Mark, it sounds like this is part preference, part subjective tone reproduction. You might find this interesting. The table, from Jack Holm, shows Zone I densities for a variety of viewing conditions. The "Reflection prints in a dim room" value seems counter to my understanding, but these values might be based on viewing a single tone and not in relation to the full range of tones (gray scale).
Instead of trying to control the highlights with the shoulder of the film curve, what about print flashing? I flash whenever I'm printing a high key image. Flashing will compress the highlights as well as control them. Sounds exactly like the results you want.
Stephen preflashing could work, but I'm not concerned about old negatives here, I'm looking for ways to shoot and process new negative to eliminate steps in printing. I want to get straight prints as much as possible.
Sounds like a self imposed limitation. The print is part of the photographic process and should be considered as part any option. Not only would print flashing be the easiest approach to obtain the desired effect, but it allows for greater exposure latitude with the negative. It's a win-win.
This might be a dumb question, but can I ask why?
Originally Posted by markbarendt
Of course it is a matter of personal preference, but just to throw some ideas out here, unless we're talking seriously time consuming and complex print controls (that doesn't appear to be the case here), there are some potential downsides to offset the slightly easier straight printing.
For one thing, less flexibility (should you decide at some point on a different interpretation of the image) since you're reducing the amount of "information" in the negative. Also, depending on the scene luminance range, placing non-extreme highlights on the shoulder could involve lots of extra negative exposure with effects on image structure (graininess, irradiation, sharpness). It could also simply become problematic with non-stationary subjects if you have to give several stops more exposure.
One thing that could help with using less exposure is a highly compensating developer, which will bring compression (ie shouldering) further down the curve. Alternatively perhaps a shorter scale film.
But in the end I still think you're better off simply fixing this in printing. Flashing, or some low contrast burning etc.
I tried this in the past but for different reasons. The results where very grainy like Michael says. The sharpness suffered. I got kind of soft edges.
Try it. The good old efke films would show a quick result.
The compensating developer is the approach of Hans Windisch. Many photographers, e.g. Ansel Adams used this approach. And, with a modern lens with good detail properties, like certain LF and MF lenses, the compensating effect is even more pronounced. It is my experience that the most important printing property is the microcontrast. And that implies,that there is a large freedom in the interpretation of the print. ( The microcontrast is controlling the overall contrast; or printing on a harder grade will give a softer look).
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
I've enjoyed this thread very much, and if both of you got together to run that workshop, or just meet up with other photo geeks, I'd love to join.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
So would I! Travel is hard for me though. But I do have lots of teaching material for something like this.
Absolutely a self imposed constraint. And yes it surely can be a win-win. And yes I'll be playing with flashing more going forward. And yes I do consider printing as part of the process, just not always an artistic part of the process. One thing that truly makes my day is when I walk into the darkroom with a freshly dry negative, put it in the carrier, and without changing any settings print an 11x14 that is really close to right on the first try. Doesn't happen all the time, but I'm getting closer.
Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin
That brings me to a point where I can blend in Michael's thoughts.
I would suggest that both Hurrell and Karsh, for example, had probably designed and refined their systems to include very specific exposure, developing, and enlarging procedures in order to allow easy, fast, simple, high quality, consistent completion of their client orders by their respective assistants and helpers.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
In a tightly controlled system the value of latitude is diminished, even non-existent.
I would be truly surprised if Hurrell or Karsh designed into their production lines the use of pre-flashing their paper. Similarly I would be surprised if they reinterpreted a significant number of their shots.
So far in my photographic pursuits I've found little inspiration in reinterpreting a negative, I'd much rather shoot a fresh frame with different lighting or whatever.
Henri Cartier-Bresson though had a very different approach to shooting and probably benefitted greatly from the latitude/flexibility inherent in negatives. His printer may very well have added flashing and various other tricks of the trade to deal with the variances in scene lighting and subject matter.
As to the comments on grain and slow shutter speed, Michael those are real issues and I don't know if what I'm proposing can work well, or which film/developer combo might support this but as I refine my systems it seems a worthwhile path to play with and my interests aren't strictly related to B&W. Color negatives don't have the same grain issues.
I want to be clear here too, I'm a big fan of shooting normally and metering normally for a lot of my work and normally recommend normal shooting to others.
I tried with my teenager's pens to draw diagrams like yours to illustrate... and I ended up with something that looked like your very first diagram. So it's a good diagram.
But I don't know if you've focused on this. Every time a toe or shoulder gets involved you lose contrast. There's two curves at work here, film and paper. And flare affects both of their toes. The film curve stretches out so far that no paper can use it all. You only use a small section of the film curve. The paper curve is a distinct S curve, you use all of it, both toe and shoulder.
How much contrast do you want to lose in the highlights? In the highlights you lose contrast from the toe of the paper and flare of the enlarger. If you went with your unusual plan to expose on the shoulder of the film, then you would lose contrast a third time, from the shoulder of the film.
Does that give you flat, muddy highlights. Or delicate high-key tones? I have to guess it's not the dreaded "chalk". So maybe you are onto something. AndreasT knows what it looks like. It's unusual, but it may be exactly what you want.
How much contrast do you want to lose in the shadows? In the shadows, if you expose to "first excellent print" you lose contrast from the toe of the film, flare of the camera and shoulder of the paper. You lose contrast three times in the shadows unless you overexpose enough to put shadows on the straight line of the film. A stop of overexposure may be right.
I like prints I have made where I have shadows on the straight line of the film. At first glance the black under a rock looks pitch black but when you look closely you will see what's under the rock. My preference is to have less compression in the shadows, because it is one place where I can reduce compression.