Blur Background During Printing
I have some images of shore pines that I took along the Pacific Coast. I like the images, but my DOF was off, the f stop too small and the background area is shrubby and distracting, not blurred as it should be. Too distracting in my mind.
Is there a way to blur the background during the printing process? Maybe with a filter or something over the paper (like tissue??).
Any advice will be appreciated.
No, you need to get it right in the camera.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
You could try dodging the focal point, after it has been given sufficient exposure, while moving the printing easel for a final few seconds exposure. This would darken and blur all print the area not held back. Can be tricky but may be worth a try.
Yes, just crinkle up some cellophane and wave it around in the areas you want softer. You can use a larger piece with a hole in it for the sharper parts. You can also use a lower filter to expose the area to soften, either by dodging with the filter or burning in, whichever is appropriate.
Jon's idea is good. I use parchment paper (which doesn't need to be crinkled). The thing to watch out for is that the diffusion will in fact lower the final contrast as well, with brighter shadows and darker highlights, so it can be tricky to match to the part of the print that you want sharp, but it's something I regularly do in the darkroom.
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"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
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In-camera is indeed always 'best', but hey, DOF happens, so the oldtimers had a playbook of workarounds (and I just saw Jon's and Thomas' -- good ones.)
You might try the old Vaseline trick. Sandwich a piece of thin mylar, or similar, with the negative. Mylar on top/negative on bottom, with emulsion layer so that it will be facing the printing paper. Over a light table, or taped up on a bright window, smear a little Vaseline everywhere you don't want a crisp image. Back in the enlarger, expose as usual, with maybe a bit of supplementary burning.
How about masking part of the photo as if for dodging/burning then giving the enlarger stand a careful, well-placed thump to make it vibrate and blur the unmasked part of the image?
Find yourself a pictrol I think B&H or Freestyle may still offer them.
Under the lens you can then have sharp and soft areas to your hearts content.
or on a large sheet of good glass put vaseline on and leave a area clear for your sharp area.
or put a crinkled tissue over your print after the main exposure and make sure you dodge back the sharp area in your second exposure.
I've placed a soft focus filter by Cokin in front of my enlarger lens just recently. To my surprise, the results were quite nice. It's different from out-of-focus images though.
Placing a tracing paper/tissue_paper right on top of printing paper didn't do all that much.
My next step will be to place a plate of glass a bit above my paper and apply some Vaseline on it.
I had a print that had distracting elements. I was able to bring attention away from them by burning in that area. Eyes naturally go to brighter areas and areas where there are abrupt contrast changes. You could try that, too.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
If your ultimate goal is to have a traditional tack-sharp print, it's best to put the manipulations above the negative. Print quality is highest (and I realize that "highest" is completely subjective) is there's as little as possible between the emulsions. Vaseline above the negative will give you a sharper print (in the areas you want sharp) than Vaseline on glass held above the printing paper (i.e. between the emulsion of the negative and the emulsion of the paper.) In all reality, the difference may not make a difference, but heads-up anyway.