Split-grade printing - first attempt

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Griz, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Hi folks,

    Been away from the darkroom for about 30 years, but started up again this past Spring. After a lot of research on this great site, I decided to give split-grade printing a try for the first time on a couple of old, rather difficult negatives. The photos were taken with a P&S Pentax IQ zoom, that i used to carry in the field when hunting, so the focus isn't the best! The scene was in direct sunlight, with heavy shadows, and proved to be a challenge to print.

    The enlarger is a 67C with a Nikkor 50mm 2.8 lens, and I'm using the color head for filtration on Ilford MGIV RC deluxe Pearl. Printing sequence as follows:

    Base exposure, 6 seconds @ F11, 00 filtration
    Grade 5 exposure, 6 seconds @ F11, 200M filtration
    10 second additional burn in top RH quadrant - grade 5 filtration, to try to tone down the highlights on my son's face.

    Processed in D72, 1 1/2 minutes @68F, Kodak indicator SB - 30 sec, Kodafix -2 minutes, 5 minute wash.

    Any and all comments welcome!

    Griz

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. dasBlute

    dasBlute Subscriber

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    looks like a great scene for spilt-grade, and you've done a good job here
    keeping the balance light, especially in the second print.

    usually I'd use the #0 to tone down highlights, just enough to
    keep from turning them grey, sometime a pre-flash helps as well.

    And usually there's always the internal debate about which to do first,
    time for the darks or the lights? These days I tend to do the darks [#5] first.

    Keep it up!

    -Tim
     
  3. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Thanks for the response Tim, much appreciated! It always seemed difficult for me to keep the balance light, as my eyes want a deeper print for some reason. It was a habit 30 years ago, so I'm trying to break it now for better quality prints.

    I haven't tried the pre-flash method yet, but it's definitely on my list!

    Cheers,
    Griz
     
  4. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Great job! That's the magic of MG paper. Andrew Sander is a great resource for split grade printering. Love his Sanderson dodger. The Mainecoon Maniac think he's the cat's meow. Here's a link to his site.

    http://www.thewebdarkroom.com/
     
  5. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Thanks for the reply, and the link, I'll check it out for sure!

    Griz
     
  6. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    I would agree with dasBlute, use a lower contrast filter to burn in highlights, makes sense if you think about it. Also, sometimes it's better to use something a bit higher than 00 for burning in, you will get better "shape" from shading with a 0 or 1.
    I also go for the low filter exposure first. Remember that even the 00 filter puts exposure in the shadows (do it by itself to see how much), the 5 is adding to something already there, so you can't see the composite exposure in the shadows till you do both. I don't think the 5 adds much to light highlights, which is why I go for the highlight exposure first.
    I ususally do a test strip with 00 or 0 (if I want more separation, or shape in the highlights), then pick one and do a print with that by itself. Then make a test strip adding the high filter. Then make the composite.
    One thing I find - the high contrast exposure is almost never as much as the low contrast, in fact, usually considerably less. And I start with just enough to make a black somewhere. Then add more of the high filter if I want the darkness to increase coming up the scale toward highlights. Or use a 4 or 3 as the high contrast exposure to make the mid and 3/4 tones darker as well, preserving the highlights.
    I find that split printing takes much longer than graded, but I'll "never go back", too much control I can't get with graded.
     
  7. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Hi George, thanks for the tips, I'll definitely give them a go! Up until a few months ago, I had never even heard of split grade printing. Have to say, it's an excellent tool, and I'm really enjoying the experimentation.

    Cheers!
    Griz
     
  8. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    As a rule, I let the neg contrast decide the order of soft/hard exposure. Normal or contrasty negs (which accounts for around 97.325% of my images) will have their highlight exposure determined first. On the other hand, figuring the exposure for soft negs is easier (for me) if I determine the hard exposure first.
     
  9. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Hi Blighty! Currently, I'm finding the majority of my negs to be in the normal to slightly contrasty range. The negs chosen for this test were extremely contrasty, and looked to be a good fit for experimenting with split-grade. I've been trying out Les McLean's methods to begin with, and I'm finding the process interesting, useful, and enjoyable so far.

    I'll give your suggestion a go on a soft neg in a future session, thanks.

    Cheers,
    Griz
     
  10. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I learned to split-grade print from Les McLean, who taught me to test for the soft exposure first, selecting the time that just starts to put tone in the important highlight areas. Then determine the exposure needed for he shadows.

    My own observations lead me to believe that the soft exposure brings up the highlights, some of the midtones, and a little of the shadows. The hard exposure affects highlight almost not at all, the midtones to a slight degree, and the shadows to a great degree. Exposing for the shadows first then laying down the highlight exposure will darken the shadows more than what was initially intended. And reduce contrast.

    I like to think of split grade printing as an elastic process. You "pin" the highlights where you want them with the soft exposure, then "stretch" the shadows to wherever you want them with the hard exposure.
     
  11. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Hi Dan, I envy your time spent training with Les! It was 1980 the last time I had an instructor over my shoulder in the darkroom. All of my (re)training is coming via internet searches, and these forums, so I greatly appreciate the comments.

    I just scanned a print of the base (soft) exposure, to give you an idea of where I was starting from. Unfortunately, my Photobucket account has developed a hiccup, and I can't access it right now. Once that gets straightened out, I'll post it, and if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to get your thoughts on it.

    Cheers!
    Griz
     
  12. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    With correct exposure/development and lighting conditions, you should not need to split-grade print.
     
  13. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    [QUOTE which accounts for around 97.325% of my images[/QUOTE]

    How do you account for such a precise figure?
     
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  15. Griz

    Griz Member

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    This was a less than ideal situation, P&S camera, direct sunlight with deep shadows, but I still wanted to save these shots of my son and best rabbit dog. I believe the split-grade printing enabled me to make a couple of acceptable prints. It's worth the time to me, to learn the process.

    Griz
     
  16. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Hi Dan, Photobucket is back online, so here is the scan of the base exposure that I mentioned:

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Whats wrong with split grade print???
     
  18. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    How do you account for such a precise figure?[/QUOTE]

    This is actually a rough estimate
     
  19. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    For a straight print i.e. one soft exposure followed by one hard exposure, you're probably right and for some negs this is how I choose to do it. However, varying the ratio of soft/hard exposure in specific areas of the print allows me a degree of control over contrast in a way that a single grade could never do. The point is, split-grade printing is a tool I choose to use. Your point seems to imply, and I apologise if I've got it wrong here, that split-grade is merely a remedy for printing badly exposed negs.
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Nothing, for those who wish to use this technique.
     
  21. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Griz: My first thought was that if this is through just the soft contrast filter it might be too much, since the dog's back and parts of the tree trunk are pretty dark. BUT, maybe you needed this much to get tone in your son's face and his hat, which was probably the most important highlight area. And, if this soft exposure gave you the second print in your original post (along with, of course, a hard exposure) I'd say you were right on. I think that print has a good contrast. Highlights are nice and bright, shadows are good and solid.
     
  22. Griz

    Griz Member

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    Hi Dan, thanks much for taking the time to compare the prints, and for your thoughts. My son's face, and his florescent orange hat were indeed the hardest parts to get tone into. My son was almost ghost white in real life (video games at that time in his life....ha!), and the direct sunlight almost made him glow! Getting good detail into the dog's coat was a challenge too, being tri-colored. Balancing the black and white, and trying to keep a degree of detail in both was a fun exercise.

    All the best, and thanks again,
    Griz
     
  23. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    In Arles (southern France) I pointed out a postcard to a shopkeeper who was embarassed about it, presumably I was the zillionth person to comment. There were a couple of bulls with hard sunlight from top right, while in the background a pink setting sun filled the left of the sky . . . Going to the trouble of taking along a spare sun to photograph a couple of cows shows serious landscape-lighting control by the photographer ! :wink:
     
  24. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Hey, I just saw a picture in a mountain biking magazine that guy must have also taken: 2 bikers are cutting through a tight turn. The second rider's bike is throwing a shadow on both sides of the bike. One shadow is distinctly darker than the other. I'm thinking a main sun and a fill sun.
     
  25. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Didn't I read or hear somewhere that they used really strong red filters when shooting "night" scenes during the day?
     
  26. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    This picture will likely not print very well with just a straight shot of high contrast filtration and low contrast filtration respectively.

    The contrast of the scene is fairly high, and there's not detail in the hottest highlights, as well as the darkest shadows, which means the negative was underexposed and overdeveloped.

    So, you must employ the full strength of the split grade printing technique, and take advantage of the fact that you can burn and dodge at different contrast filtration. This is the true strength of printing this way, and if you're anything like I am, I sometimes use three different filters for my burning to get it just right.
    And, I must disagree that the high contrast filter has little to no effect on highlights - it can have a very dramatic effect. Especially in something like an overcast sky, for example, to create texture in those areas, to accentuate the small differences in tone that may be present there.

    Good luck!