I just moved into a new office at work. And today I put my pictures up.
On the wall are five 5x7 Azo contact prints, surrounded by some 11x14 and 16x20 enlargements. I realized this afternoon that this is the first time I have seen Azo contact prints and enlargements side by side in bright, even light.
There is a HUGE difference in both the depth of the blacks and the range that the Azo paper is able to hold. A remarkable difference (and I am a brand new Azo printer). So much so that those little 5x7's make every other print on the wall look pasty.
So with a wide open mind, I ask you...for enlarging...what kind of paper and developer can I use to get deep yet detailed blacks, without losing the highlights, and a nice long range in between? Oh Les...
I have never seen a print made on Azo paper so I don't know exactly what they are like, perhaps I should get some from Michael Smith for I have read a lot that he has said about the special qualities. I hope that what I am about to say does not offend anyone, it is certainly not intended to. I believe that making prints such as you describe, deep blacks long range, can be made on most GOOD quality papers and are likely to equal those made on Azo. Michael, if you read this I am not rubbishing your views.
I have been leading workshops on black and white printing in both the UK and to a less degree in the US for many years and have come to the conclusion that most of the problems relating to prints lacking in depth and sparkle is linked to selection of the wrong paper grade and the reluctance to carry out significant manipulation. Many people wish to make only a straight print on grade 2 paper.
I also think that many photographers are afraid of negative that show higher than normal contrast and believe that they will lose the highlight detail. Many of my prints are made from quite high contrast negatives and on higher paper grades, I often print on grade 4 and 5 and I do hold detail throughout.
To answer your question David, my personal choices are Ilford Warmtone and Oriental Seagull but I know that papers like Forte and Bergger also produce excellent tonal range. I am in the process of testing a new paper by Fotospeed called Elegance and the first quick prints I have made look excellent. I will report back in a few weeks for I am in the process of moving house and my darkroom will be out of commission for the next couple of weeks. I know you have my book and would point you in the direction of chapter 4 for guidance in using developers. I honestly don't think that there is a magic formula or combination of paper/ developer that will automatically produce the print. Your judgement is, in my opinion, the most important factor. Go into your darkroom and push the materials and yourself beyond where you have previously been, I promise you that your prints will improve.
I am a great fan of Paul Caponigro whose prints are the best I have ever seen so I will tell you a little story about him that inspired me. He was visiting Fred Picker who was having difficuty in printing an image of water where the water looked wet. Picker asked Caponigro how to make it look wet. Caponigro said don't come out of the darkroom until it does look wet and then he left. Picker was a bit upset at this answer for he wanted the magic formula, until he realised that Caponigro was saying to him keep trying different combinations and techniques until the water looks wet. Picker went back into the darkroom and several hours later made the water wet.
Very good reply. That account between Picker and Caponigro is in Fred's "The Fine Print" which goes into detail of the thought process and darkroom techniques used for each image, including paper, developers and additives such as potassium bromide, glycin, sodium carbonate and others. It is comparable to Adams Fifty Prints book.
Pushing the limits of the paper are essential. I personally now use Oriental Seagull graded paper and use Dektol, Selectol Soft combinations. But develope the paper from 2 to 5 or 6 minutes. One experiment is to just see how deep a black a paper will produce by over exposing, full development, toning, drying, then comparing.
When printing, even a second in exposure can make a difference. For me, producing a fine print should take at the very least, 4 hours to determin, exposure, proper contrast, burning, dodging, flashing. Then comes the archival procesing, washing. Caponigro insisted on prints that lived, and that takes time and persistence.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
I really hope my question didn't sound either elitist or Michael Smith disciple-like. As I wrote, I never considered the difference until the prints were side by side. It was like the first time I noticed there really is a difference between incandescent light and sunlight. And I seriously wonder if it's not my enlarging technique that is partly or mostly responsible. It may be that I have been so worried about losing detail that I have printed blacks too conservatively.
I have seen Oriental for sale, but in a different package than I once bought years ago. I have so much Agfa and Ilford that I have not bought it yet. Is it the same? And for those who have used it and Ilford and/or Agfa classic, do you think it would be more of what I am looking for?
And Les, I'm heading off to Chapter Four right now.
Thanks again for the input!
The new Oriental paper is definitely not the same as what you bought years ago. I've made contact prints on the old Seagull which, when developed in Dektol, compare favorably to Azo prints developed in amidol. I still have some of this paper and the resurrected Oriental, while excellent, is not as rich. Also good is the Bergger Silver Supreme, which responds to different developers and dilutions of developer in order to alter contrast.
I'm looking for an enlarging paper which makes the enlargement process easy. Azo has spoiled me in this regard. Constant struggle and the use of sheet after sheet of expensive paper just to get one good work print are a thing of the past for me. Even the most stubbornly difficult negative will produce the print I want with no more than 5 sheets of paper. So, in the end, I'll probably go back to Ilford Multigrade, which so far has enabled me to get the best prints quickly. It also has unique toning properties.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Hardening fix would be the last fix I would use. You might try resoaking the print in a non-hardening fix before trying to tone Ilford paper. The cold tone papers from Ilford don't seem to respond to selenium like the warmtone papers do. This is just my observance though and I would not try to defend this statement. You might buy some Kodak Rapid Fix and mix your own and leave out the part B. That will make a non-hardening fix that you can carry to school and use for your own use.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (c6h6o3 @ Mar 19 2003, 07:58 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> The new Oriental paper is definitely not the same as what you bought years ago. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
This is a statement that I have made more than once. I still have some of the old Oriental that I use off and on and this what it looks like to me. The new VC paper is to my eye, a very warm paper. The old vc paper is very cold.
I don't think you are going to find a paper/developer combination to match AZO. On the other hand, it's nice to produce a print larger than 5x7 or 8x10.
I like two fiber VC papers:
Bergger Warm Tone (VCCB) and Agfa Multicontrast Classic, with the Bergger being the better of the two. It provides a really deep warm black and great tonal range.
Are you using pyro for negatives intended for enlargement? While I don't dispute that pryo is best for contacting printing AZO (best combo so far, for me, is BPF in rollo pyro), I've been doing a lot of testing over the last two weeks (rollo pyro, WD2D+, D76 and Rodinal) and am becoming convinced that a "normal" film developer might be best for enlarged prints.
Change of subject, Michael Smith publishes a "amidol for enlarging paper" formula on his website, with no further info. I wonder what such a combination would look like?
My favorite paper is the Forte Polygrade V. I print at the local Jr. College darkroom so I will guess that they use Dektol. I have noticed a difference in the Polygrade RC vs. the Polygrade Fiber with the fiber looking much better.
Another very good paper that I use is the Classic Meuseum paper from Fotoimpex. It is tripple weight fiber base graded paper. I have the grade 2, but I swear that I can get just about any grade I want out of the stuff. Both papers tone very well even when using a hardening fixer.