trying to print from really old negatives

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by redto, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. redto

    redto Member

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    Ok this may be in the wrong formu and if it is I apoligise in advance

    I'm hoping some one can offer some friendly advice

    I got asked to make some prints from some negatives from I'm told the 20s and 30's . 1 i did print of a person and judging by how old she looks he is probably correct in his guestimate of how old they are. They are in varying shapes and sizes up to 6x4, the image is right out to the edge of the negative so I have no way of knowing the make or model of the 'film'
    .
    Some are damaged from i'm guessing fixer ie. brown stains and a rough texture almost like a cigarette burn. Is there anything I could do to try and 'repair' this or is it better to leave alone?

    some are completely blank although the owner says they have been in an envelope since they were taken and he feels that there must have been something on them to put them in storage. Could I use chromium intensifier or is that only for modern film?

    Some are very dark but on the light box I can see 'something' Might be bigfoot for all I know. Any thoughts?

    I have a durst m805 but only a 50 mm lens . what lens would you anyone suggest? and what about holding negatives flat? I did make up a carrier by cutting some glass.

    I have printed 2 so far and they really have that 'old' look. I am using ilford mg pearl paper and have tried a few different contrast settings but they always have that look. Would some other paper developer combo be better or can they ever be made to more 'tone'

    This really is only a favor for a neighbor, Ironically his son is big into digital and I told him that his son could scan the negs an clean an print them but he wants 'old school', but any hints would be appreciated, and I should point out the wet room stuff is only a hobby and I have only ever dealt with my own 35mm but I would still like to do the best I can.

    Thanks
    redto
    Member
     
  2. chimneyfinder

    chimneyfinder Member

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    I have done work like this in the past and short of specialist museum archival cleaning, the best thing, considering the age and possibly less than ideal storage conditions, is to print 'as is'. There's not a lot of worthwhile advancement to be achieved in the darkroom process as a hobbyist - no disrespect intended - except for perhaps a careful wash and air dry using distilled water and a cotton swab. Try on one first that you think would clean up, and if it doesn't work leave them alone, the gelatin can be fragile or irrevocably shrink causing crinkles. Always explain to your 'client ' what you are going to try, and get their permission after having explained the potential pitfalls. I wouldn't try any further chemical enhancement.
    I have a box of 1930's negatives I got out of a junk shop. I printed a few that were @2"x3" and I liked the old look, but bare in mind that most old negatives were not meant for enlargement, generally, but for contact printing, which is when they look ther best. I would go down this route for the larger negatives as they would add up to a nice sized personal album. For modest enlargements I would try some subtle sepia toning to enhance the look.
    Your carrier idea sounds fine, though you will probably need some anti-newton ring glass for the upper surface - Are you charging your neighbour for this ? As for a lens an 80mm will cover @ 6x7 or a 105mm for the maximum size of your enlarger which I think is 6x9 (?)
    At the end of the day you have to let your neighbour know what they can realistically expect, if it's some 'straight' printed images from unrestored neg's. then there should be no complaints. People I have done this for in the pasts have always been delighted to have images returned to them that haven't been seen in 2 or 3 generations.

    Really for any measure of image restoration it would be best to turn to the digital path, it's what it can be made to be very good at afterall.
    Regards, Mark Walker.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2010
  3. dehk

    dehk Member

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    I don't have the experience of museum archival cleaning like chimneyfinder did. However, I printed some negatives from the 40s and up for couple clients. The negatives were not that bad, but I rewash them in water and photo-flo on their requests. Homemade negative carriers will be very handy, alright, where are all my notes, hold on I'm trying to find them haha. Alright they are MIA so I am just going to go with my memory. Anyways I used my 75mm lens the most on the old Omega B22, Some of them I also use an old 5x7 contact printer with a additional dimmer switch, the contact printer is for those really odd size negative while personally I didn't want to crop them. I was using Kodak Dektol with various papers (Mitsubishi and Ilford MG for 5x7 and Some kodak whatever Matte for 8x10). I found out some of the most exciting images were printed, without any filters. But some requires lots of trial and error with all my pack of MG filters to make them look good ( as far as i remember #3 looks ok on most of them) . That's all the info i can give you for now, good luck!

    Attached is one of those photos I printed, I love that one so much.
     

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  4. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Doing a favor for a neighbor is admirable, but if this situation was mine, I would consider that I was only set up to do 35mm negatives and don't have the gear to do anything larger. I would tell this to the friend and emphasize that digital might be the better way to go. Or, he can find (and probably pay) someone else who is properly equiped to help him.

    Your 50mm lens won't cover anything much larger than 35mm. I'm not familiar with your Durst 805, but I'm guessing it is a medium format enlarger. If the 6x4 you mentioned is inches, you're out of luck. Sorry.
     
  5. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    From the pure silver mailing list:

    http://www.iada-online.org/ta91_191.pdf

    An enlarger isn't needed for this sort of work as the negatives of this age were normally contact printed. Large negatives were the norm. 120 was considered a 'miniature' size into the 40's because it produced such small prints. When I got my first camera - a '127 1/2 frame' Empire Baby - the Boots chemist shop returned contact prints.

    That said, the best route is certainly scanning. If the owner really wants 'vintage style' prints be sure to do all that can be done with a scanner before starting on the alchemy.
     
  6. redto

    redto Member

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    thanks chimney dehk and david i really appreciate the advice. I better bone up on contact printing, I might look for a 75 or 105 lens as some day I hope to try medium format, so it wont be wasted money.
     
  7. chimneyfinder

    chimneyfinder Member

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    If you are going to do medium format in the future I would recommend getting an 80mm or 90mm lens as these will cover 6x4.5 up to 6x7. A 75mm lens may leave your edges a bit wanting for anything over 6x6. I'm only mentioning this as you may end up with a medium format camera that wasn't your initial choice, particularly when a bargain comes along. Anything over 6x7 usually requires deeper pockets for camera outlay. As you may know, the longer the focal length of the enlarger lens the smaller the enlargement factor for formats under its ideal coverage, for example using an 80mm lens on a 35mm negative will see your enlarger head at the top of the column for a maximum 10x8 enlargement.


    Contact printing is easy. Raise your enlarger column with no mask in it so the circle of light comfortably covers the size of paper you want to use. Place the negative(s) onto the printing paper and place a sheet of clear glass over, making a sandwich - getting a heavy (3 or 4mm) safety type glass with chamfered edges is best if you do this often. Make a normal test strip at the time and grades you prefer , etc., etc. You will be handling the negatives each time to set up a print so take care not to rush and damage them.
    Cheers. Mark Walker
     
  8. edp

    edp Member

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    It's not clear what you mean by "they really have that 'old' look," or why you consider it a flaw.
     
  9. redto

    redto Member

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    Thanks for that mark sounds simple an it probably is, just practice an thanks for info on lens size too.

    edb the old look i am referring to is that look you see when you look at okd photographs/prints. I thought it was the parer aging/deterioriating with time but it seems to be due to negative/camera/lens/ exposure/developing combination. Im not saying its bad I was just surprised is all