DUH=Aggie, you are right, but also I finally read on the spec sheet that my particular paper without filtration=2.5. More specifically it is Polycontrast E (lustre). Helps to know what things are.
It is a nice paper, by the way. Discontinued by Kodak, of course. For gen IV.
Anyway, it seemed a lot of contrast (closer to 3 and very fast (still exposing in less than 10 sec @ f/11), and I wasn't sure how to dial it down with filters as I don't have the experience with filters. I will play around with it while my supply lasts.
Thanks again for the replies. Things make a lot more sense to me now, and I can plow forward.
Another piece of advice -- don't forget about local contrast. Many beginners are too busy with the overall contrast if you ask me.
As others have mentioned, Tammy, VC filter sets usually include from 0 to 5 in half-grade steps, so you can vary the print contrast as needed. Split-grade filtering (exposing parts of the total exposure with different filters) provides even more control, but may be overly complicated for you at this stage. Essentially, by split-filtering, combined with dodging/burning, and varying the percentage of the total exposure under each filter, you're able to control both local contrast and achieve grades in between the half-steps. But, I'd suggest keeping it simple for now, and then explore split-grade later, as the need arises.
The VC filter you use is really determined by the contrast range of the individual negative. Using filtration that doesn't match the negative will result in prints that either look washed-out, muddy, or overly harsh. The objective of smoothing out skin tones and grain is perhaps better handled by film/developer choice and/or softening filters, either at the taking stage or during printing.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
VC papers incorporate two differing emulsions as opposed to graded materials which have only one emulsion of a known spectral response.
These two differing emulsions on VC paper react to differing colors of light to which they are exposed. These colors basically amount to blue for the higher contrast emulsion and green for the lower contrast emulsion. Or they can be magenta for the subtractive componant of green for the higher contrast emulsion and yellow which is the subtractive componant of blue for the lower contrast emulsion.
In the color printing filters that you have there are varying shades and mixtures of these two colors. At the grade one (low contrast) level you will have a purer yellow or green colored filter. At a grade five you will have the purer magenta or blue colored filter. Between these two extremes lie the mixtures of both colors.
One does not remove contrast...rather one exposes a greater amount of the exposure to the lower contrast emulsion and a smaller amount of the exposure to the higher contrast emulsion. By the same token what one would attribute to adding contrast is nothing more then exposing a greater percentage of the exposure to the high contrast emulsion and a smaller percentage to the low contrast emulsion. This proportional exposure is controlled by the colors of the filters that you have.
I agree with Ann in her response about graded materials. There is undoubtedly a difference, by my testing, between VC and graded papers. VC papers do have a definite benefit when one is beginning and does not have a well defined technique for exposure and development of the camera negative.
I also agree with those who indicated that split grade printing was more complicated then what a beginner should indulge. At this stage, I would not recommend involving myself with that. Rather get a "feel" for how the materials react and then when you begin making prints that please you, begin exploring some of the more advanced techniques...or not...
I totally agree with this. Perhaps you would like to explain to the enquirer what local contrast is, how it differs from overall contrast, and how one obtains that in full consideration of the limits that overall contrast imposes.
Originally Posted by jpersson
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Donald, thank you so much for the detailed explanation of the emulsions and how the filters work. I needed to have that understanding for things to "click". This is the sort of information that really helps a person out.
I think I know what is meant by "local" contrast rather than overall. But, further explanation is appreciated too. I am very much interested in a soft contrast in skin tones and a different type of contrast overall.
I like to think of it in this way. Local contrast is the contrast that exists within broad general tonal ranges which lie within the realm of the overall contrast of the negative and/or ultimately the printing paper. It is local contrast which imparts the "glow" to a well crafted silver gelatin print.
Originally Posted by Tammyk
The problem that exists is this...in an effort to achieve improved (enhanced) local contrast we are at the same time struggling to keep from exceeding the overall contrast of the materials. Therefore certain compensating procedures are needed to compress the overall contrast in order that local contrast can be achieved.
These compensating procedures will usually address one end of the characteristic curve of the materials (either shadows or highlights). Rarely will both ends be addressed. The effects are a compression of tonal scale at either the highlights or shadows in order that the local contrast within the mid tonal range can be expanded.
These procedures for overall density range compression can be generally classified as preflashing or masking of the materials used. Within those broad general classifications exist several specific procedures.
You managed to answer yourself before my book was done :-) I can you some of the highlights though:
Originally Posted by Donald Miller
Some, especially beginners, seems to think it is a goal in itself to be able to print detailed shadows and detailed highlights with one exposure. There are many good ways to achieve this but the prints often turn out dull and lifeless. Maybe because our eyes does not use overall contrast but local contrast. If you look at something bright all the dark areas will lose their details and the other way around. The camera though captures the entire scene with one overall contrast. Printing that negative with one overall contrast usually does not turn out the way we remembered it. The print needs local contrast to be able to resemble what our eyes saw. I do not know if this is 100% physiological true but it explains local contrast to some extent. Anyway... it is needed and local contrast and overall contrast work against each other. It is your job as printer to find the balance between them. If I had to choose one of them I would choose local contrast.
I give introductional print courses for my local photo club. My students have a good but undefined initial understanding of contrast. Telling them about controlling the shadows with the contrast is nothing but confusing in relation to their initial understanding. Besides; that knowledge by itself will give them dull prints anyway. I tell them to use their contrast intuition in the same way old photo books always said. Increase the contrast if the print is too soft; decrease it if it is too hard. If the highlights or the shadows lack details change the exposure (and maybe the contrast) locally, ie dodge or burn. I do not know about others but my prints turn out better this way.
As convinced as some beginners are about the importance of overall contrast as afraid are some of them to dodge and burn. They think it is hard. Well; it is easy and your prints will turn out better.
I agree whole-heartedly with the counsel to try split-filter printing.
In my own experience of using this technique, I have discovered that it makes no difference which of the two exposures you make first. Since I use a colorhead on my Beseler, I start with whatever color (full yellow or full magenta) I ended the last print with. I have never been able to tell any difference in my prints, even two prints of the same negative, one which began with the yellow exposure and one which began with the magenta exposure.