Clive, as we discussed in Stone's thread a while ago, the dodging and burning is for expressive characteristics, not corrective ones. I find split-grade printing to be very fast, and very intuitive, and I prefer that approach over using single grades because I like to dodge and burn at different contrasts to mold the print to my preference. It's not very labor intensive at all...I make one or two test squares with an extra stop of over/under exposure after identifying where I want my values to fall, so that I can see how much leeway I have with dodging and burning, and then I go for it...rarely does it take more than 2 or 3 full sheets to get it right when it's not an overly complex composition. If it is, then I may be balancing a lot of different areas, exposure-wise, just to get the dynamic range I want with the midtone contrast I like.
Originally Posted by cliveh
I like a lot of snap to my mids, and bone-dry highs, very rich blacks. I'm not a big fan of middle grey. If I had to describe the way I like to print much of the time, it's with the dynamic range of a 2 or 3 and the snap and bite of a 5.
Thanks Chris, but in order to understand this better, I would be interested to view one of your prints as a straight print and after expressive characteristic correction of split grade and dodging.
Originally Posted by Chris Lange
“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”
The slope of the curve of most modern printing papers grade 2 is greater than 1 and the negatives for these papers will have an overall contrast (ie highest to lowest value) of less than one.
Most importantly, however, is the observation that 'best prints' match the negative contrast to the paper contrast. This was shown by the following graph published by Jones. He looked back at the "best prints" and measured the contrast of the negative and paper. As you can see most of the "best prints" were printed on a paper grade that perfectly matched the negative (as indicated by the straight line). Again, another reason I use multigrade paper; to get those subtle in-between grades.
Journal of the
OPTICAL SOCIETY of America
VOLUME 38, NUMBER 11
Control of Photographic Printing: Improvement in Terminologyand Further Analysis o fResults*
LOYD A. JONES AND C. N. NELSON
Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester 4, New York
Check out Todd and Zakia http://www.amazon.com/Photographic-S...4151242&sr=1-3 and the Kodak workbook for sensitometery http://motion.kodak.com/motion/uploa...y_workbook.pdf for more information on the subject.
Last edited by ic-racer; 03-06-2014 at 10:06 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
I do this too, except I don't split grade everything. Most of my negatives I don't have to, although I will use a 4 or a 5 sometimes to burn in certain areas. I also use diffusion quite a lot if I'm printing negatives of excessive contrast. It gives an effect similar to pre-flashing.
Originally Posted by Chris Lange
I believe that a negative that has been exposed and developed with care, considering the output, will be easier to 'get in the zone' quickly, and if I'm printing from the same roll of film I can sometimes need 2 or 3 sheets to get the first one right, but subsequent prints from the same roll is usually very simple to get 'almost there' on the very first sheet.
My desired tonality is different from yours, though. I like all of the tones, and love good mid-tone separation, but sometimes will leave shadows completely empty on purpose, to strengthen a composition or hide something ugly.
To liken the photographic process to tennis; to have a really good serve is like having a good negative - it gives you an advantage in the rest of your game. It doesn't really take longer to make negatives that are better suited to the paper than those who are not, and that's what's so slick about it. On a low contrast day I shoot a roll of HP5+ at 800 and push a 30%. On a medium contrast day I shoot the same film at 500 and develop normal. On a high contrast day I shoot it at 250-320 and develop normal -20%. That gives me negatives that work well for me. I'll add that I will change film mid-roll if the lighting changes. Exposing in hugely varying conditions doesn't work well for me. With the Hasselblad it's easy to carry around two or three backs.
"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
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
As with most things, the closer you look at it, the more complex it becomes.
Yes, generally speaking, "best prints" (subjectively, but scientifically determined) come from negatives that are matched to the contrast grade or the paper being used. Ansel Adams et al. knew this well. Their admonition to aim for grade 2 was an attempt to hit the middle of the scale so that, when the inevitable variance or error crept in, they would have leeway on either side to do precisely this. Then, grade 2 was pretty much in the middle between grades 0 and 5. Plus, in those days, grade 2 paper usually gave better prints than grades on the outsides of the contrast range. At any rate, the idea was to optimize the negative contrast to fit the contrast range of the paper; even with graded papers, there were and are lots of ways to get intermediate grades.
These were general recommendations for everyday photographic work, of which fine-art photography was only a small part in those days.
However, when you understand and refine this principle, you end up optimizing negatives for mid-tone separation, or shadow detail, etc., if they are very important to the composition, and realizing that print manipulations will have to be done in the darkroom. Visualization and creative control of the medium are then balanced with the limitations in order to arrive at an image that is exceptional. In this sense, the contrast index of the negative is "ideal" when it yields the print that the photographer has visualized. This is in no way a denial of the "match the negative to the paper contrast" admonition, rather a step further.
As for "ideal" negative exposure, again, there are real considerations such as graininess and amount of tonal separation in the toe and shoulder of the curve to be taken into consideration. The idea of giving enough exposure to get the majority of the scene onto the straight-line portion of the characteristic curve is as valid now as it was then. Underexposure loses shadow detail and reduces the contrast of the low-density areas; overexposure compresses highlight separation. Being aware of these when exposing is still really important.
So, a negative exposed to get most of the scene in the middle of the curve and developed to the contrast that matches a target paper grade that lies in the middle of the available grades is likely to print well. For what it's worth, a negative like this can usually pass the newspaper-reading test used as a rough guide to identify severe departures from this general "norm."
For many, this kind of negative is something to aspire to, for others it is just a starting point for further refinement. I often overexpose 320TXP to get shadow detail up off the long toe of the film. I know that the film (in my developer) will hold highlight detail quite well with this overexposure. I have negatives that proper proof almost completely white (some would call them "bullet proof") that yield excellent prints. I also have a few TMY negatives that are really thin, with very little visible shadow detail, which, however, still print really well and with excellent separation and detail in the shadows. This is a characteristic of this film and often a thinner, "underexposed" neg is needed to tame the highs and still get the desired mid-tone separation.
And, while "best prints" statistically come from negatives matched to a paper's contrast range, I have had enough exceptions to this to recognize a scene that needs an overly contrasty negative and extensive dodging, burning and bleaching to make the print I want.
But, am I abandoning the principles exemplified in "match the negative to the paper"? I think not; rather I am refining that idea.
So, the ideal neg? I would say it is matched to the paper contrast and the photographer's intent, and if you can't read a newspaper through it, you have a good reason why.
In essence, the May & Baker subtext is the fact that the toe and shoulder will be more differentiated with a softer paper (as the characteristic curve is less differentiated from the straight line with softer paper). Matching negatives to paper merely infers printing those mid-tones correctly. We can all to that without much effort on any paper, given the appropriate negative. But it is the lower and upper tones which we wish to retain with delightful delineation.
Originally Posted by cliveh
I cannot say with certainty that this explanation is correct in "Photographic Chemistry". It is, nevertheless, a very interesting layer of information to explore and, for once, I saw 'normalcy and knee-jerk redundancy' effectively challenged (with very good reasoning employed). - David Lyga
Last edited by David Lyga; 03-07-2014 at 09:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.