A trick I used years ago when I was printing 0 and 5 is as follows.
If you want to create an interesting visual... get some black netting stockings, and try playing with images by using the black stocking under the lens for either the 0 or the 5 exposure.
one way you get sharp highlights with bleeding blacks... .think landscape smooth scene black fuzzy trees.
the other way you get sharp blacks and soft highlights...... think skin tone , eyes sharp
I will reverse my logic with filters and their order of importance depending on what the person wants in the print , not necessarily dictated by the negative.
A classic case is a High Contrast print like lets for argument sake say Bill Brant... I would start with a 4 or a 4 1/2 filter to set the image and maybe flash in with 00 to set some basic tone in the highlights .
Another case would be a Low Contrast print like lets for argument sake say Jock Sturges.... I would start with a 1/2 or 1 filter to set the lovely highlight tones and with the 5 filter, add an exposure until I see a defined black somewhere in the print and call it a day.
I believe too many people look at the negative and then determine what the print will look like.
I prefer to visualize what I want the print to look like and then with the tools available to me make it happen , no matter what the negative looks like.
I doubt there is very few negatives that cannot be tamed with a bit of effort and using biggest tool of all, one's brain.
not to say present company are not using their brains, just sometimes its being used too much and not let the eyes tell you when its done.
Christopher - split grade is my default choice for silver printing. My negatives tend to vary quite a bit. When I'm shooting MF, I'm shooting with lith or silver in mind, and follow recommended developing times. If I'm taking my time and metering carefully, those negs can be quite uniform and easy to print, but if I'm shooting as fast and furious as a 50+ year old TLR can manage, I'm guessing the exposure. LF I shoot for alt printing. Those negs are routinely over-developed for greater contrast, and can be quite challenging if I decide to print silver.
These are my current practises. My collection of negs covers decades - many films, developers, techniques and mistakes. (There was a period when I was using a cheap and inaccurate thermometer - some of those negs are quite thin :blink: )
I discovered Les McLean and split grade printing here on APUG a number of years ago. I occasionally eyeball an unusually perfect neg, and slap a 2&1/2 filter in; but I find it easier to just start with split grade.
If I was only shooting for silver and had perfected the zone system years ago; if I was more hard science and less seat-of-the-pants; if my eyes didn't glaze over and my brain go on vacation when DlogE curves are mentioned; I probably wouldn't be so hooked on split grade printing.
Do what works for you. Have fun.
In my mind the ratio behind switching the order (starting first with the soft contrast filter with higher contrast negatives, but reversing the order with lower contrast negatives) is that the trickiest and most demanding part of the print is getting the contrast and detail right in the part of the range that is most difficult to reproduce accurately - the detailed highlights in the contrasty negative, and the textured shadows in the low contrast negative.
If you get the toughest stuff right, the rest comes relatively easily.
I understand what you are saying now, and I think you are right.
It may not make much sense, Michael. I'm sure my rebuttal won't either.
Split grade printing WORKS for me. I get a print I'm happier with, faster, using split grade. I know that my difficulty with science and math based explanations is a weakness. I might have achieved much higher facility and skill in the darkroom years ago, and now be one of the top photographers in the world, if my rooted-in-childhood math phobia hadn't been hampering me:whistling:
I'm very appreciative and impressed by folks who grapple with these issues. There wouldn't have been photography, nor a century and a half of improvements and refinements, if there wasn't a large body of folks who understand and work on the science of light, chemicals, and darkroom magic.
I manage to have fun with photography, continue to improve my skills, and very slowly catch on to what makes the magic work, in spite of the fact that I've chosen the complicated way of doing something simple.
Don't confuse me with logic:p and thanks for all your input on the forum.
I will definitely agree that whatever works is the way to go. Sorry if my last post was a little harsh.
The reason I have been hammering a little on split grade in this thread (not that it isn't a potentially valuable technique) is that the original post seemed like a case where a more "traditional" approach might have been a little easier for a less experienced worker. Here we had a case of a straight print that was too soft at grade 2. Assuming no local adjustments were needed, all I'm saying is perhaps the simplest approach would have been to try a higher number, instead of moving to a split exposure approach. I'm saying this because once Christopher went with split grade, that seems to have been when he started to have trouble figuring out what step to take next when the contrast still wasn't quite right. That signalled to me perhaps he needed to take a step backward to better understand how the paper "sees" through the filters.
Didn't mean to derail the thread though (hopefully I didn't totally wreck it!).