detailed highlights with one exposure. There are many good ways to achieve this but the prints often turn out dull and lifeless. Maybe because our eyes does not use overall contrast but local contrast. If you look at something bright all the dark areas will lose their details and the other way around. The camera though captures the entire scene with one overall contrast. Printing that negative with one overall contrast usually does not turn out the way we remembered it. The print needs local contrast to be able to resemble what our eyes saw. I do not know if this is 100% physiological true but it explains local contrast to some extent. Anyway... it is needed and local contrast and overall contrast work against each other. It is your job as printer to find the balance between them. If I had to choose one of them I would choose local contrast.

    I give introductional print courses for my local photo club. My students have a good but undefined initial understanding of contrast. Telling them about controlling the shadows with the contrast is nothing but confusing in relation to their initial understanding. Besides; that knowledge by itself will give them dull prints anyway. I tell them to use their contrast intuition in the same way old photo books always said. Increase the contrast if the print is too soft; decrease it if it is too hard. If the highlights or the shadows lack details change the exposure (and maybe the contrast) locally, ie dodge or burn. I do not know about others but my prints turn out better this way.

    As convinced as some beginners are about the importance of overall contrast as afraid are some of them to dodge and burn. They think it is hard. Well; it is easy and your prints will turn out better.
     
  19. Maine-iac

    Maine-iac Member

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    I agree whole-heartedly with the counsel to try split-filter printing.

    In my own experience of using this technique, I have discovered that it makes no difference which of the two exposures you make first. Since I use a colorhead on my Beseler, I start with whatever color (full yellow or full magenta) I ended the last print with. I have never been able to tell any difference in my prints, even two prints of the same negative, one which began with the yellow exposure and one which began with the magenta exposure.