The Test Strip - a quick quote from Lootens

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Bill Burk, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,616
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    When I think about writing about camera or darkroom techniques, I wonder if there is any need to write anything at all.

    Sometimes it's already been written as concisely and clearly as can possibly be expressed.

    Here is an example that struck me this morning...

    THE TEST STRIP

    A test strip is one of the simplest things in photography and yet it is one of the most scientific. As a matter of fact, despite all of the advances in determining exposures and correct printing papers for our conditions, this old-fashioned method of determining what is right for our needs has never been surpassed.
     
  2. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,538
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Amen.
     
  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,802
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Central flor
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    it would be more popular if it was electronic,needed batteries,came in a hard-to-open-plastic case and costs lots of money.
     
  4. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,538
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    The reason a test strip is so valuable is because it is something you judge by eye and not a graph or mathematical computation. When I make a print I try to use a long narrow test strip with zero filtration on the enlarger, to cover a highlight, midtone and shadow. I can usually make a final print next, or in some situations within one or two more test strips.
     
  5. silveror0

    silveror0 Member

    Messages:
    673
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    :D
    And amen to that too. No doubt about it.
     
  6. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

    Messages:
    5,450
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Southern USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Test strips are very useful IF they are done correctly. Unfortunately most people use an arithmetic progression of exposures which is not very useful. This was discussed in a previous thread.
     
  7. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,616
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Gerald C Koch,

    You raise an important point about test strips, and Lootens emphasized that point as well.

    Lootens pre-dated Gene Nocon, who I give credit for coming up with the expression "f/stop time" as applied to test strips. And in modern times we have carried that idea to extremes of precision (1/15th of an f/stop for example).

    But Lootens knew of the idea. He wrote: "Another thing I want to stress is my insistence on the 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 second method of making a test strip." Lootens was a Pictorialist, and his test strip series reveal possibilities, including making a landscape "more dramatic by printing it darker than it originally appeared."

    The next time I print, I plan to use Looten's series instead of my usual third of an f/stop series. I think it will open up some possibilities...
     
  8. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

    Messages:
    359
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, I came to a similar conclusion (or realization) quite a few years ago. But I still write anyway.

    I like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable in certain aspects, as my entire adult working life has been in photography (the greater part being technical work with a high-volume studio/finishing chain). Yet almost anything I might write about has been done better, I'm sure, at some point in time. Some of it is more lucid than mine, some is more complete, and a great deal is more advanced.

    With respect to my writing, the saving grace is that many people either don't have, or don't know where to look for, the pertinent literature. Or they don't know WHAT to look for. So I think my main usefulness is being able to prod them along, perhaps pointing out aspects that they haven't yet seen.

    I'm a long-time fan of the books by auto-racing engineer Carroll Smith (I wish I could be as lucid as he). He mentioned a side benefit of writing, in that it has helped to clarify his thinking. I find the same thing. Sometimes, when writing about things that I understand well, I find loose ends that must be resolved (I can no longer overlook them when I write it down). Occasionally I find that I have "understood" wrongly for thirty years or so. I like finding such things, since it means that new opportunities for learning have opened up; a mental roadblock has been removed.

    Sorry, no comments about test strips, except to keep in mind that they are mainly an economic measure. (If they weren't, you'd make full-size test prints, right?)
     
  9. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,616
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I remember walking the halls of a city library and seeing row upon row of photography advice and technique books. I'd enjoy sitting in the same room today, but my local library has maybe five photography books I might be interested in reading. So I know there was once a vast amount written.

    One great thing about APUG is that when someone asks a question that might be contained in one of those volumes, rather than say "go find it in that book"... We have the opportunity to tell what we think the answer might be. It's great fun.
     
  10. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

    Messages:
    5,450
    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Location:
    Southern USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think Lootens is underappreciated.

    Jerry
     
  11. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

    Messages:
    2,115
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Location:
    NYC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think you can still get it pretty cheaply as a used book on amazon. I got mine for like 2 bucks. Lots of good illustrated processes and solid printing advice.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  12. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

    Messages:
    359
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, I think what happens is that several people have a long-distance collaborative adventure in getting to the bottom of things. (I notice that you and Michael sometimes work at that.) I appreciate the fun of that, so if I already know the answer, I try to keep my mouth shut. Plus, as I'm fond of telling people, "You learn it better when you learn it the hard way." (This has been my traditional way of learning things.)
     
  13. Tom Richard

    Tom Richard Member

    Messages:
    37
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2013
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Everything below written in my own humble opinion.

    The teststrip is something you resolve to from an economic POV when starting out. After a few good months of work you can land the first print fairly close to the correct exposure by looking at the negative and by using a full piece of paper you get the added benefit of seeing all the details in the first go which needs correction. Depending on the negative and what level of quality your are printing for the second or third print will be pretty close to an "OK". :smile:
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,616
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Tom Richard,

    Maybe it's my inability to learn something very specific, but I have never reached that point. More humbly, anytime I make a print on a full sheet of paper... without first checking with a test strip... I am disappointed with the outcome and the best I can salvage of the situation is that the second print will be OK.
     
  16. DannL.

    DannL. Member

    Messages:
    623
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    So, my question is . . . Why does Looten stress using a 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 second method? I've convinced myself that the method I've used forever is equally as useful . . . but I would be curious to hear Looten's explanation. I surely don't need to invest in another book if it's loaded with hog wash. ;-)

    Many thanks.
     
  17. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,616
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    DannL.

    To reveal in the test strip above and beyond too light and too dark... So you might know all the possibilities.

    Secondarily, because it's an f/stop-like sequence.

    It's NOT loaded with hogwash, though you might easily know everything it offers to teach. Unique in the book is his coverage of retouching with New Coccine, flashing to darken paper edges dramatically and silhouette your subject, combination printing, borders and cut-and-paste montage.
     
  18. DannL.

    DannL. Member

    Messages:
    623
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Granted his book is probably very valuable in many areas, and I will probably grab a copy regardless. Of course the "hog wash" statement was tongue-in-cheek. But, nevertheless the highlighted statements in your reply above are exactly what interests me. What aspect of those statements make a difference in the final print when compared to another number sequence when used. If I determine that a print deserves 17.5 seconds exposure, does it matter what number sequence was used? Does it matter if the sequence was f/stop-like? And if so, why? I hope those are fair questions.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  19. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,616
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I think I know what you were thinking regarding hogwash - some photo books might be a waste of your time.

    But I don't know how familiar you are with the whole idea of f/stop timing when enlarging. I swear by it, and find it makes me MORE confident with the times I finally decide, because the differences are visually evenly spaced. When I use third of an f/stop times and Grade 2 paper, I find each step to be practically the "least noticeable difference". I don't often feel any compelling reason to choose a time between steps - either one or the other is right. But in a "Goldilocks" situation, I WILL set the dial between the marks.

    So when Lootens talks about test strips from 5-80 seconds, in f/stop times, he's not telling me anything I don't already appreciate regarding the doubling of each successive step.

    But he reminds me of a nagging suspicion... that because my usual sequence is a tight series (third-stops down from 40 seconds)... I might be overlooking dramatic possibilities. So my prints might be dramatically different than they might otherwise be because my skies are printed at 40 when they might have looked amazing at 80.

    He advised adjusting the enlarger lens aperture to make the 5-80 seconds test strip appropriate because it's a good range of time that gives you time to dodge and burn. But he also spent some time back-pedaling that hard-and-fast rule when circumstances require longer or shorter exposure series.

    Since starting this thread, I haven't had the chance to turn on the water... but I have a negative lined up that I plan to print. The negative is one of my "failures," for which I don't have a pre-conceived idea how I would like it to turn out.
     
  20. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,222
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2006
    Location:
    Rural NW Mis
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    It does matter. Even Ansel Adams suggested a simple arithmetical progression in both the 1950 and 1968 editions of The Print. On page 63 of both editions, the test print example shows greater contrast between the 20 and 25 second exposure, and the 35 to 40 second exposure. A wider range of exposures would show even more contrast differences. Once a photographer feels at home with the progressive f/stop number series, it is almost as simple to use as a numerical progression.
     
  21. DannL.

    DannL. Member

    Messages:
    623
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Sorry Jim, I hope I'm not making things confusing. I learned the "standard progression" years ago, and have never found fault with it. And I still use it today, with some additions. Some years back having purchased a copy of "The Print", I noticed that Mr. Adams advocated the same method, as did so many others. I do have a book on enlarging by Kodak, and it informs how to use "doubling of exposures" as a sequence. But I prefer the standard progression for example . . .

    First Strip: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40

    Second Strip: 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 27.5, 30, 32.5, 35, 37.5, 40

    For example, if I learn from the first strip that the window I want to be in is between 20 and 30 seconds, I'll run a fine progression in that window. And obviously, there's no need to run all the times on a test strip if you know they are out of range. Notice how the progression (intervals between doubling of exposure) become more defined as you approach the working zone.

    I also give credit to those who can invent new methods for progression, whether it be by f/stops, doubling of time, logarithmic, a gut feeling, etc. If it produces the results you desire, that's what counts.

    Oh, the Kodak book is titled: Bigger and Better Enlarging in Color and Black & White (ISBN 0-8174-0579-8)

    Another book that I have really enjoyed, and also describes the progression that Mr. Adams wrote about: The Craft of Photography by David Vestal (ISBN 0-06-014497-1) In this book Mr. Vestal demonstrates using entire strips per exposure test. Not very conservative, but very revealing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2013
  22. DannL.

    DannL. Member

    Messages:
    623
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I'm opened minded enough to different methods, if they pan out to actually be improvements. One issue I see that involves my timer is having to change the time setting for every step on the test strip. That could be considered a "big rock in the road".

    Maybe I should make a series of test strips with different progressions. Then we can test our abilities to determine what method was used for each strip. Could be interesting.
     
  23. Tom Richard

    Tom Richard Member

    Messages:
    37
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2013
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In retrospect i think my post might come through as arrogant, not my intention at all. I´m sorry. Its surely not your inability to learn but probably more an economic issue. When i started out back in 87 in a newspaper darkroom, film, paper and chemicals were free and plenty for those involved in the photo department. Needless to say spending 8hrs+ 6 days a week in a darkroom not having to worry about cost is gonna give you a touch but that is probably the extreme end of the scale, not required for getting into sync with things :smile:

    Sooo, finally to my point :smile:
    Make enough prints and i think you will find that the teststrip will eventually be out of your workflow.

    Now, if i humbly could ask a couple of questions. Who is Lootens and what size do you make your teststrips in? Full printframe or a strip torn off a sheet?
     
  24. John Earley

    John Earley Member

    Messages:
    126
    Joined:
    May 1, 2012
    Location:
    Central Virg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The thing I like best about test strips is that there is no battery cover to lose.
     
  25. DannL.

    DannL. Member

    Messages:
    623
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2013
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    So, I ordered that Lootens book though Amazon. The 1975 printing for $1.99. You can't beat that.
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,235
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The difference between an arithmetic and a Lootens or f/stop sequence is that the f/stop version is more helpful :smile:.

    You ask why? Because if you compare the appearance/density of the adjacent steps, you will find the progression in the arithmetic sequence is uneven - very similar at one end, and widely spaced at the other end.

    Whereas with the f/stop sequence, if you compare the appearance/density of the adjacent steps, you will find the progression is very even.

    It is much easier to interpolate a correct exposure if it falls between two segments of the f/stop sequence than if it falls between two segments of the arithmetic sequence.