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  1. #11
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    I'm with markbarendt - it's better to have a full contrast negative than a severe shoulder. That highlight compression makes it MORE difficult for me to create a print with good texture in the highlights than one that is dense but has good definition of tones.

    To the OP: The choice of developer is one that you should be making based on what tonality you can achieve. That is the most important thing. And that negative tone curve should ideally fit what your photo paper is capable of. This way you have much less headache in the darkroom while printing, and a LOT less waste of paper. Sometimes it turns out so well that the negatives print themselves. DD-X is great because it has a lot of energy, gives great shadow detail, and is still keeping it sharp with moderately fine grain. You can't really go wrong with it.

    The grain that a developer produces is actually not that big of a difference from one developer to the next - IF you develop the negatives to the same contrast. Seriously - try it some time. You'll be surprised how little difference there is. But you may also be surprised at how different the tonality is.
    Grain is something you see when you press your eye to the print surface. Tonality SCREAMS at you from across a room. Never forget that.
    "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

  2. #12
    Regular Rod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    I'm with markbarendt - it's better to have a full contrast negative than a severe shoulder. That highlight compression makes it MORE difficult for me to create a print with good texture in the highlights than one that is dense but has good definition of tones.

    To the OP: The choice of developer is one that you should be making based on what tonality you can achieve. That is the most important thing. And that negative tone curve should ideally fit what your photo paper is capable of. This way you have much less headache in the darkroom while printing, and a LOT less waste of paper. Sometimes it turns out so well that the negatives print themselves. DD-X is great because it has a lot of energy, gives great shadow detail, and is still keeping it sharp with moderately fine grain. You can't really go wrong with it.

    The grain that a developer produces is actually not that big of a difference from one developer to the next - IF you develop the negatives to the same contrast. Seriously - try it some time. You'll be surprised how little difference there is. But you may also be surprised at how different the tonality is.
    Grain is something you see when you press your eye to the print surface. Tonality SCREAMS at you from across a room. Never forget that.
    Surely that is easier to do if all the information has been preserved in the negative instead of being overdeveloped and lost through blocking?

    Those compensating developers and the semi-stand regime for the agitation make it more likely, well they do for me...


    To answer the OP's question DDX is more expensive than many developers and certainly more expensive than many of the make-it-yourself recipes such as 510-PYRO, CAFFENOL (and its variants) and OBSIDIAN AQUA etc., etc. So maybe that is one reason why more people don't use or recommend DDX?


    RR

  3. #13
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Regular Rod View Post
    Surely that is easier to do if all the information has been preserved in the negative instead of being overdeveloped and lost through blocking?

    Those compensating developers and the semi-stand regime for the agitation make it more likely, well they do for me...
    You misunderstand. I can usually make negatives that print very well with very little darkroom gymnastics. But if I'm presented with having a compressed negative, then I'm tasked with stretching those tones back out to feature good contrast again, which means I'd have to somehow apply a higher contrast in those parts. That, to me, is more difficult than to have a negative of high density highlights, but with normal contrast, and burn in that area.

    That, to me is very basic darkroom printing. Compressed highlights are, to me, more difficult to deal with than a full range of tones with normal contrast, even if they don't immediately fit on the paper tone curve. Compressed highlights carry with them the burden of needing contrast adjustment at the printing stage, while a normal contrast with dense highlights just require burning, which is super easy to do. See what I mean?
    "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

  4. #14

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    There are many general purpose developers and each has it's own aficionados. But in actuality they are all capable of producing negatives which print well. People tend to buy what is economical and readily available.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  5. #15
    Shawn Dougherty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Regular Rod View Post
    Surely that is easier to do if all the information has been preserved in the negative instead of being overdeveloped and lost through blocking?
    RR
    I think the confusion lies in the definition of "blocking". Highlights which do not fit onto the paper in a straight print are not blocked. Most modern films can handle a long scale scene quite well (a much longer scale than paper), they simply need burning in at the printing stage, as Thomas writes. Highlights become blocked when the exposure and development is so extreme that the highlight areas begin to loose contrast / separation / detail in the negative itself.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Dougherty View Post
    I think the confusion lies in the definition of "blocking". Highlights which do not fit onto the paper in a straight print are not blocked. Most modern films can handle a long scale scene quite well (a much longer scale than paper), they simply need burning in at the printing stage, as Thomas writes. Highlights become blocked when the exposure and development is so extreme that the highlight areas begin to loose contrast / separation / detail in the negative itself.
    Exactly.

    Compensation though purposefully compresses the highlights (in essence partially blocking them up by forcing the film to shoulder early). Compensation is used as a compromise so that burning can be avoided.

    Both methods are workable but better contrast in the highlights is generally available with burning because there is better separation of tones on the negative.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Compressed highlights are, to me, more difficult to deal with than a full range of tones with normal contrast, even if they don't immediately fit on the paper tone curve. Compressed highlights carry with them the burden of needing contrast adjustment at the printing stage, while a normal contrast with dense highlights just require burning, which is super easy to do. See what I mean?
    So again, apologies for what might seem like basic questions, but I am trying my best to learn and this has been a great resource so far. I think I might be confusing tonal compression, exposure density, and what actually happens on the shoulder of an emulsion. In the limited amount of printing I have done thus far, it's been easiest when there is clear tonal separation in the highlights that is present in the negative itself. When that has been the case, I find that a slight increase in the contrast filter (if even necessary) gets me the print that I am looking for without having to dodge and burn (as a general rule - again, the new kid on the block and just starting out). Based on what I have read and what I understand, which is what I am trying to confirm, this means that the range of exposure/development on the film falls more or less on the straight line of the curve. My understanding is that, had there been overexposure, the upper zones or highlights would have been pushed on to the shoulder, resulting in little to no separation in the various tones of things like clouds.

    Am I generally on the right path here?

    So, my question is then about the comment that compensating developers essentially force the film to shoulder off sooner and why that would be desirable? Again, based on my understanding at this point, that is likely to make life more difficult as you are likely to lose tonal separation in the highlights of the negative itself, making the printing process more difficult.

    Guys, I really want to stress a couple of things: first, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the help I get on these forums. Compared to certain other sites where the tone is much less friendly (no need to name some of the usual suspects), this just seems like a chat in a bar over a beer with a couple of buds; second, part of my confusion seems to stem from the fact that there is a ton of contradictory information on the internet and the information can be a little difficult to piece together from different sites, books, etc.

    Thanks in advance for all your help.

    -Matt
    "Once the amateur's naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur." - Alfred Eisenstadt

  8. #18
    Regular Rod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewDunn View Post
    So again, apologies for what might seem like basic questions, but I am trying my best to learn and this has been a great resource so far. I think I might be confusing tonal compression, exposure density, and what actually happens on the shoulder of an emulsion. In the limited amount of printing I have done thus far, it's been easiest when there is clear tonal separation in the highlights that is present in the negative itself. When that has been the case, I find that a slight increase in the contrast filter (if even necessary) gets me the print that I am looking for without having to dodge and burn (as a general rule - again, the new kid on the block and just starting out). Based on what I have read and what I understand, which is what I am trying to confirm, this means that the range of exposure/development on the film falls more or less on the straight line of the curve. My understanding is that, had there been overexposure, the upper zones or highlights would have been pushed on to the shoulder, resulting in little to no separation in the various tones of things like clouds.

    Am I generally on the right path here?

    So, my question is then about the comment that compensating developers essentially force the film to shoulder off sooner and why that would be desirable? Again, based on my understanding at this point, that is likely to make life more difficult as you are likely to lose tonal separation in the highlights of the negative itself, making the printing process more difficult.

    Guys, I really want to stress a couple of things: first, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the help I get on these forums. Compared to certain other sites where the tone is much less friendly (no need to name some of the usual suspects), this just seems like a chat in a bar over a beer with a couple of buds; second, part of my confusion seems to stem from the fact that there is a ton of contradictory information on the internet and the information can be a little difficult to piece together from different sites, books, etc.

    Thanks in advance for all your help.

    -Matt

    Put all the shoulder and curve stuff to one side for the moment...


    With roll film it is very easy to end up with several exposures that are quite different from each other. If your exposures were made to ensure that you had some shadow texture, or even shadow detail, there is a very good chance that highlights on those frames will be so exposed that if they are developed "normally" they will end up solid black on the negatives and will have no discernible information in them for you to print, so will be pure white with no texture let alone detail. A way round this is to use a compensating developer and an agitation regime that reduces the amount of development that the highlights get, yet still allows all the other tones to develop fully. This usually consists of taking advantage of the fact that the heavily exposed highlights will exhaust the reducing agent in the developer more quickly than the less exposed areas and so stop developing and not go solid, but the less exposed areas carry on developing to their full values. Stand and semi-stand agitation routines allow you to do this. Some developers are especially good for this regime. A few were mentioned earlier in the thread...


    RR
    Last edited by Regular Rod; 09-27-2013 at 02:12 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  9. #19
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Matt,

    I'll try to explain. There are a couple of things here that are dynamic. The paper and paper developer combination has a certain range. It is s-shaped just like the negative tone curve, so it isn't linear. You want your negative to match that curve as closely as possible, except it will be mirrored, because we are working with negative materials.

    Now, over-exposure raises the tones you record higher up on the film tone curve, but it does not change the shape of it.

    Longer development stretches the shadows and highlights farther apart, increasing total contrast of the negative.
    If you develop too long, the highlights will block up, meaning there is no tone shifts in the highest highlights where there ought to be tone shifts.
    Note that blocking the negative up is NOT the same as having tones in the negative that fall outside the natural range of the paper, and this is the key to everything.

    A shoulder in the negative tone curve simply means that your shadows and mid-tones are developed normally, but the highlights have been 'shrunk' or 'contracted' so that all of the tones fit in a shorter span of range. Because your shadows and midtones are virtually 'normal' you are challenged with addressing only the highlights in the print, and that is, in my experience, difficult.

    Now, there is a shoulder in all films. At some point it shoulders off. It's a characteristic of the emulsion. How the film is developed (agitation and time) will affect the shape of the shoulder and where it is located. When you photograph something with higher contrast, the general advice is to expose more (to record the shadows) and then to develop less. That's all fine and dandy, but you may end up compromising the tone curve.

    THe gist of it is that: Films have the capacity to record very long brightness ranges. Much longer than the paper. That's why paper negatives have such high contrast. If there is detail in the negative, i.e. 'not blocked up' - it can generally be put down on paper. It may require masking, preflashing, split grade printing, etc, and it may be a pain in the neck to do, but usually it can be done.

    So when I say that my 'normal' negatives are calibrated in exposure and development to print well on Grade 2.5 filter in the enlarger, with my paper and my paper developer, it means I have a lot of wiggle room. When contrast is higher it's usually fine to develop normal, because it will still fit on the paper at maybe Grade 1.5 instead. And in the rare case that highlight negative density is so high that I can't make it work at Grade 1.5, it's easy enough to just burn it in. And the key here is that when it gets burned in, it has normal contrast. No trickery needed, just one simple operation.

    Fit film curve to paper curve and you have lots of wiggle room. Get a step wedge and make contact prints of negs and the step wedge side by side to see how you're doing with film development. Adjust as necessary. If you can control that part of the process and make great negatives, compensating development will never be necessary.



    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewDunn View Post
    So again, apologies for what might seem like basic questions, but I am trying my best to learn and this has been a great resource so far. I think I might be confusing tonal compression, exposure density, and what actually happens on the shoulder of an emulsion. In the limited amount of printing I have done thus far, it's been easiest when there is clear tonal separation in the highlights that is present in the negative itself. When that has been the case, I find that a slight increase in the contrast filter (if even necessary) gets me the print that I am looking for without having to dodge and burn (as a general rule - again, the new kid on the block and just starting out). Based on what I have read and what I understand, which is what I am trying to confirm, this means that the range of exposure/development on the film falls more or less on the straight line of the curve. My understanding is that, had there been overexposure, the upper zones or highlights would have been pushed on to the shoulder, resulting in little to no separation in the various tones of things like clouds.

    Am I generally on the right path here?

    So, my question is then about the comment that compensating developers essentially force the film to shoulder off sooner and why that would be desirable? Again, based on my understanding at this point, that is likely to make life more difficult as you are likely to lose tonal separation in the highlights of the negative itself, making the printing process more difficult.

    Guys, I really want to stress a couple of things: first, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the help I get on these forums. Compared to certain other sites where the tone is much less friendly (no need to name some of the usual suspects), this just seems like a chat in a bar over a beer with a couple of buds; second, part of my confusion seems to stem from the fact that there is a ton of contradictory information on the internet and the information can be a little difficult to piece together from different sites, books, etc.

    Thanks in advance for all your help.

    -Matt
    "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. #20
    ROL
    ROL is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Tonality SCREAMS at you from across a room.
    No wonder I'm going deaf. FWIW, I've landed on PMK Pyro (1:2:100) for Pan F+ (examples posted elsewhere on APUG).

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