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  1. #1

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    how can one develop a decent photograph at grade 1 or 2?

    honestly, i've been asking this myself for quite some time now. and reading all that talk on here about the low gradations and that the zone system is there to make negatives printable at grade 2.
    i can't get a decent black at grade 1 or 2. i usually start at grade 3 and print at 4 most of the time, many times at 5.
    i've done my fair share of zone system testing and while my negatives aren't perfect, i don't think they are that far off.
    i get good shadow detail at low gradation, but it's all a mushy grey. looks awful to my eye. grade 4 looks way better, better separation, sharper and deep blacks.

    i'd have to add, i like the prints of w. eugene smith a lot and think that's what a good print should look like. so i am a fan of contrasty images. but is this the answer? or is there something wrong with my process?

    btw. does someone know at which grade w.e. smith printed his work? i tried to find out, but couldn't find any info on that.
    according to his article in "darkroom" by lustrum press, he used polycontrast f paper (from kodak, i think). this seems to be variable contrast paper, so i doesn't say anything about the grade he printed at.

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    The paper grade will depend on the contrast of the negatives, the paper, the developer, the light source, the degree of enlargement, and potentially the lens and other factors like fog and reflection in the darkroom.

    If you find you always need grade 3, there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to target your negs to grade 2, then increase your film development time. If you always have to print at grade 4, then you might run out of room at some point, so it would be better to find a film development time that produces negs that print well at grade 2 or 3.

    If you shoot 35mm, there is a case for targeting to grade 3, because a thinner negative will show less grain.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  3. #3
    Ole
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    I can't answer, but I generally use grade 2 or 1. Rarely 0, extremely rarely 3.

    I generally use unfiltered MC for test prints, and graded for final prints.

    I get enough contrast and separation, and my blacks are certainly black enough. Maybe I just develop more?
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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  4. #4

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    maybe it's the water here.
    my development times are usually a lot longer than those suggested on the box or at internet sources (digitaltruth, unblinkingeye...).
    i develop trix at 200asa for 9,5minutes in hc110 dil. H.
    and 400asa for 17min. -- for n-development.
    (although i don't agitate much, 3 inversions every 3 minutes)

    i should run a test using distilled water.

    edit: thanks for the replies & suggestions.
    Last edited by phritz phantom; 12-21-2006 at 03:55 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5
    Ole
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    I don't use Tri-X, I don't like the negatives it gives me...

    But with FP4+, Hp5+, APX100, Delta 100, Efke 25 and 50 I just follow the instructions for Ilfotec HC (at the moment) or any other developer. I usually give about 10% extra since my 35mm/MF enlarger has a diffuser (colour) head; but now I've got in the habit so I do the same with LF films which are to be printed in a condenser enlarger. I feel I get better results when taming a "slightly high" contrast than when I try to force life into a flat negative.

    I'm not saying this is the correct way to do it, only that this is the way I prefer to work.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by phritz phantom View Post
    maybe it's the water here.
    my development times are usually a lot longer than those suggested on the box or at internet sources (digitaltruth, unblinkingeye...).
    i develop trix at 200asa for 9,5minutes in hc110 dil. E.
    and 400asa for 17min. -- for n-development.
    (although i don't agitate much, 3 inversions every 3 minutes)

    i should run a test using distilled water.

    edit: thanks for the replies & suggestions.
    I would try increasing the developing time to 18 or 21 minutes for the TRI-X at 200, making no other changes in your process until you can print the test results and evaluate them. It sounds like your negs are seriously under developed, especially with the reduced agitation. See if this will get you the contrast you need with your chosen paper. If you have too much contrast, reduce your dev time by 15% on the next roll, or increase your dev time by 15% if the contrast still needs to come up. Change only one variable at a time, and you will get to where you need to be a lot faster than if you make a bunch of changes at once.

    W. Eugene Smith manipulated the hell out of his prints, so you need to find a film speed and dev time to give a straight unmanipulated print from your negs that will get you into the ballpark before you try a lot of dodging, burning, bleaching or other manipulations.

    Hope this helps....

    Mike Sullivan
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    The buffalo is empty!!!



  7. #7

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    funny, i was just thinking about doing the opposite thing, after trying to tame highlights in a night photo. to underdevelop as standard and open the highlights with bleach. but i haven't tried yet.

    i was developing a concert photo lately, a situation which is known for contrasty images, and i was printing at grade 4 as well.

    i shoot medium format, 6x7, mostly trix. have a colour head enlarger too (durst m707). various papers (all at high grades).
    and i do check my negatives with a densitometer. and although i could never get it perfectly right and repeatable, my negatives are usually in the normal contrast range, I: 0,10, VIII: 1,10 (trix 200asa, 9,5 min. hc110 dil.h).

    here's a link to the concert pic. this is a scan from negative, then treated in photoshop. i printed the real one on kentmere paper at grade 4 and it looks pretty similar.
    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c367/phritz/wh01.jpg
    Last edited by phritz phantom; 12-21-2006 at 03:55 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
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    Interestingly enough, I have never seen this mentioned before on APUG, but at one time, most paper manufacturers suggested the use of grade 3 as the standard for enlarging due to the flare encountered when enlarging negatives.

    And, they suggested going up in contrast grade as magnification increased.

    Has anyone else heard of this from way back when?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Engineer View Post
    Interestingly enough, I have never seen this mentioned before on APUG, but at one time, most paper manufacturers suggested the use of grade 3 as the standard for enlarging due to the flare encountered when enlarging negatives.

    And, they suggested going up in contrast grade as magnification increased.

    Has anyone else heard of this from way back when?
    This is what I was taught in college, I consider grade 3 normal grade 2 soft and grade 4 hard. But each lens is a little differnt, and I do find a differnce in enlager heads, my ancient Omega cold light, grade 4 is normal, my point sorce for 35 grade 2 is normal.

  10. #10
    Robert Hall's Avatar
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    I have printed my roll film on a condenser enlarger with a contrasty enlarging lens at grades 3 to 3 1/2 for years. I find that it gives me really good contrast at that stage.

    I would expect thin negatives with that little of agitation. Do a test roll with the same time and agitate twice every 30 seconds and try a print. I think this will give you an idea of how the development goes.

    Most times on Digital truth are for those who agitate much more than every few minutes.
    Robert Hall
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    Technology is not a panacea. It alone will not move your art forward. Only through developing your own aesthetic - free from the tools that create it - can you find new dimension to your work.

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