how long are you developing the prints? Your negatives, at least in the scan, look fine to me -- When developing print take a hint from Imogen Cunningham and expose so that they develop for 2 -- yes two -- minutes, no less, especially for FB paper but even RC -- this gives you better blacks and crisper whites, but it also assures that you are getting FULL development -- less development means muddy prints.
Set your enlarger for f-16 if you have to, so you get a longer exposure time so you can fiddle with it more. Make an exposure of about 15 seconds, at least, and then let it sit in the developer for 2 minutes. If it goes black, let it go black, turn on the lights and ponder, then cut the exposure down and try again.
The negative may not be the best one technically but right now its all you have, so here we go. Your first test strip says it all: Too much ligth, regardless of development, way too much. Close the aperture several stops, start rather soft than hard. Then do a test, get the highligts right and work from there.
I'm gonna throw this out there: Do you know absolutely, and 100% for sure, that your safe-light and it's position is really safe?
Consistently muddy or hard to deal with prints usually points to a process issue - even if the negatives are not the most perfect negatives. You'll begin to feel that something isn't quite right - and it's at that point you should verify process and not necessarily materials.
Also, 5 seconds is way too short for a print unless you're barely enlarging or contact printing. Don't enlarge wide-open either.
Safelight is certainly a good candidate but to my mind not the first in line. The thread opener said it was an MF specific issue for him and more important the hard test print shows clear whites. That leaves little room for a safe light effect, as we are not talking about a bit muddy highlights but really darkened prints.
Thanks for all the great advice. I took a few bits and tried again this morning.
I used only one 5x7 safelight in the darkroom this morning, and pointed it straight at the ceiling to minimize the amount of light hitting my work area. I also stopped my enlarger down to F/22. I used only the new Ilford MGIV RC Glossy paper for all of these. I was able to lengthen my exposure times and come up with much better results.
(again excuse the scan quality.)
This is a negative that I have tried printing multiple times. Now that I have stopped down to f/22 its turning out.
TestF22 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
Based on the results above I chose a 15 sec starting exposure.
15secNoFilter by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
I felt like the sidewalk and sign were a little too hot, so I added 10 seconds to the bottom half of the photo.
15secNoFilter+10burn by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
Since I was getting something worth the effort, I decided to try the other negative from yesterday.
TestF22-2secint by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
Based on the results above, I chose to add another 3 seconds totaling 17 seconds. I also added 10 seconds to the right hand side.
17sec+10burn by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
And because I was getting results, I decided to try this negative that I have been dying to print for a few months now, but haven't been able to because of the previous issues.
Test by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
And I ended up with this...
15secexp by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
None of these are finished prints obviously, but now I know that I can actually get something from them. I'm assuming that I was holding on to the notion that f/8 was the best for enlarging. Somewhere I must have heard that enlarging lenses work their best two stops down from wide open, and I guess I was too scare to try something else. I'm going to continue to read over all the advice given and go back for more practice over the next few weeks or so.
What size of prints are you making, with most enlargers if you are under 8x10 inch prints, the exposures can get pretty short. Adding a #2 or 3 printing filter for multigrade paper will make a huge difference in exposure time if you are using multigrade paper without a filter.
I should have added in my original post that the printing times seem very short, which is what makes me suspect flaccid negatives.
Still think the shot with the House of VooDoo sign might do better at a softer grade.
Originally Posted by Bob-D659
These are 8x8.
Originally Posted by markbarendt
I'll try it. At least I can SEE the House of Voodoo now though! LOL Like I said, these are just preliminary working prints. I'll try tweaking it in the coming weeks.