Tri Tone Separation Masking

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Donald Miller, Feb 12, 2003.

  1. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have a question. Some years ago, I met a photographer that utilizes a technique using VC paper in which he prepares three masks of a black and white negative in which he separates tonalities into highlight, midtone, and shadow values. He was then able to print each of the tonal ranges with differing contrast ranges through different filtration of the variable contrast materials. This allowed a reduction of highlight contrast for instance (where local contrast is usually highest), an increase in midtone local contrast (which is usually somewhat flatter then highlight contrast) and a drastic increase in shadow local contrast (which is usually lowest in contrast since it exists on the shoulder of the paper and the toe of the negative characteristic curve). The result of this technique is an open and incredibly beautiful print possessing of an inner light. I have seen prints by Ansel Adams, Bruce Burnbaum, John Sexton, and Howard Bond. This photographers prints were "head and shoulders" above any of these other fine photographers.

    I began to try to create these masks the other evening since I have an enlarger that does allow "pin registration" of masks. The problem that I have is how am I going to be able to separate the differing tonalities other then through exposure? I was able to obtain only a shadow value mask using lith film and A&B developer. But the other masks have thusfar eluded me. If any of you have graphics technical knowledge, I imagine that the method is familiar to you. If so, I would appreciate any input or thoughts on how to go about this. Thanks for any help offered.
     
  2. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Step one, make your shadow mask. Step two, from the shadow mask make a highlight mask. Step three, the sandwich of your two mask will allow you to control the middle tones.

    For those imposible to print negatives masking is the best solution. I guess for good negatives it could be an advantage the way you plan to use them, but wouldn't it be better to use a long scale paper like Azo in amidol instead of doing all these masks? After all what you are doing is fitting the negative to the paper scale and all of what the masks do is either "lenghten" or "shorten" the particular area you are working on. OTOH if you are doing enlargements I can see how this would not be practical.Anyways Hope this helps.

    I do agree with you, when used well masking can produce some of the best prints.
     
  3. lee

    lee Member

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    Donald,
    Is this the guy that you met? http://www.radekaphotography.com/ He sells a kit for making masks. I have been temped to make some masks but have not done any yet. Maybe in the new darkroom.

    lee\c
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,
    I began with the shadow mask by contact printing lith film with my camera negative to gain a shadow interpositive. I then took the shadow interpositive and created a shadow negative. I then took two of my shadow interpositives to gain density and contact printed those and the camera negative and a sheet of unexposed film in register to attempt the midtone value interpositive (since the midtone densities are lower then my highlight densities) but I ran into problems here since my highlight densities were too near my midtone densities. This is where I need to come up with a way to separate my midtone from highlight densities. Since the midtones will print through before highlights. I hope that I am making myself clear here. Any ideas on how to do that?

    To answer your questions about using a long scale paper like Azo...While Azo is incredible, this technique will allow controls over print local contrasts and values that Azo will not. Printing with Azo, in my experience, allows limited means of print manipulation. It does offset some of this lack of control by the increased length of tonal scale.
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Lee,
    Thank you for your reply. No, Lynn is not that fellow. I have purchased Lynns kit of masking some time ago. And while excellent, his techniques do not cover what I have observed before. The fellow that I met is named Charles Phillips and he studied with Ansel some years ago. He has developed this technique of masking himself (over a period of some years) and his prints are in a league of their own. He is capable of isolating areas of the print in a manner that no one else I know of has.
     
  6. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dnmilikan @ Feb 12 2003, 08:11 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Jorge,
    I began with the shadow mask by contact printing lith film with my camera negative to gain a shadow interpositive. I then took the shadow interpositive and created a shadow negative. I then took two of my shadow interpositives to gain density and contact printed those and the camera negative and a sheet of unexposed film in register to attempt the midtone value interpositive (since the midtone densities are lower then my highlight densities) but I ran into problems here since my highlight densities were too near my midtone densities. This is where I need to come up with a way to separate my midtone from highlight densities. Since the midtones will print through before highlights. I hope that I am making myself clear here. Any ideas on how to do that?

    To answer your questions about using a long scale paper like Azo...While Azo is incredible, this technique will allow controls over print local contrasts and values that Azo will not. Printing with Azo, in my experience, allows limited means of print manipulation. It does offset some of this lack of control by the increased length of tonal scale. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    You are going to have to make another lith mask of your highlights. When you make your shadow mask, make two of them. Then with the second shadow mask, bleach the parts where you have more highlights or where you want to separate the highlights from the middle values. This in effect will give more density to your highlight mask. With the bleached shadow mask make a new highlight mask which will be more dense in those parts where you want to hold exposure for the highlights. Now you have 1 good shadow mask, and two different highlight masks. one for close values to your middle tones, and one for those values which you plan to separate from your middle tones.

    I hope I don't have to tell you how to bleach, right? [​IMG]

    I think you actually made a boo boo and did not develop enough if your highlights and your middle values are that close, but this should help you. I have found myself in the same situation.
     
  7. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,
    Thanks for your help. I understand what you are saying...I assume that when you mentioned bleaching that you meant Clorox, right???? Just kidding!!!!LOL
    Thanks again.
    Regards,
    Donald Miller
     
  8. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dnmilikan @ Feb 12 2003, 08:45 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Jorge,
    Thanks for your help. I understand what you are saying...I assume that when you mentioned bleaching that you meant Clorox, right???? Just kidding!!!!LOL
    Thanks again.
    Regards,
    Donald Miller </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    exactly...the clorox with flower scent works the best.....
     
  9. lee

    lee Member

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    Donald,
    Don't most people use TMX for making masks? Aren't the masks little more than underexposed and underdeveloped films of the image? Howard Bond is a huge fan of this technique. Aren't they called unsharp masks. Don't they use a piece of clear film between the masks and the original negative? More questions than answers.

    lee\c
     
  10. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Lee,
    Thank you for your post and your questions. The technique that I am trying to resolve is an entirely different masking technique then what Howard Bond uses. The unsharp masks which he uses and advocates are precisely what you describe in that they are low contrast and density unsharp positives of the camera negative. They accomplish two effects. The first is that they reduce the overall density range of the camera negative and they increase apparent print sharpness through so called "edge effects". The decrease of the overall density range of the negative is then compensated for by printing with a higher paper grade and this increases local contrast.

    The techique that I am addressing is one of the creation of sharp cutting high contrast and density masks. These masks ideally will separate the density ranges of the camera negative into three predominant ranges. Those being highlight, midtone, and shadow. The reason for the desire to do this is that each of the regions of density operate under differing local contrast conditions. For instance, shadows are always of lower local contrast then midtones and highlights. The reason is that the shadow densities fall on the toe of the camera negative characteristic curve and the shoulder of the paper characteristic curve. Therefore the differing tonalities in this region are not well separated on the print. The midtone and highlight tonal regions or density ranges, if you will, all have their inherent differences. The highlight regions, for instance, fall on the upper regions of the straight line approaching the shoulder of the camera negative's and the toe of the paper's characteristic curve.

    By using sharp cutting masks in register with the camera negative, I will be able to print each of these regions with optimized paper contrast grade filtration using variable contrast materials. I will also be able to print the values of these regions separately. I would then use an unsharp mask to blend the demarcation points of the various tonal regions.

    Now as to your question of film selection for the production of masks. The use of a camera film is wrought with problems as I view it. First it is a continuous tone material and will not resolve detail as well. Secondly it is of a thicker base material and this has a greater potential for light scatter and further loss of resolution. I am working with a half tone ortho litho film which has the capabilities of being sharp cutting or continuous tone depending on developer selection.

    I apologize for the lengthy discourse. I do not know of a shorter way to adequately answer your questions. If you have further questions or input, I will appreciate hearing from you.

    Regards,

    Donald Miller
     
  11. lee

    lee Member

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    no problem with the length of the post. I don't know any other way to describe it either. I would be interested learning this technique also, so please forward any information you can come up with.


    lee\c
     
  12. Huib

    Huib Member

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    Donald,

    Haven't done this myself, but this is what comes to my mind:

    When printing you need a few masks:

    1) Shadowmask
    First create a shadow mask to block the shadow values in the negative (you figured that out already). Make a contact print onto lithfilm, adjust exposure and development such that from no density until a certain densitity in the original negative you get a high density in the mask. Contact print this again to get a film that blocks mid- and highvalues. Keep both masks!

    2) Highlightmask
    Contactprint the negative again and extend the density range (by exposure and development) that must be blocked so that it effectively is blocking shadow AND midvalues. Invert this film to get a piece of film that only blocks highlights.

    You have now four masks: Block shadows A, blocking mid and high B, blocking shadow and mid values C and blocking Highlights D

    You could print the negative as follows:

    Take mask B and print the shadows.
    Take Mask A and D and print for midvalues
    Take mask C and print the highlights.

    I foresee some problem area's: not all masks are emulsion matched, I mean to say they cannot be matched emulsion to emulsion and some unsharp masking effect can be experience, especially when you are printing the midvalues (stacking two masks onto the negative). This can be overcome by just contactprinting A and D (without the orignal negative) and inverting this giving a mask that blocks highlights and shadows and use this mask instead of A and D.

    If the crossover from mask A to B and C to D is not perfect you'll experience adjacent effects. Theorectically a steep slope will be less troublesome than a mask with a pronounced slope. A steep filter slope however will show itself when you adjust contrast too extreme with the range you are printing like having a higher density for the maximum value in the shadow part than the lowest densitity in the midvalues ranges. When the mask has a slope, it must be matched with the slope of the other masks to prevent that negative densities in the crossover area are not malformed while printing.

    You'll also need to figure out correct exposure of the first masks A and C to block the density range you want. Inverting A and C is relative simple.

    Good luck,

    Huib
    http://home.plex.nl/~hsmeets
     
  13. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Thanks for your input. I have tried what you have suggested with halftone lith film and A&B developer. The problems that I am having, in addition to the adjacency effects, is not being able to come up with a high enough contrast mask. There is still some continuous tone present. I am presently researching higher contrast materials in an attempt to gain a sharp enough mask. I know that this technique is possible since I have met a photographer that utilizes this to produce incredible prints. The ability to alter contrast in the toe and shoulder portions produces a greater sense of openess and apparent light within the print. Thanks again, please feel free to comment if you have further thoughts.
     
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  15. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Donald, are you using Kodak ortho lith film in lith developer? I can't beleive you are not getting sharp cutting masks out of this. You must have a boo boo somewhere.
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,

    No, I am using APHS from Freestyle and that is probably why I am not getting a sharp cutting mask, although I have used it with success before in other masking applications. In the other masking (unsharp, SCEM, and HCEM) applications I usually develop with a fairly dilute Dektol formula 1-30 for unsharp and 1-10 for sharp masking. In those applications I was actually gaining more density then I am using Kodalith A+B developer. So I may on my next attempt revert back to paper developer at a higher concentration. I was just convinced that the A+B developer would gain more density and contrast, but not the case thusfar.

    If my tests using paper developer do not give me what I need then I will explore the Kodak material. It is my understanding that Kodak has split the graphics materials off from the photographic materials operation. Thus it may be more difficult for me to get it.
     
  17. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Ah....I think you are correct. I have used ortho lith film on dektol and the negatives were either black or transparent, no intermediate and the black was very dense you could not see any light through it. I think this is what you need, I am sure B&H still has it in stock.
     
  18. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge, I will check B&H...I like their pricing and availability for the most part...their shipping has been really steep compared to Calumet though. Who do you buy from, for the most part?
     
  19. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Depends on what I need. Mostly B&S, Artcraft, Badger and last resort B&H. I get the feeling with B&H that some times they try to slip one by you. I ordered a Rodagon G 150 enlarger lens and had to return it, terrible specs on the glass. The I ordered a Jobo and it was used and defective. Had to send it back. I did not get a hassle and got a new lens and a refund for my money on the Jobo, but the hassle was unnecessary.

    Why don't you check Calumet, maybe they also have ortho lith film.
     
  20. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,

    I tried both B&H and Calumet and neither carries ortho lith film any longer. I think that it is because the great yellow giant decided that photographers were not buying enough lith film and consequently splitting that portion of their business off from the photo division. I have encountered this sometime in the past and I will need to do research on another source of supply. I imagine a graphics materials distributor would probably be able to supply it (with the token 100 box order, probably).

    I would hope that the APHS material would be able to develop enough contrast to be either full density or no density, if the correct developer could be determined. Les McClean sent me a formula for A&B developer that I need to try as well...it may be something different then the old batch of Kodalith A+B that I had from years ago. Mine was sealed in the original unopened package so I doubt that it was compromised in any way.

    The APHS material is a ortho lith half tone film. I don't know whether the old Kodalith was a so called half tone film or not. I am not well enough versed on graphics materials to know. Anyway the search for the holy grail continues.

    By the way, Jorge, how much sheet film will they allow across the border? The limit that I have seen is 30 rolls but wondered how strict they were on checking the amounts at the border.
     
  21. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Actually is 12 rolls, but you can say each box is one roll and show them the camera.....
    Bummer about the lith film, that would have been the perfect solution, but I think it was NOT half tone....so there may lie the problem.
     
  22. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  23. Huib

    Huib Member

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    Donald et al,

    Try http://www.photowarehouse.biz in Oxnard, CA

    I never did business with them (as I live in the Netherlands) but I reguraly come across there name when people are looking for film for largeformat camera's (11x14 and upwards).

    Since recently they have above website and it lists high contrast ortho film.

    Also look at the graphic arts materials as I expect that several products would fit the bill.

    Huib.
    http://home.plex.nl/~hsmeets
     
  24. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Huib,
    Thanks for the information, I will check into their product line. I imagine the needed material is available, just need to find the source.
     
  25. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Jorge,
    Aggie brings up an interesting point. When I head your direction what would you need or would I be able to bring to you. If I can get it past the border, that is. How about Pt in my hub caps? A little developer chemistry in my air cleaner? Wonder if my battery would operate on acetic acid substitued for sulphuric? I could hide some paper in my headliner....oh and by the way, are Mexican jails really as bad as they are reputed to be? Let me know, if you will come visit me on visiting days. What a way to retire...
     
  26. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    LOL....thanks Donald and Aggie. Well I think for your first trip you better just handle your own stuff, once you move all the furniture you can hide the stuff there....[​IMG].

    Yeah, Jails are not a pretty expereince here, but dont worry I would visit and bring you cigarretes. WOuldnt want anything to happen to a fellow APUGer and ULFer.