What should I do next?
In the past few years (not sure how many... 2 or 3) I've developed about 18 rolls of film. Yeah, I'm not a fast shooter.
Anyway, I've used different films and devs in different combos. However, for practical and economical reasons I mostly develop in HC110 or Rodinal.
Most of the combos I use somehow work. I never implemented the zone system completely - I only use it for exposure, then develop according to recommendations I find online. So: no +-N development. As a result I don't really know if my negatives are properly developed at all.
I first felt this problem yesterday, trying to print tmax 400 pushed to 1600 in hc100. I just couldn't make the print work - no fiddling with paper grade / exposure made it right for what I wanted.
So far my observation is that tmax 100 in rodinal has much more contrast than tmax 400 in hc110 (even not pushed). But that's it. I don't really understand how much contrast my negatives should have (I don't have a density meter), other than "they should print normally on grade 2 paper".
Looking at my archive, it would probably help if I had samples of the same scene on different film/developer combos. Preferably metered against a grey card. That would at least provide me with some information how the same scene is recorded in the negative, and probably would show what is under / over developed.
So I'm thinking of setting up someting like this: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ae9tqr821ac2lb1/IMG_4204.jpg (this is intentionally low contrast to see the dynamic range of the scene). Correctly developed and printed on grade 2 it should porbably look somewhat like this: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wab2pile8u...%20%281%29.jpg
My reasoning is that having a standard shoot would at least give me an anchor, something to compare my results against. To see where I need lower/higher grade, hence probably over/under developed (assuming no N corrections).
I'm also thinking of using DDX as a baseline developer. The reason is that Rodinal gives lover speed and high contrast, and HC110 has the upswept curve, none of which is desired for baseline, normal processing. Xtol could be better, but DDX supposedly lasts 24 months in "a full, tightly cupped bottle", so I could store it in smaller bottles over longer period.
Does any of this make sense?
Stay on the bus and simplify your MO.
It does make sense to establish a reference, but of all the materials you refer to, the only one that isn't appropriate for a baseline reference is T-Max 400 under-exposed by two stops, and then "push" developed.
If you like how T-Max 400 (for example) looks in HC-110, then use it. I do.
If you like X-Tol, mix it up, split it into a few bottles, use it for a few months and then discard whats left. It will probably be just about as cheap to partly use a few packages as it is to use a bottle of DDX, so relative economy isn't really the issue.
And if you prefer DDX, use it instead.
And by the way, you can easily adjust the contrast when using Rodinal, and the curve shape when using HC110 (although the film type has a lot to do with that).
I simply discarded the whole idea of keeping quantities of chemistry I knew would go bad before it was thoroughly used. Now I just do D-23 in small quantities. A bag of sulfite and jar of metol isn't going to go bad anytime soon.
Playing with exposure for some sort of zone system thing, but not working out some basic development time issues for your workflow?
Can't get there from here. You need to look at the whole flow- exposure, development, printing.
Pick a film, developer, paper. Do a 'normal' test. Seriously- do tests. Don't worry about the subject, don't spread it out over three months. Focus on this one issue and do the shooting, the developing, the printing. Get this to work. Use it for six months.
Then see where you are at.
Muddling around with a little of this, a little of that, maybe some more of this, throw this in, throw this out.... Muddle is what you will get.
The major thing to do wrong is underexposure you need to meter carefully at box speed and develop at manufactures recommended time and temp.
An average meter is ok for average subjects 99% of time.
Proof on a sheet of paper all 12 or 36 should be ok at same paper exposure.
Go out on every Sunday am before church and shoot the whole roll proof before normal bed time.
Get a bulk loader and 400 foot can of Orwo 400 or 5222 Canonet or Olympus compact attend bring and buy with camera in wrist strap use sunny side /16 in manual.
All negs need to have silver in shadows... for zone 1 of prints.
As others have said, if you reduce the variables you'll be better off. I did the following in the beginning and it works: buy an inexpensive shutter tester to make sure your camera is exposing correctly (along w/ verifying that you have an accurate meter). Shoot a test roll on a day when there is "good light", meaning maybe early morning or late afternoon. Shoot Tri-X at ISO 400, or 200 if you use a yellow filter as I do, and develop it in D76. That's an excellent, flexible, time tested combination to begin with, or end up with for that matter. After 3 or 4 weeks throw it out. I'm finding that even w/ proper storage my D76 gets a little strange after more than that. Use distilled water to avoid additional variables. Follow the directions exactly for mixing and developing it, and use gentle agitations w/ your development regime. All this will give you good negs, and then see how things print from that. Pay close attention to what a properly exposed and developed negative is supposed to look like. The links below helped me in the beginning. In other words, start from scratch and keep it simple.
Make sure you've followed all the basics in the darkroom. Is your safe light "safe"? Is the darkroom free from stray light? Does the enlarger leak a ton of light? Does it have the right bulb in it? Etc.
In order to better understand what was going on, I setup a test to calibrate or compare my results.
I decided to standardise on XTOL stock (I've mostly used Rodinal and HC110 before, none gives full film speed) and only try other combos once I got this figured out.
Till now I was shooting tmax a lot, but since people are saying it's hard to print, I'm looking for alternatives and testing delta and panf+ at the moment. I like low grain films when speed doesn't matter.
I've developed against ilford tech sheets and it seems the negatives are slightly too contrast for my enlarger, or maybe not. Fomaspeed paper should have grade 2 with Magenta 10 filter, but my negatives work with just a touch of yellow.
Here are the results:
(I photographed the prints with my digicam and reproduction is not the best)
1. Delta 100 at EI 100, Y3:
The shadows are not well separated and maybe a bit dark?
2. Delta 100 EI 50, Y3:
This seems as good as I can make it. Much better separation of shadows!
3. PAN F+ EI 50
4. PAN F+ EI 25
I see no real difference in EI50 vs EI25 in FPAN. Also, the result seems very, very close to delta. I'm not sure I could tell them apart if the scene was the same.
It seems ilford's published times give really coherent results, as both film had contrast best printed with the same contrast filter. Both have highlights in the sugar clipped. Haven't tried burning yet to see if there are any details in there.
1. What do I change, if anything? I'm thinking of trying reduced development times and try to get results printable with M10 filter.
2. Are the examples above OK or is there anything I could and should do to improve them?
One more question: when properly developed and printed, should the gray card on paper be 18% grey, the same as the real grey card? My guess is not, as we are only reproducing the relationships of tones in the scene on a medium that has a shorter tonal scale.
my printed grey card is about a stop brighter than the real thing:
Originally Posted by jernejk
As I remember the Zone System, yes, the idea is that 18% gray card is 18% gray print. The gray card and the Zone V print are the pivots point around which the system revolves, so to speak. All else being equal, having the card be brighter points to overdevelopment, raising that value into the next zone. Then again, your meter could be set for a different gray value than 18%, leading you to overexpose (meaning that you have raised zone 0 to zone 1, and all the others will go up
But, always the but- there are a variety of issues at play. For example, the color sensitivity of the film and the light will affect how certain shades are reproduced. Filters on the lens will also change the rendering of different colors. Paper development and exposure has its own 'zone system' at work, and you can introduce variations there.
In the end, if the print looks like what you want it to look like, you did right. All of these techniques are tools, not religions. If it gives you the control and understanding you want, keep going.