I'm not a great printer, but I do ok, most of the time. The swirly blacks are likely because of the D-76 or because you aren't developing fully. I use Ilford multigrade developer and do RC for 1 minute and fiber for 2 minutes. Always. And I time it with a digital kitchen timer. Doing things for exactly the same amount of time is how you get repeatability. If it's too dark with that time, then close down the aperture or use less exposure time.
For test strips, I cut a sheet into strips and uncover a little more every 2 seconds (using just one strip). Where you place it in the photo is key. If I have a spot where light meets dark, I'll put the strip along that border as much as possible. It does take experience, but you will learn. Making mistakes (as long as you can figure out you did them) does help in the learning process.
What are you doing with all those filters? Are you talking about Ilford (usually) B&W multi-grade filters or something else? You have a condenser type enlarger (like most of us) and if it is made for B&W, not color, you'd get multi-grade contrast filters. They are numbered from 00 to 5. 2 is considered normal and most negatives will print just fine. IF you are using these filters, then they are calibrated so from 00 to 3.5, exposure time does not change. From 4 and up, you'll have to multiply the time by 2.
I think, before you go any further, stop and let's verify what you got and what you are doing. Seems you have your enlarger setup incorrectly, maybe using a wrong filter, and wrong chemical.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
80% in the trash Normal? Definitely not!
I used to waste much more than that!! Still do, a lot of the time ;-)
It is normal to get through lots of paper and chemicals getting it togethe. Paper is usually the most expensive bit - so don't risk scrapping paper by letting your developer get exhausted. Tired developers prevent you getting consistent results - it is false economy. Obviously you need to get a proper paper developer. Something cheap that can be regularly discarded and mixed fresh is probably a better idea than something exotic, at this stage.
Something sounds very screwy about the filters with the condenser head!
Using filters with a condenser SHOULD be easier than using a colour head - just one filter per grade. Sounds like you are trying to use colour filters... Sure, a colour head will be easier than that - but ideally get some proper Ilford or Kodak multigrade filters. They are arranged to give consistent exposures and equally spaced grades. They will make like much easier...
It's not easy to judge the exposure necessary for a print. Even after decades of printing - I'm still not very good at guessing (I sometimes rely on my experience of what exposure is typical with a particular paper and enlarger height, but that isn't judging the image, that's remembering what works). I'd give the test strips method a go... Alternatively, consider a simple budget exposure meter.
I second the suggestion to get a help session with someone experienced. A lot of what you described can either be avoided, or is normal and you will learn to accept. Are you near any of the above posters? A few hours of help can be really great at the beginning of the learning curve.
Perhaps angrykitty could be a little more patienteasieronselfhappykitty? As the other posters have said, you are learning, wasteful or not - give it some time... a little more time between shorter sessions. Meanwhile, you are the reason I am writing a series of articles on Darkroom Techniques geared for the beginner. Hope this, or this, helps.
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You are on right part if the script for now. Read over the advice and add on or two things at a time. As far as
take look at the Kodak Projection Print Scale, it looks like a cut up pie ===> http://www.adorama.com/DKPPS.html Enlarged see http://www.adorama.com/catlite.tpl?o...&sku=DKPPS.JPG
The guy who taught me didn't do the whole stripy 8x10 on various exposures test print
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
Angrykitty, I have four (4) C-700 enlargers, and experience none of the problems you describe that you attribute to the machine. Make sure the condensors are installed properly. You dont say what lens you have on it, plus you are having a problem with filters, that shouldn't be any problem. Check to make sure you have multi-contrast filters, not color printing filters. The black swirls you describe are caused by the use of the wrong developer. You need to switch to a paper developer, and dilute it as per the manufacturers instructions. You should be developing RC paper for 60-90 seconde, and FB paper for approximatly double that. Using so much paper during the learning phase is normal. I suggest you buy some really cheap 5x7 RC paper and practice. I cut my paper into 2" strips to have test strips, it usually takes one sheet cut up to get to get dialed in to make one print. If you have any more problems, PM me, and I'll try to help you through.
You're getting a lot of good advice. I recommend that you buy or borrow Henry Horenstein's book "Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual," which has very good instructions with explanatory photographs. You can also get great step by step instructions on Ilford's website, with specific chemicals identified, and I am sure on other websites.
After you read about what chemicals you need, you need to buy the right stuff. You definitely need a paper developer. I don't know where you are, but if you go into a real photo store, someone can help. If that's not possible, I'd call Freestyle and ask to speak to someone in their darkroom sales department who can recommend and sell you what you need.
It sounds like your enlarger might not be properly set up or aligned. Or perhaps the enlarger head isn't high enough, or you don't have the proper enlarger lens, to expose all of your paper. I'm not sure I totally understand the other issues with your enlarger and filters. The Horenstein book will give you a good idea about how to use the multigrade filters with the enlarger, but generally, you can start with the number 2 filter and adjust as necessary.
I think it's relatively easy and very valuable to do a test strip. Switching to test strips will save you a lot of paper and probably a lot of frustration.
As for the contact sheet not giving you enough to evaluate, you can run work prints of the promising shots. When I've done that, I set the enlarger to give a relatively full negative. Then I test a representative frame to get a good enough time with a number 2 filter. It doesn't have to be perfect. Then I run the promising shots on that roll using that time, that filter and that enlarger setting. I find that I can quickly develop a bunch of work prints that give me a better idea of which negatives are best, and of what I want for the final print (for example, burning, dodging, higher contrast, cropping). The work print paper doesn't have to be the same size as your final print, though that might be easier, but it should be the same paper type.
For developing paper, Kodak Dektol would do you a lot of good. We all go through the learning process when we begin...
Helping to save analog photography one exposure at a time
I think you may be doing a great deal better than you say. It takes me a lot of paper to get a print I'd like to show anyone most of the time, and I started printing in the late nineteen sixties. Even given a verrrrry long hiatus since back when last I had a darkroom in the mid seventies, I have printed enough that I can't qualify as a newby, but it still takes me time to get tolerable prints, and longer yet to make one that has any poetry to it.
Materials always get used up in an inefficient looking way. It sucks, but there it is. I go through a lot of materials. If I printed every day, I'd get quicker, but better to use more paper than less at whatever skill level I am at now. I figure it is all about pushing to get the best print I can see any way to get, rather than to let the wastage stop me from that one last improvement I can see the print needs. After a few test strips, it usually takes me a bunch of prints to begin to see what the negative really has to offer. Between adjustments of contrast and extensive burning and dodging, I end up doing around eight generations of refinement before I just can't see any room for improvement.
This second time around as a darkroom worker, I have a much more critical mindset, and demand more from my prints. The result is that I go through a lot of paper. My take on it is that if I stop before I have made the best print I know how, I have wasted all the time and paper. If I spend ten sheets to get one good print, now I have reduced my waste to just 90%. If I make a couple more good prints, now my wastage is only 75%. Art and good craft don't always look efficient, but I'm trying to do good photography, not good accounting.