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  1. #1
    mfohl's Avatar
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    Great shadow detail

    Hello Folks, I'm not sure this is the right group for this, but I'm sure I'll find out if it's not.

    When I look at some older (30s, 40s, etc.) street and documentary photos, like FSA stuff, I notice that there is terrific shadow detail and seemingly low contrast. When I shoot people scenes outdoors, I have high contrast owing to bright sunlight, which makes for really dark shadows.

    So I'm going to try to fix that by overexposing and underdeveloping. I normally shoot Tri-X with an EI of 250, and I now develop in D-76 mixed one to one with water (now that my Microdol-X is no longer available). I develop for about 10 minutes at 68-70 degrees. And I'm going to expose at 125, which should give me better shadow density. Does anybody have any experience or suggestions about development times? I'm thinking maybe a 25-30% reduction?

    Any input would be appreciated.

    Tnx,

    -- Mark

  2. #2
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    You may actually not get more shadow detail, but it'll get easier to print it, most likely. It also depends on how you meter the scene. If you use a spot meter and take readings in the shadows, you should be able to get ample shadow detail at EI 400. If you do incident metering, depending on the difference between the brightest tone on the people and the darkest tone on the people, you may have to overexpose a lot and reduce development.

    25-30% less development time might be a bit too much reduction, but try it and see how the negatives print. If you find you need more contrast, increase development time somewhat until it looks right.
    "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

  3. #3

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    Negative for scan and negative for print usually require different workflow.
    In my opinion TriX + d76 is very far away from the 30s look especially if You only scan.
    You might wanna try the slow Efke / Adox films + Agfa Atomal / Adox Atomal 49 or any compensating developer, in the print department Efke Emaks / Adox Nuance would do the job.

  4. #4
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    Mark,
    what lenses are you shooting with?

    I'm thinking the older lenses gave a bit better shadows due to the coatings not being as advanced as todays modern biting lenses?
    Could this be a factor?

  5. #5
    David Allen's Avatar
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    My recommendation is to use a simple two-bath developer. All my work is done in the urban environment (but not traditional 'street photography') and I simply meter the darkest area that I wish to retain shadow detail and place that area on Zone III (I have tested my personal EI and this is 200 with Delta 400 in the two-bath developer). I never have to worry about the highlights as they are retained by the compensating effect of the developer.

    As an example, there is a photograph called 'Greifswalder Stra▀e, 2011' on my website in the gallery called 'Berlin Prenzlauer Berg 2011' that had a metered tonal range of 10 stops between the shadow at the bottom right and the white door (which has tone on the real print). The shadow was metered and placed on Zone III and the film was developed in Barry Thornton's two-bath for 4.5 minutes in each bath. The negative prints straight at grade 3 on Adox Fine Print Vario-Classic glossy fibre paper developed for 3.5 minutes in Dokumol at 1 + 6. The actual final print was made on Grade 4 with a couple of seconds at Grade 2 on the brightest highlights as I wanted a more 'punchy' look.

    Thornton's developer contains only minimal ingredients, is easy and cheap to make and I would recommend it highly. In contrast, over exposing and pulling the development with conventional developers delivers muddy mid-tones in my opinion/for my tastes.

    Best of luck with your photography..

    David
    www.dsallen.de

  6. #6
    jp498's Avatar
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    I'd suggest bracketing a scene and then trying a pyro or compensating developer.

    Less agitation will provide some of those compensating lower contrast qualities, as long as you don't cut back so much as to produce uneven development or insufficient development.

    With PMK, I can expose for the shadows and not worry about the highlights, as the highlights develop/print differently with such a developer. To maintain film speed pyrocat-HD will deliver rich shadows, but with my personal use, it maintains more contrast than PMK.

    As for printing, I find FB paper sometimes provides nicer shadow detail than RC paper. The plastic smoothness isn't so well suited to shadows as it is to midtones and highlights. Having a consistent time in the print developer is important too. You don't want to pull it before it's done developing, as that will hurt the shadows. Expose the print right so it can develop to completion.
    Last edited by jp498; 03-06-2012 at 09:35 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by brucemuir View Post
    Mark,
    what lenses are you shooting with?

    I'm thinking the older lenses gave a bit better shadows due to the coatings not being as advanced as todays modern biting lenses?
    Could this be a factor?
    I would say YES. Older lenses are better in those regards and in a few others I care about, glow, bloom, flare etc. etc.
    Hook them with a hood and good set of filters and You are on the path.

  8. #8
    ROL
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    1. Avoid shooting in high contrast, full sun and closed shadow situations. You may have to make a choice, shadow or highlight detail, when the contrast range exceeds your film's latitude. Since you have not provided specific photographic examples, I will go out on a limb and suggest that you are looking at harsh, Depression (I) oriented "dark city" oriented stuff (Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, etc.), where highlight detail may have been subjugated, not necessarily the full contrast you will find in brightly lit western landscapes (Adams).
    2. Learn (and use) the Zone System. It is a logical and proven approach to exposing film, developing, and printing in normal, low, and high contrast lighting.
    The exposure and developing schemes you currently employ, while a good start, aren't likely to ensure the results you're after. Chemistry alone, is unlikely to get you the results you desire. Some VC papers may allow you to close in on your goal. But nothing beats a good negative, exposed with the scene in mind (previsualized), developed accordingly, and executed on paper (by employing the (a) ZS).

  9. #9
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    I've always been curious about the old FSA photos. Was the film different back then? I've heard of old emulsions like Kodak Super XX has thicker emulsions which was better for compensating developers. Does anybody know if old style film emulsions made a difference with shadow detail? Or maybe old school photographers are more skilled than today's. No chimping with old school cameras.

  10. #10
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    It is for sure true that lenses were different back then. I often use a 50mm Summitar f/2 lens, and the shadows are a lot more open than with a modern Nokton, for example.

    That is a big difference that I didn't catch to mention in my first response. Modern lenses have a lot more contrast, so overexposing by as much as two or three stops could help you get all of the shadows off the toe of the film if you use a more modern lens. The highlights would have been different as well, with the lenses a lot more prone to flare. A lot of this can be avoided with a great shade, of course, while putting a filter on them will possibly also help in eliminating some UV problems, etc.

    Also consider that films back then probably didn't have as sophisticated antihalation properties. Shoot a film like Foma 200 or Foma 400, which still have some of that old highlight bloom that Tri-X 400 and TMax films don't have today, and you might get even closer in results.

    But I also wonder if some of what you see isn't also how it's presented on the web. I've visited many photo exhibitions with photographs of Gordon Parks and Dorothea Lange, for example, and the prints are full of really rich, deep, and borderline charcoal toned blacks as well, which is difficult to reproduct online on a monitor.

    Finally, the prints were made on all sorts of media. Silver gelatin was just one of them, but a lot of the negatives back then were developed to much higher density and contrast to suit the materials available then.
    Look at this picture by Dorothea Lange, for example: http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fs...0/8b32429v.jpg
    Source, The Library of Congress. There is flare all over the place, borderline blocked up highlights, but also some pretty deep and impressive blacks.
    "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

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