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  1. #1

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    new darkroom... learning... wasting materials...wasting time... advice?

    So I've been working in my new darkroom for about 2 months now, and I have about 20 contact sheets to go through yet, most of which have 2 or 3 shots that I'd be willing to put my name on. I apprenticed with someone for 2 months (who had way better equipment then me) and that is the only extent of my experience.

    I am having a few issues I was hoping for advice on:

    1) I am FLYING through chemicals and paper! And wasting it! I like to put in a 12 hour day here and there, and out of all that time and chemistry and paper I'm getting maybe like 10 keepers. 80% of my materials are seriously going in the trash. Is that freakin normal??!!! I'm using ilford multigrade rc 4 paper and d-76 powder developer, un-dilluted. Kodak fixer, which I think is fine, as well as acetic acid stop, which I also think is fine.

    Reasons for this time and material wasting include:

    -The guy who taught me didn't do the whole stripy 8x10 on various exposures test print, just little test prints until one came out about right, and I'm sort of mimicking that system. I want to learn to 'guess' exposures as well as he did. So I'm running many test prints one at a time on little squares of paper. Of course, I'll get that right and all of a sudden the rest of the print looks wrong at that exposure... I have no idea how the hell he did that so well. But what's wierd is when I was around him I could do it too! Right now that's costing me a world of time.

    -I really can't tell from the contact sheet if it's gonna be good or not. I need to look at it big to decide whether or not I like it. So I do a bunch of test prints of something, try it big, and then decide it's not worth it. There went an hour of time...

    -I have a lot of trouble compensating for when my developer starts dying. I end up adding developing time by totally guessing 30 seconds more or a minute more or whatever. This causes really inconsistent prints, which really sucks, because I like to have 2 copies of the same thing (one for me, one for the band). So even if I get one right, I never get the second to be the same, because my developer started dying.

    -condenser. enlargers. suck. and I have one. An omega c700. I hate the stupid filters. I hate how I need to mess with all these magentas and then if I wanna try adding yellow or cyan the whole thing gets mussed up and I have to start all over. They keep getting scratched up or dirty and messing up the prints, and they cost me SO MUCH time. of course I get that part right and my developer dies and I think my exposure was off, and there we go again...

    -I have 2 consistent problems with my prints, causing my developer to die in the mean time because I keep having to re-do:
    1) smeary swirly looking blacks that should be solid.
    2) light fall off on the bottom of all my 8x10s, requiring burning double time on the lower quarter of each sheet. I have to expose the lower quarter of each print double whatever the rest needs in order to compensate for this. It's worse near corners.

    attached is a typical problem print, whats up with the black? you can see some light fall off on the bottom left, I think I tried to burn this one and missed an edge.

    I've already obtained a dichro head, I'm just waiting on a special order adapter piece to come in to attach it with. So I'm not to worried about the lamphouse and callibration because that's about to change anyway.


    So, how can I do the following:

    -avoid that weird cloudy black swirliness

    -save paper. (I'm running about 6 full size sheets per print, + 1 for test printing, and I like to have 2 copies, adding 2 or 3 sheets to that. So for 2 good copies it's costing me 8-9 sheets of paper.

    -save developer. I'm using un-dilluted d-76 powder mix, cuz thats what I started with and I wanted too keep consistency. I need something cheaper and/or more longer lasting? I've got HP5 negatives, shot in the dark with flash, and ilford multi rc paper.

    -save time. 2 hours per negative... that's a lot. Mostly this has to do with the god awful condenser head and it's stupid manual filters and light fall off. Can't wait to get the dichro goin... but general time savers would be very helpful.

    -with the dichro: the guy I worked with had 5 grades of contrast posted on his wall, so filtering was easy. grade 1 had this magenta, that yellow, that cyan, all in proportion. Grade 2 a little heavier on all...but still in proportion, etc... I was stupid enough not to copy them down. No idea how he figured them out. Yes they all had cyan for b&w. How do I create one of these handy little cheat sheets?


    Any and all advice on any of these matters is super deeply appreciated!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 12345.jpg  

  2. #2

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    Hey, what you are going through is normal. (either that or both of us are abnormal!)

    When I started this "darkroom thing" about a year+ ago, I did about the same. Keeper rate at about 10% or less, wasted lots of paper and pulled lots of hair out. You are NOT using D76 for paper, right? It is a film developer. DEKTOL would be more suitable choice.

    It took me about a year to be able to guess pretty close from contact sheet to the final print. So take it easy... go slow...(er).

    Print development is done to "completion" (yes, this is technically an incorrect description!). Using Dektol, it takes about 15 seconds for image to appear, 30 seconds to get pretty dark, and from here, up to 2 minutes or so, it doesn't change much. I develop it for 60 seconds - per instructions.

    I blew through something like 6 packs of 40 each during this year period - mostly waste. It takes time to learn this and get good at guessing....
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  3. #3
    MattKing's Avatar
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    First, you need to pause and collect your thoughts. Your frustration is getting in the way of what you want to do.

    Second, you are using the wrong developer. D-76 is a film developer. In a pinch you might be able to squeeze out a mediocre print when you use it, but it is extremely unlikely that you will get reasonable quantities of consistently high quality prints from it. The standard print developer is something like Kodak's Dektol. There are Ilford print developers as well. There are also print developers from other sources.

    Third, once you start using the right developer, you need to read the information associated with it. That information will recommend a developing time (usually a range and between 30 seconds and 3 minutes). You need to choose a time in the middle, and stick to it. Something like 2 minutes - every print you develop (including tests) should be developed for that time. Don't be tempted to use a (much) shorter time. You cannot maintain consistency if you do.

    Fourth, if your condenser head is vignetting with 35mm film, something is either installed incorrectly, or the lens is incorrect, or something has been damaged.

    Fifthly, the filtration recommendations are generally packaged with the papers. If not, there is information on the Ilford website (for Ilford papers).

    Best of luck!
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by MattKing View Post
    Second, you are using the wrong developer. D-76 is a film developer. . . Fourth, if your condenser head is vignetting with 35mm film, something is either installed incorrectly, or the lens is incorrect, or something has been damaged.
    Was just going to say that. When i get "light falloff" it's because I've forgotten to put in the supplemental condenser. On the plus side, your photos are unique and well done - a little practice and your prints will be too.

  5. #5

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    Do you guys see light fall off? I don't. It looks to me, this is a shot of a scene at a bar or night club or something using flash. It looks to me, the flash just didn't reach wide enough and far enough.

    Guy's face at left bottom is fairly well exposed but the background isn't.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  6. #6
    dehk's Avatar
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    D76 indeed is a negative developer, but i did used it before, and without any major problem when i first started (i knew something wasnt right but camera shop dude told me it would work, it did work and looks ok), its just slower. But yes, try Dektol.

    1.) check if you have the correct lens doing 35mm. Usually it will be a 50mm lens and a 75mm for medium format.
    2.) Some enlarger requires a separate piece of glass inside the housing for 35mm. Such as my old Trusty Omega B22.
    3.) Besides using a whole piece of paper to do test prints, you can try cutting your paper, some people like to do that to save money.
    4.) Your light fall off may also have something to do with your agitation, does your developer cover your print "sufficiently"? BTW make sure emulsion side up and agitate it diagonally.

    and personally i have no problem using individual filters. Tried using a color head plenty of times and its even more confusing half the time.

    I know you're frustrated, take a break, be creative at solving your problems, and get back at it. Hope what i said helped somewhat.
    - Derek
    [ Insert meaningless camera listing here ]

  7. #7
    MattKing's Avatar
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    I think that the OP is saying that the bottom part/corners are too light, and need to be burned in. I'd agree that I don't really see that in the posted example.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  8. #8
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    D76??

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by angrykitty View Post
    How do I create one of these handy little cheat sheets?
    This should help:
    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Webfiles/...8932591755.pdf

    The photo you posted is good - lots of energy. Keep printing, it'll start to fall into place soon enough.
    Steve.

  10. #10
    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    Where are you located? Maybe someone close to you can help in person. Listen to what everyone said about the developer and use print developer, not film. The filters you describe do not make much sense. I don't understand what filters you are using if you need to change to cyan or yellow with a condenser enlarger when printing B&W. If you haven't already, get a set of Kodak or Ilford VC printing filters. It will make everything much easier for controlling contrast and keeping your exposures consistent when you do need to change contrast. Finally, check and make sure the condensers are seated correctly in the enlarger. Sometimes they sit cockeyed and screw up the corners.
    www.gregorytdavis.com

    Did millions of people suddenly disappear? This may have an answer.

    "No one knows that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." -Matthew 24:36

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