First time printing problems
On Saturday I made my first (self directed) attempt at black and white printing. I'm very new to printing and my only experience so far has been the 8 hour printing course I went on a month or so ago. Despite this, I generally pick thinks up quite quickly and felt like I had remembered enough of the basics to start printing at home. My first session was a bit of a disaster though and I didn't get a single usable print.
My set up is a bathroom darkroom, with LPL6700 colour head enlarger with Schneider 80mm f4. I was using Ilford multigrad RC paper and Ilford multigrade developer 1:9. I've checked for safe lamp fogging and general light tightness of the room.
Basically I was trying to print a frame of 6x6 FP4+ on to 10x8 paper, making a 7.5" enlargement. The negative looked well exposed (may be a little thin) and had previously scanned perfectly, you can see it here: http://www.lomography.com/homes/simo...hotos/15678297. I was printing at grade 3.5 which I think equated to 75M, 25Y. I started with the lens at f8 and did a test strip with 5 second intervals, this came out completely black apart from the five second exposure which was heavily over exposed. I closed down to f11 and repeated, but blundered after completing the strip and accidentally gave the whole strip a further 3 seconds. Again the whole thing came out black, not even any detail on the 5 (8) second exposure, which seemed very strange. I went to f16, repeated without blundering and still found the times too short.
By this time it was about 1am and with my young son up at 6am most days, I tried to make a print at f22 15 seconds (my best guess from the previous test strip). The print was over exposed again. I am really surprised that I wasn't able to make a print even at f22, with a usable exposure time. I know I should have continued to test exposure before making a full print, but time was running out. Are these kind of exposure times something I should expect and it is just lack of experience. If not, can you think of anything that would have caused these kind of very short exposure times, even at the smallest aperture.
I know I didn't make a couple of noob mistake like leaving the enlarger on white light after removing the filters for focusing, or leaving the lens wide open after focusing. I checked both of these carefully after making those mistakes whilst on the printing course.
Two other quick questions. The focus scope I have is an small LPL model. When using the focus scope during the training session, I had no problem focusing accurately, but when I tried to use this one, I looked through the eye piece but couldn't see the grain at all and could just see a bright blob of white light that filled most of the view and moved around as I moved my eye around. I couldn't see any detail or grain at all. In the end I just focused the best I could on the easel. The scope has a wavy line to allow you to make adjustments to the eye piece focus and this is sharply in focus. Am I doing something wrong, or is there some missing component from the focus scope?
Also, I saved the developer after the session, what is the shelf life of mixed paper developer? It was in the tray for a couple of hours and is now in a concertina bottle, will it keep for a couple of weeks, or should I bin it?
Thanks for you help.
If your paper is coming out black (or generally too dark), you are over exposing. Instead of 15Sec @ f22, try 5 Sec @ f22.
It may also be worth your while hooking up with a fellow darkroom user close to you. If you were in my neck of the woods, you'd be welcome to pop over...
Shelf life of mixed chemicals varies - Dilute developer is generally disposed of after each session, or at most, kept for 24Hrs. Stop can be reused, but it is cheap enough to dump at the end of each day. Fixer can usually be kept for several weeks, but for important work, it is best to mix fresh quantities of all chemicals.
I know this feeling, backed up against a wall, just dying to see something...
Originally Posted by Simonh82
Maybe you need a Neutral Density filter 2 or 3 stops worth. Short times when printing Medium Format to 8x10 is not uncommon.
I've got a similar enlarger, a C7700 with colour head. My normal printing size from 6x6 is 7" square on 8" square paper, so very close to what you're trying to do. With an 80mm lens, I get typically 20-30 second exposures at f/11, so I'm surprised you're seeing so much more exposure is required.
One thing that occurs to me: How fresh is your paper, and where did you get it from? I've been given some old paper in the past which has fogged so badly that also any exposure will produce a really murky dark image. In fact, a couple of packs were so bad that even the unexposed areas went almost black!
Thanks everyone, I will have another go soon. The instructor on the course suggested aiming for a base exposure time of about 12-15 seconds to allow time for dodging, so that was what I was going for. I may try a different image next just so I don't go crazy, but I'd like to come back to this one and crack it. Maybe it really is just massively under exposed, but like I said, it scanned fine.
The paper is fresh, bought new from AG-Photographic a couple of weeks ago. I did make the stupid mistake of turning the light back on without completely closing the box, but I developed a whole sheet and there was only the faintest bit of fogging on one corner of one edge and it only extend about half a mm into the page. Hopefully that will be the only time I will make that mistake.
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I'm fairly new to printing as well, but one thing I have already found is that once you get the "feel" for your rig, you will find that it all gets very consistent. As you say that a developed paper with no exposure was OK (except for a tiny bit of fogging caused by the very-easy-to-do mistake of turning the light on with the paper box open ) the only way you are getting black prints is over exposure. I would set-up for grade 2.5 and run some test strips off a neg from say 2 seconds right up to 20 seconds. That way you are going to see straight away where to start.
If you are using ilford chems, I find their universal developer does keep at working strength for at least a week, and seems pretty OK even after 2, but definitely a week is OK in a closed bottle. Possibly the super-critical might see a difference, but for me, while I'm learning, week-old developer works fine, then I junk it and start again.
BTW, I wouldn't bother with concertina bottles. Nobody on here seems to have a good word for them - I bought a load of 500ml HDPE bottles off the 'bay, and keep all my working solutions in these. A full bottle is just right for my 8 x 10 trays.
re the focus scope. Something sounds wrong - it should be easy enough to find the grain - focus without the scope first, line the scope up and fine tune. It should be that easy.
Yes, depending on an enlarger printing times from a medium format can be rather short.
Next time you try it, do a test strip:
Set your enlarger on f/22, cover most of your paper except for an 1-2 inch strip
with a piece of cardboard. Set timer at 32 seconds and start exposure. Count down from 32 and at each of the following times move the cardboard to open another strip of 1-2 inches: 22, 16, 11, 8, 6, 4. At 4 seconds just remove the cardboard completely. After you develop this sheet of paper, you'll know your starting time.
Good luck, you are almost there!
Thanks Mr rusty, good to hear of some other rookies having success. The concertina bottles came as part of a darkroom job lot and I've also heard the same warnings, although they seem tougher than I thought they might, especially as they are at least 10 years old.
Thanks Eugene, that is pretty much what I was doing except using 5 second intervals. I started at f8 which is two stops down from wide open. I understand this is where most lenses are sharpest. I guess if I need to go to f22 then I will need to, but I was suprised it required so little exposure.
I hope the suggested f22 and just a few secs does the trick but I can't help feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with the strength of the illumination. Is the bulb the right wattage? The alternative is that all the stops on the enlarger lens aren't working. Take the lens out and click it through the range to make sure that it goes from f4 or whatever is the biggest fstop to the smallest.
Assuming that you focus at the biggest fstop for max light are you sure you are then stopping down for the exposure?
No I am not trying to imply you are an idiot but you'd be surprised how easy it is to forget to do things in the early days. I know I have to make sure I stop down each time after focusing and in my haste I have forgotten to do this several times
I hope it all works out OK