The limits of RA4 Printing?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by EASmithV, Oct 27, 2009.

  1. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Ok, I hope I have this in the right forum. It's an analog question in essence.

    Ok, well I can't print RA4 traditionally. Because of this, I usually scan all of my color work. When I scan negatives/positives, I only make modifications that I personally have the skill to do in the darkroom. This includes Levels, Dodging/burning, and cloning/spotting crap that was included by the scanner, and a bit of flashing and brightness/contrast adjustment. Also, I use a very slight unsharp mask to add back the sharp look that the scan loses from the print.

    This is for Black and white. For color, I do all of the above, with the addition of saturation, color balance, you get the idea.

    My question is, What are the real limits of RA4 printing? Have I been doing anything that you can't do in a traditional darkroom?
     
  2. mts

    mts Subscriber

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    What you are doing now is more mechanical albeit skilled in process. Printing analog is easy or hard depending on the negative and the scene. The materials don't do much to help you in the same way your digital methods can do.

    Some negatives are really hard to print and getting the best from the materials generally takes several tries and a lot of patience. You start with a straight print and then (usually) go back and clean the negative some more to get rid of as much dust as possible. Even so after the print is finally made you can expect to have to do some spotting on the final print. A badly exposed negative is unlikely to ever be printed analog as well as can be done by using hybrid methods.

    Once you have an idea of the exposure for highlight and shadow regions, you must develop a dodging and burning technique. Depending on the negative you might have to also selectively modify contrast in certain regions or enhance the density. Some of the tricks to do this involve burning in during developing by accelerating development with a cotton ball in the developer, or reducing the print in similar fashion. Sometimes for B&W, if you use variable contrast paper you can burn in with different paper filter settings. You don't have as many options in color printing. All these techniques are the "art" of analog, because none of them are as controllable (and eraseable) as are digital methods.

    A really good color printer is in my opinion someone who deserves a great deal of respect, and clearly someone with a lot of patience.
     
  3. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    I am very envious of the cloning tool. Spotting is a real pain. I'd still rather be in the darkroom though.
     
  4. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    Scanning introduces a lot of dust that doesn't appear in my enlarger. I haven't the faintest clue why my scanner picks up scratches that don't exist on the film itself. My enlarger works just fine.

    With the darkroom you have more limited contrast control. The papers that used to be made to change contrast aren't made. You are left with painstaking chemistry development controls which I haven't bothered with. The good news is that properly exposed and processed negatives shot in good conditions all have the same contrast, or at least they all work with the paper. Color correction is mostly limited to shooting as you get crossover when you add color casts to the enlarger. Burning and dodging is the same as it is in photoshop, to be avoided if at all possible. I rarely use any burning and dodging on any of my darkroom work.

    To me the two main problems with film are white balance and ISO. Film is not as fast as digital, nor as easy to balance to lighting conditions. OTOH digital looks like poop. But it does work in low light. I attribute film to windows vista: it's shiny and looks really good but doesn't work in...low light. Alright that one's a stretch.

    I second that. I wouldn't call myself a good color printer, but I like it because I enjoy the process of photography as well as making pictures. For most people it's an archaic PITA. I find it fun. Go figure.
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    What other tools in the darkroom with RA4?

    Sabattier effect, cross processing, posterizing, bleach bypass and others are available. These all exist as tools in PS as well and by comparison produce similar results in the hands of a skilled operator in the DR or on the keyboard.

    Include effects introduced while performing the C-41 process, and you have quite a few tools at your fingertips no matter how you do it.

    PE
     
  6. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

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    what about curves? Its somewhat like contrast masking. But curves is what got the hybrid method's claws sunk DEEEP into my flesh :D.
     
  7. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    saturation is what I can't change while printing with RA4
     
  8. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    Yes you're currently stuck with high or ridiculously high. It's a shame. Though on the bright side I get very nice colors. You can skip the bleach to reduce saturation/add contrast.

    AHHH I never though to try solarization with color. hehehe.

    and how do you posterize?
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    You can change saturation and contrast both by use of Sodium Sulfite, pH, and Hydrogen Peroxide. Sulfite and lower pH for down, and H2O2 and higher pH for up. You can also use Citrazinic Acid for down or H-Acid or J-Acid.

    If those last three are unfamiliar, try google or wikipedia.

    There are so many knobs to turn in the DR, the mind boggles. Well, at least mine does. I have a good imagination and am not reluctant to play a bit! Have fun!

    PE
     
  10. John Shriver

    John Shriver Member

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    Well, with Supra Endura being discontinued, optical printing is going to be more difficult. Fuji Crystal Archive is the last optical RA-4 paper, other than Kodak's Metallic.
     
  11. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    You can still buy it. and Supra Endura VC isn't as bad as people are worried it is.
     
  12. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    One thing you're missing from analog RA4 is that particular softness of the projected image. When you scan, it's easy to artificially boost sharpness, beyond what the original material possesses. But when you print by projection, you come back to a more natural, rounder rendition of edges. I find B&W in this respect to be much sharper than RA4.

    I'm a lazy RA4 printer, meaning that I only print the negatives that have a normal contrast range for Endura paper, and don't bother shooting difficult scenes. I have spent my learning energies on B&W printing, so unless I could acquire a better temperature control setup (e.g. a Jobo or a Colourtherm), I remain modest in my colour printing ambitions.

    But it remains an awesome feeling to pull a correct print, hot from the processing tube. It's weirder than B&W, because in the latter case you can see the image appear, but with RA4, you must wait until the end of the wash, and there's still something awe-inspiring about the complexity of dye-coupler print chemistry.
     
  13. Ben 4

    Ben 4 Member

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    As a relatively new color printer, I would have said that you have relatively little control over saturation and contrast with RA4. But, it looks as if there are some tricks to be tried!

    As I noted last week in this thread (http://www.apug.org/forums/forum40/...h-demise-kodak-supra-endura-5.html#post882025), Kodak says that it will maintain Supra Endura in sheets. The "transition" is only for rolls. At least for now.
     
  14. Svitantti

    Svitantti Member

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    As PE said, there are ways to control saturation and contrast. The simplest way is or at least used to be to change the paper you use (or have 2-3 papers to choose from), but nowadays there aren't that many alternatives. Of course you could also use some kind of masks to do that, but it needs a lot of work of course.

    By the way, isn't there also some paper called "Edge" by Kodak? I haven't seen it sold anywhere but I've read some APUG user use it currently and someone told me they should still make it...

    EDIT: Oh yes, Ektacolor Edge http://www.kodak.com/global/en/business/retailPhoto/products/papers/ektEdge.jhtml?pq-path=12081
     
  15. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    I haven't tried edge. How does it compare to supra? Should I bother trying? AFAIK it's only available in rolls though...