Took the plunge
Well I have never printed any photographs - been developing my own negatives for years but am just tired of paying for prints to be made for me. I am also thinking of seriously starting a small darkroom with an enlarger.
I just bought a 8X10 contact printing frame with all the bits to be able to develop my contact prints. I am still deciding what light source I will use to expose my contact prints. I know an enlarger is best, and may be getting a Simmons Omega D2 enlarger off of craigslist. It is set up to enlarge 135, 120, and 4X5 which is nice since I am shooting mostly medium and soon 4X5 format.
I have a Toyo 45A on the way with a 90/8 SA and picked up a 140mm Ilex Paragon in #3 shutter. I bought a box of Fomapan 100 to start out with. I prefer Ilford or Fuji but thought I should go with a slightly cheaper film until I get back into the swing of 4X5.
If anyone has any tips on contact printing I would be forever grateful. I will be using Ilford Multigrade IV paper, I got a deal on a fresh 100 count box for $40 locally on craigslist. I have read that between 5-8 seconds from a 15w bulb will be good, and some trial and error will help me perfect my exposure times.
I bought 3 trays, tongs, hanging clips, I have a blotter, Kodak Dektol developer, a paper safe, a 15w safelight (Delta Brightlab), a 8X10 Photographer Formulary contact frame with hinge, and I have all the needed items to develop my film. I am hoping to get the enlarger and that it comes with a timer. I will probably have to get lenses though.
Thanks for any advice I can get. I am very excited to finally do it from start to finish myself!
The purpose of a contactprint, if you intent to enlarge, is to have a work print to start with. This means that you have to print a contact pure technically, it must not even look good. To do this, the enlarger settings have to be always the same (aperture, lens, height). You determine correct exposure by making test strips, going for a maximum black exposure (first strip where the black densitity does not increase anymore by adding exposure). You use always the same contrast filter (#2 or #|).
Well I am more interested in making "proofs" I guess - With an enlarger and some practice I am sure I will be able to produce nice contact prints but really I am after a good positive representation of my negative so I can decide if I would like to have them enlarged. Hopefully I will get good enough to do my own printing some time soon. I am going to go to the library and get some books and I have a friend locally that is really good at printing. He does it for a job and has all the nice toys. He is just out of town for a couple of weeks so I am on my own until then.
I like to print my negatives with a grade 2 or grade 3 filter. I reserve 1 and 4 for emergencies and the exceptions. So for my proof I choose something in the middleŚ2-1/2. With the negative in contact with the printing paper and held tight with glass, I want an exposure that will turn the paper beyond the negative black (when developed), and the clear edges of the negative just matching, viewed in good light (sun). If this takes 10 seconds, a 9 second exposure will show some discrepancy between the film edge and black paper beyond. So, proof to black, or proper proof.
This way, you can judge how your shadows and highlights and overall tone show on your contact sheet, and will let you know if you need to allow for varying film exposure and development in the future. If it looks perfect, great, but this proper proof is instruction for making more negatives.
If the proof looks all flat, or white, or less than inspiring, make a second proof sheet with an adjustment to contrast and exposure, so that the proof pictures look nice and appealing. This way you can see the potential in your negatives, and even though these negatives might not be perfect, you can still (probably) make a great print.
With your proper proof to guide you, your next film will probably be a little closer to perfection, and thus be that much more willing to yield a great print.
use a light bulb to expose your neg + paper - glass sandwich. a nice comfortable chair, and a pretty girl is all you need to have fun in the dark
Thanks for all the info - I just got my order in before the buzzer with BHPhoto. It is shipping out tomorrow and I will have it by Wed. I guess BHPhoto will be closed for a week due to some holiday. Unfortunately the Simmons Omega D2 enlarger that I was hoping to get off of craigslist disappeared. The ad is gone so I place a "want to buy" ad asking if the enlarger is truly sold or if the ad was just taken down. Hopefully the person will see it and call me, finding an enlarger in Alaska that will print 4X5 neg is harder than you would think, and everything is more expensive here. I'm sure if I lived back in DC or Jacksonville, FL I would have no problem finding one for free but getting one shipped almost makes it not worth it since they are usually heavy and cost more to ship than they are worth. I do have a line on a "Solar Enlarger" which I was kinda confused about the name but the lady who has it on craigslist says it is a normal B&W enlarger, maybe that is just the name. Probably only good for 35mm but I can use it for my contact printing anyway; they are only asking $40.
If you have an enlarger, I find it is easier to just use that. It is easer to load the negative carrier once, than to keep re-loading the print frame after each test strip.
I had a Solar enlarger in 1973. My Solar was a condenser enlarger that went to 6x6cm. It was an old design back then and I quickly moved on. I'd keep looking for an Omega. Here is a D2 for $50 but it may be too far away for you: http://cleveland.craigslist.org/pho/1653981885.html
Its Passover a high holiday for our jewish friends. If you are going to make proofs, then just lay a sheet of print paper under the enlarger, lay your negs on top(emulsion down) and cover with a glass. Have the enlarger set for what should be a normal setting for your normal print size and expose, develope and dry. Thats the simplest way. That will allow you to see what you want to print and not waste a lot of paper unnecessarily. If you dont have an enlarger, thenexpose under a dim bulb a couple of feet above your proofer.
Thanks for the heads up on the D2, yea a bit to far. I live outside Anchorage, AK. Hoping to get one locally. I put a wanted ad up on craigslist, hopefully will get some hits.
did you win the orange 8x10 contact frame on ebay yesterday(or the day before), the one in san dimas, ca?
if so, darn you :). I was gunning for that one, since I could pick it up in person.
oh well, I got the same one, just a different one today on here, just a tad more $$ wise :). no worries, just wonderin'