what is a good negative?

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by pellicle, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Hi

    I've been trying to contact print a negative (which I think is a reasonable negative) without success. Since its hard to "see" my negative I've put a 'no curves' linear scan of it here.

    [​IMG]


    I placed it on the glass of the scanner and you can just make out the edge of white. I know that not everyone here is comfortable with examining a negative this way, but I know of no other way to show what I'm starting with.

    So, when I try to print it, I establish an exposure to make the border of the negative barely visible (the minimum time to maximum black) but then when trying to render a nice white I can't.

    I've tried to print via a range of MG filters (1 through to 5) I can not seem to get the image to be a pleasing print (such as the image below) and still keep the borders black.

    [​IMG]

    this image is made by simply setting the appropriate black and white levels from the inverted negative scan above.

    Perhaps I don't really need to make nice contact prints from my 4x5 negatives, but i'd like to understand why I might not be able to make them.

    Can anyone tell me if this is perhaps because I'm making my negatives with scanning in mind and thus optimizing my tonal range recording for that? Certainly the negatives don't press the boundaries of my scanner. Pehaps they press that of paper?

    Can anyone perhaps scan a negative which prints well in the manner I have done above so as to give me some ideas as to the density ranges of a good paper wet process printable negative?

    thanks
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It sounds like you need a contrastier negative for contact printing on the paper you are using. In general, you can extend your development times. For this negative you can intensify it. I like to intensify in Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner, 1+3 for about 8 minutes to get about a one zone increase in contrast. For more, you might look into other kinds of intensifiers or bleach and redevelop methods.

    That said, when I'm printing on VC paper, I usually expose for the white and adjust the contrast for the black. You might try that and see if that gives you a result that you like better. It might not give you maximum black for the paper, but maybe in this image the highlights are more important, and you'll have enough black that you'll be satisfied.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It depends how you exposed your negative how the blacks are going to look in your print. The old adage of exposing for the shadows and developing by the highlights really works.
    If you find you have enough shadow detail in your negs when you print to maximum black through the film base, then adjust the development time until you have highlights that print with zing. If you're not happy, you did something wrong.

    I would do a test. Expose a set of negatives at +2, +1, normal, and -1 stops of the ISO of the film. Develop them all according to your standard time. Then print them all until you print through the film base to be black, and judge the shadows in the print area. Pick the one that looks best.
    Now expose a set of negs according to that exposure index, and develop them at different times. Say that the first neg you liked for its shadow didn't have enough contrast, you could try adding 10-15% and keep doing so until you have a negative that you find prints well in both shadows and highlights. Your midtones should fall into place as you do this too.
    If there's too much contrast to begin with, decrease development in increments until you hit the sweet spot.

    A good negative is one that gets you a print that you are happy with. Throw rules out. Figure out what you like and keep doing it your own way for the greatest reward.

    - Thomas
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Yeah, yeah, what he said.

    My first suggestion would be to stop trying to print by formula. Who cares if you don't get the borders of the pic to BLACK black. Worry about what is actually in the pic.

    You should be able to get a print with one of those filters you tried, however; selenium or not. I can't really tell from a scan, but I would say that you should be able to do it on a 4 filter.
     
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    A good negative is one that allows you to re-interpret the image in the darkroom, or put simply print it any way you want.

    In this case from your description &b scans it's just under developed. As David says intensify in strong Selenium toner, there are more conventional ways in books but this work very well :D

    You need to read up on the Zone System & speed tests etc Steve Simmonds has very good article in the free download section of the View Camera website.

    Ian
     
  6. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    If you can, you might consider bracketing shots like this. I might, especially with 4x5, shoot 3 film holders with the same exposure on each side. Develop one of each for a normal amount of time, then try developing the next one a little longer. I don't do quite so many shots now as I used to but still do at times with tricky exposures.

    When in low contrast situations it might be a good idea to shoot the film as if it were just a little faster than stated, then develop longer than you normally would. This would increase the contrast. However what I see in the image is more or less what I would expect to see in real life. Of course this may not be what you are looking for in the final print. But you will have to do some leg work to get the print results you want from your exposures.

    Another idea is to use a yellow filter. This reduces some of the blue light which is quite prevalent on days like this. And nothing will help more than having good and consistent darkroom practice. (Such as patience) :smile:

    Best of luck,
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A good negative is one that gives a good tonality on G2 fixed-grade paper. It may still be a real b*st*rd to print, but at least the tonality is good.

    Of course, this is my opinion and only my opinion. But my experience is that if it doesn't look right on G2, it never will.:wink:
     
  8. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Yes, indeed. If feasible, this is an excellent practice; especially when you are not using a highly tested and controlled process. When not pinching pennies or restricted with a limited film supply, I dedicate one whole holder, front and back, to a shot, usually with identical exposures. I develop one and hold one until after I have proofed and/or tried to print the first one. This is really bracketing development, not exposures. It is time consuming and wasteful of materials, but can be a big help. At the very worst, your original shot ends up developed perfectly, and you can experiment with the other one, or develop it the same way as a copy.

    This is also good practice because sheet film is more damage, dust, light leak, and user error prone than roll film, so if something happens to the first one, you have one more shot at it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 9, 2008
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi pellicle

    have you tried split filter printing?
    one thing that has really worked with me,
    when i am printing on VC paper is making 2 exposures
    one with your #5 filter, and one with your #0 .
    it may sound kind of strange to do this, but make a test strip
    and find your time for your "contrast" filter ...
    and one for your "de-contrast" filter ...
    make an exposure with one, and then the other
    .. burning and dodging as necessary.
    it is a fun and easy way to get great prints out of negatives that
    may give you a little bit of difficulty as a straight print.

    les mclean has a great article on his website on doing this ...

    good luck!

    john
     
  10. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Hi

    folks, thanks for the suggestions.

    :D

    (assuming you'd read the comments on the flickr page) I know ... but you see I'd just bought these new darkslides. They were a more ancient breed of Lisco's than I'd ever seen. The last straw was that this bloody sheet didn't want to come out of the holder. They don't have the recess ground into the alloy partition sheet in the middle to get your fingernail under and it had simply stuck to the base.

    but I've got a strategy now ...
     
  11. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Hi


    in the past yes, but my setup at the moment is very basic with a cardboard lighting can fashioned to shield the bulb and hold the filter. I'm working on top of the washing machine in the laundry/bathroom in our small flat.
     
  12. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    David

    could be ... that's why I posted the linear full range scan.

    I can make a 'pleasing print' by my tried and true test strip method but I wanted to try out some methods I've read here which others swear by (and perhaps others swear at??).

    I know I had some development problems when I was first setting up. I changed from open tray (which were perfect if scratched) to a JOBO 2553 tank rotated not used for inversion or other methods (which gave uneven development / streaks and generally drank developer) to now settling on the BTZS tubes which are giving me the best results for my purposes so far.

    That neg was not one of the BTZS developed one it was JOBO drum

    (aside: I'm keeping the drum to cope with C41 in future as I think I can mix in both 120 and 4x5 sheet in it, but I've given up on it for black and white).

    :smile:
     
  13. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Hi


    yes, I really like this idea too, but the problem (which you also identify) is that when I'm out for a day hike and I have only 5 holders with me its really more frustrating to find that
    • after taking 3 or 4 shots and I start to warm up and then come across good subject matter and need to use my compact digital to even have an image
    • rather than come home with a few unexposed sheets

    I've just bought a 6x12 roll back to help with this problem
     
  14. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    I'm a "bloody idiot"

    Well

    if something looks wrong it probably is

    I just repeated the process this morning and get perfect prints with no effort on a #4

    the problem? -> I diluted the dektol 1:1 (like my d-76 film process ... like a moron) instead of 1:3 for my tray process.

    sigh

    well, while I'm on the subject ... I buy dektol as a powder and make the stock solution as per the kodak directions. I normally put 1:3 of dektol into the tray and develop the print for 3 min. I don't do many prints and discard when finished.

    anyone have any thoughts / suggestions on this? (incase my mind is not working on other areas ... sigh)
     
  15. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    A good negative is one that you can make a good print from. It doesn't matter what grade of paper you need to make that good print.

    As someone already wrote, forget the rules. Just look at the negatives and prints. The only requirement is that you FULLY understand the exposure/development relationship.

    Looking at your negative, best as I can on a computer screen, it appears that your negative lacks sufficient contrast. An understanding of the exposure/development relationship quickly indicates that you needed to increase the development time for this negative. Had you been developing by inspection, you would have immediately realized this and given the negative more development.

    Michael A. Smith
     
  16. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Hi

    good advice. I have a set of sheets which I exposed one sunny day at a creek with dark waters bounded by snow. I developed sheets in 3min 6 min and 12 min (where N = 6 min for the temperature I was using). I have been trying to develop my understanding of this. In the last year of making density checks of my negatives (rather than just looking) I feel I've come a long way (although perhaps not as far as I'd like).

    I was surprised to find that even that didn't have the densest area being as dense as the element of a light bulb I photographed and developed normally. I'm sure that there is some substantial difference between the snow and the filament brightness.

    Film it seems handles quite an amount of exposure before it hits a wall.

    The issue for me now is how this negative (and its range of density) can translate to the print (and just how far it can go).

    I've been restricting myself to one film (ADOX) one developer (D-76) and one paper (MG IV portfolio) just so as to not get confused.

    I wish I could compare numbers with people as I find that easier to reconcile with.
     
  17. CBG

    CBG Member

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    Some random thoughts:

    I'm not sure I'd use the image of a light bulb filament as an absolute standard for evaluating negatives. I presume you processed that too.

    Similarly, I'm not sure a snowy scene is the best for getting the hang of a "normal" developing time, etc. A scene composed of really dark and really bright elements and probably a rather extreme contrast may lead you astray. A set up with a full range of mid tones as well as a modest representation at the extremes would be the easiest starter.

    I think that comparing numbers with someone else is less useful than what you are doing now; doing prints and finding out where you can improve. The numbers are good for a lab, but won't do the important work of creating a proceedure based upon your results.

    Great start - the idea of geometic jumps in developing times as a test series is exactly the way to do it. When you are more zeroed in on a time, you can do jumps at a smaller increment of time. Use the FStop series as a basis. Half stop or third stop series and you will find you can fine tune film development. I keep a set of those numbers handy for all sorts of uses. I calculated them wayyy out into the thousands for just such tasks as yours.

    Given that you needed grade 4 to get a good print, maybe you need to push your film developing time further to build enough contrast so it works better on grade 2 or 3.

    Best,

    C
     
  18. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    sure, I actually included it in a 'scene' to give myself some measure of what it the darkest and brightest that the film would capture. I feel I got valuable data from it

    sure, again this was also a taylored experiment as I was trying to understand what effects it had on highlights and being able to retain tonality.

    thanks for the feedback, I kind a got the idea from a book (the one by by Phil Davis) but anyway ;-)