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Thread: Printing snow

  1. #1
    Kevin Kehler's Avatar
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    Printing snow

    I took several pictures of some snow patterns I found interesting but I am having a very difficult time printing them. I tend to either have flat white with the patterns being almost undecipherable or a muddy grey patterns. I have tried high contrast grades (4-4.5), different paper (Ilford RC pearl and some old Kodak RC glossy) and shortening development times. I am attaching a scan of the negative (which is fairly dense) where the levels have been set to give maximum information.

    Anyone got any special tips for this type of negative? Would solarization give me anything usable?
    Last edited by Kevin Kehler; 06-02-2010 at 03:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.

    Andreas Feininger

  2. #2

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    Hi Kevin, looks like you have tonal separation in the snow,the print here is pretty dark.Shorting devel. time is going the wrong way, shorting the exposer of the print and extending the development will help with the separation of the high tones in the print (snow). Maybe try lower contrast 3 .

  3. #3
    johnnywalker's Avatar
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    To me it just looks underexposed. Straight snow like this requires at least a two stop overexposure from what the meter tells you. Increasing the development time should increase the contrast and make the shadows stand out.
    If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
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  4. #4

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    Johnnywalker, sorry bout the confusing ,I was referring the makeing of the print rather than the neg.

  5. #5

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    Your print exposure should be in between the ones tht gave you "flat white" and "muddy grey". Perhaps you're adjusting your print exposure by too great a margin. That neg should give you a very good first pass on a mid-grade paper, (assuming you haven't tweaked it in scanning) from which you can then adjust paper contrast to taste.

    Bob H
    "Why is there always a better way?"

  6. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Well, snow can be low contrast, in a high key sort of way. You have successfully turned snow into sand, now you need to turn it back into snow. I suggest taking advantage of the highlights and let them go pure white and forget about having anything close to black...let alone a middle gray. Stand out in the snow (I would think Regina would still have some around!) and look at the tonalities. Patterns in the snow should almost be felt rather than seen...it takes a light touch. It looks like you got all the information in the neg...try printing with lower filters.

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  7. #7

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    Kevin,

    You are likely running into a common problem when printing whites: the toe of your paper not giving you the separation you want.

    When you print darker, you move the exposure more onto the straight line portion of the paper's curve, thus yielding more separation, but being generally too dark. Trying to expose less ends up losing detail.

    Printing whites is always tricky like this. You are on the right track playing with exposure and changing papers and grades. What you are searching for is a compromise that is artistically pleasing to you. You need to realize that there are some things that the medium will simply not do, and learn to work within those limitations.

    Here are a couple of ideas that you can play with that might help:
    1. Selenium toning will add some extra density to the print. Print a little light and then tone and see if gives you the added detail.
    2. Bleaching with potassium ferricyanide. Use a weak solution and bleach back a too-dark print. Search here and other forums for info on precise technique and dilutions. I have used this technique successfully on ice pictures, etc.
    3. Intensify the negative. You can do this with selenium toner 1+2 for 5 minutes. This may add enough extra contrast to the negative to give you more separation in the print.
    4. Combinations of the above.

    Also, make sure you evaluate a completely dry print. Sometimes highlight areas on a wet print will show no detail at all. When it dries, the detail shows up.
    And, if you are using RC paper, try some fiber-base paper. This is one area where fiber-base paper excels.

    What you are trying to do is the equivalent of a virtuoso performance. Don't get frustrated, just keep trying.

    Hope this helps some.

    Good luck,

    Doremus Scudder

  8. #8

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    Printing snow is tough, especially with graded paper, in my experience. First off, as Johnnywalker says, be sure the neg is heavy enough. As he says, if you meter the snow, the light meter will want it to be a middle gray (18% reflectance, on average - a whole different topic).
    I have found with snow, that split grade printing helps a lot. I make the first exposure with the low grade, just till I get tonal value in the lightest areas where I want it. Then I come back with a high contrast exposure, not only for the shadows in the image, but to enhance the lower values of the snow that give it texture. Sometimes I need to use a slightly higher filter for the low contrast exposure if I need more separation in the lightest areas. Much trial and error, but way better control than with a single grade paper.

  9. #9
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Might pre-flashing the paper help? If clumped up highlights and contrast is the issue.

    Printing via the split grade method definitely sounds like the best overall approach. What I (and many others, I am sure) do is make a split grade matrix of exposures... exposures with the low contrast filter "A" goes in one direction, and with the second filter "B" in the other, so you get an A versus B matrix. You can figure out the best combination very quickly that way... often in one or two prints.

    The other thing that comes to mind is overexposing the print and then bleaching back (see post #7). You can bleach the whole print or just parts of it- quite a powerful technique, that. You can also intensify local portions by rubbing the developing print with your [warm] fingers... another way to introduce some more tonal detail where there is little.

    P.S. solarization sounds like a cool idea with this one, try it for sure!
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  10. #10

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    Keith,

    Thanks for filling in for my omission. When writing my post I knew there was something I had left out. Preflashing to just under the threshold of the paper will help move things up the curve a bit and may give more detail in the highlights (although the usual effect is to reduce contrast somewhat in the toe area). It may be worth a try. The warm fingers or hot breath treatment might help a little, but I've never been able to see a lot of difference or control it well...

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com

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