The cart before the horse
Yesterday evening, I really wanted to get in the DR to dabble some. Now that I've discovered filters, I thought I would try my hand at some again. Having said that, I should have probably just forgone the notion. I never really got off to a good start, if that makes any sense. First off I think I had a negative that really didn't develop well. It was a bit fogg'd or blocked for the lack of a better technical term. I tried 6 5x7 sheets, and gave up, and went home. Kind of left a bad taste in my mouth
Now to my point for the thread.
When one is starting out to work on a print. Do you use a filter in the step wedge part of determining what your exposure should be, either on a contact printer or using the enlarger?
When I first started to really work toward a print before I learned about filters, I obviously didn't use one, then started to incorporate them later after I figured out my base exposure. Should I follow that train of thought?
Do a step wedge or get my based exposure, then add a filter and tweak times?
I always use a filter. It makes my life much easier as I am much closer to the desired exposure if I need to change filters to adjust the contrast.
You should start with a #2 filter when making a test strip and the first print, then deviate as you feel the contrast needs to be altered. Based on the bulk of your other questions, you may want to get a copy of Henry Horenstein's book "Black and White Photography, A Basic Manual". It gives clear instructions on how to begin printing and the effects of different controls, like filters and such.
This is a tricky one because different people have different approaches to printing, how they begin with a negative etc. I can only tell you how I do it, which is a fairly "traditional" approach.
I do everything from the first test print to the final print under the enlarger with the negative in the carrier and everything adjusted to the final print size. No step wedges, projection scales, enlarging meters etc.
The first print is always a test print made the old fashioned way, giving increasing amounts of equal exposure time (others prefer to work in stops) to the paper using a piece of cardboard, so I end up with a test print with bands of exposure from obviously too light to obviously too dark (perhaps not clearly explained - but basically the way it is described in most beginning method books). I may try a few different test prints before even making the first work print. I prefer to start with low contrast test prints and work prints (say a #0 or #1 filter), and move up in contrast from there as required. It is all done by eye.
Personally I always start with a filter in, as described above. Even if you're not sure if you will use filters or not, I'd still suggest using one (a #2 or #2.5 should give you roughly the same contrast as white light) so that you don't have to change your base exposure should you decide to use a filter.
There's this step wedge thing again? If the negs are exposed and developed consistently you will be able to make a standard small enlargement (or contact) the same enlarger-height, time and aperture every time - only then go and think what you might want to change, as you will have the baseline to compare to.
With a 4x5 neg you can most simply make a contact-print, setting the time etc. to just give a maximum black value through the base of the film. With the same film and developer, base-density plus fog (ie. the stuff that is there in the base and isn't the silver in the image) will be the same each time and you can then more easily compare the effects of the choices you made for that specific camera-exposure with other shots at other exposures.
There isn't any need to start from zero with every single negative, really not. I don't think I'm being too slapdash in this view.
If you are using multi-contrast paper then yes, start with a grade-2 filter (or half a grade above or below, but consistently) so that the exposure varies less if you feel like changing the contrast after your first print.
It might also be a useful exercise to make an exposure and contrast ring-a-round. That is, select (with advice perhaps) a neg of a scene showing bright and shadow areas, with a wide range of tones then make a standard straight print at Grade 2. Use this time and grade as a basis for prints varying by (for example) a quarter of a stop in exposure per step, for a range of (for example) 1 1/2 stops above and below the original time. Then change the filter by half a grade and do it again, and again, and again etc.
The aim is to give you a series of small prints that you can glue to a piece of card with the "average" print in the middle and showing the result from the same neg with different exposure and different contrast. For example, paste them up with exposure along the horizontal and contrast going vertically.
This might be very handy for you in the future as a reference and help in analysis of what you see in the contact-prints I described above - you will quickly be able to see that, for example, some other neg needs half a stop more exposure and a slight change in contrast to get the look you want, without test-strips or step-wedges.
And by the way, this sort of thing is absolutely not my idea - it used to be a standard exercise because it is so helpful for people starting out. When it seems to make sense it will also be more clear to you when you read Bob Carnie descriptions of his working methods in his many printing threads in APUG. Though he probably 'wouldn't start from here' as they say.
Last edited by MartinP; 11-29-2012 at 10:56 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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Since you're new at this, I'd suggest you avoid difficult negatives. Stick to good ones, for now.
When I taught (many, many years ago), I'd have my students take a negative which printed well at normal (No.2), and print it at all grades, matching the middle gray in each print. It's a good exercise, you may want to try.
Thanks for all the advice. I've only been in the DR for a week or so now, so I'm trying to find my way in the dark.. [pun intended]...
I'm not big on reading... Wish I was, but I just can't lock it in. More of a hands on person. I did probably choose the wrong negative last night. I do have one of a great looking house that looks nice, and have done an 8x10 on it. I need proceed with that one further to get some more richer blacks in the tops of the trees.
I'm trying to document all my steps now, which when I first just jumped in, I didn't. On that house print, I don't have it documented, so back to square one.
Appreciate all this information... I'll try to implement some of your suggestions as well.
Last edited by Pfiltz; 11-29-2012 at 09:29 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Well, I took some of yall's advice. Tonight, I found a really good negative. I threw in a No.2 filter, and used a whole sheet of 5x7 paper, which was going to be the final size in the end.
I documented my exposure time, f-stop, and the filter used, and did an exposure. I then adjusted the f-stop, and time a wee bit, and got a nice looking print.
I then did another print. BTW, the first was a landscape of some type, and the 2nd was a portrait shot in the studio with my 4x5 earlier this year.
I have 2 drying on some paper towels to help minimizing curling. I pick up 2 more enlargers and DR gear next week
Hope to get a chance this weekend to shoot, and print.
Thanks for the suggestions.