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Thread: Graded Papers

  1. #1

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    I have been printing on variable contrast papers for some time now. Recently, I began using a split filtration method to control contrast. I have yet to try using graded paper, and I am interested in testing it out.

    My question concerns controlling contrast with these papers. Obviously, there are the various paper grades. However, buying several different grades of paper is not very economical, especially considering that I am not yet sure if graded paper will even suit my style of printing.

    I have some knowledge of the various paper developers and combinations thereof that can be used to control contrast. How do those of you who use graded papers control contrast? Do you have the same control as is offered by using split filtration and variable contrast paper?

    I have just embarked upon large format and will be using mostly 4"x5" negatives now. Do those of you who are using large format contol contrast of your negatives during development?

    Thank you in advance for any help with this topic. As a side note, this is my first post to an APUG forum. I have enjoyed reading your posts and replies, an invaluable resource to the beginning photographer.

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I try to produce fairly consistent negatives, so that I'm usually within grade 2 or 3, and if there's something that really doesn't fit that I have to print, then I can use VC paper.

    That aside, there are methods like water bath development and two-solution development that can be used to get in between grades. Ansel Adams, for instance, controlled contrast by using both Dektol and Selectol Soft, and increasing the proportion of Dektol time for more contrast or the Selectol time for less contrast.

    Another good technique that I use occasionally is intensifying negatives with selenium toner. This can often give you a one zone expansion for a flat neg.

    If you just want to get more sparkle in the highlights, local bleaching is an option with potassium ferricyanide. Yet another method to increase overall contrast is to print a bit dark and then bleach the whole print, which Les McLean has mentioned here and in his recent book.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  3. #3
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    Alex Hawley's Avatar
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    LF gives you the advantage of controlling each negative individually. The overall result, to reiterate what David said, is more consistant negatives, thereby reducing the constrast varaible from neg to neg.

    That leads to more consistant printing results. Slight changes in contrast can be gained by varying the developer and the time in developer, maybe up to but not quite a full grade.

    But, papers vary from brand to brand, even for graded papers. A grade 2 Ilford is not necessarily the same as a grade 2 Seagull. I've tried several papers over the last year and have wound up with a bunch of odds and ends. So, I've decided to finish off all the odds and ends an settle down to one paper and one developer.

    My suggestion is to pick a particular paper brand, by a package of grade 2 and grade 3, pick a developer, and go to it. Stick with that combination for a while until you see something that you think may be better. My most recent discovery is Agfa Neutol WA developer. It does the same job that the Dektol/Selectol Soft combo does but better. IMO, its just about as good as amidol is.

    Bottom line; picking papers and developers is just as rhetorical as films and their developers. But, its fun.

  5. #5
    Ole
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    For many years, I've printed more than 90% of my negatives on VC paper without filtration. So graded paper seemed the natural way to go...

    Due to my inexperience with LF developing I now find that many of the big negatives require something other than grade 2, but I still use graded paper - mostly in grade 2.

    The way I have found of doing this is by developing heavily overexposed paper in highly dilute developer - lith printing is only one version of this. It is very important that the developer contains only one single developing agent, otherwise everything is lost.

    I find that I can print negatives which would be suitable for alternative processes on just about any paper in this way - one negative that is too contrasty for van Dyke gives beautiful results on Fortezoo grade 3!
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by H. G. Hart
    Do you have the same control as is offered by using split filtration and variable contrast paper?
    .
    Considering you've got the choice of putting grade 0 and grade 6 on the same piece of VC paper with spilt filtration you'll never do that with graded paper.

  7. #7
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert
    Considering you've got the choice of putting grade 0 and grade 6 on the same piece of VC paper with spilt filtration you'll never do that with graded paper.
    I don't entirely agree with this - with creative use of burning and dodging you can do much the same with dilute developers...
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  8. #8

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    [quote="H. G. Hart"]

    I have some knowledge of the various paper developers and combinations thereof that can be used to control contrast. How do those of you who use graded papers control contrast? Do you have the same control as is offered by using split filtration and variable contrast paper?

    I have just embarked upon large format and will be using mostly 4"x5" negatives now. Do those of you who are using large format contol contrast of your negatives during development?
    quote]

    H.G.,

    As others have stated there are a number of different methods at arriving at a fine print with graded paper. I have found for myself that it is less wasteful and more productive to begin to develop a workable system based upon a knowledge of the materials that I am using.

    When I use graded paper today, I take the time to learn the characteristics of the materials that I use. In the case of a particular paper and grade I start with the paper and expose the paper to a 21 step calibrated Stouffer tablet. I then process the paper normally to determine what the exposure scale of the paper is. By determining the number of steps of the step tablet that have been exposed, I can then determine the density range that my camera negative must have in order to work with this paper. I follow the paper testing by the testing of my film to determine development times to arrive at that negative density range under normal, normal plus, and normal minus situations. When this is done the negative will print more easily with less of the various darkroom efforts to arrive at a suitable final result.

    As Alex stated...not all papers are the same exposure scale at a given grade. I have found as much as .20 difference in exposure scale between two papers (of different manufacture but the same grade) that I recently tested.

    If you have questions regarding this testing procedure there are several here who would be able to help you with it. Good luck.

  9. #9
    ann
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    I have been using graded paper for a very long time and have no interest in changing. My negatives are consistence and made to fit the paper and light source. Occasionally, to change the contrast or work with a negative that "missed" the following options are used.
    Carbonate solution will increase contrast, 10% solution of Bromide will also increase contrast but decrease paper speed. A combination of the two can be used.
    ANother method is to underexposure and then overdevelop which will raise the contrast about 1/2 grade.
    A change of paper and developer will influence the final look along with the toner.
    My students use RC papers, moving to fiber MC and then a few use graded paper. MC papers certainly have a place in the tool box and when graded paper (if) goes away I will be making a change but until then I am very happy with my choices for my personal work.

  10. #10
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    When one shoots primarily the same kind of thing and has good control over the lighting, it is easy to get consistant contrast ranges. Using development expansion and contraction can also keep a negative in the grade 2 paper range. Graded papers are easily pushed or pulled one grade using different chemistry - All these have been mentioned - There are those situations where the light meter lied - lens flare in the lightmeter (even in the expensive and good ones) - some unusual lighting challenge. Now your negative is hopelessly flat or thin. So VC paper is probably the only thing you can use. The frequency of occurance of these situations is less for those that have many years of experience. I am still building that experience myself. The good news is that I don't look at every scene and say - "I already shot that one" It is in the shooting of these scenes that the need for VC paper can be reduced. Dodging and burning will always be required at times as manipulation to get an image to conform to what we visualize the image should be.
    Frank
    My photos are always without all that distracting color ...

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