split grade printing

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by splash_fr, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. splash_fr

    splash_fr Subscriber

    Messages:
    41
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Location:
    Freiburg, Ge
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi all.
    Did my first split grade print this weekend and wasted lots of paper. But thats OK, i got a nice result in the end...

    Doing the stuff in the darkroom ist obviously different than reading about it in a book.

    So a couple of practical questions came up:

    (1) With the soft (#00) test strip i want to determine the highlights of the final print. But what if I have a small light area that only covers one or two of the different exposures of the test strip? Should I make several different strips, each with two/three exposures only but all covering the bright part? Or guess the correct exposure even if most of the stripes are only in dark areas?

    (2) Should I use #00 or #0 for the soft part? Most guides say #0, but I think most of them mean "the softest you can get". I use a fujimoto g70 dichro with diffuser head by the way.

    (3) When the exposure times for soft and hard are identical I could have achieved (more or less) the same with one fixed gradation, right?

    (4) If i dodge during soft I increase, during hard I decrease local contrast, right?

    So much to do, so little time....

    Rgds,
    Gerd.
     
  2. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,470
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The soft exposure can also be done with your maximum yellow setting on the enlarger. The hard exposure, with the maximum magenta setting. If you don't like doing two exposures, you can combine the light colors and make a single exposure using a chart.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,203
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    1. With the soft (#00) test strip i want to determine the highlights of the final print. But what if I have a small light area that only covers one or two of the different exposures of the test strip? Should I make several different strips, each with two/three exposures only but all covering the bright part? Or guess the correct exposure even if most of the stripes are only in dark areas?

    This can get a little trying at times, and you have to make your test strip such that you get in the ball park for the soft exposure. You can see on the enlarger base board, or by studying the negative, in which areas it's important to get the highlight density right, and by that adjust how you make your first test strip.


    2. Should I use #00 or #0 for the soft part? Most guides say #0, but I think most of them mean "the softest you can get". I use a fujimoto g70 dichro with diffuser head by the way.


    It's up to you. You can use a G0.5 or a G1 too. The negative dictates this, and how you want the final print to look.


    3. When the exposure times for soft and hard are identical I could have achieved (more or less) the same with one fixed gradation, right?


    If you make straight prints with no dodging or burning - yes.
    But the REAL benefit of split grade printing is in dodging and burning at different filter grades. I have started using three different filters when I print difficult negatives sometimes, and it could be that I use a G3.5 filter to burn in a certain area, where neither a G1 or G5 looks right.


    4. If i dodge during soft I increase, during hard I decrease local contrast, right?

    In a way, but since you also affect print density, it's tough to generalize like this.
    If you dodge during soft exposure you will lose highlight detail where you dodged, and the rest of the tones are moved up the tone scale, closer to bright highlights. Then when you add the hard exposure, the total exposure in that area will be brighter. If there was no way to get full black in that area, you just moved tones around without doing anything to the contrast.
    If you dodge during the hard exposure, you lessen the impact of the black, while your highlights in that same area will remain largely unchanged. If there was not detail in the shadow values prior to dodging, and you gain shadow values by doing so, you could claim that you have increased local contrast, or the relationship between local tonal values.

    Local contrast is describing the relationship between tonal shifts in a micro environment, but it affects the entire negative. Usually this is accomplished when you expose your film and develop it. By changing exposure, developing time, and agitation, you alter the relationships between tonal values in the negative. If you develop the film longer you get more contrast in the negative. But if you counter that by agitating less, you end up with similar mid-tones, but compressed highlights and raised shadow values for the same overall contrast, but a steeper mid-section of the curve, increasing local contrast.
     
  4. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

    Messages:
    902
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    Lancaster, N
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For question #1 Move the test strip section by section such that your strip will have x number of identical scenes each of increasing exposure.
    question#2 As a general rule, use the softest filtration you can - that's what I do anyway!
    question #3 Even when soft/hard exposures are different, you could still (more or less) achieve the same result with a single filter BUT (as Thomas Bertillson says) it's not the real reason for split-grade printing.
    Question #4 Thomas has it spot-on.
     
  5. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,542
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I still say learn the basics of contrast control, what the filters do and how the paper "sees" light before going into "split grade" printing. Otherwise you're just guessing what everything does, which is the common thread virtually every time someone asks about "split grade" printing.
     
  6. splash_fr

    splash_fr Subscriber

    Messages:
    41
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Location:
    Freiburg, Ge
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks to all for the helpful tips and explanations!

    But I think Michael R is right and I'll stay at basic printing for a while and try to get overall brightness an contrast right.

    Rgds,
    Gerd.
     
  7. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,470
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In that case I believe the G70 has filter numbers that go to 200, so you can try either the "KODAK" or "DURST" filter combinations in this table.

    chart.jpg
     
  8. rwhawkins

    rwhawkins Member

    Messages:
    21
    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2009
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I have tried split grade printing, but was never a big fan. My experience was that I could always get a print I was happy with choosing an intermediary grade, so the advice to learn the "feel" of the contrast grades first is one I would echo. The next step, and where I find split grade printing very useful, is actually split grade burning by doing a basic exposure with one contrast and then going back over the print burning with a softer grade. I use that technique all the time.
     
  9. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,203
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Or burning with a harder grade can be extremely helpful too when you try to add texture to an otherwise dull and uniform looking area.
     
  10. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,199
    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So I guess you have to change filters in the dark? That would not be fun with my enlarger.
     
  11. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,542
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It shouldn't be difficult. You have a safelight, right?
     
  12. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,199
    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I do. I don't always use it though. I guess I could cover the easel with black paper/cloth and then aim the safelight at the enlarger head where I'd have to slide the filter holder into its little slot. After struggling to get the filter into the cheapy holder. My only complaint with my Beseler 67 is its lousy filter holder.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,807
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The below the lens Ilford and Kodak filters worked great with the condenser head on my Beseler 67C.
     
  14. Hatchetman

    Hatchetman Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,199
    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, you are probably right. I got the Ilford set with the enlarger. I'll see if I can get a vintage Kodak set on the cheap. Good idea.
     
  15. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    With split printing all you need are two filters. You just buy optical (taking-quality) glass filters, one deep green, the other deep blue, which
    can be used below the lens. Life is simple. Even simpler is to use a conventional colorhead which can have the filtration reset in the dark. Then
    you can do either true split printing or ordinary variable contrast work. I gave up even bothering with so-called grade numbers long ago. Split
    printing is far easier to do than to explain. But not all VC papers are the same. With some you need at least a token amount of exposure of both
    emulsions in order to obtain a good DMax.
     
  16. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,125
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When doing this, you still need to get the highlights right and if your image has one particular area that those highlights are present, the the issue you highlighted earlier about getting sensible infomation from the test strip still exists. This is when you 'need' a test strip printer that moves the paper under that one spot, rather than you running the test strip across the image. Ralph Lambrect has plans for a fancy one (I had a quick search but I can't find the link). I made a simple one (out of matt board) which works fine. I've attached a pdf of how I made it (which I thought I'd uploaded here but can't find!)
     

    Attached Files:

  17. silveror0

    silveror0 Member

    Messages:
    782
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2014
  18. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,807
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I do agree that it is important to get some experience with "standard" printing, but I think learning about split grade printing is good for beginners, because of one particular consequence of split grade printing.

    I find that if you understand how the two (or three) different emulsions in variable contrast papers respond to the filters, you will be a better printer. And split grade printing forces you to think about that.
     
  19. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

    Messages:
    3,417
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2012
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm very much the tyro printer, but I really don't think the very conservative approach to learning so often advocated works for everyone, and certainly not me.

    I had a negative I was struggling to print the other week, and couldn't make it "pop" in the way I envisaged it needed to. So just to try something new and refresh myself, I tried split-grade a la Les McLean.

    The very first test print was almost perfect. It's not a "master print" by any stretch of the imagination but it is enough to have a couple of copies around to remind me that I can produce something worth looking at.

    Does this mean I'll now never learn the basics properly or will split-grade print everything? Of course not.

    When learning, many people need to have something ahead to spark their interest. There are of course plenty of people for who being methodical and thorough and doing one thing at a time until they have it perfected before moving on works very well (I'd guess many or even most people at APUG might fall in this category), but it is not a universally-applicable learning method.
     
  20. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,542
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I disagree. I think people need to learn the basics about how variable contrast papers "see" filtered light before splitting their base exposure into a hard and soft. Otherwise they're just guessing at a more complex gimmick. The confusion in virtually every "split-grade" thread posted by inexperienced printers is evidence of this. Ilford has a very good on-line publication about filtration and contrast control with variable contrast papers. It is also worth reminding everyone "split-grade" is nothing more than a specific case of multiple grade or variable contrast printing.
     
  21. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,203
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Exactly. Split grade printing doesn't work for all negatives either, particularly thin or low contrast ones, where simply a single high contrast filter is usually what's called for.
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,203
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Good for you for being able to work with a difficult negative.

    You can turn this argument around and claim that you should instead work on making better negatives that require less darkroom gymnastics.

    A very good friend of mine has showed me how to make good negatives that print with ease, and while it was a painful lesson in processing film, the waste reduction at the printing stage is significant.
    Believe it or not, it actually made the difference between me being able to afford printing in the darkroom and not. Instead of being frustrated with the results with very minute adjustments at the printing stage I now pop a negative into the enlarger, knowing I need roughly 22 to 25 seconds at f/8 and Grade 2.5 to 3.5 on the enlarger lens for my usual 6x8" print I make very few test strips anymore. Just one whole sheet that's a test print, no split grade needed. Adjust from there, and the second sheet is 80% of the time exactly what I was looking for, and 20% of the time I have to make a third one. That's for a finished print that require no more adjustments.

    Some will say to just shoot film and process according to the manufacturers' instructions. If they can do that - great! But then you use a lot of the built-in range in the printing process to make up for that 'slop' or hysteresis in the negative making stage.
    If you learn how to make great negatives, you have the entire built-in range of the variable contrast system to basically be creative with. That's worth a lot when you're pushing the envelope and trying to improve what your prints look like and take them from average or mediocre to something really stunning.
     
  23. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    4,758
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I'm glad I learned to print on graded papers first, because I learned to optimize the workflow based on relatively basic parameters. In fact, many
    times I use VC papers in the same manner, without any filtration control. But then it there when I need it - a bit of punch to the highlights or
    shadows, respectively; differential dodging/burning with different filters; and of course, the occasional negative that requires full split printing
    technique. In fact, split printing can be used supplementary to ordinary VC printing with milder filters, as needed. So none of these printing methods is "one versus another". These are just different tools to have in your toolbox.
     
  24. ROL

    ROL Member

    Messages:
    792
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2005
    Location:
    California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For me, it is rare to come across, and a pleasure to read, a thread so full of rational difference of opinion, all of which seems applicable depending on one's experience or particular workflow. The range of technique and outcomes suggests vital, knowledgeable, darkroom workers. Maybe there is hope for APUG, after all. (Of course, that only applies to posts above this one. :wink:)