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  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan R View Post
    Even if I could change my future negatives, I still have those existing problem negatives to print!

    Actually I am shooting 35mm (diverse subjects on each roll), and I always use the Thornton 2-bath (T2b). I settled on this through about 25 years of frustration, trial and error. I'm very happy with my choice for many reasons and I am not going to change, so please don't suggest it. A real joy of my negatives since settling on T2b is that long 'tails' of shadow and highlight detail are recorded on the negative, contributing to a very rich tonality when everything goes right. The cost is that in a small minority of shots where the the mid-tones matter more it can be hard to inject any sparkle. This is fairly easy to correct digitally using Curves, accepting some compression in highlights or/or shadows, but still retaining the detail at those ends of the scale. What I'm looking for is the analogue equivalent. I thought maybe the answer would be different print developers?
    That's fine, it just means that your film is a given. You still need to decide how to allocate your effort between finding a best paper match, trying to change the paper curve with choice of developer, and doing complex manipulations on each print.

    Assuming that the film choice is already made, the biggest influence by far on curve is the choice of paper. Choice of print developer will generally have a much smaller effect, if any. Local manipulation is needed to fix the problems caused by not having a paper with the curve you need to match the film/developer combination you've settled on.

    There's no guarantee that you can find a paper with a perfect match, because there's a limited set of papers available. If you can't find one that's right, and you don't want to change your film/developer, then you're stuck doing local manipulation.

    What paper are you currently using?
    Last edited by Oren Grad; 04-12-2013 at 10:50 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Your choice of negative developer and developing technique has entirely to do with what your paper and paper developer of choice can do.
    Or, you can view it the other way around: your choice of paper depends entirely on what your film and film developer will do. That's how it works for me: I use Tri-X and HP5 Plus, developed in D-76. I keep a selection of papers on hand, with a variety of characteristic curves, so that I can print the resulting negatives with a minimum of hassle.

    In reality, of course, the choice of film/film developer and paper/paper developer jointly determine the result. "Paper priority" or "film priority" is a restriction that we impose arbitrarily.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    Or, you can view it the other way around: your choice of paper depends entirely on what your film and film developer will do. That's how it works for me: I use Tri-X and HP5 Plus, developed in D-76. I keep a selection of papers on hand, with a variety of characteristic curves, so that I can print the resulting negatives with a minimum of hassle.

    In reality, of course, the choice of film/film developer and paper/paper developer jointly determine the result. "Paper priority" or "film priority" is a restriction that we impose arbitrarily.
    True, but you have far more control over your negatives than you do your paper. A paper does not change in contrast much by developing longer, for example, it just adds density fairly uniformly, while a negative will continue to add contrast as you develop longer, for all practical reasons in perpetuity.
    But whatever floats your boat is fine with me. I kind of like printing everything on one kind of paper. It makes it far more economical by needing less paper stock, and I know exactly what I need to do with my negatives in terms of exposure and development in order to print in the darkroom where most of my negatives are dead easy to print. Rarely do I have to fight a negative to get what I want.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    I kind of like printing everything on one kind of paper. ..... Rarely do I have to fight a negative to get what I want.
    I'm with both of those statements. I stick with 2 film types and one paper type in 2 sizes, because this gives a consistent look to my 'portfolio' (if that isn't too pretentious). It also gives the opportunity to get really familiar with the materials. Currently I use FP4+ and HP5+, both in BT2b; and Ilford MG IV FB developed in Ilford Print Dev. I like the neutral tones of the MG. And as I've said, this problem of muddy mid-tones is a small minority of my negs. Quite a lot of my negs print absolutely straight on Grade 2, and most of the rest I cope with quite competently. A real gap in my competence is that I have never done split-grade printing: partly because I haven't found a need, and partly because I have no colour head and am picky about using filters under the lens.

    Look, I hate to keep harking back to the same point, but I'm sure that in the days when we all used separate grades of paper, there were ways of obtaining intermediate contrast grades by judicious use of chemicals. I'm certain I once read about it - but because I was already using MG paper I didn't think I'd ever need it, and failed to commit it to memory. I suppose it's likely that developers with different activity would alter image tone, but I'd still like to know what's possible.

  5. #15

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    Yes there were ways of modifying paper contrast with fixed grades. People would often split paper development between a higher and lower contrast developer to get intermediate grades. Flashing was also a more important tool with graded paper. These techniques wouldn't do much for your midtone issue though. They are mostly aimed at controlling total contrast. Your issue seems to have more to do with local contrast in the midtones. As I said before you pretty much have to get the midtones where you want them with the right paper grade in your case, and then use controls to help you get the shadows and highlights.

    If you're using variable contrast paper like Ilford MG, take advantage of the flexibility!

  6. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan R View Post
    Look, I hate to keep harking back to the same point, but I'm sure that in the days when we all used separate grades of paper, there were ways of obtaining intermediate contrast grades by judicious use of chemicals. I'm certain I once read about it - but because I was already using MG paper I didn't think I'd ever need it, and failed to commit it to memory. I suppose it's likely that developers with different activity would alter image tone, but I'd still like to know what's possible.
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    Yes there were ways of modifying paper contrast with fixed grades. People would often split paper development between a higher and lower contrast developer to get intermediate grades. Flashing was also a more important tool with graded paper. These techniques wouldn't do much for your midtone issue though. They are mostly aimed at controlling total contrast. Your issue seems to have more to do with local contrast in the midtones.
    What Michael said. The problem you're having is with the shape of the curve - the way tones are distributed between highlights, midtones and shadows - not with the slope or overall contrast. Print developers aren't going to give you much help with the shape. If you're committed to using the same paper for everything, and you don't want to change your film/film developer, then I end up in the same place as Michael - the only thing left is to learn how to balance overall contrast and local manipulation most effectively.

  7. #17
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    Split grade is definitely the way to proceed - and below lens filters work very well if they are handled carefully.

    There is lots of good advice already in this thread.

    As an experiment I would suggest trying a print where your only attention is to those problematic mid-tones. Get to a print where you are happy with those, and then determine what split grade modifications you need to print the other tones.

    FWIW, this is essentially how I approach all my prints - I focus first on the most important tones - usually, but not always the mid-tones - and then work with the rest.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    What Michael said.
    +1. It's sound advice.

  9. #19

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    I generally prefer relatively straight-line films so that I get good value separation even deep down in
    the shadows, but might "plus" develop to expand the midtones and highlights, then burn will in the
    highlights with a deep green filter on a premium VC paper. A more elegant method is unsharp masking.
    Actually, I intend this as a clue - my personal route will vary from image to image. The more tools in
    your kit of strategy, the better.

  10. #20
    David Allen's Avatar
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    Dear Jonathan,

    My first question is what times are you using with what film in BTTB developer? - This is important in giving you meaningful advice.

    Secondly, negatives developed with BTTB developer should print fine on normal grades but what are you looking for?

    If you look at the images on my website, please let me know how they relate to the type of images YOU want to produce and then I can advise further.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de

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