having both les's book and barnbaum's, the polarity of approaches verges on the humorous. but....both take into account the deceptive appearnce of a wet print in the fixer and both deal with it effectively.
though barnbaum's solution (using a dim light and only later a bright one to evaluate a still wet print after squeegeing to allow for one's eyes and psyche to adapt after more than 10 minutes under the safelight ) seems sound, my 50 something eyes are not so easily calibrated that i can be assured that this technic will be effective consistently.
les's solution takes more time at first and is just one more of the endless 'calibrations' that seem to loom in either traditional or digital print making, but then it's kinda 'push button' until the next batch of paper needs re-evaluating.
what pleases me is to have two thorough explanations of the problem and two useful solutions. thanks to both of these guys!
The "drydown" effect is caused by the paper shrinking as it dries out. Stopping the shrinkage by tapeing the paper to a glass sheet alleviates the problem, and gives a very flat print as well. If anyone is interested I can give a more complete description of the method. The method was well described in "Camera & Darkroom" a few years ago.
what about the microwave? It's how I judge my test strips, and provided that they have been fixed properly, it seems to work very well. It may not be dead on (and maybe it is) , but it eliminates a lot of the guess work.
I just made a few prints friday, innaugurating my home darkroom, and looking at the prints today, I'm 'very pleased with the microwave method . In fact, I just compared a test strip with a 2 day old afga multigrade print, and could see no difference. (but this is the only test stip that did not get thrown away, and it has very little highlights in it).
Any good reasons not to microwave test strips?
I've seen a video of Ansel Adams doing it, by the way.
This is a question for Les: I use PolymaxII RC glossy (neutral black) paper and sometimes I feel that I'm witnessing no dry down effect at all after viewing completely wet then completely dry. Is this possible or it is so slight that my eyes do not perceive it? I still continue the good practice of getting it dry and viewing in white light (with "Reveal Bulbs") before deciding on pertinent changes.
RC paper being plastic has little or no drydown for the base does not shrink as it dries. I have to say that I have virtually no experience with RC papers, I hate them, this comment is based on information given to me by technical staff of both Ilford and Kodak.
Originally Posted by Chuck1
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I was fooling around with lith printing the other night, and saw a great difference between RC and fiber paper. Light tones on fiber paper didn't appear until the paper was dry, while the RC didn't change at all. Wetting a discarded fiber print (drawing a line with a wet finger) showed the reverse effect, a truly astonishing lightening of the values. But only on the fiber paper - the same test on RC showed very little change. Not zero, only very, very little.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
That's interesting to hear Ole. I'm simply not set up for FB printing. It really boils down to a savings in water for washing and a savings in time. I print from my kitchen at night and would find using FB papers very difficult to deal with. I must say though, I have seen some very nicely done RC prints from photographers that are much more experienced than me. I have plans to convert a spare bedroom in my house to a dedicated darkroom, maybe I'll be able to delve into FB printing some day.
The single biggest challenge for me for Fiber was to flatten it when done. I finally bought a press and cannot imagine being without it. Ole is right on the drydown though. When I do a test strip and am satisfied with the exposure, I reduce the exposure by as much as 10% for the papers I use and when they dry they are right on.
My photos are always without all that distracting color ...
I have tested every paper I use for drydown once a year for the past 25 years and found that they consistently fall into the 9% to 11% bands. If I have to use a paper that I have not tested I apply 10% drydown and the result is generally acceptable.
Earlier in this thread I said I would post Bruce Barbaum's wet up method and despite having very generous help and advice from John Hannon I still cannot figure out how to get the text into my post. Incidentally John emailed Bruce to ask permission to post the piece and he did agree, I also had to speak to Bruce yesterday on another matter and thanked him for allowing us to post the article.
I'm still trying to figure out how to get it on to the forum.
Hi Les and everyone, here is the article, enjoy!
Inspection, Evaluation, and the Myth of "Dry-Down"
From the book "The Art of Photography - An Approach to Personal Expression"
By Bruce Barnbaum Copyright (c) 1994 by Bruce Barnbaum
Posted with permission of the author.
All of the techniques of controlling the print during exposure and into development have now been discussed: dodging, burning, flashing, masking, and two-solution development. The final "advanced" technique of print control, reducing (also known as bleaching), takes place after the print has been fully developed and placed into the fixing bath. Before discussing reducing, let us first work our way through the chemical processing and on to the all-important inspection and evaluation of the image.
After I develop the print, I quickly transfer it to a stop bath for several seconds to terminate development. (I use glacial acetic acid because it is a clear liquid and does not discolor the fix as Indicator Stop Bath does.) Next, I place it in the fixer (I use Kodak's general purpose fixer with hardener) for several seconds with continuous agitation (rocking the tray) then turn on an inspection light to view the image.
The intensity of this inspection light is far more important than most people realize! My own experience-and my experience with hundreds of students in years of workshops-is that lack of solid thought about the inspection light can undo all of the good printing techniques performed to this point. I cannot overstress the importance of the inspection light!
Most people feel that any normal room light will do the job. Wrong! Others feel that a good, bright light will show the print best for proper evaluation. Disastrously wrong! The best inspection light is a rather dim light, or an average wattage bulb placed rather far away from the print. The reason for this is basic common sense. Consider the following: you have been in a room lit by safelights from the time you removed the enlarging paper from the box, placed it in the easel, exposed the negative with any extra burning or flashing steps, then developed the print (hopefully for at least 4 or 5 minutes), stopped it, and placed it in the fixer.
You have been laboring in dim light for ten minutes and your iris is now wide open to gather in the light. Then, you put on a bright light. It's like walking out of a matinee into the sunlit afternoon! If the print is too dark, it will look good! And if it is printed just right, it will look too light! A dim light will give you a far better feel of what the print really looks like!
What wattage bulb should be used for the inspection light? It is immaterial. The only criterion is this: if your finished prints consistently look too dark under normal lighting, or if they consistently lack the shadow detail under normal lighting that you saw under the inspection light, then your inspection light is too bright. Replace the bulb with a lower wattage bulb or move the light farther away. In other words, balance the way you see the print in the fixer with the way it looks when it is dried, mounted, and viewed under good lighting. It is that simple, and it is basic common sense, but most photographers never realize it.
After your eyes adjust to the dim light, you can then put on a brighter light for a more thorough inspection. This may seem to contradict the need for a dim light initially, but it does not. The reason for the dim light is to let you see the print initially as you would see it under normal lighting when your eyes are fully adjusted to normal lighting. If the initial light is too bright, you will see shadow detail that will not be visible in the finished print (unless you view the print in mid-day sunlight!). The psychological importance of that initial inspection is critical, for once you see shadow detail in the print under a light that is too bright, it is hard to strike that impression from your mind, and you will always end up fighting that first impression. When you see the finished print you will attribute the loss of detail in the shadows to "dry-down." It is not dry-down, the alleged darkening of an image as it dries, it is an inspection light that is too bright!
To inspect the print properly for highlight detail, remove it from the fix, place it on an upright sheet of acrylic plastic, and squeegee off the layer of liquid from the emulsion (or let it run off slowly). That thin layer of liquid hides the most subtle details in the highlights. Again, "dry-down" is often cited for the appearance of highlight detail in the finished print that was not visible during inspection, but again, it is not dry-down, it is failure to view the print without the layer of liquid fix obscuring highlight detail.I urge you to try this for yourself by removing a print from the fix after carefully inspecting it in the tray. You'll notice that more detail immediately shows in the subtle highlights as the print is removed from beneath the liquid. Then put it on a vertical surface, such as white acrylic plastic. When you squeegee off the remaining liquid, still more detail appears. No more will appear after the print dries. Now hose it down with water or re-immerse it in the tray of fix and watch those subtle highlights immediately disappear! I call this effect "wet-up!"
Although no more detail will appear in the finished print then you will see using good inspection techniques, the subtle highlight detail that appears will be more pronounced in the dried, finished print. I believe that the reason for this is due to the slight shrinkage of the print as it dries. A wet 16x20 print may be more than 1/4" longer than a dried print. As the developed silver grains bunch together more closely as the print dries and shrinks, the subtle detail will appear more prominently. This intensity increase in the highlights during drying is the only "dry-down" effect I have ever observed, but I have not observed new detail appearing.
"Dry-down" is an overused excuse for improper inspection. In fact, if there is a change to be seen, it is the other way. When a print is wet, its blacks appear richest, and they lose some of the intensity when the print dries. This is simply due to the way light scatters off the paper from a wet or dry print. (Matte papers exhibit a dramatic loss of brilliance in the blacks when they dry because of the surface qualities of the paper.) I call this effect "dry-up!"
Most papers can be inspected effectively within a short period of time after the initial dim light is turned on, your eyes slowly adjust, and then a second inspection light is turned on. One exception is Oriental VC paper, which has a slight yellow-ocher cast to the paper base at first. This yellow cast makes it hard to judge the degree of brilliance of whites in the final print, especially if whites and light tones dominate the image. The yellowish cast gradually disappears in the fix, then completely disappears when the print is placed in a holding tray of water after fixing is completed, but the "whitening" of the base can take ten minutes or more. This is frustrating and time consuming, indeed, but the ultimate brilliance of the paper justifies your wait.
One final note concerning the inspection light: do not use a light with a rheostat "dimmer" switch for inspection purposes. The rheostat contains two hidden problems. First, unless you have the dimmer permanently set to a fixed brightness level, you will never have the same brightness level for every print you inspect, and this inconsistency will throw your ability to judge your prints out the window. Second, as a rheostat is adjusted downward from its brightest setting, it yellows noticeably, and this, too, will make your judgment of prints more difficult. Stick with a fixed wattage bulb and determine the proper distance of the fixed brightness bulb from your print for good, consistent results.