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  1. #1

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    Processing Pan-F+ using DDX and controlling overall contrast

    Hi,

    Having searched through the existing forum posts on Pan-F+ and reading the general advice on Pan-F+ I've a couple of questions for those developing in DDX. I'm also a relative newcomer to traditional photography so the answer to some of these questions may be down to general technique.

    I started experimenting with 35mm film photography in the Winter time so I've been doing most of my photography indoor and in low light (energy saver bulbs in pubs etc). After some experimenting with Delta 3200 I'm now using Delta 400 (metered at 1600) and push processed for around 12 mins (short of the 13.5 mins recommended in the Ilford guides). This gives me a negative with a nice contrast which I can print around grade 2 using multigrade filters on 8" x 10" paper (image size approx 6.6" by 10") on either my LPL 6600 or C6700 enlargers.

    Now we've got some good weather in the UK I've just run my first roll of Pan-F+ through my Spotmatic - metering for the main part at 50 ASA using a Pentax Digital Spotmeter and my limited experience of the Zone System. I've developed it in DDX at 22 deg for 6.30mins using a spiral tank and Ilford's recommendations for agitation and found the resulting negatives need printing using a grade 1/2 (half) filter on 8" x 10" paper.

    For a first attempt I'm quite pleased with the results and overall image quality but I now need some advice to tame the contrast by a filter grade or so.

    Solutions posted so far range from reducing agitation, shortening development time and/or metering at a different speed which is a quite a few variables to begin with.

    So for those of you who use Pan-F+ and DD-X, how do I reduce the contrast so I can print at around grade 2 at 8" x 10"? What combinations of EI/development time/agitation work well for you?

    There's a couple of flatbed scans of the 8x10's below (which haven't had any post-processing apart from minor tweeks to try and match the physical print's black/white points) to give an idea of where I'm at exposure wise.

    On a more general point - how many of you tailor your exposure/development to give an expected amount of contrast at a predetermined final print size - ie expose/develop specifically for negative size, 6" x 4", 8" x 10", 16" x 12"?

    Any comments or suggestions greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Matt

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Metered at 50 ASA (darkest foliage shadow details on Zone 3) - 1/15 sec at f9 (including one-stop added for Hoya HD circular polariser).
    Print exposed for 64 seconds at grade 1/2 (half) on 8"x10".

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Spotmatic meter - 1/60sec at f2.8.
    Print exposed for 48 seconds at grade 1/2 (half) on 8"x10".

  2. #2

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    You'll get all sorts of different answers to a question like this. Based on the scans it looks like you're doing fine so far.

    Here are a few thoughts on Pan F+ assuming you use DDX (an excellent developer) without getting too complicated:

    1. It is always important to keep the inherent characteristics of a film (and developer) in mind when shooting a scene. Pan F+ is inherently more contrasty than medium speed films, so to some extent you have to accept that if it is the film you want to use, particularly if the lighting conditions are contrasty to begin with (as is the case in your first scan). For example if the lighting is contrasty it is ok to end up on grade 1 rather than grade 2.

    2. Reducing contrast by reducing agitation/increasing dilution with a general purpose solvent developer such as DDX will generally require more substantial changes in process than people think. It can also change film speed, and will change image structure characteristics.

    3. The easiest thing to do is simply reduce development time to reduce the contrast index. DDX tends to give good film speed, but generally as you reduce development time you may find you need to give a little more exposure. You'll have to test for yourself. Start by reducing development time by 30s or 60s and go from there. Based on your scans it doesn't appear drastic measures are required.
    Last edited by Michael R 1974; 07-30-2013 at 09:26 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: typos

  3. #3
    Colin Corneau's Avatar
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    You could pull the film too...rate it slightly lower than box speed and develop accordingly.

    Personal taste is what it is -- I love Pan F+ and never found it too contrasty, but then again my tastes run to snappier, contrasty images.
    "Never criticize someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes. That way, you're a mile away and you've got their shoes."

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  4. #4
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    As Michael has stated, reducing developing time is the easiest way to reduce overall negative contrast.

    I advise to do a test, where you expose your film like you normally do, one entire roll of a 'typical' scene. Cut the film in thirds before you process, and develop only one third at a time, at different developing times. 6m30s for the first, to give you a reference to what you have done so far. Develop the next one at 6m flat, and if that contrast reduction isn't enough, try the last third at 5m30s. At one minute less time, you will have reduced developing time by roughly 15%, which should help you.

    If you still have too much negative contrast, shoot one more roll and do it over until you find a developing time that works for you.


    With that said, the contrast in your first print (church/chapel) is really very low. I see no bright whites, and also no deep blacks. It may be a trick of viewing it on screen, but to me it seems way too low in contrast.
    The shot of the baby is not as bad, but lacking severely in print contrast to have much visual impact.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

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  5. #5

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    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for the reply - the test roll idea is a good one which I'll definitely put into practice.

    The scans are a bit hit and miss - what you describe seeing on screen is kind of what I've got on the physical print.

    When I print at grade 2 I get lots of lows and highs but no midtones - I've reduced contrast to grade 1/2 (half) (ideally this would be zero) to give me better range of midtones but now I'm only seeing the middle part of the exposure curve (loss of lows and highs). Any small adjustment of contrast filter results in a huge contrast shift when printing. My thinking to give me more control is to reduce the contrast in the negative and give me a more gentle exposure curve with which to print with.

    Thanks again,

    Matt

  6. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    OK. As long as you find something that works for you. With your prints, you could try at Grade 1 and Grade 1.5 filtration also. The difference between Grade 0.5 and 2 should be a fair bit, but not as crazy as you describe. Are your contrast filters fresh?
    "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

  7. #7
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    To test the filters, try making a print with just white light, and then one with grade two filter. Exposure time will be different, but contrast should be largely identical.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk 2
    "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

  8. #8

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    I use two LPL enlargers set up next to each other - the condenser uses the multigrade filters and the colour enlarger is the dichroic type. Both give pretty similar results on the church print after adjusting exposure length. The scans came from the colour enlarger and I might try and reprint them with a few grades in between 1/2 and 1 using the dial-in filtration. I might just check all the drop-in filters though as they were a second-hand buy.

    "The scans are a bit hit and miss - what you describe seeing on screen is kind of what I've got on the physical print." - from my previous post, I was trying to say (rather badly) that the effect you describe is correct but not as extreme as saying that the contrast is really low. On the print where I would like it to be black it's a very dark grey, and the highlight on the clouds doesn't quite reach paper white - same with the picture of my baby girl (chairback in the top left corner and highlights from the window next to her).

    I'm pretty confident that with a little less development I'm going to be able to get a more controllable final print and get the midtones that I'm looking for.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply and for the suggestions.

    Best wishes,

    Matt

  9. #9
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Matt,

    The reason I was persistent is that the difference between Grade 0.5 and 1 is about the same as between Grade 2.5 and 3. So even if you get a negative with less contrast in it, the dynamic of the contrast filters is roughly going to be the same, regardless of where on the contrast scale you end up, if that makes sense.

    But, it's a good thing to see what happens when we develop the negative to different contrast indices, so see what effect it has on the print. How the negative affects the print is, to me, one of the most wonderful things to understand, and learning how to control it is the best thing that has ever happened to my darkroom printing. It makes everything so much easier and predictable.

    Have fun, and good luck!
    "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

  10. #10

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    Hi Thomas,

    I think I see what you're getting at regarding the dynamic of the contrast filters - a half grade difference is a half grade difference wherever it's applied.

    Would it be correct to say though that if you begin with more mid-tone detail on the negative (less gradient on the exposure curve) and then increased the contrast that you would retain more detail in the mid-tones than if you began with a steep gradient on the exposure curve and expanded that by decreasing contrast?

    I agree all this is fascinating and for me being able to portray light the way silver prints do and being able to do this at home is quite an amazing thing.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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