Tips from the Darkroom

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Bob Carnie, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,412
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Hi Folks

    I am teaching a course this weekend and since I prepared them for the students, I thought I would share them with 48,000 other darkroom workers on this site.

    Now remember these are from practical printing sessions and my opinion only !
    Lots of info here so sorry if it is too much.
    Aids to Printing

    Printing should be fun
    I always move forward and do not keep tests
    I use an outflanking method
    I use big test prints to full sheets
    I am very concerned about the negative position above the lens.
    I use my hands and simple tools
    I center my body and have room to move around the easel
    I do not use a foot switch as it is hard to find
    I study the negative before printing
    I study the easel before printing
    I practice dodge and burn before
    I use ducks ass and ducks bill a lot.
    I burn with my hands thinking about water being in them
    My burn tools all have white paper so I can see the image while I burn
    I like to start 2 stops from wide open
    I always use glass carriers
    I always use APO lenses
    I do not believe there is dof as some believe by stopping down
    I focus on the grain and trust that
    I always count down in my head and even on test study how the image looks
    I talk with a client to find out what is important in the image..
    I do not like printing foreign film but only one shot film I do.
    As Fred Picker noted I do agitate the paper in the developer and make sure that I use lots.
    I study the emergence of a print in the developer and will not pull the print early or extend in the testing stage
    I study the print in the fix as with some papers I notice a contrast explosion.
    I look at a print no more than 1 minute and move to next exposure.
    I like processing prints two at a time as it makes it almost impossible to touch the image.*most beginners will push the paper into the dev from the back this will cause dimples*
    I do not believe there is a perfect print and I will accept defects.
    I make three versions of every negative , though the client only orders one, I wait till the next day and make my decision.
    Dry down is pretty predictable and if you like a print wet then always make one print 10% lighter
    I like to use a split filter technique for most of my work which is based on a middle filter , blast of 5 filter and burn with 00filter.
    I do not like the 0 and 5 method only
    I do like fixed grade prints
    I like to give a final edge burn to all my prints
    I use dectol 1-1.5 for all straight prints
    I use maco lith 1 8 for lith prints
    when lith printing more exposure decreases contrast, less exposure increases contrast
    lith printing is all about pulling the print when the blacks look good,,, a use of a flash is your best friend to control highlights and put in a nice creamy tones.
    Most papers will lith and its up to you to decide which one is best for you.
    I like to tone the same day as I print , but sometimes this is not practical space wise if you are into a show printing workflow

    MY favorite papers for straight printing are
    Ilford Warmtone
    Ilford MG4
    Ilford Digital fibre
    Kentmere fine grain matt.

    My favorite papers for lith printing are
    Ilford Warmtone
    Fotospeed Lith
    Maco G2
    Kentmere fine grain matt
    Slavich G4


    favorite music
    regular breaks with beverage, lunch, fresh air
    no distractions
    visitors are permitted but not entertained
    I wear a jumpsuit with can opener , knife, cell phone for specific people, and I put my wedding ring in my front pant pockets*fingers shrink in 68degree
    I will work with two negs at a time and will not change negs until the first set are completely done
    I try to work with series of negatives so that all the % 's are the same, as well dodge burn, applications--
    make sure you allocate time to not only print but as well finish off your work properly, with hypo clear, toning and washing
    A loving spouse that will put up with your madness
    I prefer to stand at all times when printing , for balance as well I rarely change my chemicals ,, dectol , stop, fix , fix, wash, hypo clear, tone, wash dry face down on screens.




    PRINTING FOR OTHERS

    It is very valuable for them to spend a couple of hours with you setting up, cleaning up and printing
    try to be like a chamelion and able to work towards the clients wishes rather than imposing your vision on the print
    gently nudge them to a better vision when things are working well.
    If the two of you cannot come to aggrement or the client cannot make up their mind and are slowing down the session.. stop, you need to evaluate whether the two of you can work things out.
    I print by direction on an hourly basis, paper, food and beverage supplied by client.
    or
    by print only fee.
    We perfer printing by direction as you get to know the photographer better and they get to see the process and are very keen afterwards to continue in this mode.
    If they decide to can a print without getting a finished print I am not upset as we are on a clock rather than a per print basis
    I will not discount large orders of single images, in fact if I am given a large number of negatives I will charge more as I will use this money to buy extra chems and paper so that I feel comfortable with my waste factor.
    Group Shows never get discounted and in fact I try to increase my fee's as well put in a retoucher fee (outside expert bleach retoucher) as I cannot predict the state of film I have not processed myself.
    2009 - beyond I am getting more specific who I print for as well why I am printing their work. We are not interested in one and two rolls for processing, we are very concerned that our clients are using fresh film and we process, We will refuse any
    film that has been processed in a quick and fast mini lab operation that caters to the fashion and student crowd, ( we have found our condensor , lens combination too sharp and shows defects that are hidden with scans*Ice Program,dust and scratches* that all these wannabe printers are doing.


    PERFECT PRINT

    I hope to bring home to all of you today, my feelings that there is absolutely no perfect print, and to chase magic bullets looking for such a thing is a waste of time.
    To date I have printed to many to count , series of prints for different artists and have come to the conclusion that there is probably over 50 different distinct printing styles in Silver and in Colour , if not more.
    Now I am very concerned about what the Artist is trying to convey in their series and will make what I think is an obvious print , and then think about any subtle nuaunces I can add.* Lady with chair on years of wear on chair.*
    I am more concerned that the print is processed properly * to archival standards* some assistants have been fired over this issue.
    If the print communicates your concept then if others trash it I would not be so worried.
    We are laying down tones on a sheet of white paper and where you place those tones and the contrast and density of those tones should lead the viewers eye around the image and tell your story.
    Using local contrast will be an advantage to you to direct the eye to various areas.

    I have found the better I get at Photo Shop , the better analoque printer I have become. this combination of photoshop skills and split filter will become obvious to you as you practice both.



    MY METHOD

    1. look at negative on light box and quess contrast filter* bias towards soft filter*
    2. click down two stops and then estimate time
    3. test strip on full sheet and watch what happens
    4. narrow down range and do full test strips with filter of choice only.
    5. settle on a lower than normal tone for your tastes and as well lighter than normal
    6. dependent upon negative make a full print with dodge and burn, as well a % of grade 5.
    *if neg is flat you may need more time of 5 , if neg is contrasty you may need less time of 5.... old man in chair was equal ,, old lady in chair 5 was at around 30%
    *I am not changing the timer for the 5 but using a counting method to hold back the 5*
    *I will dodge and burn in the main exposure , as well in the 5 blast for visual dynamics to lead your eye*
    * I always try to print to the 3/4 tone with my main exposure and let the 5 and 00 do the rest
    7. If there is a spot that is too bright then I will burn with 00 to bring in detail ( I always use the 5 filter as well to burn in highlights.. ask me why... soft light.(Les Mclean)
    8. I have found that I rarely expose the whole scene with 00 as I and a few clients have found that if we do it his way the low, low tones muddy up. .. Warrior image
    9. I always do an AA burn on the edges and let you get into the scene with a path if I can, specifically landscapes.. contrast blasts really help here.
    10. When processing the paper , really look at the image for problem areas, they are obvious at this stage.. some papers react different in fix watch this change as well
    11. When you have a print you are happy with , make two more with variations that change the image , and possibly style.
    12. When printing for fun *yourself* always make a few extra prints to have fun with various toners.



    Have Fun , Start all over and forget about the perfect print
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,798
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks Bob.

    It is really helpful to follow your thought processes on this.

    I predict that this thread will end up being a "Sticky".
     
  3. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,412
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Whats a sticky?

     
  4. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    5,888
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you, Bob for writing up this list. If anyone here gets an opportunity to watch Bob at work in the darkroom, take it. He's great to watch, and the prints are amazing. I learned a lot in that one day watching him, and have taken up a lot of his techniques for my own printing.
     
  5. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    5,888
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Done! It will stay at or near the top of the list in the enlarging forum, Bob.
     
  6. yeknom02

    yeknom02 Member

    Messages:
    308
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    Location:
    State Colleg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm new to printing... what's "ducks ass" and "ducks bill?"
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,412
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Its when you use your hands to burn the top and bottom, put your hand in front of you and put your fingers together and form a point at your middle finger. that is the *Ducks bill* and is used for the top of the head burn. Now round out your fingers a bet and you will see a more gentle curve * Ducks Ass* this is to give a more rounded base to a portrait .

     
  8. MartinP

    MartinP Member

    Messages:
    1,457
    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Undoubtedly you are a better printer than I am, but if you are giving notes of this standard to students (whether paying or not) then I suggest you remove the typos, spelling mistakes and correct the grammar. The content can be great but people (potential students or clients) who know nothing of the process will first see the writing as words rather than actions - and that will put them off.
     
  9. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

    Messages:
    4,252
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2009
    Location:
    Central Flor
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't care about typos. The note is perfectly sucinct and to the point. It is obvious that what's in this list is more than enough materials to go thorugh in a week long seminar or in a very thick book, and I don't think Bob ever intended this post to be a complete set of instructions.

    I do like to see the forms he shapes with his hands (like ass and bill as said above), like in a form of uploaded digital shots. Would you be entertaining questions? Possibly write an instructional book? I'd really would like to see him work in person!
     
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,412
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Maybe you should litennnn up pal
     
  11. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

    Messages:
    4,423
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2009
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    haha

    I feel liberated having read this, as though your own directions tell me it's OK to ignore some of the things you've said and accept the ones that would work for me.
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,412
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    I feel you should find your own way and though there are some strict rules, most of them can be broken to get a great print.
    these notes are all random, collections of day to day observations over the last thirty years of printing for others. Some apply more to colour printing others to lith prints, others to solarizations prints(my favourite method of printing ) and so on.


     
  13. lns

    lns Member

    Messages:
    434
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Illinois
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,470
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Great stuff!
     
  16. PVia

    PVia Member

    Messages:
    813
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Awesome collection, as usual from Bob.

    I've collected Bob's tips on lith and darkroom work from his posts throughout the years and they have been an invaluable inspiration in my growth as a printer...thanks, Bob!
     
  17. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,984
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Thanks Bob,
    Every tip rings true.
    I thought for sure when you said three prints you were talking about my rule to make three prints. One to mess up, one to give away and one to keep.
     
  18. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,278
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I like to use a split filter technique for most of my work which is based on a middle filter , blast of 5 filter and burn with 00filter.
    I do not like the 0 and 5 method only

    Bob,I don't understand what you mean by " based on middle filter,and blast of# 5".I can under stand burning in with a 00 filter.Is your normal procedure to decide on a middle contrast filter for basic exposure for test prints then correct local contrasts with the higher or lower filters. A very nice set of procedures,some I use already and some are new to me.Thanks

    Mike
     
  19. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,095
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Melbourne Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Brilliant.

    However I'll go on using my foot switch, just love them. Agree though that working with colour, sometimes the foot switch can be lost in the dark:laugh:

    Mick.
     
  20. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

    Messages:
    6,930
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2007
    Location:
    Richmond VA.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I enjoy reading your post. For the most part I agree with you.

    Jeff
     
  21. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,412
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Mike
    I like to choose a filter to start with that would be 1/2 to 1 grade softer than would make a good print with. I then also determine a density that is just a bit lighter.
    The grade 5 blast is to taste and with normal negs I have found a 100% of main exposure is required, I will dodge areas if it is too much 5 or hit the timer twice if I want more contrast.* I call it a blast but basically just another exposure, for sanity sake I do not change the timer time once I have determined the main exposure, but count in my head and use dodging burning tools to give the right % of grade 5 and grade 0
    A tip is to burn in the highlights with the grade 5, you will notice better local contrast and detail in the highlight regions if you do this.

    With my workflow the 0 filter is not as important, but valuable to put soft detail in highlight regions the main filter does not reach.
    Also I base the main exposure on the uppermidtone to highlight and dodge to taste. Trying to burn in detail is a pain.
     
  22. Vilk

    Vilk Member

    Messages:
    441
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Location:
    hegeso.com
    Shooter:
    35mm
    My mug was grinning wider and wider as I was reading through the list--with the exception of a few advanced details, I could see myself as in a mirror. I only wish my results were more mirror-like...

    :cool:

    By the way, is the current Nowaczynski exhibit at the ROM your work? Mr. Carnie, my hat goes off to you! Great stuff, I'm going back to have another look... And then another.
     
  23. Toffle

    Toffle Member

    Messages:
    1,848
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Point Pelee,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks, Bob. Following up on Suzanne's comment, I would love to spend a day in your darkroom watching your process.

    Cheers,
     
  24. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,699
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Spend some time assisting Bob while he prints, and your printing technique will become significantly more intuitive.

    Further, it is amazing that someone like Bob who possesses such a truly horrific aesthetic, can produce such a beautiful one.
     
  25. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,124
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am still determined to be Bob's lab slave when I retire.
     
  26. Toffle

    Toffle Member

    Messages:
    1,848
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Point Pelee,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am working on my retirement papers at this very moment. (it's amazing how many hoops they make you jump through... as if 30 years service wasn't enough)

    Maybe Bob has need for some aging interns. :D