Yes, I get distracted all the time. Part of the fun of darkroom work is doing whatever seems interesting at the moment. Sometimes I have a queue of negative to print but then I develop new negatives that seem better so I promote them to the top of the heap.
I understand what you mean about the portability of 35 mm. However, I think that the quality is not the same. For the most part, I would rather take my Pentax 67 and 1 lens than my EOS 1 and multiple lenses. I just have to challenge myself more with the one lens but the resulting negatives are better. So I might miss some opportunities but the photos I take are more concentrated in a sense. So sometimes taking less gear results in more good negatives. Of course, 35 mm has its place, you just have to deal with scads of tiny negatives.
Eye Tee Dee,
Firstly, let me say that I have a fairly strict exposing, processing and printing system, that has been honed over quite a few years, in fact many, many years.
After film is processed and dried, I sleeve it and usually look at every frame under a loupe. Sometimes on the same day, but not usually, I will contact print every frame. I have a very good contact printing system, which allows me to (usually) judge what is workable, what is not too flash and what is outstanding.
With the contact prints in my hands I retire to the house and check them out over the course of a day or so, the missus also has a good look and gives her two cents worth.
I then go to work on the first print I wish to enlarge, firstly with a straight print with base exposure, then another one with highlight exposure. Normally from these, I can extrapolate a final, or very near final print.
From then on with the contact sheet information, I can often glean enough information to make enlargements of varying sizes correctly for that shoot.
In this particular darkroom session last night, I was working from a single shooting session where I exposed 3 rolls of 35mm and 4 sheets of 4x5 film of the one model, which was held in our backyard. I used Neopan 400 for the 35mm film and TMax 100 for the 4x5 film.
I made my third darkroom exposure after checking out shadow and highlight prints, this was virtually spot on and required me to then make some very minor adjustments and the fourth print was on the money. The other two 35mm prints were done withing 20 or so minutes from start to finish.
I then switched formats and film type to the larger negative. Using the contact print as a reference I made a first print with what I thought would be correct burning and dodging, I didn’t require a second print.
About 1 hour ago the model came around and checked out the prints, the only difference she noted between any of them, was that one print had clearer definition and what she thought was more fine detail. When I explained that the clearer print was from the big camera she understood, however, I know she finally understood when she saw the negs on the light box and really saw the size difference!
The remark from her was, “this is one of those times, that size does make a difference”.
It was because of this extremely productive printing session I was chuffed. The fact that it took so little time was down to a few factors, experience and good technique, plus practice, practice and more practice.
Here is my advice for reducing the backlog of unprinted 35mm negatives.
1 After taking the picture cool off by waiting at least a month before evaluating it.
2 Evaluate on a computer monitor after batch scanning . You won't be printing from these scans so they can be low res. & done with a cheap scanner. This is far far far quicker than doing endless proof prints in the darkroom.
3 Knowing exactly what you want to print you can start straight in with your paper of choice( in my case usually Ilford warmtone fibre)instead of starting on RC then having to re adjst when you change over.
$ Use a dedicated 35mm enlarger. When I started using a Leitz Valoy 2 I cuoldn't believe how much quicker, easier and more efficient it was than the 35mm /6x6/ 6x9 enlargers I had previously used.
Thanks, AlanC. Your suggestion #1 is very welcome. I've just been going through my contacts from a few months ago, and finding more of interest than I did to start with - means more proofs I suppose but...
I have tried the suggestion of scanning negs for proofing purposes, but since I want to learn as much as possible in the darkroom, I feel that would be time wasted, even if it is much less than making darkroom proofs - I figure that even if it takes me too long, I am picking up experience that would be lost sitting in front of a computer screen.
That's not to say that I don't still scan stuff if I want to check a one-off though
BTW, what advantages did you find by using a dedicated 35mm enlarger?
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This year I was using a Voigtlander Bessa R3A with a 40mm and 21mm lenses - very light. For MF I had my Minolta Autocord - not heavy on its own, but the tripod was too much after a few hours! I've been thinking about finding something a bit lighter for those times when I have to be on foot for a significant period. (or if I could find a strap for the Autocord, I could handhold it!)
Originally Posted by Marco B
My secret to darkroom efficiency is standardization and read, watch, and ask questions of EXPERIENCED photographers. To elaborate, about 2 1/2 years ago I graduated to an 8x10 camera. That meant contact printing. I acquired some Azo and a B&S contact printing frame. I was using Tri-X and HC-110 at the time and used a Zone VI cold light to expose the Azo. Exposures ran 36 seconds and it took about 1.5-2 minutes to unload/reload the contact printer. THEN I changed my film to TMax400 and Pyrocat-HD. Suddenly my exposures were running 120 seconds. That meant almost 4 minutes just to make a simple proof print. Not too bad if you have 10 negatives, but a real PIA when you have 70 negatives after returning from a photography trip. I obtained a vacuum easel and that greatly reduced the time compared to the contact printing frame. Then I obtained a slightly used "The Cold One" Azo head. That reduced my exposures from 120 seconds to 9 seconds. Then to further reduce my "chore" time in the darkroom, I expose my "proof" prints and store them in a paper safe. When I accumulate enough exposed prints, I head into the darkroom one AM and mix up the amidol and TF-4 and go to work. I set up 4 sets of 2 prints each on the enlarger baseboard. I then develop them two at a time in the Amidol for 2 minutes (Canadian Grade 2 Azo) and as I move the 1st two prints to the fix I reset the clock and put the next pair of prints in the developer. Now, with two prints in the developer and two prints in the fix, I use my left hand (I'm left handed) to agitate the amidol prints while my right hand rocks the fix tray every 10-15 seconds. I repeat this procedure until I have developed all 8 prints and have them all in the fix. Next, I start the fixing timer and agitate through the stack for two minutes. Next step is to give the prints a quick look and then move them to the print washer. This whole procedure is repeated until the print washer is full--30 8x10 prints. Once the prints have been in the washer for an hour they are squeeged and placed on screens to dry. During the wash, I have time to expose some more contact prints, or most likely take a break. After the the prints are on the drying screens the whole process is repeated until I have 72 prints drying (my capacity to dry prints).
Once all of the "proof" prints are dry, they are evaluated for possible "fine print" treatment. Even when doing fine prints, I always seem to have two prints in the developer at once. Most of my fine prints have a base exposure of 9-12 seconds so that is the first pair into the developer. From there I can judge contrast and look for possible areas requiring dodge or burn. I find most "final prints" take me 1-2 hours.
I keep the following variables as consistant as possible, so I don't waste time: Enlarger height, light source, lens and aperature, paper, paper developer, rapid fix, film type, film developer and vacuum easel. Changing any of these variables will result in wasted time associated with additional "testing".
As Fred Picker used to preach, be mechanical and consistant with the mechanical parts of photography. This allows you to be creative with the parts of photography that require creativity i.e. where to put the camera, or getitng the most expressive print you can to convey your message. Don't be creative with film developing or proofing your negatives. Try to think about the mechanical parts of photography as a Micky D's. You want to be as efficient as possible on those areas.
My wife took 20 rolls of 645 B&W last October during a week in Charleston SC. I developed the film and made contact sheets. She picked the ones she liked (about 15) and then I, (please don’t expel me) scanned them. She reviewed them on the monitor for final composition, cropping, focus etc. This narrowed us down to five candidates for final printing at 11 X 14. Four of them are worth framing. It took me 3 hours to develop the film, 2 hours to print the contact sheets and an hour to scan the interesting frames. It takes me about 1 hour in the darkroom per final print. The mounting, matting, frame building and glazing will take about 4 hours per photo. So I’ll have about 25 hours enjoying myself playing with a large assortment of my tools and other stuff. We will end up with four nice photos on our wall that I will admire every day. This is a hobby for us so time is not a critical factor but I do appreciate efficiency.
Im my lab sometimes I can have to do 70 prints a day amongst having to process film, proofing, dealing with clients so printing can be a strain.
What I do to try and minimise time is I batch film into its type and look at each neg on a lightbox im going to print and group them according to their similarities (density contrast etc) once ive grouped them I go into my darkroom do the test for each frame and write down the info as test strip 1 is priocessing I load the sencond negative and while its processing I load neg 3 and so on untill all are tested. I then I load the negs into my enlargers having assessed the tests and am able to peel off the prints faster as there is no lag time waiting for test strips to paint. I also find exposure readers are a hand tool at times.
If an exhibition print is required rather than a straigh commercial print then the burning and dodging etc is going to take you longer.
Takes me between 2 and 4 hours to make a print. I run tests at different grades starting from an estimate by looking at the negative or remembering the scene, then go through 3 or 4 test strips and a number of regional scrap-paper tests to refine contrast & exposure.
Started out with split grade last spring when I first started with this but found I tended to get too hung up on "preserving detail" in areas of the print that didn't matter, and wasn't getting the prints I wanted. Now instead of caring about extreme highlights & shadows I decide what kind of contrast I'm looking for and just adjust grades until I get it, and damned be the shadows & highlights if they aren't important.
Last edited by walter23; 12-22-2007 at 06:58 PM. Click to view previous post history.
The universe is a haunted house. -Coil