Originally Posted by MartinP
I'll defend my lengthy description and method by saying I'm a teacher and try to explain things so that others gain an understanding of a concept. (If you think I'm conveying wrong or useless information that is your prerogative, but I would disagree with you.) If you don't have much darkroom experience you probably haven't made the connection between standard materials and standard processing. And, I know from my teaching experience that students usually don't make that connection on their own, at least for awhile. Bob, you mention not using test strips from the early 90's onward, but why didn't you make that connection even earlier? I presume you've been at this more than 20-some years.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Conversely, testing with a a constant time interval is a big waste of time IMO. But, that's how most students have been taught and they don't realize there are other methods that may work better until someone leads them through it. Likewise, trying to guesstimate and creep up on the proper exposure is the common modus operandi for a beginner. Sometimes they are even unaware that a black tone lurks unfound in their printed negatives. They often underexpose a print and get a too-light image that is flat and gray yet they are happy with it. Hopefully that changes with additional experience and guidance. The fractional f/stop method almost guarantees a beginner will be able to determine the correct exposure on the test print somewhere between the two extremes of severe over- and underexposure. It has to be in the middle if one side is too light and the other too dark.
The lightbulb usually doesn't turn itself on when it comes to the f-stop sequence. All those standard f-numbers are useful to memorize for other reasons. The Inverse Square Law and memorization of the f/stop sequence makes light placement a snap in the studio. Want to make a light twice as bright? Move it from 11' to 8'. Need to calculate an extension factor with a view camera? Those f/numbers thought of as extension distances will tell you the proper exposure correction on your analog light meter. No calculation needed.
Another connection usually long in arriving is that the f/stops on a camera lens work the same way as the f/stops on an enlarger (which is also a camera). It's true. Going from f/8 to f/11 halves the exposure. Another simple, but for some reason a really tough concept to grasp unless directed to think about it is the "Sunny-16 rule." Why do many beginning photo students think they will get a proper midday exposure outdoors at 1/60sec at f8 with ISO 400 film when their camera meter is reading off the scale and flashing warnings at them? It's because they haven't made the connections yet on their own. Someone needs to point out that a camera meter really isn't needed for most outdoor exposures (or indoors if they always shoot under the same engineered lighting in similar rooms). If their camera is telling them something different than a stop either side of the Sunny-16 Rule on a sunny day with frontlit subject, there probably is a malfunctioning camera at fault or pilot error is occurring.
Another reason for the large "density swings" is the additional information provided on such a strip for burning and dodging. Or, when making larger or smaller prints. Or, using a different paper. The method I outlined earlier can be adapted to any time range - one doesn't have to start at 8 seconds for example. You could begin anywhere on that table, adjust the f/stop as needed, and do fewer strips if desired. If the geometric change between each strip is too much, stopping the lens down one stop lets the refinement be in 1/6 stops relative to the initial 1/3 stop sequence.
Granted, experience teaches that most negatives properly exposed and developed will print pretty much the same and a trusted starting point can be used and you wing it from there. But once you reach that level, you've experienced many other related epiphanies. Experience trumps. If you have it, good for you. Others need some direction and a method that produces good results or those connections may never be made. I think the f/stop method is a great way to teach and learn and standardize and become consistent in technique.
As I mentioned , printing Lith Prints had changed my outlook, If I had never made Lith prints I would not have caught on to looking in the tray for all the info.
I think your method and concept is very sound, but also speaking as a teacher I think such methods have their place for normally exposed/developed film and for those with a great deal of patience. However, they do not always fit in with the variation of student and their experience, or those dyslexic to numbers. Students new to film will often produce extremely thin under exposed films, or ones that are partially fogged, or extremely dense. In such cases advice to get the best out of what they have quickly can often save demotivation about their thoughts on film and printing in general, so they may live to fight another day and improve.
Originally Posted by smieglitz
“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”
@ cliveh, without exception, every student I've shown this method to over the years has remarked at how simple it all seemed afterward and they appreciate the fact they can see the change on every strip where the time method often confused them. Paraphrasing, they have also remarked "Why didn't my instructor show me this in the first place." Of course, I don't tell every student about it unless they seem to be having problems printing another way. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is more or less my approach. If I came across otherwise, it was not my intent.
We could go on forever discussing pedagogy and what works vs what does not and for whom. There is no blanket approach and flexibility certainly is worthwhile in that regard. Each student is different.
In my earlier posts I was just suggesting a method that in my experience seems to put it all together for certain individuals, though not often discussed. After figuring it all out independently years ago, I stumbled upon a very old Kodak Darkroom Dataguide (?) from Carnie's era that described the f/stop printing method and I've wondered ever since why it fell out of favor.
When I learned that somebody as proficient as Yosuf Karsh was impressed to learn about the f-stop printing method, I understood that it has merit. He was no slouch when he visited Gene Nocon's studio to find out how the heck he could have the results he had.
So I tried it, and it works for me. It's second nature today, and I thank you for bringing your experience with your students up for us to see.
I think that it's good to sometimes examine what we do, to see if we can improve. So I will always listen to those with other ideas. But I do not take very kindly to those who categorically declare something to be wrong just because we don't do what they do. That is hard to swallow and completely unnecessary.
"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
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To be honest my eyes glaze over when people start to go into long explanations. I am with Bob. Keep it as simple as possible. I still do a test strip or two because paper is expensive. Work with the same equipment long enough and it isn't really necessary.
I also think some people enjoy complicating the hell out of everything. That isn't directed at anyone here in particular I should say. I have seen print maps from people and when I look at them I see many ways to simplify the print. Why have ten steps when 5 will do?
I appreciate reading opinions of different people though, especially someone like Bob who does it every day. I am old enough to know that even though I have been doing it a long time there is always something I didn't know that I didn't know.
In the end though, whatever works go for it. The vast majority of us only have to please ourselves.
Last edited by Patrick Robert James; 05-08-2013 at 06:07 AM. Click to view previous post history.
And, the more we learn, the more we realize there's still to learn. I think it's one of the great things about what we do. The never ending learning experience... Keeps it fresh, interesting, and keeps us striving for more...
Originally Posted by Patrick Robert James
Carnies era?? I am still printing , maybe I can call it half century in 2023 , since 1973 was the first day I ever saw a print emerge.btw still love that feeling.
Right out of the gate I printed colour, we use a basic translator to find density and colour. In the neg sleeve was a proof print of the image with no dodge and burn.
That proof print was my **map** so to speak, without it we were lost for dodging and burning apps.
In the Analogue world I live in I always want a reference print so I can move in that direction, Darkroom Innovations has a timer that should get one in the close ballpark for density and contrast from the get go.
If one is as anal as the Zone Gurus then of course one can be within micro nanons of density and contrast with their first print.
I just happen to look at the neg, on a light box and on the easel , stick my wet finger in the air to calculate the exposure and contrast and hope for the best. Common sense dictates my decision, also when I work in a day I usually work with 4-8 negs, and I start with what I think is the easiest negatives and I match neg's on the light-box to work on next. I always use two enlargers and print two at a time , if I am having difficulty with one I will finish the first and then concentrate on the more difficult print.
Any way will get you there, I just think that to make great prints one should not worry too much about a lot of unnecessary trappings and just enjoy the print making experience.
My way is only one right way **for me**.
I'm basically with Bob about keeping things simple. And, I use a lot fewer test strips than my posts above might lead one to believe. When I'm printing, I've already proofed everything and I'm usually using just one or two brands/grades of paper. With that going, I can more often than not just expose a straight print.
I will, however, defend making test strips when the variables start to be less predictable. For example, when looking for a replacement for a recently-discontinued paper that I used a lot, I ordered six or seven different papers to test. They all have different speeds and characteristics, so, when learning to use them, test strips were helpful and saved a lot of time and paper. Likewise, when I switch from one enlarger to another or change light sources or make a big jump in filtration, I often will do another test strip - it only takes a couple minutes and I usually have some trim strips lying around anyway. Plus, I don't always make a test strip from 10 to 45 seconds; often its 14 to 29 or an even smaller spread.
As for f-stop printing; I certainly see and understand the logic. It's just easier for me to think in percentages, which accomplishes exactly the same thing. BTW, 50% less exposure is a stop... 100% more is a stop and all the values in between are able to be aligned as well. Good prints don't need exposures in fractions of a stop or particular percentages; they just need the right amount of time.
I have an aversion to lots of automation and complexity as well. I use a metronome and a footswitch and a couple of test strip sequences. For me, it's the subjective evaluation and fine adjustments made to a print to make it really sing that takes my time, not figuring out a starting base exposure.
Back to the original subject: often I have a rather complicated dance of dodging and burning to do. Especially when it comes to dodging, I need to have the time necessary to comfortably and relatively repeatably perform the manipulations. My print exposure time is guided by that. For the occasional print that requires only few manipulations, a ten-second exposure time is just fine. One that needs lots of dodging maybe better at 35 seconds.
I think in % 's and keep my timer set to a basic time. All I do is hit the timer more or less for the extra filters and burns.