Split Filter printing article in "Photo Techniques"

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by markbau, May 3, 2009.

  1. markbau

    markbau Member

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    Forgive me if this article has been discussed already, (I did search for a thread on it)

    The Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Photo Techniques" has an article that investigates if it is worthwhile to print VC paper by exposing the paper to both a high contrast and a low contrast filter versus exposing the paper to a single filter of the required contrast. In a nutshell the article says that in the case of people with a colour head split filter printing achieves nothing. i did a workshop with Howard Bond years ago and he said the same thing however I suspect that some people still use this technique. Of course using a different filter whilst burning is another matter entirely. Any thoughts on the article? Is split filter printing buried as an idea or do some people still use it?

    Mark
     
  2. tbm

    tbm Member

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    I use the Saunders 670MXL dichroic enlarger and numerous times a suboptimal negative has been easier to print by using the split-grade technique, despite what the aforementioned article says.
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Didn't they do the same piece a year or two ago?

    I doubt many people don't dodge/burn at least a little. So the point that you can just dial in a grade and be done with it sort of flys out the window. The other issue is for some of us it's a more visual method. One thing I gain from spilt filtering is seeing . I can't jump to the conclusion a print needs a certain grade with the same ease. Not to mention for me it's quick and relatively painless.
     
  4. markbau

    markbau Member

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    Are you talking about getting in between grades which you can do anyhow with your colour head or do you mean that you give some exposure with a high contrast setting and some with a low contrast setting? The article says that the resulting curve shapes are identical, I'm just confused as to why there is such divergence of opinion over this subject.

    Mark
     
  5. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I don't think there is an arguement. Most accept you end up at the same point. The problem is some of us find the road far easier if we spilt filter.
     
  6. markbau

    markbau Member

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    Actually I didn't dodge or burn on every print and when I did I usually kept the same filtration for the burn but the article isn't talking about that, its talking about the theory of giving some of the overall exposure with a hard filter and the rest of the overall exposure with a soft filter and the claim that this method produces prints unattainable with a single filter setting.
     
  7. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I use split filter printing exclusively with VC paper. I do this for several reasons. One being it's a very fast way to achieve the maximum scale of the paper with a variety of negatives. Another reason being I find it the easiest way to adjust contrast locally. The most important reason: it works for me. I've seen wonderful prints made in a variety of ways, it's personal.
     
  8. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    I don't think anyone makes that claim anymore. When people convert to a new religion they tend to be zealots for a while and make all sorts of claims, possibly to suppress their own doubts about their new ways.

    Compared to claims of extra terrestrial abduction, invisible trilateral world government, bigfoot sightings and government bail-out programs, claims for split-grade printing magic are pretty tame stuff.

    The big downside to split grade printing is that it gives you sod-all control over the midtones. For this reason photographers tend to abandon the technique as they gain more control over materials and processes.
     
  9. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    No offense intended Nicholas but that's ridiculous. Once you've nailed down your base exposures midtones can be adjusted by dodging during either the 0 or 5 exposures and then burning in with 0 or 5 later on. I've found it an incredibly precise way of controlling all aspects of a print, including midtones. Simply a different way of getting there.

    Of course I'd be happy to show you prints that demonstrate this should we meet up again.
     
  10. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Same here with a couple examples. The midtones were extremely important on both, but the lows and highs tended to dominate. This one was taken on TMY-2 and was a very dense contrasty negative. This one was taken on Type 55 with more conventional contrast and density.

    I don't use split grade filtering exclusively but its certainly an important technique that I use frequently when the situation warrants.
     
  11. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    Good move Alex, I'll add a couple of links below.

    I'll be bringing both of these prints 1 & 2 to John's at the end of the month. Both split grade on Ilford Warmtone. Hard to tell too much from the scans but they're all about the midtone separation which was quite easily achieved in both cases.

    Of course there are many ways to achieve similar results but midtone control is simple and precise using splitgrade techniques.
     
  12. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Both of those are highly yummy Shawn!
     
  13. Leon

    Leon Member

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    I use Split Grade printing for the majority of my work. It makes sense to me. I use a condensor head with mg filters, and I do find I can get my prints to states that I do not feel able to using the intermediate filters. contrary to Nicholas's statement above, I moved on to split grade after struggling for ages with using single grades - I feel it was a progression to do so and my printing improved as a result. As already said, fine highlight details, mids and shadows are all controlled in the hard grade exposure(s).
     
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  15. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I as well use split grade filter printing quite a bit. I believe the results achieved with the technique cannot be achieved with printing with one filter, or controlling contrast through other means, plus it's easier. I print with a Beseler dicro color head on Ilford VC papers and just dial from one extreme (200M) to the other (200Y).

    For example, if I have a image where a part of the foreground needs an increase in contrast, say because it's in the shade, I will dodge this area during part or all of the soft (g00) exposure, so essentially this area only or mostly receives the hard (g5) exposure thus increasing contrast. It's amazing! Or vice versa, just the other week I printed a negative of a stone shed. The beautiful stone wall of the shed was in bright sunlight. So the highlights were wonderful, but the cracks and dark features of the wall didn't pop. I simple extra burn with the hard (g5) filter brought the blacks in exactly how I envisioned.

    For me I use use it when a negative calls for it. Not all negatives need this technique and when I can I do print images with one grade. But when called for, the extra dialing filters and work pays off.
     
  16. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    Split-grade printing has been a life-saver for me. There is no way you can adequately print T400CN without split-grade.

    The key feature of split-grade printing is the ability to adjust the "gamma" of the print. Typically, our major controls are brightness and contrast. That's it. But what do you do when you have a negative that just won't give you a snappy print without blowing out the highlights? That's very typical with a C41 based film. Split-grade printing gives me the ability to preserve the highlights and keep the midtones where they are supposed to be while giving myself the solid foot that i seek in a print.
     
  17. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Ok, I just re-read the article the OP was referring to in Photo Techniques Jan/Feb 09'. The authors were just determining whether or not split grade printing could produce contrasts and curves that are unachievable with a single filter. And they determined that it could not. That's fine, but it doesn't mean that split grade printing is useless. So for what they set out to determine they did a fine job, but there are many advantages to split grade printing beyond the few factors that they found no advantage. So don't let the article sway you from trying split grade printing.
     
  18. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    I haven't read the article but there's something in their conclusion that sounds flawed to me.

    AMEN to that!
     
  19. tbm

    tbm Member

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    I just finally successfully printed a 35mm Delta 100 negative that was exposed in very bright, harsh sunlight at a dirt street location with five people in the frame. My first attempts, with standard filtration with my Saunders 670MXL enlarger on Ilford's RC glossy paper (8x10), were lacking in tonality and contrast despite multiple filtration and timer time changes, so I switched my StopClock Professional timer to its split-grade mode and ended up with a perfect print! What a relief!
     
  20. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Exactly my point ... SG doesn't give direct control of midtones so you end up doing a lot of B&D in the mid-tone region. This isn't giving you control, it is forcing you to exert extra effort to control what SG can't.

    Midtones, in most photographs, are where the interest lies and the primary exposure should be made to optimize this part of the print. The B&D should be relegated to the extraneous or problematic parts of the print -- these are corrective measures, not the prime printing technique.

    I have seen in my observation of SG printers that they often use half a dozen dodges and burns when a simple correction of contrast grade and maybe one dodge or one burn in the highlights and shadows will result in a better print.

    SG does a good job of finding a contrast grade that will produce the sophomoric 'bit of pure white and bit of pure black' in a print. Where the rest of the print ends up is a crapshoot - sometimes it is OK, sometimes it is not.

    There are many ways to get to the same result. SG isn't neccessarily the optimum path but is just one of many. Finding the right contrast grade can be a real problem without good instrumentation and SG does a reasonable job of making a first determination.

    If it works for you, and you like the results then by all means stick with it. I found it constraining and requiring a lot of correction.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2009
  21. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I agree completely with the above.

    Including certain tonalities for no reason may be sophomoric, discerning the limits of a negative's highlight and shadow detail, however, can be a critical step in deciding what tonal range will best express one's vision for a particular image.

    I'm eager to get a look at your prints in person, Nicholas. Posting in forums becomes a bit meaningless at a point. I've learned far more from viewing others prints in the hand than anything else. Hopefully we make it to the same event again soon. All the best. Shawn
     
  22. Wyno

    Wyno Member

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    There is a 4 page article on this in Black and white magazine (I think it's the March issue, but I could be wrong). I think the author is Andrew Saunderson who also did an article in this mag on the new Walker 8x10 camera.
    I have only recently started using split grade printing and have found it very helpful with some difficult negatives. As others have said, you don't need it for every neg, but for others you do.
    cheers
    Mike
     
  23. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Gosh, maybe I'm doing something wrong. The technique I learned, which came via Les McLean, exposes with the 00 filter until the midtones are as desired. Then, the 5 is used to get the popping contrast. Everyone's mileage may vary, but I've seldom found it necessary to do much B&D. Maybe some, but not very much.
     
  24. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    I started out trying to guess the right contrast grade and never felt confident. Then I tried split grade printing and my printing improved dramatically. Split grade printing is a great way to get started and also a great technique for people who really know what they are doing to manipulate a print.

    However, then I switched to BTZS techniques and my negatives got much better and much more consistent. I also gained more experience. Then I did a one day worskshop with Per Volquartz which was excellent. Now I just look at the negative with a loupe and guess the contrast between grade 2-3 for the test print and tweak from there. I find it is much quicker that split grade printing and I can still burn with soft/hard filters.
     
  25. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    Maybe "sophomoric", but it's a start. I've seen very very few successful B&W prints that didn't have the 'bit of pure white and a bit of pure black'. Only the rank beginner (and digital photographer) would stop there.

    In theory a base exposure of 10 seconds of grade 00 and 10 seconds of grade 5 equals somewhere around grade 2.5. (give or take depending on paper, enlarger bulb type, filteration, etc.,). Like I previously mentioned, the benefit is the ability to adjust the ratio of of the two which effectively elongates the higher values while compressing the low values, or elongates the lower values while compressing the high values. In the digital world, this is known as adjusting the gamma.

    Split-grade isn't for everyone or for every negative.
     
  26. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Exactly, people that have never tried it don't understand. Once you try it and fully understand its advantages, it is a godsend for certain negatives.