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  1. #1

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    Complete lack of contrast. B&W printing

    Hi everyone!

    Yesterday, I did something I didn't do for about 15 years - wet B&W printing. Enlarger DeVere 504, Dichromate Colour head, paper Agfa Multicontrast, developer - Ilford multigrade. Everything seems to be OK except contrast - instead of being black and white, my prints come out greyish-grey. Accordingly to Ilford's "Fact Sheet. Contrast Control" I can use magenta and yellow filter of colour head to control contrastness and to get max grade, with DeVere, I have to use max. magenta (160) with min yellow (0) and cyan (0). So, it doesn't work for me Under red light everything looked OK but when I brought them out - my prints were horrible. I scanned these negatives recently and they are OK and I could reach desirable contrast without PS or other tweaking.

    Possible thoughts:
    1) Faded magenta filter (enlarger is quite old) but it doesn't look very faded)?
    2) Old paper? I've got stock of papers from the guy who sold me the enlarger and he says he didn't print for almost 2 years
    3) Developer? Should not be old and was sealed
    4) Paper underexposure?
    5) Something wrong with my head or hands? (Don't ask, I'm not going to change anything)

    Thanks for your help and time in advance!

    Best regards,
    Mikhail

  2. #2
    BarryWilkinson's Avatar
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    Hello Mikhail,

    It sounds to me that either your paper is fogged or your safe light is not 'safe'.

    You should be able to get a print without any filters dialled in (equivalent to grade 2).

    Get some new paper and test your safelight. Try putting a new piece of paper with a coin on it in your darkroom for a few minutes, process it and see if the uncovered area is showing signs of exposure.

    Barry

  3. #3

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    Thanks Barry. Seems to be like a good idea and something to start with to narrow a problem

  4. #4
    Mick Fagan's Avatar
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    You did say, "Under Red Light". I assume that you are using paper filters and not a lithographic film filter, which is also red?

    I used to use copious amounts of Litho film under red safelight and then change the filters over for paper.

    Sometimes I forgot to change one of the filters ( I have three lights in the darkroom) and often ended up with a grey looking print, due to fogging.

    Mick.

  5. #5

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    Hi Mick,

    I'm using Paterson Safelight with A Dome. The Dome is red. Actually, I forgot to tell that I've got this safelight with enlarger and the other stuff including paper from the same guy and he, most probably, used this safelight with the same paper. Anyway, I'm going to test safelight with a coin tonight to check if it affects my prints

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hlop
    Hi Mick,

    I'm using Paterson Safelight with A Dome. The Dome is red. Actually, I forgot to tell that I've got this safelight with enlarger and the other stuff including paper from the same guy and he, most probably, used this safelight with the same paper. Anyway, I'm going to test safelight with a coin tonight to check if it affects my prints
    It would also be worth checking your paper for fogging out of the box. Tear a sheet in half and dunk half straight in the fix, put the other half through your normal processing (developer,stop,fix) and compare the two. If the paper is already fogged it'll be fairly obvious.

    Roger.

  7. #7
    glbeas's Avatar
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    I'd do a step strip also to see if you are getting Dmax from the paper. If the steps start out good but the shadows never get any darker than grey it can be developer or old paper. If the paper starts grey and gets darker from there, well you know the story.
    Gary Beasley

  8. #8

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    Most paper these days call for an amber (OC) safelight. I have been using a red safelight all along with no problems, though. Make sure your safelight is far enough from the paper. Did you make a test strip to determine exposure time for maximum black before making your prints? If the paper won't give you a solid black, then it's likely bad. Are unexposed areas such as borders gray, or paper white? If unexposed areas are gray, the paper is bad. As mentioned, you should get a fairly full tone print even without filtration. How are you determining your exposure time?

  9. #9

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    Thanks for your time and help, guys!

    I did test strips to determine exposure time but I cut strips from the roll of the same type of paper, not from the same pack! That was, probably, my mistake but can't tell for sure - I didn't fix these strips. Unexposed areas (from under easel frame) are white. I'll do a test for solid black tonight

  10. #10
    Bob F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hlop
    Unexposed areas (from under easel frame) are white.
    That probably rules out safelight fog if your light is closer to the trays than the enlarger.

    At the risk of teaching Granny how to suck eggs... I don't know how you decide on exposure and grade, but I use the time honoured "expose for the highlights, grade for the shadows" method that seems to work well. Start with grade 2, do a test strip to find the highlights how you want them (ignoring whatever the shadows look like). Now do a test print at that exposure and have a look at the shadows. Too grey means you need to increase contrast, too blocked up means you need to reduce contrast. Usually takes me a couple of iterations to get it where I want...

    Generally though, I split-grade print using only 00 and 5 grade filters, but you might want to leave that for another time until you know your equipment is working OK...

    Cheers, Bob.

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