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  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbenson View Post
    Thomas, Stephen is right in that the negatives I am trying to print from are underexposed. I'll obviously try and expose better in future, but I do like some of the pictures and I'm trying to get what I can from them. I guess in retrospect my problem is that even at grade 5 the midtones are very low when I expose enough to get proper blacks. My instinct was to try split-filter printing, with grade 5 to get the blacks and then burning with grade 0 to put the midtones somewhere nice, but everything's already too dark with just the grade 5 exposure.

    FWIW I mix fresh developer every session, and I use that tetenal stuff to stop the concentrate going off in the interim. I opened the bottle I a month ago max, but the liquid is still the right colour. My paper is fresh too, it's not fogged or anything.
    Gbenson, one of the most difficult things about printing underexposed shadows is they lack local contrast, which means they need more contrast when printing, but since they are thin, using high contrast filters makes it hard to keep them from going all black. If you reduce the enlarging exposure, or decrease the filter value, you get muddy low values. The solution is to combine multiple filters with careful burning and dodging. Not just split filter printing, but local burning and dodging. This is how you can boost the local contrast in the low values, while avoiding them all going completely black. It might require some work, but most prints do, and you'll have to live with quite a bit of extra work particularly if you are going to underexpose your film.

    As Stephen suggests, intensification can help increase contrast in the negative. Selenium toner works well as a proportional intensifier (ie increases contrast) and has virtually no effect on graininess. You can sometimes get as much as a full "grade" of extra contrast in the negative. However it depends on how much silver is there to begin with. With an underexposed, thin negative the intensification effect would probably be more limited.

  2. #22
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    Very good Michael-- the dodging and burning with local filters can solve a lot of difficult negatives. Some of the nicest images I have printed this past year would be considered very underexposed with little shadow detail, but with dodging and burning with filters I am very happy with the results.
    Burning in highlights with a grade 5 filter can increase local contrast, dodging initial exposure in the dark areas and carefully burning back with a higher filter is something that years ago with graded paper was not possible.
    Drew Wiley here could probably make a shadow mask that in register with the neg give the same result in local contrast, years ago I would be set up do do this but not today.

    on intensification not to mention most of the intensifying is going to be where there is something to bit onto which in the negative would be the highlights , not the shadows.
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    Gbenson, one of the most difficult things about printing underexposed shadows is they lack local contrast, which means they need more contrast when printing, but since they are thin, using high contrast filters makes it hard to keep them from going all black. If you reduce the enlarging exposure, or decrease the filter value, you get muddy low values. The solution is to combine multiple filters with careful burning and dodging. Not just split filter printing, but local burning and dodging. This is how you can boost the local contrast in the low values, while avoiding them all going completely black. It might require some work, but most prints do, and you'll have to live with quite a bit of extra work particularly if you are going to underexpose your film.

    As Stephen suggests, intensification can help increase contrast in the negative. Selenium toner works well as a proportional intensifier (ie increases contrast) and has virtually no effect on graininess. You can sometimes get as much as a full "grade" of extra contrast in the negative. However it depends on how much silver is there to begin with. With an underexposed, thin negative the intensification effect would probably be more limited.

  3. #23

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    Agreed. Also agree masking can help a great deal, but figured I wouldn't go there at this point. Burning and dodging can go nearly as far if done carefully. Some negatives require a hell of a lot of work to print. Nothing wrong with doing all that work.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbenson View Post
    Thomas, Stephen is right in that the negatives I am trying to print from are underexposed. I'll obviously try and expose better in future, but I do like some of the pictures and I'm trying to get what I can from them. I guess in retrospect my problem is that even at grade 5 the midtones are very low when I expose enough to get proper blacks. My instinct was to try split-filter printing, with grade 5 to get the blacks and then burning with grade 0 to put the midtones somewhere nice, but everything's already too dark with just the grade 5 exposure.

    FWIW I mix fresh developer every session, and I use that tetenal stuff to stop the concentrate going off in the interim. I opened the bottle I a month ago max, but the liquid is still the right colour. My paper is fresh too, it's not fogged or anything.
    Thanks for explaining this. I thought, after reading your post, that you routinely shot your film at 1600 and got good results printing them at Grade 3.

    I'm glad that got cleared up. The others have helped enough, and while you can get workable results with pushed film, it is always going to be a compromise, which you are finding out the hard way.
    However, don't let that discourage you, it's good to know how to push process film for those occasions where it's the best choice you have, and figuring out how to eke the most out of your materials under those circumstances. With something like TMax 400 and Xtol 1+1, it's highly surprising the amount of shadow detail one can salvage and bring back into the print.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    The solution is to combine multiple filters with careful burning and dodging. Not just split filter printing, but local burning and dodging. This is how you can boost the local contrast in the low values, while avoiding them all going completely black. It might require some work, but most prints do, and you'll have to live with quite a bit of extra work particularly if you are going to underexpose your film.
    Could you give me a little more detail about this? The only multi-filter technique I've used so far has been to expose at grade 5 just enough to get a black (or a little less), then expose at 0 to get the midtones where I want them (dodging and burning the 0 exposure only). Is what you mean?

    I put one of the pictures at http://inauspicious.org/photos/lm6/038/14/. That's just a straight print at grade 5, with just enough exposure for the blacks to be black. Note that my scanner puts a really odd tiger-stripey pattern in dark areas, that's not on the print. There is actually detail--just--in the woman's clothes and in the shadowed area to the left of her head, but they are probably a bit blocked up. I don't really know a lot about dodging and burning, the only thing I would think to do here is burn the spotty wall to the right at 0 to lower the contrast on it, and maybe burn the buildings and sky to the top left as I think they're distracting. What initially prompted me to post, though, was that the picture was already too dark all over in the grade 5 exposure... usually they end up black and white and nothing inbetween!

  6. #26
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    I'd suggest trying the following:

    1) With a #2 filter, test until you get a print that gives you the detail and tonality you want in the mid-tones. That #2 filter exposure will be your base exposure. With a low contrast negative, it may be very short;
    2) Then do tests with your base #2 filter exposure plus a variety of different #5 filter exposures. Choose the #2 filter exposure plus #5 filter exposure that gives you the shadow blacks you want. This #2 filter + #5 filter exposure will be your intermediate exposure. Print a full size print this way;
    3) Evaluate the print you just did. If the additional #5 filter exposures distorted your mid-tones, your #5 filter exposure may have to be selective - i.e. you may have to either dodge or burn with that exposure, to ensure that it is localized. In addition, you need to evaluate the highlights and high mid-tones in your full size print to determine if you need to add any localized low contrast (#0 or #1 filter) burning to bring out further details in those areas.

    In some cases, the negative will be so low in contrast, that it will be necessary to start with a higher grade filter (#3?) to get decent mid-tones.

    In other cases, the negative will be so high in contrast, that it will be necessary to start with a lower grade filter (#0 or #1?) to get decent mid-tones.

    To my mind, the mid-tones are the most important.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  7. #27
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    Gary, why don't you run some tests? Get a grey scale test strip like the Kodak charts, and then photograph a roll of it at different speeds. Develop it, and then find out where everything lies. Are you correctly exposing for 1600? Or are you rating for 1600, and then once in a while you're two stops below that, at 6400? Some films just won't push beyond a certain point, and you just need more light to get the film to function correctly.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbenson View Post
    Could you give me a little more detail about this? The only multi-filter technique I've used so far has been to expose at grade 5 just enough to get a black (or a little less), then expose at 0 to get the midtones where I want them (dodging and burning the 0 exposure only). Is what you mean?

    I put one of the pictures at http://inauspicious.org/photos/lm6/038/14/. That's just a straight print at grade 5, with just enough exposure for the blacks to be black. Note that my scanner puts a really odd tiger-stripey pattern in dark areas, that's not on the print. There is actually detail--just--in the woman's clothes and in the shadowed area to the left of her head, but they are probably a bit blocked up. I don't really know a lot about dodging and burning, the only thing I would think to do here is burn the spotty wall to the right at 0 to lower the contrast on it, and maybe burn the buildings and sky to the top left as I think they're distracting. What initially prompted me to post, though, was that the picture was already too dark all over in the grade 5 exposure... usually they end up black and white and nothing inbetween!
    This shot seems like it should print incredibly contrasty at grade 5. It's already a hard angled light shot, with inherent natural contrast. I think your G5 filter is acting more like a G2/3.
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbenson View Post
    Could you give me a little more detail about this? The only multi-filter technique I've used so far has been to expose at grade 5 just enough to get a black (or a little less), then expose at 0 to get the midtones where I want them (dodging and burning the 0 exposure only). Is what you mean?

    I put one of the pictures at http://inauspicious.org/photos/lm6/038/14/. That's just a straight print at grade 5, with just enough exposure for the blacks to be black. Note that my scanner puts a really odd tiger-stripey pattern in dark areas, that's not on the print. There is actually detail--just--in the woman's clothes and in the shadowed area to the left of her head, but they are probably a bit blocked up. I don't really know a lot about dodging and burning, the only thing I would think to do here is burn the spotty wall to the right at 0 to lower the contrast on it, and maybe burn the buildings and sky to the top left as I think they're distracting. What initially prompted me to post, though, was that the picture was already too dark all over in the grade 5 exposure... usually they end up black and white and nothing inbetween!
    You're describing the type of split grade printing (although usually the soft grade exposure is first) in which only the softest and hardest filters are used in succession to essentially build an intermediate grade. That technique can sometimes be useful to help with what I'm suggesting, although it is not my preferred way of working.

    Since you've indicated you don't have a lot of experience, and in light of the scan you posted, I suggest backing up a little, instead of going right into a split grade approach. Start simple and be methodical. I still prefer the basic approach favoured by Ansel Adams and later taken up by many other master printers.

    The thread began with you asking how you could get more contrast. The scan you posted looks too contrasty to me, although this might be the look you're after, in which case I cannot argue with it. When you have a negative you suspect will be difficult to work with, I would suggest starting with a test strip at a relatively soft grade compared to what you think might ultimately be necessary. Maybe try grade 2 in this case. It will help you see what is in the negative (eg are shadows empty or do they have weak detail which might be brought out? Are the highlights blown out or do they have detail? etc). Try to find an exposure at grade 2 which gives you some decent light tones. Then look at the dark tones. Are they dark enough? Is there enough contrast in them? Do they look muddy? If you need more contrast, switch to a higher filter, say grade 3, and try the same exposure again. You might end up finding a single filter works, giving you good highs and lows. Then you look at individual areas and begin making decisions about whether certain areas need to be lightened (dodged) or darkened (burned in). Start with that same exposure and filter and work on selectively blocking light from certain areas, and then adding more light to other areas after the basic exposure. You keep refining things from there, step by step. You might end up deciding there is not enough contrast in the shadows when you lighten them, and they lose their solidity. Then you can start to think about dodging them a little during the basic exposure and burning them back down with a higher filter, or switching to a split-printing approach.

    The techniques get progressively more complicated and require practice, but you might not need to go that far with every print, so it is always best for an inexperienced printer to start each print with the basics instead of skipping right away to a trickier technique which might not be required. You'd be surprised how far you can go with basic burning and dodging at a single grade if you are careful, practice and become great at it.

  10. #30

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    My experience is that negatives that require grade 5 paper almost never give a decent print. Even trying digital tricks generally fails.

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