Split grade printing

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by dentan, Apr 30, 2003.

  1. dentan

    dentan Member

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    Hi all

    Split grade printing

    I have tried this method recently and would like to go further with it. Therefore your comments would be very appreciated.

    These are my experiences so far

    1) For the dark shadow areas

    Use filter #5, or if it leaves details out in the darkest areas, #4. Make a test strip in 2 sec increments. Choose an exposure time somewhat shorter than the one that gives the best result.

    2) For the important highlight areas

    Expose all of a new test strip according to the results above. Then shift to filter # 0 or #1 and expose in 1 sec increments.

    3) Choose the best combination of 1) and 2). Try it out also on the medium gray areas to see if slight changes in exposure times and/or filter grades should be made.

    4) Try out burning and dodging on test strips based on above.

    Now to my questions

    A) Is there any rule of thumb regarding how much the ”dark” exposure time should be reduced, like 1/2 stop or 10%? If there should be such a rule, could you also say that when this rule doesn’t work it means that you should shift to the next softer grade?

    [​IMG] Is there any advantage in starting with the most contrasty filter (I haven’t had the opportunity to try out if the differently exposed areas blend better together this way)?

    C) If you start with the soft filter, will this result in something similar to pre-flashing, i e to be used for very contrasty motives?

    Best

    Dentan
     
  2. docholliday

    docholliday Member

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    When I do split enlarging, I use a 0 or 00 and a 4.5 or 5. There isn't any specific order. If you run one first then the other, no difference as the paper receives the same amount of light (in the end).

    The typical rule of thumb is to expose the lower grade for 2/3 of the total time and the high grade 1/3 of the time. However, since grades 4 and up require twice the amount of time to get to the same exposure, you basically expose for the "same time".

    Usually, I do: grade 00 for 5-6 seconds and grade 4.5 for 5 seconds.

    I also split develop, with LPD and Selectol Soft in a 1:5 ratio. The fast acting LPD develops most of the shadows until completion, but the Selectol SOFT is a surface developer and continues to develop the highlights a bit more.

    There really aren't any rules to split developing. Most people consider it a pain in the ass to do and only use it as a method to recover thin negs and overexposed negs.
     
  3. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Instead of doing one and then the other, why dont you run bot exposures on the same paper. I used to do hard diagonal from bottom left to top right and then soft from top left to bottom right, this way I would get a set of squares and usually one had the right exposure of the combined filters. It is also easier to see the areas where you will need to dodge or burn.

    I only use VC for very hard negatives to print, usually I go with graded papers.
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Depending on how one chooses to print (either for maximum black or for high value tonal range as the primary beginning point), is probably the determining factor of which contrast extreme to begin with. I was taught and continue to expose first for the highlight values by doing a test strip at the soft contrast. When this exposure is determined then I make my next exposure first at the soft contrast time and then follow this with a test strip at the high contrast exposure on that second piece of paper. I let the high contrast exposure time be the determining factor for my low values. When I have the low values determined then I make my third print with the low contrast exposure first (at the previously determined time) and follow this with my high contrast exposure (at the previously determined time. From that resulting print, I then make determinations of burning and dodging.

    I admire people who can make arbitary determinations of ratios of low contrast to high contrast exposures. I have found that in my experience that it just isn't that "cut and dried". Maybe I don't have my system developed well enough, or perhaps I want more out of a print.

    I disagree that split developing is primarily used to salvage thin or overexposed negatives. In my experience excellent printers use this as one of several means to arrive at a fine print. It seems to work very well in that application apart from thin or overexposed negatives.

    Interestingly enough my enlarger compensates for differing contrast grades insofar as exposure time. Perhaps not everyone has not been exposed to that technology yet.
     
  5. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Split grade printing

    I have tried this method recently and would like to go further with it. Therefore your comments would be very appreciated.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Dentan;

    For a complete, comprehensive and thorough guide to split grade printing and split developing I suggest you see Les McLeans book, "Creative Black & White Photography". It will not only TELL you how, but will SHOW you how, what to expect and WHY.

    The book is new and the voice young and strong. Listen and you will learn.

    I have met Les, he had dinner with my wife and I last year. As you would suspect he is as charming in person as is his writings. His last words to me when he was leaving were "It's all about Giving...." and his book proves that is what Les is about.
     
  6. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    Interesting that you should ask this question tonight. I had a student who decided to use this technique this evening. This is not the norm for most of my students as the more advance folks use graded fiber; however, in this case it was vc paper. We used 2/3 of the time at the highest contrast range with 1/3 at the lower value. Then "tweak" from there.
    The best thing is to play with the various methods and use what best suits you. This tool seems to work with negatives of extreme contrast ranges (at least in our lab) and works regardless of which contrast is exposed first. Have read several variations on the theme. Just as is mentioned in the above post.
     
  7. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    The key to split grade printing lies in the contrast of the negative. A very thin negative will not produce a good print using split grade printing because it generally lacks contrast and therefore requires a harder grade to build the contrast required in the final print. When I am faced with such a negative on a workshop or for a client I inevitably make the print using only one grade, either 4 or 5. A so called normal negative will provide a better starting point because there should be contrast and detail throughout. However, my own view is that a negative with higher than normal contrast is the ideal starting point. I reached this view after spending many hours trying different combinations of negative contrast and using different combinations of high and low contrast filters. I finally decided on a higher than normal contrast for the negative, grade 0 and grade 5 filters only and accurate control of time given when exposing with each filter. I use an RH Designs timer and work in fstop mode frequently working to 2/10ths of one second, and it does make subtle but significant differences in the final print.

    The reason that the high contrast negative works better than normal contrast is that the negative acts as a mask when exposing the grade 5 or hard filtration. Think about it, when you print with a grade 5 the highlights are frequently paper base white and part of the reason is that the density of the negative has prevented light from passing through the negative. Clearly, this is not the only reason for paper base white highlights but bear with me and I'll explain how to make this work for you.

    My method of split grade printing is based on making 2 test strips and there is no guesswork involved, you respond to what you see. The weakness in some of the methods used by many printers, such as the matrix method where you expose your test strip one way with soft and the other way with hard filtration is that only one small square somewhere on the paper is correct. equally, starting with 2/3rd of the exposure on hard and 1/3rd hard requires some guesswork or at best more test strips to arrive at the desired result.

    I make a test strip using grade 0 and select the exposure that gives me the tonality I require in the highlight. At this stage I totally ignore the shadows and overall contrast, there is none because you are using a soft grade. Having chosen the exposure that gives the highlight tonality, I expose the whole of the second test strip at that time and change filtration to grade 5, and expose a series of increments over the grade 0 exposure. When processed the second test strip will show good contrast with detail through from highlight to shadow. You will see subtle changes in contrast across the test where you have given more exposure with grade 5. Doing the test this way gives you accurate information from which you can make the choices required to produce the contrast you wish in the print.

    Ann makes the point in her post that it works for her with negatives of extreme contrast and also comments that it works regardless of which filtration is used first. That is correct but there are subtle differences if the hard filtration is used first rather than the soft, the final print will be slightly higher in contrast.

    I have two golden rules when split grading, they are: be careful not to give too much soft exposure. In 10 years of teaching my method the most common problem is that there is a tendency to give enough soft exposure to try to establish the lower values and this results in very muddy prints. The second rule is when making the print expose the two different filtrations in the same order as when you made the test strip.

    I do not claim that this method id the only way to split grade print but it has worked for me and when I have taught it and written about it I have had a very positive response that it has generally helped photographs produce just what they are after.

    Try it with one of those very high contrast negatives that we all have and have given up on. Sorry to be so long winded but split grade printing is not a simple technique to describe briefly. I've writted about 50,000 words on the subject over the past few years and still don't think that I've fully covered every nuance.
     
  8. dentan

    dentan Member

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    Thank you dnmilikan and all others who have been kind enough to reply.

    I agree with you in that split grade printing gives better prints, not only from under- or overexposed negs.

    When saying I let the high contrast exposure time be the determining factor for my low values, do you mean that you use the ”highlights time” also for the dark areas (I have tried this but the other way around, i e the ”dark” time also for the highlights, but altogether it resulted in too much light)?
     
  9. dentan

    dentan Member

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    It was very nice hearing from such an authority as Les McLean. Now and then I come across articles by you, always read them with great interest, and quite often pick up something useful for my hobby.

    Yes, it has to be high contrast negs.

    I’ve been fiddling around with a neg of ”the first day of spring” where people are sitting in the sun up against a white wall with coffe mugs in their hands (the coffee house inside hadn’t yet put out their ”summer furniture”), and there are also cobble stones and red brick walls in the shadows. For this picture I got more medium grey tones when starting with the soft exposure.

    Come Saturday I’ll sneak into my minimal darkroom and practice what I’ve learnt on this and other high contrasty negs.
     
  10. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dentan @ May 1 2003, 12:55 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Thank you dnmilikan and all others who have been kind enough to reply.

    I agree with you in that split grade printing gives better prints, not only from under- or overexposed negs.

    When saying I let the high contrast exposure time be the determining factor for my low values, do you mean that you use the ”highlights time” also for the dark areas (I have tried this but the other way around, i e the ”dark” time also for the highlights, but altogether it resulted in too much light)? </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    What I meant to indicate, and probably not as effectively as I might have, was that the first exposure is with the soft contrast and the second exposure by the hard contrast. These exposure times would have been determined by test strips on two prior pieces of paper. The first test strip is to determine only high value exposure and the second test strip is to determine shadow exposure on a second piece of paper which also has the initial soft contrast exposure. In other words this is a method of printing which has two separate exposures the soft contrast for high values and the second exposure for shadow values. These are cumulative.

    My focus has always been to get the high values by exposure and the low values by contrast or in the case of split grade exposure the second hard contrast exposure. I hope that I have explained myself here. If you have further questions please feel free to voice them. Good luck.
     
  11. Thilo Schmid

    Thilo Schmid Member

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  12. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Thanks tschmid, Very good article and explains in greater detail then what I have encountered before.
     
  13. lee

    lee Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Jorge @ Apr 30 2003, 04:06 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Instead of doing one and then the other, why dont you run both exposures on the same paper.
    </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    I used to do this but is always seems to confuse me. If an image is worth printing, it is worth running the tests. I always run the blue light first. It really doesn't matter because photons don't care who goes first. Those without the Aristo VCL head or the Zone VI two color head The hardest filter you have (magenta) allows you to control the shadow area. After I run that test usually at 5 second intervals, I process and look for the first HINT of black. Next, I make a test print at the time I gleaned from the blue light test print. Then I go back and turn on the green light and make another test on the blue light exposure. Low contrast filters (yellow as soft as you can get yellow #0 works just fine) will control the high light. Look for the highlight with this exposure and then go back and try out your times by making a print. IF you need to adjust the shadow or the highlight do so by varying the time of that filter. I would only adjust one light at a time. If you are printing with the yellow and magenta filters you are working in the subtractive method the blue and green is the additive method. There are those who will tell you that you can achieve the same print quality with one exposure and one filter but that has not been my experience. I have used this method for about 6 years and I now do every print this way. If I can help answer questions please feel free to contact me and I will try and answer your questions.

    lee\c
     
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  15. inthedark

    inthedark Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (tschmid @ May 1 2003, 11:39 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> For additional online-information, take a look at:
    http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/ktphotonics/...adePrinting.pdf
    http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/ktphotonics/...adePrinting.pdf </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    I have been teaching myself in a vacuum, so my jargon probably won't match up and these articles make some sense to but I notice that in the first article, Mr. Woodhouse says, " Once you expose the paper to light, you cannot remove its effect. So to enhance and existing latent image one can only add light to it. It is impossible to increase local tonal separation in say a shadow area that is already dense and dull, or alternately to add sparkle to highlights. . ."

    This is technically accurate of course, only more like can be added, but there is a process which allows for dramatic enhancement of shadow details while keeping the whites pristine. It is called the Emmerman process and does involve exposing paper which has been soaked for about two minutes in developer. Then half of the overall exposure time is exposed, wait two to three minutes, wherein the paper/film begins to develop its own contrast mask, then proceed to develop for 2/3 the original tested exposure time. The extra time is needed once the developer has been working. Now develop as usual from here. I've used it a couple of times, and its a bit messy but very satisfying results.
     
  16. Thilo Schmid

    Thilo Schmid Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Darkroom ChromaCrafts @ May 4 2003, 08:29 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>I've used it a couple of times, and its a bit messy but very satisfying results.</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Jill,

    back in 1977 as Ralph Hattersley described the Emmerman in his Book "Photographic Printing", he didn't knew that today most photographic papers do have developer substances already incorporated (which is a problem for some alternative processes, e.g. Lith). With current RC papers (and most FB papers, too), you don't need to soak the paper in developer. A soda solution is less messy and will usually suffice. It gives you more time and better control to handle the print. Paper developing times are quite short these days. Use normal paper developer only for the final development step.
     
  17. philldresser

    philldresser Subscriber

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    I've been following this thread and another that is closely related for a while and decided to dedicate a whole darkroom session to trying split tone printing yesterday. As I rent a darkroom I had preselected what I wanted to print, mainly material that had a full range of tones.
    I had mixed results but the ones that worked really worked well. I had prints with punch for the first time.
    It was noticable that the ratio of LC(00) to HC(5) times were nearly always 2:1 for the normal negs. My troubles started with negs that were over or under exposed (Hey I am Human) and even with test strips I struggled to get the balance without muddy highlights. I will have to practice the technique as I was very impressed with the ones that worked.
     
  18. chrisl

    chrisl Member

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    So Les, do you use split contrast printing for all of your negatives? I've read about it several times, and also have an RH Designs timer and am still learning how to use IT effectively right now. I've never tried split contrast printing. But I'm following this with interest and may want to give it a try. How do you use the timer...I mean picking the correct zonal scale when you make your test exposures?

    Thanks for an interesting thread everyone,
    Chris
     
  19. georgep

    georgep Member

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    My experience has been that you can split-print any negative with advantages over printing on graded paper. With a thin negative, the exposure will use more blue and less green light. You could have a situation where part of the print (or even the whole print) recieves only the blue light (making it roughly the same as a grade 5 paper). With a dense negative the exposure will use more green and less blue. The great benefit is the control of local contrast and in my opinion it simplifies the printing process. Now if only they made a VC Azo.
    George
     
  20. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I would never use split grade printing when the negative is low in contrast, IMO that is the route to dull muddy prints. When the negative lacks contrast any use of soft filtration, ie grade 0, cannot possibly help achieve either separation or contrast. When I have to print such a negative I generally start with grade 4 and if necessary move to grade 5.

    10 years ago when I started to use VC paper I very quickly realised that negative contrast is the key to split grade printing. After carrying out tests on contrast levels I very quickly got to the point of exposing and processing negatives that are very high in contrast and suit the method of using grade 0 and grade 5 only. My view of why split grade printing works is that the negative acts as a mask and where the negative is dense (the highlight) it blocks the hard (grade 5) filtration. Consequently, the first exposure with soft filtration is used to control the tonality in the highlight and the second exposure with hard filtration adds contrast and separation in both mid tones and shadows but has little effect on the highlights. Having said that, all highlights have small dark areas where the negative is less dense allowing some hard fitration exposure that introduces a change in the micro contrast of the highlight and consequently enhances detail and texture.

    I use the RH Designs fStop Pro Timer but not in the split grade printing mode. I use the two channels, one for soft filtration and the second for hard fitration. I also use it at 1/6th stop increments and when fine tuning use the 1 /24th stop setting, sometimes I work to 1 or 2/10ths of 1 second in my exposures to achieve the exact tonality in the highlight that I require. In the many split grade printing workshops that I have taught the most frequent problem that I see is that the exposure given with soft filtration is far too long. I always encourage my students to print the highlight using the soft filtration to a tone just above paper base white and they find that when the hard filtration is added the highlight will "sing".
     
  21. chrisl

    chrisl Member

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    Thanks for the further explanation Les!
    That makes sense about choosing dense negatives that'll work with this process.

    I ended up getting the Analyser Pro actually that doesn't have the 2 channels spec. for split grade unfort. Nor the dry down feature. May just have to put in regular timer mode and ignore the metering mode when I want to try split gr printing.

    Again, Thanks for the information!
    Chris
     
  22. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Could someone explain the advantage of split-grade printing to me. I am failing to see how the end result could be much different from using the intermediate filters - though possibly with finer control.

    I have an Ilford VC head, which has two light sources. Whe you select a contrast setting the head varies the output to the hard and the soft light. This should be the same as making two separate exposures with one hard and one soft. How is split grade different than this?

    With traditional filters I assume the filters effectively do the same thing, but by subtracting light.
     
  23. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    In theory a single exposure would appear to be the same as two exposures using soft and hard filtration but in practice there is a significant difference, IMO. Giving two separate exposures allows you to dodge during one or both thus giving better local contrast control. For example, when the negative has "thin" areas the best way to introduce contrast and good separarion is to use harder paper grades. Split grade printing allows you to dodge out all or part of the soft exposure without affecting the remainder of the print. You cannot do this with a single filtration exposure. The same principle applies to burning in.

    I have taught split grade printing in colleges and at workshops for many years and have found that students can generally make good prints quicker and with less wastage of materials once they learn to control the method.
     
  24. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Les, thanks for clarification. I will try your method next time I print and see if it works for me.
     
  25. philldresser

    philldresser Subscriber

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    Les

    Thanks for the tips and recommendations. I have been re-visiting some of my old work using the Split Grade process and have made significant improvements to various images. Using this methodology I have managed to get glowing highlights and a significant improvement in tonal depth.

    I do still have some problems judging the LC exposures but I am getting better. Practice does make perfect

    Thanks

    Phill
     
  26. Andrew

    Andrew Member

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    Dear forum members
    I have read the posts on this topic with much interest. The next forum topic, split filter printing appears to be dealing with the same issue.
    It is my experience that:
    If we are making a straight print, ie. where the whole print gets the same total exposure, then
    1. If a print with a particular appearance can be achieved with the split grade ( aka split filter ) technique, then exactly the same print can be achieved with one exposure. It may be necessary to use an intermediate grade ( such as G2.75 ) however this is easily achieved with a dichro colour head. In fact in practice, intermediate grades are not often required.
    2. The one exposure method is much quicker and easier,especially if we use an RH Designs Analyser Pro as I do. This equipment if properly calibrated gives very reliable, accurate exposure times and contrast grades.( I have no commercial relationship with the manufacturer or any distributor or retailer of this, or any other product. )
    3. The reason for this is easier to understand if we consider the enlarger light source being directed through a dichro colour head. This filtering method exposes every print ( except those made on 0Y+ MaxM or 0M+ MaxY) through part of a blue filter and part of a green filter. Actually the filters are yellow=(green+red) and magenta= (blue+red) but the printing paper is insensitive to the red component.
    It matters not at all to the printing paper ( apart from lamp ramp up effects and paper reciprocity characteristics) whether the proportion of blue and green is achieved by differential time exposure ( as in split filter printing) or differential movement of the filters across the light source ( as in a colour head).
    Happy printing!
    Andrew