Problem getting smooth pictures
Any tips on how to make large enlargements of ligth subjects? Here is my reason for asking:
- I am using a 35mm rf and make copies up to 30x45cm. I am very happy with the results I get from midtone to dark subjects. With delta 400 films there is grain, but with delta 100 the pictures are almost grain free. I am now going to embark on a new series containing ocean-side pictures, and I am starting to second guess my choice of film...the format that is. I expect the pictures to contain dark subjects with the ocean and surroundings as a light backdrop. I have three concrete questions:
- should i develop the film more? A straight print from my current negatives usually ends up around grade 3.5 - but I like to print at grade 4 or 4.5.
- is split-grade printing the best option: first printinging a hard picture (grade 4.5/5) and burining highlights using a softer grade?
- or...is 35mm a lost case for such enlargements? (I have both MF and LF - but the LF is a monorail, and not that portabable...but great for studio work. The MF just isn't as fun...Mamiya 645e)
Good Morning, Christian,
There are a lot of variables here, and I suspect you'll receive a number of suggestions.
My first thought is that for the size of prints you mention, you're stretching the limits of 35mm, especially with 400-speed film. I'm not referring only to grain, but to overall tonality. With many medium and fast films, 35mm can produce very good 8 x 10 (18 x 24 cm?) prints and fairly good 11 x 14 (24 x 34??) prints. When the stars align properly (slow film, the right developer, excellent lens, good darkroom technique), prints of 11 x 14 or slightly larger can still have good tonality and look great, but it takes a lot of attention to detail.
Developing more is unlikely to improve things; the increased contrast will probably make printing more difficult with most subjects.
Easiest first step: Shoot with the Mamiya. The film size (6 x 4.5) isn't nearly as helpful as a 6 x 7 negative would be, but you should see noticeable improvement over 35mm.
Better first step: use the LF monorail whenever possible.
The split-grade printing may help with some negatives, but using a bigger film size would still be my basic suggestion.
Develop longer? Yes. Increasing the negative contrast will give you more room for adjustment when printing. You should also test to see how to modify your exposure for the new development times. This doesn't mean a huge zone system investigation as you are willing to print on something besides #2 paper (a view I share).
Is split-grade printing the best? A lot of times it is. Keep in mind that most of the great old photos we see were created with simple dodging and burning techniques (simple to perfrom, not necessarily to envision<g>) on graded paper.
Is 35mm a lost cause? As you've printed largee format negatives you already know the answer. 35mm has the wonderful benefits of portability and quickness. A Mamiya 645e is a nice compromise. In fact, I am rather envious of your camera choices. I have only 35mm and a (very nice) Crown Graphic. Fortunately for me, the rangefinder works great so I can use it as a "walking around" camera as well, but not as handy as your Mamiya.
Choose a good film paper combination
Whichever format you choose to use the proper film/paper choice can be very helpful. If you want nice shadow contrast then 100 Tmax developed in Pyrocat HD will perform well for you. I have found that 100Tmax used with Polymax fiber makes a very nice combination. Some people do not care for the soft edged grain from 100Tmax but, in my opinion, Pyrocat HD takes care of that nicely. I have found printing 100 Tmax on Polymax fiber to be a very nice combination that seems to me to complilment each other very nicely.
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Thank you. As most of you said - I probably know the answer: use bigger negatives. My problem is that the only thing I really have a problem printing from 35mm is (high contrast) pictures with a lot of white or light grey in them....and that I have fallen totally in love with my konica hexanon 50mm. So, I will try to develop longer....
I have also considered using C41 film such as xp2 when taking these kinds of pictures - is that a good option? No grain in the high lights; but not too sure about resolution, tonality and letting other people handle my development....