Things I learned in my darkroom I wished I knew before.

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Mats_A, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. Mats_A

    Mats_A Member

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    Item # 382: Ilford over the lens filters are not washable. Or to be more precise, they are not soakable (is that a word?). They delaminate....

    On the bright side the prints came out OK. But to be honest, with the rate I'm burning through test strips, the price of the Analyser Pro starts to look more and more appealing.

    r

    Mats
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Mats, all you need is an Ilford EM-10 and establish a base exposure for your paper. Then set up your negative exposure as close as possible to that, and you should only need one or two test exposures to dial in your print. EM-10's can be had for cheap these days.
     
  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Darkroom meters are a big help in getting to a good work print fast. However, they do not replace the usefulness of final test strips to optimize a fine print.
     
  4. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I'm curious how others do their test strips, but I usually cut up a 5x7" sheet, short ways, into about 1" strips. I develop them and put them in the stop and then turn on the lights and check.

    Some might poo-poo this method, but I used to fix my test strips and it just seemed like a huge waste of time. This has helped me get to a good print much faster.
     
  5. degruyl

    degruyl Member

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    What Ralph said. Although I would say "Darkroom Automation" at this point. Nice meter, good system, useful timer.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    You are the master Ralph, and I concur. Getting to a good working print shouldn't take up all ones time. It causes far too much frustration otherwise.
     
  7. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Does no-one else make a contact sheet and use that as their first 'test-strip' ? If you make it repeatable it gives an excellent base-line from which to adjust exposure and, perhaps, contrast. For me, further detailed modifications seem clearer when going visually from a straight work-print, based on the contact sheet result.

    Mats, you could maybe make a ring-around to keep on a board in a handy place. Put a 'correct' print (not extreme in any way I suppose) in the centre and move outwards horizontally and vertically, changing exposure by (for instance) 1/4 stop then 1/2 stops, and contrast by 1/2 grades. It makes it easier to zero in on what you want.
     
  8. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    Mats, a few tips. First off, you HAVE to fix your test strips. Half of the normal amount of time in the fixer is fine. I dry mine then in a microwave, this helps compensate for "dry-down." If you don't have access to a microwave you'll have to account for the "dry-down factor." It's usually around 10% less exposure, depending on paper of course. You'll have to run tests.

    As far as test strips, I made myself a test strip printer out of mat-board. I used the plan in the back of the book "Way Beyond Monochome." If you don't have this book I highly recommend it. Get the new edition. The test strip printer plan is on page 472 of the new edition. This printer allows you to use a piece of 5x7 paper to make a test strip of one area, usually your highlight over and over at varying exposures so you can pick the exposure time for your print. Then you can run tests to choose your filter grade from there. I highly, highly recommend this process. It saves me paper and time in the darkroom, and is more accurate than an enlarging meter.
     
  9. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Brian

    I must question that. Why do you think so?
     
  10. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I'm not understanding why. For one, I throw away my test strips. 2nd, if there is an any appreciable "clearing" in the fix, it doesn't seem to be significant enough with Ilford MG, in my case.

    I also don't bother to see the test strips dry; you can definitely get an excellent idea of where your exposure and contrast need to be with wet, unfixed test strips.

    Maybe this would make a difference if you're dialing in times within a 1 second range or something, but when it comes to figuring out if you need 5, 10 or 15 seconds, I say stop it and turn on the lights.

    It might not satisfy the ultra particular, but for me it makes my time in the darkroom much more satisfying. I'd rather see prints than strips!

    Anywhoo, that's just my 4¢ (seemed a bit more than just 2)
     
  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I do the same. I place a small piece in an area of the image that is important to me and make a first test print. Then, using the result from it, make an adjustment based on Ralph's f/ stop timing chart, then make my full size work print. This print usally becomes my work print. I find it is so hard to see the visual impact of the whole print until I see it in full size and in desired density. Test print is nice but using small piece and using f/ stop chart, I can come pretty close and works for me.

    Then work on fine tuning selective adjustments.
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I fix my test strips, because I need them to represent the final print as well as they can. Also, I might pull 'early' test strips later during the printing session to get additional information. In other words, a totally overexposed early test strip may give a clue on much burning-in a stubborn highlight needs to reveal detail.
     
  13. Mats_A

    Mats_A Member

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    I have test strip printers. Two in fact. I made them myself as a hybrid between the Nova Test Strip Printer and the one in Way Beyond Monochrome. They work. Problem is, they only give you part of the print. I ALWAYS have to adjust the setting after making the first work print. I have found out that (at least for me) I actually waste less paper if I make the first print full size. I don't have an f-stop timer so I use a serial sequence. This will get me in the ballpark. Then a few smaller scraps of paper will fine tune the highlights. BUT then I will find I need to change filter...... I have Ralphs excellent chart regarding this in a drawer but it is always an "almost there" experience. So one or two more paper wasted. THEN you find a spot on the filter (condenser enlargers are really good at finding spots) and decide to wash your filter.....

    It's a lovely hobby.

    r

    Mats
     
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  15. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I think most people got this idea from Adams, who was mentions this in his books and I have seen some documentaries where he does this for the camera. I follow Les McLean's advice for dry down and test the first sheet of a box to determine dry down; usually less than 10% for Ilford. Otherwise highlights don't snap like they do when wet.

    I like my test strips, they give me a chance to form ideas about sections that I hadn't previously visualized.
     
  16. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Knit one-perle two, knit...
     
  17. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    Ralph, I have never had problems achieving final print tones from microwave dried test strips. Have you?
     
  18. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Mats

    Replace 'wasted' with 'invested' and it may make you feel better. :smile:
     
  19. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I read Kevin's post and thought: 'yes'. I know AA proposed, or better talked about, the microwave to speed things up. I tried it and use it ever since, but I don't think he ever said that it would solve the dry-down issue. I actually tested several methods of drying a print (ambient air, forced air, heated drum, infrared, microwave and UV). There are some differences in print surface texture and image color, but they all 'suffer' from about the same amount of dry down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 11, 2011
  20. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I send all my test strips that look decent to our public library to hand out as book markers. My daughter punches a hole on one end and loops a piece of ribbon or string with a tassle on them for decoration. I have hundreds of pieces of my photos floating around town.
     
  21. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Brilliant idea! I wish Ansel would have done that. Can you imagine to own a moon over Hernandez?
     
  22. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    I'm sorry Ralph. I guess I stated it wrong. You're right, it doesn't solve the drydown factor but it lets you see a dried test strip so therefor you don't have to worry about drydown.
     
  23. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    That's true, and that's what makes it a valuable method. However, one need to be aware, print 'color' and gloss may be slightly different compared to the final print.
     
  24. Mats_A

    Mats_A Member

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    Great idea! I will ask our library if they are interested in this.

    r

    Mats
     
  25. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Take a handfull of them in with you to hand out. Its a neat feeling to see them go out with strangers.
     
  26. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    If you figure out the printing exposure for a properly exposed negative, and make standardized proofsheets, you will get very close to the right exposure right off the bat, just by examining your contact sheets. I don't mess with the stepped test strips any more. I just do trimmed-down pieces of paper at a single time. It also eliminates any error that may be introduced by hitting your enlarger timer multiple times for the strip instead of just once for the print.

    I do fix my test strips for about a minute, and rinse them so that I can handle them without getting fixer on my fingers. While I do not dry them, I do at least squeegee them with a dedicated squeegee. I've tried the microwave method, and it really doesn't save much time IMO. Also, we all know that you are not supposed to microwave metal, right? :D