Split-grade printing - first attempt
Been away from the darkroom for about 30 years, but started up again this past Spring. After a lot of research on this great site, I decided to give split-grade printing a try for the first time on a couple of old, rather difficult negatives. The photos were taken with a P&S Pentax IQ zoom, that i used to carry in the field when hunting, so the focus isn't the best! The scene was in direct sunlight, with heavy shadows, and proved to be a challenge to print.
The enlarger is a 67C with a Nikkor 50mm 2.8 lens, and I'm using the color head for filtration on Ilford MGIV RC deluxe Pearl. Printing sequence as follows:
Base exposure, 6 seconds @ F11, 00 filtration
Grade 5 exposure, 6 seconds @ F11, 200M filtration
10 second additional burn in top RH quadrant - grade 5 filtration, to try to tone down the highlights on my son's face.
Processed in D72, 1 1/2 minutes @68F, Kodak indicator SB - 30 sec, Kodafix -2 minutes, 5 minute wash.
Any and all comments welcome!
looks like a great scene for spilt-grade, and you've done a good job here
keeping the balance light, especially in the second print.
usually I'd use the #0 to tone down highlights, just enough to
keep from turning them grey, sometime a pre-flash helps as well.
And usually there's always the internal debate about which to do first,
time for the darks or the lights? These days I tend to do the darks [#5] first.
Keep it up!
Thanks for the response Tim, much appreciated! It always seemed difficult for me to keep the balance light, as my eyes want a deeper print for some reason. It was a habit 30 years ago, so I'm trying to break it now for better quality prints.
Originally Posted by dasBlute
I haven't tried the pre-flash method yet, but it's definitely on my list!
Great job! That's the magic of MG paper. Andrew Sander is a great resource for split grade printering. Love his Sanderson dodger. The Mainecoon Maniac think he's the cat's meow. Here's a link to his site.
Thanks for the reply, and the link, I'll check it out for sure!
Originally Posted by Mainecoonmaniac
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I would agree with dasBlute, use a lower contrast filter to burn in highlights, makes sense if you think about it. Also, sometimes it's better to use something a bit higher than 00 for burning in, you will get better "shape" from shading with a 0 or 1.
I also go for the low filter exposure first. Remember that even the 00 filter puts exposure in the shadows (do it by itself to see how much), the 5 is adding to something already there, so you can't see the composite exposure in the shadows till you do both. I don't think the 5 adds much to light highlights, which is why I go for the highlight exposure first.
I ususally do a test strip with 00 or 0 (if I want more separation, or shape in the highlights), then pick one and do a print with that by itself. Then make a test strip adding the high filter. Then make the composite.
One thing I find - the high contrast exposure is almost never as much as the low contrast, in fact, usually considerably less. And I start with just enough to make a black somewhere. Then add more of the high filter if I want the darkness to increase coming up the scale toward highlights. Or use a 4 or 3 as the high contrast exposure to make the mid and 3/4 tones darker as well, preserving the highlights.
I find that split printing takes much longer than graded, but I'll "never go back", too much control I can't get with graded.
Hi George, thanks for the tips, I'll definitely give them a go! Up until a few months ago, I had never even heard of split grade printing. Have to say, it's an excellent tool, and I'm really enjoying the experimentation.
Originally Posted by George Collier
As a rule, I let the neg contrast decide the order of soft/hard exposure. Normal or contrasty negs (which accounts for around 97.325% of my images) will have their highlight exposure determined first. On the other hand, figuring the exposure for soft negs is easier (for me) if I determine the hard exposure first.
Norman is an island.Time and tide wait for Norman.
Hi Blighty! Currently, I'm finding the majority of my negs to be in the normal to slightly contrasty range. The negs chosen for this test were extremely contrasty, and looked to be a good fit for experimenting with split-grade. I've been trying out Les McLean's methods to begin with, and I'm finding the process interesting, useful, and enjoyable so far.
Originally Posted by Blighty
I'll give your suggestion a go on a soft neg in a future session, thanks.
I learned to split-grade print from Les McLean, who taught me to test for the soft exposure first, selecting the time that just starts to put tone in the important highlight areas. Then determine the exposure needed for he shadows.
My own observations lead me to believe that the soft exposure brings up the highlights, some of the midtones, and a little of the shadows. The hard exposure affects highlight almost not at all, the midtones to a slight degree, and the shadows to a great degree. Exposing for the shadows first then laying down the highlight exposure will darken the shadows more than what was initially intended. And reduce contrast.
I like to think of split grade printing as an elastic process. You "pin" the highlights where you want them with the soft exposure, then "stretch" the shadows to wherever you want them with the hard exposure.