"The production of a perfect picture by means of photography is an art. The production of a technically perfect negative is a science." Ferdinand Hurter.
I think you are all right.
When I start any major project or series, like Bill / Stephen I test test test, to figure out the conditions.took me a year to figure out the solarization process I do.
once this testing is done, I then go with Michael's approach and do not worry about the small details.
I have to admit that I do not use a meter, but rely on my eyes , sunny 16 and some basics that get me within the 1/2 stop that Michael mentions.
A good understanding of lighting ratios help in determining your starting point, and I do use the same materials all the time for consistancey.
Once I have a negative in my hand , I can pretty much adjust the final print with the tools available to me in the darkroom.
This thread is good reading.
What recent published books (using modern films and developers) would you recommend?
I have loads of books on this subject but they are all at least 30+ years old.
Good thread Bill, I think I progress with the left brain right brain concept much like you do, when I can put paper to the easel, I have a greater feeling of creativity. Following along your train of thought:
1. Taking pictures: traditional ZS nomenclature all the way as well, it's how I learned. I use a Pentax V spot meter, I never place a highlight. Subject and the visualization dictate the lower value placement--I have made a scale of zones on a textured surface based on my TMX film speed test and I always visualize that when deciding on the placement and where other values "fall", placements from ZII, III, IV, dominate my negs, ZII placements suggests a hint of texture in the area intended, but is never meant to be a dominant part of the final print, an exposure placement that low, to me, must always serve Zones III - V or VI quite well.
2. Film Developing: all speed and dev time testing is performed with a step wedge in-camera. I don't develop to any specific CI. The speed point serves as a pivot point for adjustment of the dev time so that the curve hits its target for plus and minus times. In the case of +2 or -2 or -3 development, the toe of the curve shifts, respectively, on the log E scale, thus shifting the effective film speed, in my tests by 1/3 to 1/2 stop either way. However, I keep the tested speed a constant and adjust for this in the field with the exposure when I know these extreme development conditions are planned. Ex: a tested EI of 80 remains 80 for simplicity, if I plan +2 development, I reduce the final exposure by 1/3 to 1/2 stop, since at +2, the toe has moved to the left, indicating less exposure is needed to reach the threshhold.
I have found thus far that my negative density range of about 1.2 serves me well with Ilford MGIV FB; I use contrast filtration with my LPL that provides a LER of about 1.1 or so, which is in the soft 2 to hard 1 contrast grade; not an exact fit, but I've not experienced a reason to adust anything yet, going to work on this more extensively when the darkroom gets finished.
3. Printing: I like the basic test strip method, don't use whole sheets but cut wider strips for economy; I do not split-grade print, I set the global contrast with one filtration setting, then adjust filtration if needed for the burning in pieces. It's dektol most always at 1:2; I try to make good use of the trash can, sometimes it's hard.
Way Beyond Monochrome
Originally Posted by LCEL
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Originally Posted by CPorter
Since camera step wedge tests are recommended by Ralph Lambrecht, that's good endorsement, others looking for a practical test should consider it. I'll keep using the sensitometer because I have it.
When you develop to about 1.2 you are basically developing to a certain CI (you just don't realize it).
Since I hit a wall at Grade 2, 1.2 is just a bit outside my upper control limit. There are some suggestions that a lower target leads to negatives with better qualities (such as less graininess). Something to consider if that matters to you. I have chosen to allow graininess.
I thought Ralph did not necessarily endorse the "in-camera" method of exposing the step wedge, I could easily be wrong. I know that others that chime in regularly do not, but I have no ill-experiences with it that I can report.
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
Let me clarify my statement on CI, I'm aware that a CI can be calculated from any curve; I have out of curiosity calculated it on one of my "normal" curves, but it has no relevance, none whatsoever, in any decision making in my evaluation of the curve.
Regarding the LER, I certainly intend to give that more attention when the darkroom is up and running, but it will need to yield a good difference in a little testing before I feel the need to change anything.
I'm sorry that maybe should have read differently....
Originally Posted by paul ron
not all shutters are created equally n do have their inconsistancies. Lenses with built in shutters are teh worst offenders as they will varry from lens to lens. I repair RBs n do test my lenses and know exactly how much they are out even though they are still within tolerance I need to see how much they effect my negatives anyway to be sure.
I don't worry about my meters being accurate, I just want em to be consistant. I couldn't care if it compares to the rest of the meters in the world it just has to reproduce the same results each n every time. Even a sunny 16 rule willwork, no meter but at least my tests will reflect my personal judgement in my ratings.
Besides, even if your shutters n meters are not up to par, as long as you did the tests adn you are aware of their inconsistancies, everything else is consistant n reproduceable, eliminate as many of the variables as you can; then even a pin hole camera, stop watch and a photo cell on a VOM will preform better as a result of the testing... these are called personal ratings.
BTW Expensive equipment well maintained accurate n precise still doesn't make better pictures, only a better phoptographer will make a difference. To be a bettter photographer you have to "know" your craft A to Z n that comes from lots of experiance... which is a by product of testing n experimneting, which gives you lots of confidance in your system and makes you a better photogrpher that will perhaps take better pictures.
Anyone can make a Digital print, but only a photographer can make a photograph.
My comfort with CI may come from the fact I am graphing on paper and use a transparent overlay to determine it. The numbers didn't do me any good until Stephen provided the practical lookup reference. My original plans were to draw horizontal lines on my graph for the paper.
Originally Posted by CPorter
I want to alert everyone that matching Grade 2 theoretically produces worse negs because it requires developing to a greater degree than the minimum required. It might not matter much but you ought to know.
Anyone happy printing on Grade 4 is already working hard in the darkroom and quite possibly producing superior results. Don't switch to Grade 2 aim point just because it will make your life easier. Your customers don't care if you have it easy. The prints won't look better because you are more relaxed in the darkroom. (Or will they?)
Likewise, if you get good results with negs that occasionally print on Grade 1 - don't move up to Grade 2 just because it might be better. The difference may be small. Your negs may be useful for carbon or platinum, you have it even easier in the darkroom than I do.
I just made four prints on Grade 4. It was pretty hard for me to keep the tones delicate when the difference between a 10 and 20 second burn (on a 70 second base exposure) made a significant difference in the highlight. (I wanted to make 3 prints but since one was harsh - it's going in the trash). Nope, I am uncomfortable in the nosebleed section...
p.s. In practice I try to keep my CI between about 0.50 to 0.75 - and for the negatives that needed extreme measures I keep a few sheets of Multigrade. (I'm out now have to restock). I like the idea of Selenium Toner for the negs that might need over 0.75. I'll keep that in the back of my mind (going off to sniff some of that right now as a matter of fact).
I believe there are a number of misconceptions happening here. The Zone System is a form of tone reproduction theory which is why it helps people make good negatives, but who's to say how technical is just the right amount of technical for a person to be? Are the people who don't understand the Zone System deficient in some way while those who understand real tone reproduction theory are wasting their time? It seems to me that it's up to the individual to determine for themselves how much knowledge is sufficient.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
Spending time learning tone reproduction theory doesn't necessary wasting the time that could be spent working on one's printing skills. This is a false dilemma. Why not say you can either waste your time cleaning the house or printing? How about you can either spend your time shooting or printing. It's not a zero sum gain situation. It's possible to have many different pursuits.
This is a strawman argument. It's setting up and then disproving a premise that nobody has made. It's interesting that two rather technical books on sensitometry, Photographic Sensitometry and Photographic Materials and Processes both have chapters on variability and process control. This is a subject that is very much overlook on these forums. Variability in any sample population and ranges in tolerance happens in any process and the deeper I've gone into tone reproduction theory the more this becomes an issue. Using Contrast Index and Log Exposure Range is a way of defining an aim with the understanding that variation happens, and this includes variation in the perception of quality.
All this business about CI, BTZS, and log exposure ranges to two decimal places?? I highly doubt anybody can control their processes with such precision. In the field, I'd argue anything much smaller than half a stop amounts to quibbling, and is within the normal margin of error.
A big advantage of CI and LER is the ability to define the materials in a meaningful way and to be able to compare different materials. It's also a way to communicate information. I was once called in to do some consulting for Herb Ritts. Their printer was complaining about the quality of the negatives and blaming the shooting crew. Before I was called in, they shot a MacBeth color chart with a gray card at varying exposures and took the film to a number of labs to be processed. When I got there, they showed me the results and where pointing out which exposure looked best. I told them to ignore those tests and run a sensitometric test through the different labs. What we found out was the lab they were using had as their Normal, +2. I later learned that the lab had bad process control and were using a replenished D-76 line. I've found that when the amount of D-76 replenisher reaches a certain percentage of the stock D-76, the chemistry easily goes out of control. So when the Ritts people started using the lab it was in control and when they started seeing the problem it wasn't. The Ritts people just didn't have the tools to correctly identify the cause of their printing problem. Not long after that, I consulted with the lab and restructured their black and white processing department.
I use graphs, equations, and such measurements as CI and LER on this forum as a communication and teaching tool. I use them to illustrate concepts and solve problems. They are models. The use of them doesn't exclude variance or margin of error, and it would be mistaken to assume otherwise. The use of the graphs and all also doesn't imply that it's necessary to use sensitometric testing to achieve quality results. What I am suggesting; however, is that they are a good way to explain things.
When ever I look at people's suggested normal processing times and temps for a film, I always wonder how do they define their normal conditions? I love how people will suggest processing times and temps to others without any context. But by saying a certain time/temp produces a CI of 0.56 gives information that I can apply to my situation. I don't need to know if the processing time was based using a grade two paper printed on a diffusion enlarger. It's a better, more precise, communication tool.
This is a good example. There's a declarative statement. Now, how can it best be proven? It seems to me a subject luminance range / LER vs print quality graph might do it. Of course I'm not suggesting Michael create one or anything. I'm only saying that graphs are a good way to show the data that proves a premise. Otherwise it's just a bunch of opinions.
as long as we realize targeting a paper range is not always the best way to a fine print. It only works for scenes of average luminance ranges.
A basic scientific concept is to limit the variables in testing. If I want to know the characteristics of a film, then I need to minimize everything that can confuse the results. Even flare is eliminated in film testing through contacting the samples. Another scientific concept is repeatability. I once tested a film from two different batches. By using a calibrated sensitometer I knew that any differences seen in the two samples was a reflection of the differences in the samples and not some influence from the test. And it's not just my own repeatability but for another person to achieve the same level of meaningful results when they test. Suggesting that scientific testing can't represent the results in actual shooting conditions is a good sound bite, but it misrepresents how science works. It's like how some misuse the scientific use of the term "theory" in such arguments as in "Evolution is just a theory" or "Climate change is just a theory."
I believe when plotting H&D curves and such, it is wise to test in-camera (as Adams suggests) rather than with sensitometers and/or step tablets. In-camera testing introduces some flare, and shutter speed/aperture errors - the kinds of things we ultimately face in the field. Sensitometers are efficient and precise, but represent "lab conditions".
Saying "as Adams suggests" is an argument from authority. Shouldn't arguments stand or fall on facts and not who said them?
Here's a funny thing about in camera testing and flare - there almost isn't any flare, and definitely not as much as in shooting conditions. I've attached a graph to illustrate this. There are two factors at work. First 80% of flare comes from the subject. Most in camera testing is done shooting a target with a single tone. Second, even considering average flare, the testing is done at the metered exposure point where flare has little influence on the exposure. The assumption that flare is incorporated into camera testing is almost universal. It sounds like it should be that way, but the use of a simple graph has proven it otherwise. Without such tools, the arguments can become an endless series of unsupported opinion.
Just because there's scientific testing of film doesn't make the test less representative of shooting conditions, and just because someone uses their own equipment doesn't necessarily make the testing more representative of their personal conditions.