Maintaining that feeling of light, and life in a black and white print...
I have been trying to improve on preserving the feeling of light, and vitality in my landscapes. I use Ilford multigrade RC right now, but will be switching over to Ilford Multigrade Warmtone FB. My enlarger is a Beseler 23Clll Variable Contrast Diffusion Enlarger with dial in contrast (not the dichro head) My paper developer is Ilford Universal. I am very interested in hearing any advice you can give me. Many Thanks!
A negative, can always be turned into a positive.
It's not strictly an enlarging issue or even a printing issue. The factors include--light, whether the film is exposed and processed for the contrast range of the scene and the print process, light, printing technique (which includes many possibilities), and light, as well as light.
Maybe if you could post a scan of a print that you think needs something that it doesn't have, it might be possible to suggest something more specific.
Thanks for your reply David, I don't have a scanner at this time, I wish that I did, I would like to have your input. I didn't think this would be a simple issue. I am shooting roll film. Could you please educate me on developing for the contrast range, and how to meter the detailed shadow, and detailed highlights to determine development. Iwould be grateful for the help. I have books that cover it but, but the light has not come on in my mind yet.
A negative, can always be turned into a positive.
In my experience this revolves around primarily two aspects of a print. The first is that the shadow values be placed no lower then a Zone III density on the negative...in some instances this can be as high as a Zone IV value.
The second aspect is the matter of local contrast in the print. A print can have values as low as Zone III and still exhibit a beautiful sense of luminance if the local contrast is optimal. (One of my own prints has a overall tonal range of Zone II to Zone VII and exhibits a beautiful sense of light...so overall contrast is not the only answer. Had I optimized the contrast range of the negative to the full content the paper could have held, the print would have become garish.)
The first aspect is a matter of correct exposure. The second aspect is one of correct development so that the contrast of the negative matches the contrast of the paper. This assumes that one has chosen good materials and has the knowledge of how to work with them.
Speaking for myself, this is a continual matter of achieving local contrast in the print, as the first consideration, while controlling the overall contrast so that shadow values are not dumped or that highlight values are not blocked.
Good luck in your efforts.
I'm assuming you're talking about tonal values that are luminous--- that "sing" as opposed to just lying there flat on the paper. This is a function of many factors, but two of the most important are paper choice and enhancing local contrast.
Originally Posted by ilfordrapid
Assuming that you have well-exposed and correctly developed negs, you want to choose a paper that gives very good depth in the shadows and doesn't blow out the highlights-- in other words, paper with a long tonal scale.
I stopped using Ilford Multigrade IV fiber-base when I made comparison prints of the same negative on Agfa MCC Classic. In every case, there were more richly detailed shadows with clearer separation of tones on the Agfa paper. I could "see into" the shadows and detect nuances that I could not in the Ilford MG. However, Ilford Warmtone is another story; I suspect its the amount of chlorobromide in the emulsion that accounts for the difference. Warmtone is a fine paper.
Getting a particular tonal value to "sing" in the print turned a corner for me when I began using split filter printing. Any given print value had greater local contrast (micro tonal differences within a given value) than prints made with a single exposure dialed in on my colorhead. Try this experiment:
Run a test-strip print (in 3 second increments) at full yellow (or at the lowest contrast setting for your multigrade head). Do the same with another test print at full magenta (or highest contrast setting).
Then, on the low contrast print, look very carefully at the most important highlight areas. Are they too gray, creating a dull appearance? Are they blank white? Find the one that nearest approximates what you want in the final print. Then do the same for the contrasty test print, this time looking at the important shadow areas in which you want detail, finding the one that is not pure black, but also not too light. E.g., perhaps the best test strip on the low contrast print is 9 seconds at f/11. And the best strip on the high-contast print is 12 seconds at f/11.
Now, with a new sheet of paper, expose it for 12 at highest contrast setting. (It doesn't matter which one you start with.) Then change your head to the opposite setting and expose it for the correct time at that setting.
Then develop normally. Do any tweaking necessary to the two times to get a print that you're happy with without too much manipulation. That will become your standard exposure times for that particular brand of paper. From that point, you won't have to run test strips unless you have a very problematic neg or unless you want to change your size from, e.g. 8X10 to 11X14. For example, my standard times for Agfa MCC at 11X14 are 10 sec. Magenta and 8 sec. Yellow at f/11. That's where I begin with any new print, and very often, it's very close on the first try.
I don't fully understand why the split filter method gives me more luminous values with better local contrast; but that it does is beyond doubt.
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If you don't want to do a lot of testing make sure you do a few bracketed exposures for important pictures. Especially on the overexposed side. And keep the development soft. If you're serious you will do the testing needed. Lot's of good books will explain how. Try Fred Picker's Zone VI Workshop for starters. Should be easy to find a used copy cheap.
Same thing when printing. Print the image using a range of contrasts from too soft to too hard. Don't stop until it's obviously wrong. Pick some of the closest contrasts and try a range of print exposures. Make sure you don't over-expose the print. Stop at the point you just reach an acceptable black.
And I guess the most important thing is photograph in the best light. I find that soft light always makes things easier.
The only tip I can give is that to show off light, it needs something to show against. So my prints are often quite dark when I wish to show the light - dark and contrasty. If it's all light it's very difficult to avoid it looking flad and a bit muddy. Drop some real black in there (closer to Z 0 than Z IV) and watch the light open up!
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist