SPLIT GRADE PRINTING, A question of sequence

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Bruce Osgood, Dec 14, 2007.

  1. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Placing the 'soft' exposure and then the 'hard' exposure makes all the sense in the world to me. But the subsequent burnings at grades other than 0 or 5 pose's a problem in my mind as to their most effective order.

    If your proof print of grade 0 and 5 indicates a need in some areas of an additional grade 3 density do you place that density before or after your grade 5 exposure. Does it matter? It seems it would/should matter but perhaps it would have no visable effect.
     
  2. Leon

    Leon Member

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    bruce - as I'm sure you are aware, there are a million alternatives to acheive the same ends, so I'm sure you'll get a multitude of "right" answers. I'll tell you what I do ...:

    I consider whether my burn in is to darken highlights, deepen shadows or both. If Highlights, I burn in using the soft grade immediately after the base soft exposure, if shadows, I burn using the hard grade immediately after I make the hard base exposure. IF both, I determine the ratio of soft to hard, then carry them out after each respective base exposure. I only do it this way so I dont have to keep chopping and changing filters around.

    If you want to do a grade 3 burn, it will really make no difference when you carry this out - at the beginning, middle or end makes no difference to the finished print whatsoever.
     
  3. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    Great thread. I figure out my base and then do all burns after I've laid down both base exposures. I do this because I want to modify the result of the initial base and can keep that a constant. I'm not sure that's necessary, it just keeps things straight in my mind. I'm using a dichro which is easy to dial back and forth. If I were using removable filters I would probably do it the way Leon suggested to keep filter shuffling to a minimum.

    As far as say, a grade 3 burn, I agree with Leon. I don't see why the order would make much of a difference. Hopefully Les will chime in here... He seems to have this truly nailed down. Good luck! Shawn
     
  4. timbo10ca

    timbo10ca Member

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    Someone once told me that for every split grade base combo there is a dichro filter setting that would give identicle results, but it's much faster with split grade. Makes sense when you think about it. So the effect of a grade 3 burn could be done with a soft burn and a hard burn after respective base exposures if you wanted to do it that way (by my logic, anyway). I love the freedom and efficiency of split grade but haven't done alot of printing yet, so my thinking may be off. Personally, the way I prefer to do it is to make my hard exposure then the soft right after (I think hard affects the soft base more than vice versa). Since I've found that hard and soft exposure do affect each other to a certain degree, I like to find my "base working print" then burn and dodge from there. I've dialed in totally soft, totally hard, and intermediate combos depending on what I'm targetting. I feel it's more accurate (because I can see an immediate effect). If I find my burns are throwing the base off too much, I start over with a % reduction in hard or soft bases. Is this a bloated technique? I'm sure someone here could help me refine it.... The intermediate combos I've done are probably negating the benefit of split grade, but the've been done out of sheer frustration and desperation in trying to get the negative to give me what I was wanting. Boy, I'd love to do Les' workshop at foto3!.....

    Tim
     
  5. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    The RH Designs Stop clock timer will actually make that grade computation for you, once you have determined the hard and soft exposures. But, having already determined and programed the two separate exposures, there is likely no time savings to use the one intermediate grade - well, except maybe for multiple prints.

    I took Les' split-grade workshop and I recommend it. I am finding, though, that my working methods (based on doing this for decades) allows me to print the majority of my images without the technique. But that's just me. Learning split grade was a revelation none-the-less, and is a valuable technique. There are some printers who do it no other way.

    In fact, Bruce was in the same workshop I was, IIRC. :smile: As for the original question, I don't think it matters which comes first, hard or soft, or what order you do burns/dodges. Whatever works for the individual printer.
     
  6. wilsonneal

    wilsonneal Member

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    I lay down my Grade 5 first, then the Grade 0, then I do the burning, usually with the 0. I find that I don't often need to burn in shadows because I've chosen to get what I want there in my base exposure.

    I find split grade printing particularly useful with 8x10 contact printing as burning and dodging is harder in a contact frame, and controlling highlight and shadow with split grade is easier and more efficient.
    N
     
  7. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm one of those guys who has evolved into using split grade almost exclusively. I lay down my base exposures with any dodging. After that, I go back and do any burns. I tend to flip flop hard and soft depending on where the last print left off. NBD with the dichro head. It seems to work pretty well. Nobody taught me split grade, I pretty much had to work it out by myself, so I have no idea if my methods are "correct". When I started doing it, I wasn't aware of APUG, and was pretty much operating in a vacuum. There was a brief mention of the technique in The Book of Pyro, and so I started experimenting. I thought I had found the secret alchemical portal to print nirvana!!! I have pulled back from that a bit, but I believe it is a very intuitive method to arrive at a printing goal.
     
  8. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I determine my grade 0 exposure first based on selecting the first TONE in the highlight. At this point I am not interested in CONTRAST, that will come with the grade 5 exposure. I follow with my grade 5 exposure to build CONTRAST and bring out TEXTURE and DETAIL.

    With regard to burning in, I make a judgement as to what I think the image needs in relation to contrast and tonality, based on my second test strip where both grade 0 and grade 5 exposures have been made.

    For example, if I need more in the highlight I burn in with grade 5 and give a local flash to that area to bring out the subtle shadows that determine shape and texture in the highlight. This is the opposite to the way that many printers deal with highlights.

    I rarely burn in shadows but regularly dodge the soft filtration to increase local contrast and thereby open up the shadow and introduce some luminosity. Skies can be difficult to deal with depending on the sort of mood you wish to bring to the print therefore I have to make a judgement before I start to make the print. Where I want drama I usually burn mostly with grade 5 but do add a little grade 0. Gentle mid grey skies are achieved by using mainly grade 0 with some grade 5.

    Where I have an area that I just wish to darken I depend a lot on grade 0 with just a little grade 5 because grade 0 is a more forgiving grade to work with especially when the lighting in the sky is uneven when the sun off to one side.

    Clearly the contrast of your negatives and your own personal taste will have a huge bearing on how much of each grade you use in your burning in. There is no correct way to split grade print so you must spend time in the darkroom making prints and experimenting with various combinations, I have been split grade printing for some 15 or so years and feel that I am still learning new methods and combinations. I rarely use more than grade 0 and grade 5 and combinations of these filters, which together with the RH Designs Stop Clock Timer, give me absolute control over my printing. When I have decided on my burning in times I carry them out at the time that I have the chosen filtration dialed into my enlarger. I mostly make the grade 0 exposure first so when making the final print I burn in with grade 0 first. I always make the print exposure in the same order as the test stip exposure, that is grade 0 first followed by grade 5 for I believe that to change the order when you have made the test using 0 then 5 and then the print using 5 then 0 will result in a subtley different contrast in the final print.
     
  9. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    Thanks, Les. I and I'm sure many others here really appreciate your insight into this process. Best. Shawn
     
  10. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Les, is your Foto3 workshop going to focus on split grade printing with VC papers?
     
  11. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    It is as well as fstop printing with the Stop Clock Timer, Flashing and various methods of contrast contol and print manipulation.
     
  12. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    Les,

    Thank you for your insights, especially in regard to your method for burning highlights with Grade 5 + Local Flash. I neet to give that try as I am sure it is a good way to reduce the problem of muddy highlights.

    In regard to the original question, I think that using only Grade 0 and Grade 5 simplifies the process. To a certain degree, trying to figure out if a burn should be grade 3 or 3.5, etc. defeats the purpose and convenience of split grade printing.

    The order of exposure should not matter. I use a Stop Clock timer and that dictates that I do all of the Grade 0 exposures consecutively and all of the Grade 5 exposures consecutively. Which sequence you do first is up to you. When exposing multiple prints of the same image, I start with Grade 0 on the first print, and then grade 5 on the next print and so on through the batch so that I don't have to fiddle with the filters so often. However, if the print requires alot of manipulation, I try to go in the same order each time to maintain my concentration.
     
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    That is my biggest problem with split grade, getting distracted, and forgetting where I am. Sometimes the timer gives a clue, but only if I can remember if have printed since I changed it.
     
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  15. lee

    lee Member

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    I started split filter printing when a bud bought a zone VI enlarger years ago. We started with the hard light then the soft light because that was the way that Fred Picker explained it. I have worked with Les several times and now I see the light. Start with the soft. Photons are Photon and they don't care which come first but Les' method makes perfect sense. I also use the green and blue filters or on the other enlarger I use the Aristo VCL head.

    lee\c
     
  16. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Yes David, that was me in Ft. Worth with Les and Lee. The workshop confirmed what Les had spoken to me about some time earlier. It really puts things in order and should be attended if at all possible.

    the problem I am working on is a family portrait of my daughter, her husband and baby. Each's skin tone is a little different and I am trying to print, not the white, flat blob with contrasting dark holes for eyes, nose and mouth but something more human.

    Burning the grade 5 exposure only makes the white blob a gray blob. Burning with grade 0 makes it not so gray a blob. I thought picking an intermediate density (grade 3) would bring a balanced exposure and it does to an extent. So, the origional question: does it matter at what point you perform a burn-in, prior to base or post base exposure? I get the feeling those resonding do not think it makes a difference and my desired goal can be accomplished with grade 0 and grade 5.

    Back into black hole. Thanks for your thoughts.
     
  17. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    I will comment on something I don't get. I don't quite get with split printing why it is so common to use the grade 0 and grade 5 filtration only for the entire process. The final result is produced through the use of the "0" and the "5" only----how (and I know that it must because, I mean, there is this fella named Les McLean and many of you, duh!) does this take full advantage of the complete contrast capabilities of the paper? Or, a better way to ask, perhaps, is why are the intermdediate grades so commonly not used at all, even when changes to the local contrast are desired?

    What I do, the old fashioned way-----I have gone back to basing the exposure time off the most important highlight area (as is normal with either method) and then choosing a single contrast filtration that most accurately provides the anticipated global contrast and shadow detail consistent with my visualization at the time of film exposure. In this way I have scaled the variable contrast capability of the paper to the "not variable" contrast range of my negative (it just feels better to me). Then, of course, there is the close examination of the whole print to tweak the local contrast, as needed, using the best filtration for the job.

    Great thread BTW, very interesting.

    Chuck
     
  18. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Somebody else may be able to explain this better than I, but I'll take a shot:

    VC paper has two emulsion layers, one hard (grade 5) and one soft (grade 0). Split grade simply exposes each of them separately, and the ratio of the times between the two determines the overall contrast. This way you can achieve any grade in between. In the same way, when using various filters, this alters the white light spectrum so that the two layers each get their different amount of exposure, but the two layers get exposed at the same time.

    This is why whatever combination of hard (5) and soft (0) exposure is given, there is an equivelent amount of "mixed" (filtered) exposure that will give the same result.
     
  19. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Theoretically it is possible to achieve the exact same contrasts using a particular filter and exposure. Split printing is just a different way of arriving at it, and for some people (like me) it just clicks.
     
  20. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    That's very well said according to my understanding. It just seems simpler to me...
     
  21. wilsonneal

    wilsonneal Member

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    What does one use for local flashing?
    N
     
  22. lee

    lee Member

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    I use the hard filter and a RH Designs flasher/fogger.

    lee\c
     
  23. timbo10ca

    timbo10ca Member

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    Could you not just use your enlarger, and do a test strip to see where you first get tone at a certain head height, then use the previous time?
     
  24. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Yes. If by this, you mean using the enlarger with no neg in the carrier, the lens at a set f/stop and the head set at a pre-determined height, etc.

    But, for users of the technique, many have found it is more convenient to have a separate light source to not disturb the enlarger set up for the neg they're working on. I don't flash much, but I've found a $5 "night light" bounced off the ceiling to fit the bill. The technique is the same. You've done a test strip to determine the threshold where tone just begins, etc.
     
  25. kwmullet

    kwmullet Subscriber

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    *This* particular one has a Besseler 4x5 enlarger with a sliding tray that is meant to hold VC filters and slides back and forth behind the lens. I cut a piece of unruled notecard to keep in there, and when I slid it in place, it diffuses the image and I use that as my flasher.

    -KwM-
     
  26. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I first learned split grade printing the other way around from how Les teaches (test for the hard exposure first, then lay the soft exposure on top.) I found that many of my prints were darker and of lower contrast than I preferred. From Les' book (and a subsequent day in the darkroom with him) I learned that the soft exposure also affects the shadows to a greater degree than the hard exposure also affects the highlights. Les explains that the dense highlight areas of the negative act as a mask that prevent the hard exposure from also darkening highlights to any appreciable degree.

    So I make the highlight exposure first, do any highlight burning, then switch filters and make the shadow exposure followed by any shadow burning (seldom needed.) The only time that I vary from this routine is for high contrast night images. I find it works better for me to make the shadow exposure first, then sort of "burn in" the highlight tones with the soft exposure.

    Dan